I sit down today to write you a letter to read before you start law
school. I know that you are filled with grand anticipation and a
little dread. It's a natural reaction. I hope that I will be
able to assuage some of your concern, and to help you get a good night's
sleep. Please know, however, that after eighteen years (twenty-one
if you count my years as a student) in law school, I still cannot sleep
the night before fall classes start. When that edge of anticipation
is gone, I suppose I'll know that it's time to retire.
I am hard pressed to know where to begin in my advice to you.
My perspective on the process of legal education is skewed by the years
I've spent immersed in it. Perhaps an outsider could explain the
Perhaps I no longer remember what it is like to be a first-year
student. I may have very little of value to offer you.
But I cannot resist the temptation to pass along the insights that I
have developed over the years, however out of touch with your experience
they may prove to be. Think of me as an anthropologist, 
reciting my findings on a tribe I've observed for many years, of which
I was once a member, but whom I no longer fully live among.
What I know is what it is like to be a first-year law
professor. After watching the process for many years, in many different places, I've
observed that law school involves three circles :
the education that takes place within you, the education you share with your peers, and the
education you experience with the faculty. I present them here in reverse order of importance.
I. The Faculty
You will come to law school expecting the faculty to be the most
important part of the education experience. We are not.
At most, the law faculty will help you to create a useful structure within
which self-teaching takes place. At worst, the faculty will get in
the way of your learning. Your job is to keep your eye on the ball:
you are in law school to learn to teach yourself the skills that you will
need for the rest of your professional career. Do not assume that
the faculty will teach you how to practice law. It is not our job,
and we could not possibly anticipate the substantive knowledge or skills
you will need during the next forty years (much of that law doesn't even
exist yet). What the faculty will do is teach you a language and
a structure for your thinking, and some skills that you will apply, both
in law school and after, largely on your own.
Given the intensity of the law school educational process, you may be
tempted to spend inordinate energy focusing on your professors: what they
wear, how they act, how much you hate them, whatever. But this is
largely a waste of your time. Each of these people has something
to offer you and you are there to figure out what that is.
I am not talking only about the obvious substantive subject matter that
they convey; I am talking about their communication skills (or absence
thereof), their logic (ditto), their linear or non-linear thinking.
They are members of the tribe you seek to join, its High Priests in Charge
of Initiation Rites. You are there to observe and absorb these rites.
By definition, their quirks and rituals cannot be wholly irrelevant to
your quest. But unless you become a professor, these relationships
will not inform your future career. Observe them, learn from them,
and do not let them get to you.
At most, one-third of what you learn in law school will be learned from
your professors. (I go up and down on this number; it bottoms out at twenty
percent). So don't spend a lot of time getting into the cult of personality. You are there to learn what these people have to offer. Some
will pass along the secrets of the Temple, and you will not even know it
until years later. The law professor who influenced
me most taught Securities Law, which I have never
My least effective professor  taught Contracts (which I teach), yet he
a profound impact on my teaching, as I learned a great deal about bad technique
from him. Subject matter does not count for all that much in this
part of the learning process. I am best known as a teacher and scholar
of the Uniform Commercial Code; I took that class pass-fail. I
learned an enormous amount from  a
professor I fought with constantly. He is now a colleague and
friend, and was instrumental in beginning my teaching career.
Although the introduction that you get to substantive law in your classes
is essential in the short run, what is really important is the introduction
and indoctrination that you get in legal thinking. This critical
analysis process will remain with you long after your grasp of the Rule
Against Perpetuities has faded. You are learning to be a legal thinker,
one who, in the long span of a career, will be largely self-taught.
A. The Socratic Method
The rigor and aggressiveness of the pedagogy is intimidating
to some. Many modern teachers have fallen away from the rigid, Kingsfieldian approach to the Socratic method, on the grounds that learning cannot take
place in an atmosphere of abject fear. I agree with this conclusion,
but only to a degree. First, I expect a great deal of my students,
and I want them to expect a great deal from themselves. If I set
the bar too low, how will they learn the great accomplishments of which
they are capable? Some, surely, will experience failure in this environment,
but everyone will achieve more than if the bar is set too low. Anyway,
failure is a necessary part of the learning process for lawyers; losing
is a regular part of professional life.
Second, I remember the words of Philip
Levine , a poet and teacher. He was
once why he had been described by a student as "the cruelest
ever." He replied, "I am the only person in the room paid to tell
the truth." I feel that way too, and so I do not hold back
criticism of thinking that is shallow or lazy. This is not only for
the benefit of the student, but also on behalf of the profession, and the
clients who will be served by that future lawyer.
This is different from disagreeing with opinions -- beware
of teachers who try to convince you of the correctness of their personal
a teacher who is willing to challenge you intellectually in order to assure
that real learning takes place.
B. The Ugly Little Secret
There is one other thing that I hesitate to mention, but it is a fact of
law school life. Your professors are not trained to be educators. We got here mostly by being good law students, not because we have any
background in higher education theory. This is
true of most of graduate school, but it is even worse for law professors,
because very few of us go through the traditional
doctoral level educational system where one apprentices under a
who may actually know something about education.
As a result, most elementary school teachers have a stronger background
in educational theory than do law professors. This means that our
techniques may seem counterproductive, awkward, or ineffective
at times . Nevertheless, this
system is oddly
effective at producing the product that the legal profession demands.
If you will, this initiation process is quite effective at delivering appropriate
members into the tribe. It rewards people who are good at teaching
themselves, since that is what most lawyers spend their careers doing.
It develops a thick-skinned debating style, which makes lawyers both successful
and disparaged in their professional lives. It makes being a lawyer
seem hard and magical, and this helps to inflate the value of the professional
knowledge, both inside and outside the system.
II. The Students
Your most important educational experience in law school will be with other
students. You will learn more from them than from your teachers. Relationships forged in law school are like those forged in war: what you
share with these people is unlike any experience any of you have had before.
Members of your profession?your professors, but, more importantly, your
classmates?are your colleagues, and will be with you for the rest of your
career. This is the beginning of your entire professional life, and
it will not end until the day that you retire. It is worth your while
to spend some time thinking about your professional life and how you wish
to be perceived.
This is the beginning of a life-long game, played throughout the profession,
of "What Goes Around, Comes Around." If you dislike or distrust someone
in law school, it will be hard to forget that impression in later years. I do not think that students fully understand this.  Start off behaving in a manner that is consistent with the kind of lawyer
you hope to be.
