Law School Labyrinth

The Oxford English Dictionary, available at Brooklyn Law School in eleven print volumes in the National Reading Room on the 2d floor of the BLS Library and online on the Library database page, gives the figurative defintion of “labyrinth” as a “tortuous, entangled, or inextricable condition of things, events, ideas, etc.; an entanglement, maze”. That meaning of the word may well describe what many 1Ls and upperclass members feel as they work through their law school careers. To help them, the BLS Library recently added to its collection Law School Labyrinth by Steven R. Sedberry (Call #KF283 .S43 2009). The eight chapters in this easy to read book are: Lesson from the labyrinth, or how I learned to stop worrying and start booking classes — The money minotaur: keeping law school costs at bay — How to hit the ground running your first day as a 1L — Your law school study approach — How to prepare for final exams — Summer clerkships — Your second and third years — The bar exam and beyond.

For students who are feeling overwhelmed, this is an excellent guide and a good analysis of law school with some good tricks to succeed in law school. The book has useful tips on how to avoid spending precious time on the conventional competitive aspects of law school and more on what matters such as doing well on tests, the bar, and being a good lawyer. The book offers a study method that attempts to level the playing field even for those students who are intimidated by larger personalities. It has interesting anecdotal examples that bring down to earth the people, teachers and tests and scores that law students encounter during their academic years.

Chapter 1 sets the tone with five highly readable Lessons on navigating the labyrinth and some Fatal False Turns that are well worth reading. Sedberry defends the often criticized Socratic method in his Lesson #4: Law School Can Actually Help You to Become an Effective Lawyer.

Chapter 3 “How to Hit the Ground Running Your First Day as a 1L” explains what the Socratic Method is and offers reasons to embrace it rather than fear it. Sedberry impresses upon readers the absolute critical importance of those first-year grades and states that first-year grades determine who gets chosen for law review, moot court, and even summer clerkships.

Chapters 4 “Your Law School Study Approach”and Chapter 5 “How to Prepare for Final Exams” may be the most useful for law students as they explain law school study approaches and the once-a-semester exams. Sedberry explains the bell curve to students wondering why they did not get an “A”, offering useful tips to ensure placement at the top of that bell curve. Law students are accustomed to achieving high marks and turning in competent academic work. So competition for “A”s is high and students must push themselves differently than they did in their undergraduate schools. Students will benefit from reading the rest of the book.

The above comments are excerpted from Sami Hartsfield’s book review in the September 30 edition of the Houston Legal Issues Examiner.