Thursday, August 21, 2008

What I've Learned: Tom Moses

"Things I've Learned"
By Tom Moses
Adjunct Professor, USF
McGeorge School
of Law, 1984

I have never really thought of myself as a "typical lawyer." Even in law school, I never really identified myself as "one of those guys." You know, with the grey flannel suits and the self-righteous attitude and the burning desire for a corner office (although, certainly, I wouldn't mind the latter). I guess I have always tried to keep both halves of my life apart. I call it "taking off my lawyer hat and putting on my real person hat." And, I think, that approach to life and law has kept me sane, sober (relatively at least), and still interested in the profession and the people in it for lo these many years.

What advice would I give to lawyers-to-be? (Besides, of course, the proverbial "Don't do it!") I think that it would boil down to this:

1. Study hard, but play harder. Law school can be, and usually is, very stressful. To succeed, you do have to do a lot of studying, and more studying, and outlining, and briefing, and writing. But, you also have to find the time to do something fun, and really do it! Whether it is running through the park, or biking along the bay, or even just working up to a new level on your favorite video game, it's important to try to maintain some connection with things you enjoy doing. It's all a matter of physical, mental and emotional balance.

2. Have a support group. One can't go through law school without the help of others. No person is an island. Whether for practical reasons (you need some help on a Con Law outline), or romantic (many of my law school friends got married right after they graduated), or emotional (it's always good to have someone to vent to), friends are a necessary part of your law school experience. You'll find that many of the friends you make now you will be the kind that will "stick with you." It's much like the survivors of war or a national disaster--shared pain brings you closer.

3. Make time for yourself. While friends and the social aspects of law school are great, there are times when you just have to be happy being alone. When I was studying for the bar, I made it a point to put down the books, fix a sandwich, and watch "I Love Lucy" and "Leave It To Beaver" reruns--just me and the TV. Or, and my friends thought I was really weird for doing so, I would take an hour off and read a book. (I read all the novels of Charles Dickens for relaxation during law school, along with some James Clavell and Mark Twain.) After a little "me-time," I went back at it refreshed. For what it's worth, I took the bar the year that they added the "performance" part of the test. While the bar pass rate was the lowest in history that year, and many of my friends who studied interminable hours at the law library failed, me and Lucy and Little Dorrit passed!

4. Be kind to teachers and staff. Not all teachers are Professor Kingsfield. Most if not all of them are there because they have a genuine interest in their subject matter and in their students. Take advantage of this and make a connection with a teacher. Having a mentor can be really helpful in your future career. Even perhaps more importantly, make friends with the law school staff, whether it be the registrar or the career placement director. They can help make your life easier at school, and perhaps guide you to a good job connection. Networking is everything!

5. Finally, remember why you're here. Everyone is in law school for some reason. Some are here because they want to "defend the defenseless." Others are here because they want entree into corporate America and the "lifestyles of the rich and famous." Still others might be here because they are intellectually curious or want to make this a better world. There will be times during your law school years when you ask yourself "why am I bothering?" That's when you have to remember to re-motivate yourself. Keep the goal in mind, and it'll help you get out of the depths on those black days.

I wish you all well as you continue on your path towards lawyerhood. I doff my "real person" hat to you!

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