It is important to respect your colleagues for another reason: you will
learn an enormous amount from them. I learned more from my peers
in law school than I did from my professors, and that is not unusual.
You learn from your classmates by listening to them in class, by observing
their mistakes, by arguing points with them. This is not just in
law school. The practice of law involves an enormous amount of this
kind of give and take among lawyers, those on the same team and those across
Students come to law school from different backgrounds and experiences
and some have a better intuitive understanding of legal education.
These different perspectives will help to broaden yours, and to sharpen
your understanding of the analytic process that is taking place not only
in your mind, but in the minds of your colleagues and professors. Eventually, this will give you insight into the thinking of your clients,
your adversaries, the judge and jury. Effective
persuasion requires that you have insight into and respect for other opinions
In addition to providing insight, your classmates are a ready-made educational
think tank. Gather people with whom you feel comfortable and begin
to study and review your classes together. How
much of this you can tolerate is a function of your stress level and your
learning style, but I always encourage my students to spend some time working
in groups. Someone should be challenging
your thinking besides your professors.
One of the hardest things to accept about law school is that everyone has
been a good student, or a success of some kind, before arriving. If law school were pass-fail, or if there were no exams at all,
then a new ranking of those students would not have to take place, and
everyone could leave law school with the same sense of accomplishment that
they have when they get the acceptance letter.
The job market will not allow this, and so a hierarchy is created in
law school. People who graduated near the top of their undergraduate
classes may find themselves planted firmly in the middle, and that can
be a painful experience. Everyone cannot be at
the top of the class, but you can take advantage of the opportunities available
to improve your chances in the job market.
How you react to this competition is an important factor in how you
will behave as a lawyer. Let it motivate you, and spur you on, as
good athletic competition can. Do not let it scare or anger you. Each class develops its own sense of competition; some become very supportive
communities and others are schools of sharks.
It only takes one or two people to set the tone for the entire group.
Cutthroat competition is not good for anyone, and it leads to behavior
that degrades the profession and makes practice a nightmare. A cooperative
attitude toward your peers can create a positive pattern for the future.
It is easy to say, "I need this now, and later will be different."
But everything you are doing now is a part of your socialization process. Even if you don't get caught up in the competition, you will need to address
it when you observe it in others.
In law school, there is a good deal of abstract talk about your professional
responsibilities, but there are some real issues to be dealt with
* Are you going to appear in court on time and well prepared? Certainly you will aspire to do so. Does this also apply to your classes now?
* You will never misrepresent facts before a judge. Should
you fudge them with your professors now?
* You would never steal a client's funds. Would you slip
a book out of the library? Cheat on an exam?
These issues are the most painful ones that your professors confront.
It is excruciatingly difficult to watch students grapple with the demands
of a professional career, under great stress, and often at a young age.
Sometimes students fail to grasp the importance of their actions.
A career can be cut short because a student does not realize that law schools
are serious about expectations of professional conduct. I am not
speaking only about violations of the honor code that result in expulsion;
I am also talking about the breach of trust that follows a student beyond
the classroom, limiting later professional opportunities. Your teachers
will sign off on your integrity as you go to take the bar; they will be
asked by employers for recommendations. Your classmates will be watching
you and evaluating not only your intelligence, but your honesty and professionalism.
If they see you operating at lower standards, they are not likely to forget
this about you when you are a practicing attorney. If you cannot
live by the rules now, when you are being scrutinized at every turn, what
will prevent similar conduct when no one is watching?
I am not just worried you will feel pressure to cheat. The more
difficult issue will be if you observe others violating the rules.
The peer pressure to ignore these problems is enormous. You may worry
that by turning in a member of your class, you will separate yourself from
the group, appear self-righteous, or even self-interested.
But law is a self-regulating profession: this means that lawyers regulate
and govern their own conduct, largely free of the intervention of others. If this system is going to work, lawyers have to police the profession,
beginning in law school. The Model
Rules of Professional Conduct,
which govern the practice of law in most states, require an attorney to
report the misconduct of others. Failure to do so is a violation of the rules.
Your law school has an honor code.
You need to read it and understand exactly what it requires of you, both
in terms of your own conduct and you obligation to report conduct of others.
If you violate this code, you may be dismissed from school, given a failing
grade, or placed on probation. This will be a part of your permanent
record, and may follow you into practice.
One issue that is becoming more problematic in law school is plagiarism.
Because fewer students are writing significant research papers in undergraduate
school, you may have missed the opportunity to learn the correct rules
for citation and use of other works. If so, you have missed a chance
to make a mistake about this when it will have no repercussions. In law school, if you are caught by a professor plagiarizing the work of
another, you certainly will be disciplined in some way and you may be dismissed
Computers have made plagiarism easier, since you can now cut and paste
at the click of a mouse button. But computers have also made plagiarism
easier to catch, since almost any string of words can be searched in enormous
databases. Most plagiarism, however, is caught by experienced teachers
who know the body of work their students are citing so well that they easily
recognize it when passed off by dishonest students. I'm amazed at
how foolish and naive students can be about this.
Learn the appropriate rules of citation. Familiarize yourself
with the rules for using quotations, but also the limits on using another
person's ideas and structure.
III. Teaching Yourself Law
You may have spent most of your undergraduate career listening to lectures,
taking notes, and reading assignments. Your job was to absorb the material
and pass it back to the teacher in a recognizable form. Although you were
probably required to write papers that involved your own creative thinking,
I suspect that this was the exception and not the rule. If you participated
in class discussions, it may have been by offering your opinion about a
text or issue.
This is a passive form of learning. You take in the information, you
memorize (or "learn") it, and offer it back. This did not prepare you for
In law school, we expect students to do active learning. You are required
to read the text, attend the lecture, take notes, and reread them. But
none of this passive activity prepares you for the examination, nor even
More importantly, it will not prepare you for the practice of law.
Ultimately, law is a self-teaching discipline. You are not primarily here
to learn the substance of the law for future use; you are learning the
skills of analysis and self-instruction for future use. Someone will come to you with a question and you won't know the answer.
The law on this subject may not exist. So you learn in law school how to
figure out the answers on your own (and with your colleagues) for the rest
of your career. It is an honorable
and highly rewarding exercise; I can assure you that it is never
fully mastered, and therefore, never boring. 
A. Active Learning
In law school, we expect you to teach yourself the meaning of information,
and more importantly, its function, for use in situations you haven't yet
experienced. We will ask you questions that are not in the text, and questions
that not answered there. We expect you to be able to discuss the case,
or the statute, or the article, and extract its meaning for application
in as-yet untested circumstances. We want you to distill the relevant legal
rule from the reading and be prepared to apply it to new facts. We ask
you to do this because this is exactly what you will do as a lawyer.
