The Biggest Takeaway From Law School Orientation

September 11, 2015

Law School 3Across America, auditoriums are filling up with nervous chatter, new students, and legalese. As you begin your journey into the legal profession, you might be hearing many unfamiliar terms. Some are ordinary words with different meanings inside a law school!

Here’s the one thing I learned from orientation: when you’re not sure about something, gather your resources and make a good-faith effort, then ask for help. For instance, knowing the difference between these common terms and their law school equivalents will save you from stress and embarrassment! If you haven’t found a mentor, let’s clear up some things.

Law Review vs. Law Revue

One produces legal analysis read around the legal world (including on Westlaw!). The other produces musical send-ups of law school life. If you’re into satire, look for law revue, but to read a piece about humor in legal opinions, look for a law review.

Bar Review

During orientation, you probably passed by several companies offering law school study aids and a course to help you review for a state bar exam. Another bar review often takes place after classes on Friday. Studies take second fiddle to unwinding from the week. If you’re interested in the latter type of bar review, look for flyers announcing the week’s get-together.

Character and Fitness

This has nothing to do with your summer exercise program or “getting swole.” Instead, it refers to your fitness to practice law. In many states, like California, the law school has to make a declaration of the applicant’s character. Generally this means disclosing law school discipline, knowledge of criminal offenses, personal conduct, and other issues. During orientation, we met our school’s Dean, who urged us to behave ourselves. Even if law school squeezes your workout program, you should still dedicate all your time to character and fitness.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the language of the law, Westlaw is here to help. Black’s Law Dictionary is available on Westlawas a mobile app, and in print!

These fun examples are a prelude to the Latin maxims, terms of art, and other vocabulary you’ll be learning. Precise language might not win you fame and fortune in your first few weeks of law school. With a sense for precise language, you could win cases with billions of dollars at stake.