Each September, a new crop of students enter Harvard Law School to begin an intense, often grueling, sometimes harrowing year of introduction to the law. Turow's group of One Ls are fresh, bright, ambitious, and more than a little daunting. Even more impressive are the faculty: Perini, the dazzling, combative professor of contracts, who presents himself as the students' antagonist in their struggle to master his subject; Zechman, the reserved professor of torts who seems so indecisive the students fear he cannot teach; and Nicky Morris, a young, appealing man who stressed the humanistic aspects of law.
Will the One Ls survive? Will they excel? Will they make the Law Review, the outward and visible sign of success in this ultra-conservative microcosm? With remarkable insight into both his fellows and himself, Turow leads us through the ups and downs, the small triumphs and tragedies of the year, in an absorbing and throught-provoking narrative that teaches the reader not only about law school and the law but about the human beings who make them what they are.
In the new afterword for this edition of One L, the author looks back on law school from the perspective of ten years' work as a lawyer and offers some suggestions for reforming legal education.
Until now, the traditional concept of the law-school experience was the one presented in Scott Turow's One-L, published in 1977, a dark description of his first year at Harvard Law School. Twenty-four years later things have definitely changed. Turow's book became the accepted primer--and warning--for aspiring law students, giving them a glimpse of what awaited: grueling nonstop study, brutally competitive classes, endless research, and unfathomable terminology. It described a draconian prison and endless work in the company of equally obsessive, desperate fellow students.
Yet, sidestepping terror and intimidation, law students (and new authors) Robert Byrnes and Jaime Marquart entered highly prestigious law schools, did things their own way, earned law degrees, and were hired by a Los Angeles law firm, turning Turow's vision upside down. In their parallel narratives--two twisted, hilarious, blighted, and glorious coming-of-age stories--Byrnes and Marquart explain how they managed to graduate while spending most of their time in the pursuit of pleasure.
Byrnes went to Stanford to reinvent himself--after a false start in politics he wanted to explore the life of the mind. It took him virtually no time to discover that the law was neither particularly intriguing nor particularly challenging. He could play around the clock. When Byrnes wasn't biking he was getting drunk and smoking crack. Finding himself when he discovered the right woman, Byrnes finally moved to Los Angeles during his third year and flew upstate only to take final exams.
Born and raised in a small town in Texas, Marquart had never lived outside the state before arriving at Harvard. Amazed at his own good luck, he approached school with all due diligence. Disenchantment followed shortly thereafter, and Marquart learned he needn't be intimidated by his classmates and teachers. With a mysterious and bizarre companion--another student called the Kankoos--Jaime took up traveling but devoted most of his energy (and considerable money) to gambling, counting cards in casinos around the country.
Irreverent, funny, and downright shocking, Brush with the Law will inspire undergraduates to bone up for the entrance exam, while outraging lawyers and the admissions officers of their beloved alma maters.
Upon realizing how easy it was to get good grades, Jaime relates:
"I approached my second year with [one] goal . . . take classes that required the least amount of work and the least amount of attendance . . . To accomplish my . . . goal, I devised The System, a short instruction manual on the principles behind selecting and ditching law school classes. The System's goal was to screw off as much as possible, with few if any consequences." --from Brush with the Law
Professors Fischl and Paul explain law school exams in ways no one
has before, all with an eye toward improving the reader’s performance.
The book begins by describing the difference between educational
cultures that praise students for “right answers,” and the law school
culture that rewards nuanced analysis of ambiguous situations in which
more than one approach may be correct. Enormous care is devoted to
explaining precisely how and why legal analysis frequently produces such
But the authors don’t stop with mere description. Instead, Getting to Maybe
teaches how to excel on law school exams by showing the reader how
legal analysis can be brought to bear on examination problems. The book
contains hints on studying and preparation that go well beyond
conventional advice. The authors also illustrate how to argue both sides
of a legal issue without appearing wishy-washy or indecisive. Above
all, the book explains why exam questions may generate feelings of
uncertainty or doubt about correct legal outcomes and how the student
can turn these feelings to his or her advantage.
In sum, although the authors believe that no exam guide can
substitute for a firm grasp of substantive material, readers who devote
the necessary time to learning the law will find this book an invaluable
guide to translating learning into better exam performance.
Attend a Getting to Maybe seminar! Click here for more information.
Scott Turow is known to millions as the author of peerless novels about the troubling regions of experience where law and reality intersect. In "real life," as a respected criminal lawyer, he has been involved with the death penalty for more than a decade, including successfully representing two different men convicted in death-penalty prosecutions. In this vivid account of how his views on the death penalty have evolved, Turow describes his own experiences with capital punishment from his days as an impassioned young prosecutor to his recent service on the Illinois commission which investigated the administration of the death penalty and influenced Governor George Ryan's unprecedented commutation of the sentences of 164 death row inmates on his last day in office. Along the way, he provides a brief history of America's ambivalent relationship with the ultimate punishment, analyzes the potent reasons for and against it, including the role of the victims' survivors, and tells the powerful stories behind the statistics, as he moves from the Governor's Mansion to Illinois' state-of-the art 'super-max' prison and the execution chamber.
This gripping, clear-sighted, necessary examination of the principles, the personalities, and the politics of a fundamental dilemma of our democracy has all the drama and intellectual substance of Turow's celebrated fiction.