This requires a different kind of learning. Instead of just reading
and memorizing, you need to start digging for these rules of law and extracting
them from the text. But you can't stop there: you need to take the next
step of applying the rules to new circumstances. It's one thing to figure
out what the holding of the case is; it is quite another to apply that
holding to a different set of facts, and to determine how the case
might come out. This distillation/application process is a more vibrant
form of learning that goes beyond reading and understanding what you have
read and heard in class. Active learning takes considerably more
effort than reading and reiteration. But since it is the act that will
be expected of you?in class, on the exam, on the bar, and in practice?start
now. You cannot read about this process and expect
to learn it without practice, any more than you can read a book about marathon
running and then go run one.
The new kind of studying that you learn in law school is this
active kind. This is why I encourage you to study with friends: in a group,
a discussion of the applicable law and its impact on new situations is
a more active (and interesting) learning experience. The people with whom
you study will help you to come up with new fact situations, and to test
the rules that you have learned against them. They will catch you when
you skip a necessary step, or misinterpret the impact of a fact, and you
will do the same for them.
This active application of the learned material is not unique to law;
it appears in some form in all graduate education. But it has, regretfully,
all but disappeared from undergraduate education, in part because it is
so labor-intensive. It is expensive for colleges to teach like this, and
so, over time, many of them have given it up in favor of large lectures
and computer-graded examinations. If you were lucky enough to have a more
classical undergraduate education, then the transition to law school may
not be so hard for you.
B. What is Legal Thinking?
We do not do a very good job of explicitly teaching legal thinking. What
we do is immerse students in an environment where the iconography, language,
religion, history, and sociology are all "legal" and let them learn by
exposure and correction. The smart students adapt to this culture in the
way that a canny anthropologist can "become" Yucatecan or Balinese. In
the beginning, you do not "learn" so much as you "absorb." Some students
will begin parroting the language quite early in the process, and that
may intimidate you initially. Other students take longer to get these linguistic
messages, and yet they too become fluent. Some people never do much more
than an adequate job mouthing the words and imitating the rituals. They
never truly internalize the thinking process. They will be mediocre lawyers, but participants in the ritual nonetheless,
because the system will attribute the appropriate meaning to their gesture
even if they do not themselves comprehend its full import.
The linguistic issue is a significant one. You are entering a language
immersion program. From the first day people will speak to you in words
you thought you knew, but which in this context may have different meanings. Your
teachers will constantly test your understanding of this new language.
That is one huge justification for class participation. Listen to the way
your teachers speak, the way the cases "speak", the way the statutes "speak." Listen to your colleagues as they practice their new tongue and see if
they are using the language precisely. This is critical. A
true expert never uses a legal term of art casually, and that is one of
her attributes. This distinguishes "expert" from "novice" in our tribe.
This is not to suggest that the ritual of
legal linguistics has left us with a perfect language. Quite the opposite
is true. Like many languages, it has become weighted by a convention that
admires mystery more than clarity.
I had a friend in my first-year class, an English major, who dropped out
after a few weeks, declaring that his love of English would not permit
him to stand by passively and observe the treatment it received in law
school. We have specialized meanings that are an important part of
the learning process. I hope that you can learn them without becoming
mired in that ugly language, "legalese." Some lawyers write and speak
in meaningless platitudes, and endlessly disguise the true import of their
speech. You can be both an expert legal speaker and a plain speaker. George
Orwell described it this way:
Orthodoxy, of whatever color, seems to demand a lifeless, imitative
style. . . . [O]ne often has the curious feeling that one is not watching
a live human being but some kind of dummy: a feeling which suddenly becomes
stronger at moments when the light catches the speaker's spectacles and
turns them into blank discs which seem to have no eyes behind them. And
this is not altogether fanciful. A speaker who uses that kind of phraseology
has gone some distance towards turning himself into a machine. The
appropriate noises are coming out of his larynx, but his brain is not involved
as it would be if he were choosing his words for himself.
Your job is finding a balance: learn the meaning of each new word or term
and use it with precision, but do not memorize
endless phrases and parrot them back.
C. What is Legal Analysis?
Don't be discouraged by the rote nature of the initial learning. What you
are learning at first is more like mathematics than humanities. It is like
the catechism. You have to get the basic framework correct before you can
begin to understand nuance. You will spend most of the first semester,
indeed the first year, learning the catechism.
What are we trying to accomplish? Like archeologists, we approach a
case like a dig, looking for clues about what happened there. We expect
to see certain things, and must see certain things in order to make assumptions
about the meaning of the text, The theory is something like this:
| We recover an undifferentiated pile of bones, tools, flora,
and fauna. We do not know yet what will be important and what unimportant.
So we start our detective work. At this point, nothing is irrelevant.
|| We have learned over time that certain artifacts or evidence
lead to a specific conclusion: pottery means a certain level of cultural
sophistication. Writing tells us something else.
| Once we have the elements that we have come to associate with
a particular level or type of cultural development, we search for those
elements. When all are present we can reach a conclusion.
The same process applies in law. A client will come in and tell the
attorney a story, with facts that are relevant to the attorney jumbled
with those that are only relevant to the client, or relevant to a doctor
or an accountant. The attorney will then plow through the facts to determine
if they satisfy any of the applicable legal rules. If all the elements
of the rule are satisfied, then the standard has been met, and the client
is entitled to relief, or subject to action under that rule. If one of
the elements is not met, then we cannot reach that conclusion. We may debate
at length what the elements of the rule are, or whether the elements of
the rule have been met. This is the process of legal analysis.
For example, suppose that the
that a person may file a bankruptcy only if his debts exceed the value
of his assets. Suppose further that your
clients, the Stanleys, have assets that, at fair market value, exceed their
debts. But if the assets are valued at liquidation prices, their debts
exceed their assets. The issue is: Do the Stanleys qualify for bankruptcy?
|The Stanleys owe $70,000. They do not own much, but the appraised value
of their property may be as much as $100,000. They do not have any
income, and cannot pay their bills. They do not want to sell their
assets. They're upset.
||A debtor may file for bankruptcy only if its debts exceed the value
of its assets.
||If a court finds that the "value" of the Stanleys' assets exceeds their
debts, the Stanleys can't file bankruptcy. If a court defines
"value" as liquidation value, rather than appraised value, they satisfy
the rule. Most courts apply this meaning.
||The facts of this case suggest that the Stanleys have satisfied the
rule and are entitled to file bankruptcy.
