We are sliding into autumn and registering for another year of study. I am also in week two of a new position and we are moving to a new home. It has been a wonderfully interesting year as being a first year post graduate law student is bound to be. The professional and personal pandemonium certainly added a bit of zest to the excitement of legal studies. The process of shifting house and starting a new position at the same time is a bit hair-raising so you can appreciate why I decided to wait on exams. As the Hermione Granger of law school – the one who looks forward to taking exams – I had to overcome my disappointment at missing them.
I decided to both treat myself and embrace the chaos. I am using this precious patch of time to round out my understanding of legal reasoning and analysis, and to get a working understanding of topics in law like torts and contracts. That might sound a bit high-minded but I arrived in the PG Laws program with no undergraduate background in law. In the USA that is a very common thing but over the year it felt as if it put me at a bit of a disadvantage; not an obstacle mind you, just an intellectual disadvantage.
This term I have been reading legal history and theory. It occurred to me that I need a good definition of legal reasoning, its application, and some understanding of the branches of law that it addresses to feel more confident. My bet is that some wider reading in the law will make my, sometimes iffy, arguments about legal theory stronger, even if it is only in my own head. Talking with some of my lawyer friends and working on some issues for work convinced me to add some general knowledge of law to my reading list.
In the process of searching out interesting books on beginning legal study, I found a fun reading list on Amazon for those beginning law school. ‘The Review Guy’ writes it this way: “These books fall into two categories: A) things I personally used in law school and found effective or B) things I have discovered in my subsequent practice that I wished I’d had in law school.” The books on his list are not text books, some of them sound like downright hilarious reads. In the midst of my house moving and the new job I could use a good laugh.
So far my personal favorites are Inference and Implication: An Introduction to Logical Analysis, and The Redbook: A Manual on Legal Style. As the Review Guy describes it, “legal writing isn’t data entry, it’s high art.” It should help take the edge off of submitting my first paper to the U of L law faculty. Who wouldn’t have a cramp before writing their first exam at one of the top law schools in the world, especially on legal history and theory? Law 101: Everything You Need to Know About the American Legal System is useful for its concise overview of the major branches of common law. While our program focuses on European law, this title is helpful for basic concepts and definitions. Remember, when starting out I did not know a tort from a tortoise.
For what it’s worth, I’m adding two of my own titles to the list: The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation, 20th Edition and Legal Reasoning and Legal Writing: Structure, Strategy, and Style.
Here is one more exciting discovery. If you have not tried Dragon Voice Recognition dictation software it is a compelling time saver. I have been using the Philips Black Voice Recorder hand held device for several weeks. It’s both a time and life saver for note taking, brainstorming, developing papers, and listening to my notes while packing and unpacking crates.
Enjoy the start of a new term. Please let me know what has helped you in your studies.