The Slacker's Guide to Law School (Paperback)
Success Without Stress
Fine Print Press, Ltd., 9781888960525, 162pp.
Publication Date: May 15, 2008
I've got to admit, the title seems odd at first glance. Surely law school is no place for slackers? Surely the rigor of a legal education punishes those who don't want to put in the endless hours of hard work? But the book, as it states clearly and up-front on the back cover, "is not about laziness." It's about coping with law school and emerging on the other side without feeling that the past three years have been played by someone else's rules. I'll admit, I'm a law grad for whom the time spent in law school felt as if I was merely going through the motions, doing exactly what I was told to do by the so-called experts who assumed (wrongly) that my only goal in life was straight A grades in law school classes followed by a stellar legal career. Were I to go through law school again, I'd do things differently: family would come first all the time, I'd take effective shortcuts, I'd minimize stress, and I'd do whatever I could to enjoy those three years while still succeeding in my studies. And this is where the Slacker's Guide comes in.
Many law school guide books are written with a "This Is The RIGHT Way" attitude - the authors fail to acknowledge that there are many paths to success, and what worked well for them doesn't necessarily work well for others whose aptitude, interests, goals and circumstances differ. And that's what I like about the law school guides published by the Fine Print Press - it's a diverse set of books that offer multiple paths to multiple goals, rather than a rigid set of rules to landing a job in a mega law firm that are rammed down the reader's throat as if some kind of magic formula for success. The Slacker's Guide fills a true gap in the market, and offers advice to those students (and there are many of them) who just want to be normal people during law school and after law school. Normal people with normal jobs with normal stress. People who are happy to define their own goals, even if that goal isn't striving to become the a Supreme Court justice. To quote the author, "I like to get home at a reasonable hour and play with my daughter. Therefore, a job working 70-hour-weeks at a big law firm never seemed like a successful fate to me." If anything, this isn't a book about law school; it's a book about learning how to set your own definition of what constitutes success.
The book goes through the typical topics, such as determining whether law is a good career choice, where and how to apply, and what to expect during class and exams. These sections, however, rather than merely rehashing the same old material one can find in the same old traditional law school guides, approach the topics from a "you've been told that this is important by other people, but you need to think about why (and even if) this is important to you" angle. The reader is encouraged to think about a legal education and a legal career not in terms of other people's definitions of success, but in terms of achieving success on a personal level. Using me as an example, this kind of thinking took me many years to develop. My first job out of law school was what most would consider something of a position for failures - unprestigious practice area, awful salary, no benefits, bad location etc. I was happy there, I enjoyed the work, but I let everyone else's definition of success lead me to believe that I needed to be working in a fancier firm doing fancier work. And I ended up in a larger, more prestigious firm, and spent three stressful years and far too many hours sitting in an office working on matters I disliked for clients I disliked. Sure, I was more successful in the eyes of other people, but by my own standards, I came to realize that this wasn't success at all. Success would be a position in which I was happy, paying the bills, and spending time with my family. And that's where I am right now.
The book is an easy read, and contains many amusing and helpful anecdotes, stories and hints. In fact, many of the topics are covered in a narrative style, using the author's own experiences to convey the point. It also covers some subjects that other guides simply don't touch upon, notably the use of (or rather, why you probably shouldn't use) performance enhancing drugs, and life outside law school (dating, partying, and what happens when you mix law students, grapefruit and a swimming pool - you'll have to buy the book to find out about that one). Overall, the value of the material contained in this book is cleverly hidden behind a simple, conversational style, but don't let the author's casual and personal nature make you think that the information contained inside is equally informal and light.
The Slacker's Guide should be read by all incoming law students, not necessarily for the sake of reading yet another law school guide, but because this is the one guide that carries a deeper message: don't lose yourself in your quest for that legal education. It's easy to let law school change who you are, and who you've worked so hard to become in your years leading up to that point in your life. It's easy to let others tell you what you should be doing in order to become a success, and it's easy to let the overwhelming stress change you into something you're not comfortable being. The Slacker's Guide will help you realize that there's no simple formula for law school success other than the one that's already locked away in the back of your mind.