Note that many of the facts turned out to be irrelevant. In this hypothetical,
the fact that the Stanleys have no income is not relevant, because this
particular rule doesn't require us to look at income. Similarly, the fact
that they are upset does not affect the legal outcome, although it might
help the lawyer decide which alternative to recommend. Finally, although
the Stanleys' reluctance to sell their assets might be relevant in determining
whether bankruptcy is a good option for them, it is not relevant to the
application of the rule. The rule has specific elements: if they are satisfied,
it applies and the case is decided under it. If not, it doesn't. This is
the mathematics of legal reasoning.
I call it "mathematics" because, in its simplest form, legal reasoning
is entirely formulaic and not particularly discretionary. If a statute
requires four elements, you must convince the decision maker that all four
elements are represented in the facts of this case to get relief under
the rule. Three won't do, two won't do, one won't do. Identifying the elements
is the first job that you have as a law student. It's not particularly
easy, but you can figure it out by reading the statute or the case.
D. The IRAC Method
Everyone is going to talk to you about IRAC, and that is another
way of describing the process we just went through:
Issue: Can the Stanleys file for bankruptcy
under the law?
Rule: You can file bankruptcy if your debts
exceed the value of your assets.
Analysis: Because of the facts of this case, the
result depends upon the meaning that the court applies to value. Most courts will consider liquidation value in making this determination.
Conclusion: The court is likely to permit them to file
Legal analysis is simply the application of this rule to these
facts. This is most of what first-year law students do. Lawyers
do this, but they also have another job, and that is convincing the decision
maker that the facts of this case fit the rule. That job is entirely fact-specific. In other words, the answer depends
on what happened in this case. This
also frustrates first-year law students. If cases are completely fact-specific,
why are your teachers expecting you to extract something fixed and knowable
from reading them? Why don't we all just roll the dice and go home?
E. Legal Analysis and Precedent
The difference between rolling the dice and legal analysis is
the difference between prediction and detection, or the difference between
what might happen in the future based upon things we cannot know, and what
is likely to happen in the future based upon what we know about the past.
When you ask your teachers, "What would happen in this case if
. . ." and change the facts in some way, you are asking the teacher to
predict what a decision maker might think about these new facts. Teachers
can't guess that much better than you can, and so we may answer, "It depends!" and make you furious. You are asking the teacher to predict what an
future decision maker, subject to influences and whims that we know nothing
about, is going to decide based upon an imagined set of facts. We may respond that your guess is as good as ours.
But if you ask the teacher, "Would these new facts also arguably
meet the requirements of this statute?" then you are asking about the elements
of the rule, and that is a question we are prepared to answer. We may walk
you back through the relevant rule of law and ask you if each of its requirements,
in turn, has been satisfied. At the end of this exercise, we will have
illustrated again what the rule requires and the necessity of identifying
facts to fulfill each requirement.
What we want you to understand is that you cannot win application
of the rule if you do not identify facts that satisfy all its elements.
But you may not win even if you do. Another way to say this is that you
can easily make a bad argument (for example, when you make an incomplete
one, or inaccurately identify the elements of the rule) but it's not so
easy to make a winning one. All we want you to do at this juncture
is to identify clearly and accurately the elements of the rule, and go
through the process of applying them to the facts. Until you get into practice,
you won't know whether your argument is a winning one. You will only learn
in law school if it is a plausible one.
F. The Importance of the Rule of Law
Why do we care so much about the application of the rule to the facts?
Because law is a relatively simplistic (and therefore relatively predictable)
process. Identification of the rule isn't often very difficult or interesting. There is nothing particularly compelling about
this part of legal reasoning. What is interesting is the analysis, where
you debate the applicability of the rule, and its meaning, in specific
cases. If your facts meet the standards set forth in the rule, it applies.
If they don't, it doesn't.
So, although you might by background or sympathy want to discuss
why the Stanleys are upset, or how they got into this situation, or whether
they are being reasonable under the circumstances when refusing to sell
assets, your professors may discourage (and even disparage) this kind of
discussion. None of this discussion is relevant to the issue at hand. The
questions may have social, or even moral, importance. But the don't help
us to solve the problem at hand: Does the rule apply in this case?
Sometimes, we get into discussions about the applicability of the rule
that squarely involve these kinds of social and moral issues. In contracts
class, for example, we talk about the right of a woman to contract for
the sale of her unborn child. The rule in that case is that the courts
won't enforce contracts that are antithetical to "public policy." In analyzing
what "public policy" means, many very personal, moral issues are relevant
to the discussion. But often they are not. Why is this relentless
cleaving to the rule so important? Because, as I mentioned, we want predictability
in law. As a democratic society, we have come to believe that the rule
of law must be applied in the same way for everyone, and rigid application
of legal rules is one of the ways that we pretend that this occurs in the
legal system. Of course, the rules are never applied "in the same way" for everyone; in particular, people with better lawyers tend to get better
We also prize consistent application of the rules because it makes future
results predictable. We can plan transactions and behavior because we know
what the rules are. It is very disruptive and expensive to operate in a
society where the rules are uncertain. Think about the
of laws in some foreign countries that do not have the rule of law. In the United States legal system, we believe that if you are going the
speed limit, you will not get a ticket, and if you exceed the speed limit,
you will get a ticket. This helps us plan how to behave. (We won't discuss
yet the issue of enforcement and its effect on predictability!)
Because your professors are trying to hammer this process into your
brain, and the importance of IRAC, and the concomitant value of predictability,
it may seem that the first semester is painfully repetitive, even anti-intellectual.
But you are learning lots of things at the same time: the language of law,
the substantive law (legal rules) in many different areas, and how to be
a good anthropologist and archaeologist. So I am sure that you will not
be bored. You may sometimes get frustrated, however. Do not be afraid
to pull back and ask yourself, "What am I supposed to learn here? Analytical
skills? Substantive law? Vocabulary?" This may help you to diminish, to
some degree, your frustration. If you've lost sight of the purpose, go
see your professor and talk about it.
IV. The Nature of Law as a Profession
It seems appropriate to point out now something about law that
you may not have noticed before. Although there is something forward-looking
about trying to ascertain how a matter will be decided in the future, law
is essentially the study of history. Even when you are arguing a precedent-setting
case, you will largely bolster your position by looking to the past. In
every legal question, we are asking essentially the same question: "How
do we get to this point from where we were previously?"
