A Message from the Dean
A 1L Odyssey
Alumni Fill Halls of Academe
New LAS President Hopes to Increase Outreach to Alumni
Levy Scholars Program Provides 'Mark of Distinction' for Top Students
Tanenbaum Hall Turns 10
Judge Rosenn Inspires A Following Among Former Clerks
The Brief
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A 1L Odyssey 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8

Melissa’s first class is Torts. Unlike college, there will be no easing in to the work. Visiting Professor Connie Rosati introduces herself then gets down to business. More advice: Law School is pretty stressful, so help each other. Keyboards begin to clack as students take notes on their laptops. Rosati tells the class that they will learn theory and policy, legal history, how the Constitution affects Common Law, and how to develop a legal argument. What follows are basic explanations of liability, remedies for accidental injury, and discussion of their first case. The class will have to read 20 to 30 pages per class.

“A once-through light read is not going to cut it at all,” says Mann. “Students are very surprised when on the first day you ask them what a term that they read in the case means … They figure that it will become obvious to them in time. So when you ask them ‘what is assumpsit?’, they are shocked.”

As Mann suggests, the learning curve is steep, and the first week takes a toll. Exhaustion sets in from lugging 1400-page textbooks around and reading and thinking all day, every day. There’s so much to absorb. The information is dry, dense and unfamiliar, and Melissa wracks her brain to extract the relevant data from each case. In order to brief a case and condense nine pages of reading into one page of bullet points, she has to understand judges’ opinions and decipher formal footnotes, then pull out the facts, procedures, holdings, reasoning and disposition. She must also learn how to pick apart arguments, make new ones, and somehow correlate seemingly unrelated information, and do so quickly and instinctively.

“Law school has challenged me more than I ever thought it would,” Melissa says. “We all feel like we’re on some kind of ridiculous reality show that, at the end balloons are going to come down (and someone will say), ‘You made it. Congratulations.’"

At the same time, she says, to her delight the intense competition and hard-boiled environment she expected in law school does not exist at Penn Law. Clinton, Associate Dean for Student Affairs, says he reminds students that the staff, faculty and administration are ready to help students every step of the way.

 
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