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by Vault Education Editors | March 31, 2009


In Vault's new column, One L, Northwestern Law School 1L Trevor Hayes gives you the skinny on life in the law school trenches. This is the seventh in a series.

While the first half of the semester seemed to lack any sense of urgency, there sure is some now. With just about a month of classes remaining after spring break, and weeks of procrastinating to catch up on, my visions of beaches and sun now include horn books and commercial outlines.

I was really beginning to worry about my lack of motivation the last couple of months, and then I started talking to other One Ls at my school and other schools around the country. It seems to be pretty universal that nearly all of us think we are huge slackers compared with last semester.

I ran into a group of One Ls from my undergrad, UNLV, last night at an Irish Pub on St. Patty's Day, and they said pretty much the same thing.

After the first semester, you learn that one day of reading does not a semester make, and it becomes easy to overlook parts of reading assignments and then whole reading assignments. My saving grace has again been something I imported from the working world: You show up every day no matter how sick you are or how little you want to be there. I've done that from the time I bagged groceries in high school on through to professional jobs.

Judging by the attendance in the classes the last month, not everyone else has that same theory. I don't know if they are reading the assignments but not showing up to class or if they are just slacking totally.

A huge weight has been lifted from us at my school when we turned in our final appellate brief for our legal writing class. Now, other than the ungraded oral arguments in early April (the class that has been my personal Albatross, continually weighing me down), legal writing is finished.

As bad as legal writing was for me, there was a good part to it. I again was reminded of what great classmates I have. A group of us banded together to collaborate on research and bounce ideas back and forth. None of us was worried about helping someone to get a better grade than ourselves or worried about who put in the most effort; it was really a great thing to see. Id heard such horrible things about the uncooperative nature of law students before I started law school, and none of it has borne out, at least not that I have seen. I don't know if that is just a tired stereotype from 30 years ago or if my school attracts a special character of student, but either way I am glad to be where I am.

As I sit here in Vegas on spring break (with California beckoning later this week), it is hard to believe that when we go back to school in two weeks there will be just a month of school left.

The semester has flown by and the challenges have turned out to be great, only different from the ones I had imagined. I figured the intellectual demands of law school would be the greatest challenge. Instead the challenge has been to stay motivated when there seems to be little reason for it.

~As I said in one of my earlier columns, my study habits in undergrad left a bit to be desired. (OK, they were nonexistent.) During the first semester of law school, I stuck to my treat-it-like-a-job theory to stay on top of things, but somehow this semester has felt more like school to me, and I've lapsed back into some old patterns.

Spring break won't be much of a break for me. I am going to be reading all day long for most of my break. I took this first weekend off to attend a conference basketball tournament and watch my team blow its shot at the NCAA tournament. (Hello, NIT.) But now it is time to bear down and do some work. At least it will be easier to do on the beach in California this weekend and next than it is in the frozen tundra of Chicago.

For any prospective students out there reading this, my advice for next year would be not to get too cozy in the second semester. Sure I will be able to catch up, but I squandered away the cold months. Now that spring is coming to Chicago, instead of enjoying the great weather and hanging out at the lake, I will have my head buried in a book.

As March ends, I am still not sure what I am going to do this summer. I have a job offer in San Francisco, but I just interviewed a week ago with the State's Attorneys Office in Chicago, and the job would be a great learning experience. Then this weekend I was invited to interview for a media law nonprofit in Washington, D.C. Since I want to go into media law I am leaning toward that one, if it is offered.

I should be happy that I will potentially have tough decisions to make. Unfortunately, none of those decisions involves paying jobs, but fortunately we have scholarship money available to help those of us in public interest jobs to eat this summer. Several of my classmates landed paying jobs for the summer. I was not one of the fortunate ones. But others have yet to land any work, so I guess I am not an unfortunate one either.

With the economy the way it is, I just hope we all fare well during OCI in August.

Trevor Hayes is a first-year student at Northwestern University School of Law, a graduate of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and a former newspaper reporter. He is trying to remember that books are not doorstops, and reading and going to the beach are not mutually exclusive activities.


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