You may be tempted to argue for bold changes in the way that decisions
are made. I encourage you to do so. But you must couch your arguments,
even the most precedent-shattering, in the least revolutionary way. Your
professors, and ultimately, the judges before whom you argue, will be most
inclined to make the necessary leaps of faith if they see an argument that
leads, like stepping stones, through the historical precedents to the next
logical step. Even dramatic shifts in legal thinking? Brown v. Board
of Education, the Brandeis brief, the doctrine of unconscionability
? were clothed in the language and the argumentation of history.
Sometimes this historical perspective is frustrating. You may argue
to your professors, "That is not fair!" in response to some perceived injustice.
The legal argument with which to object to an arguably wrong result is
not that it was not fair, but that it did not follow the applicable rules
correctly. Only rarely will the court be persuaded by specific facts that
the applicable rule is leading to an inappropriate result, and as lawyers
we tend to disparage these moments. In response, lawyers say, "Hard cases
make bad law," meaning that cases decided on the basis of emotion are not
reliable as sources of future results. Why don't we want judges deciding
on their own what's "fair"? Because it leads to a very personal, and unpredictable
kind of law, and one that is more subject to whim. That
is why justice is portrayed as blind, and thus indifferent to the personal
biases that might otherwise sway her.
V. Your Professional Life Begins Now
I usually wait until Thanksgiving to give this speech to my first-year
students. But it will serve you well now. Although we, your teachers, will
be pressing you to your limit, we also hope that you become healthy, well-rounded,
fully functioning professionals. Part of that training is learning early
on to keep a balance between your work and your life. I do not like to
mention this too early in the semester, because student attention spans
have only just begun to expand, and you will be amazed by the end of the
first semester how much work you can do and how long a seemingly dusty
inquiry can hold your attention.
So even as I will exhort my students to "Work! Work!" more than they
ever have before, I also remind them that this is the beginning of the
delicate balancing act they will perform for the rest of their professional
lives. Developing good habits is a part of your professional training.
So, in no particular order, please try to organize your life so that:
1. You eat regularly and healthily.
2. You sleep regular hours, including an occasional nap if necessary
(not in class, if you can help it). 3. You exercise regularly.
4. You take time away from your work for brain-cleansing activities
like sports and movies.
5. You do not kill all your brain cells by using alcohol as a method
to relieve stress.
6. You remember that the people in your life, family and friends, are
more important than law school.
VI. The Courage to Face the Struggle Ahead
You cannot get into law school without having proven that you have
a good measure of intelligence and drive. Everyone around you will have
gone through the same process to get there. Now the game begins again,
demanding even more of your intellect, your stamina, your dedication. I
have every faith that you have the capacity to succeed. What happens now
is up to you.
Write if you need me
Go to Professor
Cooper's Home Page
Go to the
Teaching and Learning Law Page
*Cf. R.M. Rillke, Letters to a Young Poet, M.D. Horton
trans. (Norton 1934).
Return to text
© Copyright 1999 Corinne Cooper. All rights reserved; reproduction
with permission and attribution only. Professor of Law, University
of Missouri?Kansas City School of Law. This article was inspired
by my niece, Jennifer Anne Ramo, Tulane Law School Class of 1999.
Watching her go through the first year of law school made me a better and
more compassionate teacher of first-year students. She made me watch
my profession with a more analytical eye, and this article is the result.
It was written with the support of the UMKC Law Foundation. I am
grateful for the guidance provided by Professors Barbara Glesner Fines,
Nancy Levit, Laura G. Dooley, Mark Loewenstein, Lynn LoPucki, and for the
indefatigable research of Lawrence MacLachlan, Senior Research Librarian,
UMKC School of Law.
Return to text
1. See, e.g., Alex de Tocqueville, Correspondence and Conversations
of Alex de Tocqueville with Nassau William Senior 1834-1859 (1968); Alex
de Tocqueville, Tocqueville's America: The Great Quotations (1983).
Return to text
2. I recall a dinner at my sister's house where my niece, about to start
law school, sought counsel from two guests?one who had just finished
the first year, and one who had just graduated?but never asked me at all.
I assume she trusted more the advice of those who had more recently shared
her perspective. This is consistent with my experience of students
generally. If asked, I will tell a student exactly what is
expected in my class, or on my exam. Yet many students
persist in believing that professors intentionally "hide the ball."
It is not uncommon to have a student treat peer advice as more
reliable. It is possible, and even likely, that students observe
things in class to which the teacher is oblivious. But it is unlikely
that a student has greater insight into that teacher's goals and intentions
than the teacher can provide. If this were true, law school would
be a terrible waste of money and time.
Return to text
3. Cf. Margaret Mead, Coming of Age in Samoa at iii (1973). In the 1928 introduction to this work, Franz Boaz describes anthropology
in a manner peculiarly appropriate for our discussion of law school:
[A] systematic description of human activities gives us very
little insight into the mental attitudes of the individual. His thought
and actions appear merely as expressions of rigidly defined cultural forms.
We learn little about his rational thinking, about his friendships and
conflicts with his fellowmen. The personal side of the life of the
individual is almost eliminated in the systematic presentation of the cultural
life of the people. The picture is standardized, like a collection
of laws that tell us how we should behave, and not how we behave; like
rules set down defining the style of art, but not in the way in which the
artist elaborates his ideas of beauty like a list of inventions, and not
the way in which the individual overcomes technical difficulties that present
Id. at 9. I'm not trying to predict how you will experience
law school. I can only hope to capture for you the "rigidly defined
cultural forms" that will govern your professional life for the next three
years, and beyond.
Return to text
4. There is a fourth dimension, the real world of
law. As law school proceeds, and perhaps even worse, after you graduate,
the distance between what you learn in law school and what you are expected
to do in the real world of law practice will become another powerful factor
in your education. That doesn't make law school irrelevant, but it
distinguishes law school from an apprenticeship, what the study of law
used to be. See, e.g., Frances Kahn Zemans & Victor G. Rosenblum,
The Making of a Public Profession 135-50 (1981).
Return to text
5. Here I must pay homage to Professor Junius Hoffman of the University
of Arizona College of Law.
Return to text
6. Sorry, this one shall remain nameless!
7. This tiny tribute is to Professor Dan
Dobbs of the University of Arizona College of Law. He still remembers
the day I upbraided him after class for his bad manners. I also remember
students who have justifiably done this to me.
8. See The Paper Chase (Twentieth Century Fox 1973), in which John Houseman
freezes forever the image of law professors as cold, rigid, ruthlessly
logical, and ultimately brutal creatures.
