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One L: The Turbulent True Story of a First Year at Harvard Law School

Da Scott Turow
Recensioni: 29 | Valutazione complessiva: Media
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Newsweek calls him "an extraordinarily canny and empathetic observer." In bestseller after bestseller, Turow uses his background as a lawyer to create suspense fiction so authentic it reads with the hammering impact of fact. But before he became a worldwide sensation, Scott Turow wrote a book that is entirely true, the account of his own searing indoctrination into the

Recensioni

data di revisione 04/21/2020
Sunderland Mikita

This was a fascinating look at what law school is really like. Sure, I've seen the movies "Legally Blonde", "The Paper Chase" and even "Soul Man," but this wasn't a goofy Hollywood movie -- Scott Turow actually lived it.

Turow started at Harvard Law School in September 1975. He took good notes and kept a journal of his experiences as a law student, which he later turned into this insightful memoir. I really enjoyed the stories of his professors, his classes, his fellow students, and how much reading and studying was involved. I can understand why this book is still so widely read by law students several decades later -- it's well-written and straightforward about the challenges and pressures facing law students.

While I don't plan on going to law school, I do enjoy books about academia, and I'm glad I read this. I highly recommend "One L" to anyone interested in the law school experience.
data di revisione 04/21/2020
Dorelia Craveiro

bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch

Please. This was tiresome. This guy seemed to think going to Harvard Law School was going to be like playing musical chairs, where everyone got a chair. I mean, not only is it law school, but it's Harvard. And he's shocked that everyone is overly competitive and a little bit whacked out because of it. Even though the class load was rough, he was still able to manage to get 6 hours of sleep most nights, and only pulled one all nighter (I know, Amy. I died a little inside when I read that too.)
data di revisione 04/21/2020
Mukul Fontanini

Turow paints a largely accurate picture of the life of a first year student at a top American law school. He describes his gifted, high-achieving, and insufferably competitive peers and professors to a T. Those who have survived the ordeal will immediately recall their own struggles to comprehend the first few cases they read and briefed, the hours, the jargon, and generally navigating unknown waters. (Should I buy a hornbook or stick with the thousands of pages of assigned casebook reading? Is it useful to join a study group? What's the Law Review? etc.) The atmosphere, saturated with fear of failure (read mediocrity), will resonate with any who have competed at a high level or longed for excellence.

The book is about people searching to find relevance. Here, the search takes place in the increasingly silly and mundane legal world. Many characters and some of Turow's points of emphasis strike me as self-indulgent and annoyingly self-satisfactory. The problem is the use of proxies for success as improper substitutes for the real thing. For example, high grades and Law Review participation are certainly impressive academic achievements. But the real achievements in law occur outside the classroom. They involve getting the innocent person acquitted and the guilty convicted, or establishing the most economically efficient legal doctrine to thereby enhance everyone's standard of living. Turow and his peers were thrilled to be admitted to Harvard because it is Harvard and it is exclusive. They desired high grades and invitation to Law Review because these were distinctions between themselves and others. They were BETTER than those who were not admitted to Harvard, who did not have high grades, and who were not on the Law Review. The motivating factor, by all appearances, is mere egotism, not a desire to do justice. There's no other way to explain the crippling fear of poor grades or mediocrity, as opposed to slight disappointment.

After all, there are no grand moral truths to defend in tax, secured transactions, or civil procedure. No flesh and blood human beings or clients are affected by a student's exam or Law Review submission. Instead, success in such courses goes to those most able to survive a war of attrition, who continue to read and plug away at the concepts when wiser souls would have long recognized the absurdity of the endeavor. Grade distributions from the first year classes of property, contracts, torts, civil procedure, and criminal law are useful to firms in sorting out the more talented from the less so in the narrow skill of writing an exam. It is useful in selecting Law Review members and clerkships, which are just extensions of the game, more hurdles to jump through, more feathers to scoop up in backbreaking fashion, more ends in themselves. These are the heights to which many aspire. This is the source of much misery and misdirected energy. This is so unnecessary.

