Finals Week

At long last ….. finals week for my first semester of law school is finally under way, and the first exam day technically just kicked off yesterday. Law students all over Northwestern are immersed in their books and outlines, and everyone is looking for an edge to perform well, especially 1Ls. But this doesn’t come as a surprise. After all, law school has a reputation for being quite competitive, let alone this year when jobs are fewer, grades more important, and the market uncertain. What does come as a surprise however is that unlike me, most of the students here have ventured out of the library to do their studying at home or in coffee shops, free from interruption. So the campus seems a lot emptier than it did just a week ago.

For the most part, I’ve done a good job of staying out of the law school frenzy. I think many of the JD-MBAs are able to do that quite well, in fact most of them do it better than I do. But the last few days I’ve fed into the frenzy a lot more than usual. But can you blame me, its finals week. The days now are starting to feel like a blur, and I often miss how quickly the day goes by, as I’m reading, outlining, looking at practice tests, and having dialogues with classmates. I’ve certainly gotten into a routine the past two weeks, where it’d actually feel odd if I didn’t do any of these things.

But more interesting than the tangible things I’m doing to study is that I’ve learned some pretty interesting things going through the process. For one, I’ve definitely come to vastly appreciate what my law school professors do. Not only do they have to be familiar with all of the material they assign, but they also have such a high level mastery of it to field our questions, teach complicated subject in an understandable way, and to come up with on the spot examples and illustrations, which is pretty impressive given how hard the material actually is.

Its also been pretty interesting observing the habits of the students here at Northwestern. I’ve noticed that some of the students have gotten into pretty interesting routines to study more effectively. Many go into the same classrooms, meet with the same people to study, and sit at the exact same desk in the library every day. Other go to different places at different times and never study with the same people. Then there’s a third group of people who have just disappeared and probably won’t emerge from the apartments until the day of the exams, just to go back into hibernation again until the next exam. I’ve definitely not seen quite a few of my classmates for the week or so.

On the other hand, a number of my peers seem really calm and collected. One of my better friends in the JD-MBA program does that really well and he always gives me a hard time for studying as much now. I’m not sure how much the calmness correlates to everyone’s confidence or grasp of the material, perhaps it’s just their perspective, being used to pressure, or just a bit of ambivalence to law school. My hypothesis is that it’s probably different for everyone. While I certainly took notice of this earlier in the semester, it’s become a bit more clear the past few week that there is no typical law student here.

As for me, I tend to spend more of my time here at the school now. I generally like to mix up location when I can, and I have a nice circle of people I study with, although in general the law school process is not group-focused like at Kellogg. Rather, it’s a lot about self-teaching, reading, and writing, which can feel pretty isolating if you don’t make a point to take a break every now and then. Thankfully the people here at Northwestern are pretty collegial and the JD-MBAs here have a really good support system for each other.

It’s been a pretty interesting past few weeks, but the journey just begins today, as our first final looms less than 24 hours from now, and our last one comes ten days later, as a seven-hour marathon exam. While it may sound brutal, my opinion is that we’re are pretty fortunate to be at Northwestern, especially now. So no matter how things turn out, I plan to stay optimistic, enjoy the process, and hopefully write a post or two the next two weeks.

Good luck to all those with exams.

Sunday, December 6th, 2009 Law School

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