9. See Philip Levine, "What
Work Is," for a favorite poem of mine.
10. Interview with Philip Levine, Fresh Air, (National Public Radio Broadcast,
November 13, 1996).
11. Most students think that student evaluations have no impact
on a teacher's career. My observation is otherwise. Most schools
take teaching quite seriously, although good teaching alone cannot sustain
a career. But it is difficult to keep a job, or move up the ladder,
without solid teaching evaluations. Even when a school does not reward good teaching, no administrator likes the hassle of dealing
with students who are irate, or classes that are empty because of poor
12. This is changing, but not so rapidly as you might suppose. Several law schools have LL.M. programs
in legal education, and professors who come out of these programs have
a much better grounding in educational theory.
13. I cannot tell you the number of times that I have seen faculties
at different law schools make decisions about pedagogy in the absence of,
and even in spite of, research on the relevant issue. We aren't stupid.
It's just that most of us have not studied, and thus do not rely upon scientific
method. We are trained as lawyers, and we rely upon the "relevant
evidence." Our own experience is considered the best evidence, and
scientific research be damned!
14. I had a research assistant early in my career who cheated
on his hours. He is a lawyer now. I still do not trust him,
and I would not send a client to him.
Return to text
15. I must pay obeisance here to the people who helped me get through
law school, especially my first year: John C. Richardson, Marilyn
Skender, Michael Mandig, all University of Arizona College of Law Class
of 1978, and the Hon. Colin F. Campbell and the Hon. Nikki A. Chayet,
University of Arizona College of Law Class of 1977.
Return to text
16. This is a hard lesson for students to learn.
I encourage my students to persuade me with legal reasoning and evidence,
Nagging and self-righteousness don't get you what you want from a good
parent. They won't get you what you want from a good judge or adversary,
regardless of what you see on television dramas
Return to text
17. Don't waste time on people who are only interested
in showing off, or are taking your energy and information and offering
nothing in return.
Return to text
18. If I had my druthers, there would not be any
grades in law school. The ranking that occurs after the first semester
changes the dynamic of the classroom significantly, and not for the better.
Students who have been graded and ranked feel differently about themselves
and others. That innocent first semester when no one really knows
how anyone will do is the most open and sincere time in law school.
Grades serve two purposes that are important to students: they give you
an idea how well you are learning the material, and they help you to get
jobs by distinguishing you from your peers. Grades only serve one
purpose that is important to me: they motivate students to study.
Some students need that motivation, and I wouldn't want to teach those
people without that stick, but I'd be delighted to teach a classroom full
of students who are motivated by the desire to learn without grades.
Also, most professors do not care if the students we are teaching have
gotten good grades. We care if the students are sincerely trying
to learn. My most rewarding teaching experiences have been with students
whose work improved dramatically with great effort on both our parts. After all, even a mediocre professor can teach smart people.
Return to text
19 It is too early to think about law journals or
reviews, but do take advantage of different opportunities to learn, and
to show your stuff. For some people this is law review, or appellate
advocacy. For others it is student government, or work within the
Law Student Division of the ABA. Some students do public service
work, and organize projects for other students. Remember that all
of these activities, even law review, are adjuncts to the main game, which
Return to text
20. I once taught a first-year class that included a very charming
woman who did work for the poor. She was great fun, and everyone
loved her, but she also had a strong communitarian value system that she
communicated to the entire group. Although she left law school after
the first year to return to her work with the poor, her attitude continued
to affect the members of that class, who were unusually supportive of one
Return to text
21. See Model Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 8.3(a)(1993);
see also, Model Rules of Professional Conduct Preamble  (1993).
Return to text
22. See Model Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 8.4(a)(1993).
Return to text
23. See, e.g., UMKC
School of Law, Honor Code,
Return to text
24. Although my experience is personal and narrow, I have
in addition noted an alarming increase in the number of apologies being
written in law reviews. See, e.g., Scott K. Friedrich, Form of Apology,
58 UMKC L. Rev. 3rd unnumbered page (1990).
Return to text
25. Julie M. Cheslik, Plagiarism Policy and Guidelines:
Writing to Avoid Plagiarism (1990) (unpublished plagiarism policy, University
of Missouri-Kansas City Law School) (on file with author) citing In Search
of Plagiarism Policy, 16 N. Ky. L. Rev. 501 (1989); Louis Sirico, Jr.,
Primer on Plagiarism (1988); and Ralph D. Mawdsley, Legal Aspects of Plagiarism
(National Organization on Legal Problems of Education 1985).This is one
area where the rules in law school differs substantially from those in
practice. Some practitioners feel perfectly free to steal liberally from
other lawyers' pleadings, documents, briefs, or discovery. Indeed, some
people practice law primarily through the use of the form document and
the copy machine. They would never think to cite the document from which
they have cribbed. I don't condone these practices, and I believe that
there are legal limits to them, but I know that they exist. Law school
is different. The writing done in law school is scholarship, meant to preserve
and publicize original thinking about law. In academia, plagiarism is a
career-ending error. So in law school, this practice will be viewed as
a very serious transgression.
Return to text
26. There are two reasons why the substantive law
you learn in law school isn't all that important. First, you'll forget
most of it, or wind up practicing in a completely different field. Second,
the law changes all the time, so by the time you graduate, much of what
you've learned won't be quite the same. Of course, the basic outlines of
the subject matter, and critical characteristics will remain. But most
of what you are learning in law school is to bring about and react to changes
in the law.
Return to text
27. Expertise just means that the questions you can't answer
get harder. Even as a consultant, I don't make very much money giving people
the answers that I already know. I earn my fee when I work through a difficult
problem, using the things I know and the problem-solving skills I've developed.
We wouldn't need so many lawyers if the solutions to most problems could
be looked up. (This is even truer as lay people gain access to computer
Return to text
28. The cockiness of most lawyers may
be one result of their daring to face the law's relentless newness, rather
than any possession of the delivered wisdom.
Return to text
29. You know, I tell my students this OVER and OVER and they
have the hardest time believing it! I rail against study aids, those crutches
that built a million dollar industry on student insecurity. If someone
is doing the distillation process for you, it seems easy. It's only when
you have to do it on your own that it gets hard. But how can you expect
to learn analysis if the first time you try it is on the exam? Until they
come up with study aids for the exam, and study aids for the future, study
aids can't help you learn what you need to know. Yes, they will give you
a perfectly acceptable case brief that you can use in class. They may give
you an outline to study for the exam. But it's all passive learning that
won't do anything but lure you into a false sense of security from which
you will have a rude and unhappy awakening. While I'm on the topic,
some learning aids can be useful. If you are completely lost on the topic,
or have missed a nuance in class, a good hornbook will help you get an
overview, teach you the basic concepts, and even help you focus on the
details. I use them all the time. A book of problems and answers can be
helpful IF you actually answer the problems yourself before you read the
answers. If you just read the answers, it's more passive learning and
ultimately destructive of good learning habits. The sports analogy
is a good one. You have to put in the practice.