In the end, the desire to be recognized, to stand out, to feel pleased with oneself and have one's efforts rewarded is completely understandable. Turow captures this idea perfectly. It's tragic that such feelings of security and success and personal worth stem from mastery of the Uniform Commercial Code. But perhaps this is no worse than the same feelings stemming from mastery of Donkey Kong (see the documentary King of Kong), the triple Salchow, or the four-seam fastball.

The accurate:
1. Law school is competitive. To be accepted into a top law school, one must have stellar academic credentials, which are basically defined by an LSAT score and undergraduate GPA. Success in both areas requires a combination of intelligence and diligence. Thus, even prior to the first day of class, a selection bias operates to create a group of competitive assholes. More than one of these people will have read hornbooks over the summer in preparation for the upcoming semester. All will have enjoyed academic success for the majority of their lives. And almost all will, to a greater or lesser degree, define their self-worth through academic achievement. When grades are distributed on a strict curve, as they are in many law schools, there will necessarily be only a limited number of people at the top. This requires most of the class, formerly sure of themselves and proud of their abilities, to literally reevaluate their lives and their worth as they find themselves at the bottom or middle of the class for the first time.

2. The secret desire to do well and fear of failure when surrounded by such talented and motivated individuals is very real. People discover what they are made of in law school, and it can be scary. Turow captures this sentiment beautifully when describing a conversation he had with his peers about the Law Review. Some stated flatly they wanted to make it because of the honor. Turow initially said he did not want it and wouldn't participate in the 40-50 hours per week required to complete cite checking--the arduous and thankless task of verifying the accuracy of sources supporting propositions in published academic pieces. But when pressed, he admitted that he actually did want it and says, "I felt I'd done something precarious, something quite dangerous, the minute the words were out of my mouth." The danger was in allowing himself to acknowledge that he cared about something, that he had set a goal, even if subconsciously, that he probably would not be able to fulfill, and failing to fulfill that goal would be emotionally painful.

3. Economics is inextricably linked to the law. Legal doctrines, decisions, and arguments frequently draw on concepts from economics, and students who are well-versed in economics likely have an advantage in law school. Civil procedure's rules, cost/benefit analysis in administrative law and elsewhere, efficient breaches in contracts, the concept of negligence in torts, the Coase theorem in property, and many other areas of economics reveal themselves throughout nearly every law school course.

4. Grading in law school is imperfect. Most courses have just one final exam at the end of the term. Thus, a single exam between 3 and 8 hours determines one's grade for the course. There is insufficient time to deeply wrangle with the issues, and the process is more like regurgitation than analysis. Many believe the single exam system exists to minimize the amount of effort required by professors to determine grades. Others complain that their true ability, whatever that means, is not reflected in so short a time. Still others swear that preparation has no relation to grades. Despite these drawbacks, it's not at all clear there is a better alternative. As is frequently the case in life, it is easy to point out a problem and much more difficult to find a solution. However imperfect the single exam evaluation is, and setting aside that there is a great deal of variation between the abilities of students with similar grades, grades do serve a useful function by distinguishing. Effort and knowledge are rewarded, and there is a large difference between an A+ exam and a mediocre one.

5. Grades are hugely important. With 40,000 or more attorneys graduated every year in the United States, law firms, judges, and government agencies simply must use some method to whittle down applicants for associate positions. Grades are an easy way to do just that. Moreover, the grades do reveal something, whether it's effort, intelligence, or even a bit of luck.

6. The varying teaching styles described by Turow are spot on. The Socratic method, whereby professors "cold call" students or ask questions and delve into the responses to reveal underlying concepts and encourage critical thinking, is a staple of the first year legal curriculum. Some professors are better at it than others. Some, like Turow's Torts professor, will literally never make an affirmative statement, preferring instead to leave questions open. Others may use classes as their own ego-stroking sessions, never failing to achieve what seems to mirror sexual gratification at the thought that they know more than first-year students. Occasionally, however, students are blessed with that rare professor who is both talented and comfortable in his own skin. He asks difficult and important questions to provoke new thoughts or refine arguments. He answers questions when needed and builds on established ground, climbing slowly to exciting new heights and intellectual playgrounds, inviting students to join him in the sandbox above.

