Looking Back from Law School

Over the last few days I’ve heard from two former students who are now in the first year of law school.  The first relayed two “things I wish I knew at SMG about law:”

The first is the fact that jurisdictions have different standards and different tests to apply to the same concept.  It seems obvious, however in real estate law I never remember going over how New York has codified their implied warranty of habitability making proving breach easier while other states, like Massachusets, have their implied warranty of habitability grounded in common law.

The second is a more depth explanation of stare decisis and the difference between binding and persuasive precedent.  Knowing which court’s decisions are binding [and] where is very important . . .  most students [do not] realize that decisions made by appellate courts in different circuits are not binding on each other.

The latter point was particularly timely, coming one day after discussing in class an exam question about “binding precedent” that most students answered incorrectly.  I’ll convey the concept more clearly next semester.

The second mentioned how his SMG law classes prepared him for law school:

Taking both LA245 and 349 seriously prepared me for the first year. My contracts professor is really “old school,” in that he requires written briefs of every case, and makes us stand up when he calls on us — but having done the case briefs in your classes made it much easier to handle. Also, I’m really amazed with how much we covered in those courses, because a lot of what we have been working on are things I already understood from your class: consideration and offer/acceptance in my contracts course…. res ipsa loquitur in torts… restrictive covenants and protected classes in property… those are just coming to mind. There are also the auxiliary concepts we picked up on the way, like how different jurisdictions might be favorable, or the hierarchy of the court system, or even that Pi = plaintiff, and Delta = defendant … all things that a lot of my classmates didn’t know or understand at first.

He confirms what I tell prospective law students in the advanced courses:  case briefs and discussion-based classes can help train students for law school, but other students will catch up to whatever edge they provide.  Still, it is heartening to hear the courses benefited him in some way.

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