Return to text
30. Do you remember when you were learning Spanish
and you suddenly stopped translating everything? That is the moment of
ownership, of fluency.. The same thing will happen in law school, but probably
not until the second year.
Return to text
31. Animal Farm and Alice in Wonderland are familiar examples of the
frustration caused by using apparently familiar words to mean something
new. "All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others."
George Orwell, Animal Farm 118 (1946). "?When I use a word,' Humpty
Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ?it means just what I choose it
to mean? neither more nor less.' ?The question is,' said Alice, ?whether
you can make words mean so many different things.' ?The question I,' said
Humpty Dumpty, ?which is to be master? that's all.'" Lewis Carroll, Through
the Looking Glass 94 (1946).
Return to text
32. See, e.g., John B. Mitchell, Current Theories
on Expert & Novice Thinking: A Full Faculty Considers the Implications
for Legal Education, 39 J. Legal Educ. 275 (1989).
Return to text
33 Cloaking simple acts in the aura magic is another indication
of expertise. The expert wishes to clothe her actions in mystery, lest
they be devalued for their simplicity. See generally William R. Bishin
& Christopher D. Stone, Law, Language and Ethics: An Introduction to
Law and Legal Method 404-11 (1972). What lawyers and experts should
be doing is unmasking illusion in the search for clarity. This doesn't
always happen. Lawyers may try intentionally to obscure meaning to make
their task seem more difficult. Although this isn't necessary, and can
be dangerous, more than one client has looked at a brilliantly written,
clear, and spare legal document and exclaimed, "Why was this so expensive?
I could have written it!"
Return to text
34 George Orwell, "Shooting an Elephant; Politics
and the English Language" in Orwell Reader: Fiction, Essays, and Reportage
by George Orwell 362-63 (1962). He was speaking of politics, but
the impact in law is the same.
Return to text
35 Of course, this assumes a single, fixed meaning for
words. In contract law, you will learn that this is a myth, perpetrated
in part by lawyers desperate to make the uncertain certain. See Frigaliment
Importing Co. v. B.N.S. Int'l. Sales Corp., 190 F. Supp. 116 (S.D.N.Y.
1960). Holmes said, "A word is not a crystal, transparent and unchanged,
it is the skin of a living thought." Towne v. Eisner, 245 U.S. 418,
425 (1918). This is true; it argues against the possibility of perfect
precision. It does not deny the possibility of utter confusion. Your job
is to seek the former and avoid the latter. Too many lawyers assume the
36 I have observed a strange phenomenon in
examinations, where a student clearly does not understand the concepts
underlying the terminology. They read like English translations of electronic
equipment manuals originally written in Japanese. The words are there (they
might even be the relevant words) but the context clearly reveals a confusion
that a person fluent in their usage would never have.
37 A colleague who teaches bankruptcy law objected
to this example, arguing strenuously that it did not accurately represent
the law. I know. I'm using it as a simple example. This
isn't an article on bankruptcy law. This is another thing that you
will learn about professors: we so adore precision that we can almost
never make simple statements. We can't relax until all the appropriate
qualifiers have been added.
Return to text
38 Interestingly, another of the professors who
read this article decided that I had stated the issue wrongly, and that
the issue was, "What definition of value applies?" That is just as true
a statement of the issue as the one in the text. It is also one of the
great frustrations of law students. There is never just one issue, or one
way of describing it. Our analysis is deeply affected by the way in which
we pose the initial questions. For practicing lawyers, that is what
makes legal analysis interesting. Suppose I call something a tort that
has never been considered a tort before (say, the sale of cigarettes.)
My analysis is circumscribed by my framing of the issue in this way. I
could be wrong (that is, I could lose) or I might just be framing the issue
in a new way, and the analysis that follows may be persuasive or not. See,
e.g., Sullivan v. O'Connor, 296 N.E.2d 1833 (Mass. 1973), where
an unusual set of facts led a lawyer to include and win a contract claim
against a doctor, while losing the negligence claim. See also the discussion
of this case in Richard Danzig, The Capability Problem 15-43 (1978).
Return to text
49 Or, in the business context, predicting what a future decision
maker might do with these facts, and structuring the transaction to fit
within the known legal parameters.
Return to text
40. Although you are likely to learn most of your first-year
subjects using the case method (that is, learning substantive law by reading
specific cases that focus on that topic), it is not the only, or even the
most effective way to learn law. One author criticized it this way: "The
casebook method of teaching is, in fact, an exercise in futility. It is
the students themselves who are expected to build up a picture of law from
the few generally disconnected scraps available to them and with virtually
not tools. Students are left to guess what the editors' view of the law
is rather than getting to what the law is all about. Instead of looking
at the reasoning of a case in the light of the developed conceptual thought
that preceded it, and of its place in a structured web of reasoned principle
they are provided in the first place with a single instance that justifies
itself only by reference to particular features, leaving much to be understood....
The students study, as it were, the status of a grain of sand by walking
around inside the grain and without reference to the rest of the beach,
the surf, and the sky." Alan Watson, Introduction to Law for Second-
Year Law Students? 46 J. Legal Educ. 430, 436 (1996) (emphasis in the original.)
Some authors have begun to develop teaching materials and books that emphasize
sources in addition to cases for presenting substantive information. See,
e.g., Stewart Macaulay, et. all, Contracts: Law in Action (1st ed. 1992).
1 think that the case method is useful in its place, but it grossly overstates
the actual impact of the appellate process in the full scope of the legal
system. After all, not every legal issue involves a dispute (as when a
lawyer gives a client advice about what a statute means), not every dispute
reaches litigation, only a tiny percentage of cases that are filed actually
go to trial, and an even smaller percentage are appealed. So reading cases
to find out about the legal system is indeed looking through a microscope
when we might better consult a map. But this letter is about what is, and
not what ought to be ....
Return to text
41 I don't even want to get into what members of the
school of legal thinking called Critical Legal Studies have to say about
that unidentified, future, biased, deceptive, conniving decision maker.
When you are older, and can handle it with maturity, I will give you Duncan
Kennedy, The Legal Education and the Reproduction of Hierarchy: A Polemic
Against the System (1983) known in my profession (and not without justification)
as The Little Red Book. In the meantime, see Robert L. Hayman, Jr. and
Nancy Levit, Jurisprudence: Contemporary Readings, Problems, and Narratives
213-216 (1995) for an uncharacteristically clear explanation of Critical
42 This is sort of silly, but I like to think of a legal
rule like a hungry hydra. If you don't throw meat to each of the heads,
the one left unsatisfied will eat you!
43 Sometimes a bad statute can make this challenging, or even
hilarious, as when the Missouri Legislature accidentally outlawed consensual
sex! But usually, once you have experience, reading a statute or case and
figuring out the rule isn't all that difficult. Of course, I don't
teach Constitutional Law.
44 The clearer the rule, the easier the decision will be. But
the rule will also be inflexible, and fail to cover cases that, in retrospect,
we think ought to fall within its scope. So, for example, a speed limit
of 35 miles an hour is clear, and it is easy to apply. But if the driver
is driving badly even at 35 miles an hour, we might want a more general
rule that says, for example, the driver must drive safely and prudently.
Montana recently confronted this issue, having done away with its
daytime speed limit in favor of a rule that required drivers to drive a
"reasonable and proper" speed. Mont. Code Ann. § 61-8-303 (1995).
One would expect that such a rule would result either in fewer tickets
or more contested cases. One author suggested that such a rule is self-enforcing,
since there aren't enough highway patrol cars to police such a big state:
"Montana is a huge state with a sparse population and a tiny tax base.
We have a lot more road than we do citizens and we can't afford many highway
patrol officers. The 'reasonable and prudent' rule is more a reflection
of actual conditions than an invitation to excess. Statistically, no matter
how you drive, there's not going to be a state employee around to keep
an eye on you. If you don't drive in a reasonable and prudent manner, you
end up in a ditch." Otto Halgren, Big Sky, Big Flap, Big Deal, The San
Francisco Chronicle Dec. 18, 1995 at A23. Officers enforcing the law
disagreed: "The problem with ?reasonable and prudent,' troopers argue,
is that there aren't three fuzzier words in U.S. lawbooks." Steve
Lopez, America's Fast Lane, Time October 12, 1997 at 44. This
change in the law resulted in an increase in highway deaths in Montana,
although raising the speed limit to 75 has actually resulted in fewer deaths
in some neighboring states. Morning Edition (National Public Radio broadcast,
Sept. 15, 1997). See also Jim Robbins, Montana's Speed Limit of ??? M.P.H. Overturned as Too Vague, The New York Times Dec. 25, 1998
at A16. Although no statistics are available on the increase in legal
challenges to tickets, officers reported spending more time arguing with
drivers and in court. Id. In 1998, the Montana Supreme Court
threw out the law as unconstitutionally vague. State of Montana v.
Stanko, 974 P.2d 1132 (Mt. S.Ct 1998). "Vague laws offend several
important values. First, because we assume that man is free to steer
between lawful and unlawful conduct, we insist that laws give the person
of ordinary intelligence a reasonable opportunity to know what is prohibited,
so that he may act accordingly. Vague laws may trap the innocent
by not providing fair warning. Second, if arbitrary and discriminatory
enforcement is to be prevented, laws must provide explicit standards for
those who apply them. A vague law impermissibly delegates basic policy
matters to policemen, judges, and juries for resolution on an ad hoc and
subjective basis, with the attendant dangers of arbitrary and discriminatory
application." Id. at 1136. In 1999, Montana enacted a
75 m.p.h. speed limit. Mont. Code Ann. § 61-8-303 (1999).
Interestingly enough, despite Stanko, the new statute retains the "reasonable
and prudent speed" standard for cases below the stated limit! Id. at (4).
45 This is a relevant point for you to think about in law school
even if it makes rule identification and analysis seem less important
and results seem less predictable. After all, if good lawyers win, what
difference does it make if they learn the rules? There are two answers:
first, good lawyers know the rules and apply them well. They may have other
skills in addition to this that they might or might not have learned in
law school, but at a minimum they have this. Second, the more that you
practice this process, and the better that you get at it in law school,
the better you will be once you get into practice. This is the only skill
that lawyers need that I can guarantee you will be taught in school. You
may say to yourself that the people who get straight A's in law school
won't necessarily become the best or most successful lawyers (and these
are not necessarily the same ones) and you would be right. But the best
lawyers will certainly be excellent legal thinkers, and I think that the
successful ones will at least be more persuasive in all ways, including
their analyses, than their opponents. For the other skills that good
lawyers need that they (largely) do not learn in law school, see Zemans
& Rosenblum, supra note 4, at Ch. 6; see generally Section of the Legal
Education and Admissions to the Bar, American Bar Association, Legal Education
and Professional Development: Report of the Task Force on Law Schools and
the Law Profession: Narrowing the Gap (1992) [known as the MacCrate Report.]
46 This is one of the reasons that businesses decry the litigation
explosion. If you have to litigate every issue anyway, even if the rule
is clear, then you have lost the value of predictability. Litigation can
also have other economic effect, for example, by discouraging innovation.
See, e.g., James Gleick, Fast Forward: Legal Eagles, Times Sunday Magazine,
Sept. 14, 1997, at 48, 50 (arguing that litigation has discouraged the
development of new technologies in the single-engine aircraft industry).
The lack of a clear legal rule can have other impact as well, clogging
the courts, or encouraging (or failing to discourage) costly behavior.
See, e.g., discussion of the Montana speed limit, supra
47 See note 44 supra and the discussion
of Montana v. Stanko, 974 P.2d 1132 (Mt. S.Ct 1998).
48 I was in high school when my sister came home
to live with us while studying for the bar exam. I was astonished that
she could study all day long, and late into the night, with only a rare
break for food and water. Her concentration seemed almost unnatural to
me. Now I think about that and laugh, often after sitting at my computer
working on a problem, oblivious to time and bodily function, until something
serves to break my concentration and I realize that four hours have passed
since I last took a break. For this reason, I try not to cook while working! Your powers of concentration will expand exponentially over the next three
years, even as your improving skills shorten the time it takes to solve
49 Since I wrote this originally to my niece, I really meant
this. For you, gentle reader, my e-mail address is UCC2 at mac.com. I don't teach via e-mail, but I would be interested in hearing your reaction
to this letter, particularly after you have been in school a little while.
to the top