7. The first year is exhausting. Reading cases and studying the law is like learning a second language, as Turow mentions. The concepts themselves are rarely difficult. Instead, the difficulty lies in the volume of material to be sifted and learning how to extract the pertinent from the extraneous. The difficulty lies in overcoming jargon and the barriers erected by annoying, petty people who intentionally obscure their ideas in unnecessarily complex language or sentence structure in order to give the illusion of brilliance. The worst offenders? Professors and judges, the very people from whom new students are forced to learn. Reading and understanding small numbers of pages requires large numbers of hours in the beginning because of the novelty of the endeavor. It is not an exaggeration that most of one's waking life is devoted to the study of the law during that first semester, but this is largely due to his own inefficiency. Not yet knowing what is important, dozens of hours are wasted on material that won't be covered on the final exam.

8. Law school is not about education. It is about playing a game. Turow refreshingly acknowledges that he chose his elective in the Spring based on his estimated time required for daily preparation and difficulty of the material. For most students, concerns like interesting material or actually learning something useful are a distant second to finding the path of least resistance. Students don't take the renowned prosecutor or scholar if he is a notoriously difficult grader; they'd much rather the unknown teacher who will go easier on them.

The absurd:
1. The insecurity masked as arrogance described by Turow is either unbearable or pitifully comedic depending on one's disposition. Those with truly brilliant minds, nimble, open to subtle reasoning and argumentation, have no need to assert it to others. People who are in constant competition or have an insatiable need to assert their superiority would not seem like fun chaps with whom to spend an evening, no matter how accomplished they may be. Their haughty self-righteousness--the author's own faults in this area seeped through more than once--bothered the hell out of me. Here's an example, which generates feelings of embarrassment for me on behalf of the author and the students who thought this was a story worth repeating: In regard to Perini, a Contracts professor, a student advisor, Peter, said, "He's a great teacher...but not an easy one. When I was a 1L, the first person he called on was a national champion debater and Perini had him on his back in forty seconds." God. The overwhelming nerdiness of that sentence and the underlying sentiment makes me want to harm myself. A professor having more knowledge of a subject than a student on his first day of class is no more awe-inspiring than Michael Jordan dunking on a toddler.

2. Karen Sondergard, one of the author's section mates, cried at least daily, upping that count to 4 or 5 times a day during exam period. At some point, it's like, dude, get your shit together.

3. The desire for extended adolescence and avoiding responsibility belies many arguments about the nobility of law school. In discussing why he went to law school, a man in Turow's study group named Terry said, "I just tell myself, 'Hey, you didn't wanna be a grown-up. You're not ready yet. You wanna stay lose.'" This seems to be the thinking of an alarmingly high number of law students.

4. Complaints about professors requiring students to justify their positions during cold calls are childish and surprisingly anti-intellectual coming from Harvard Law students. Turow says that several classmates fumed because they were "forced to substitute dry reason for emotion," and weren't allowed to make arguments based on their "feelings" or compassion. Just a moment's thought reveals the absurdity of succumbing to feelings. Suppose Gina, one of Turow's section mates, strongly feels that capital punishment is wrong. I could merely respond that I equally strongly feel that capital punishment is a moral imperative for certain crimes. How then to decide between the positions? Feelings are immeasurable, unquantifiable, subjective. As Turow allows, "Many of the people with these complaints were straight out of college" and came of age in the 60s. If you want to bathe in emotion, that's fine, but don't conflate what you're doing with reason or intelligence, which are distinct concepts that law school is right to emphasize.

5. Some students literally audibly hissed at comments they didn't like during class. Ordinarily, according to Turow, "hissing had been reserved for fellow students, usually when the speaker's remarks were politically conservative. (Most of the hissers seemed to be leftwing.)" These brilliant minds, nimble, open to subtle reasoning and argumentation hissed at those with whom they disagreed in an attempt, I guess, to publicly shame dissenters into groupthink. I was astonished to read that this activity, so juvenile that I would be embarrassed to engage in it while attending grade school, was a rather routine practice at HLS.

6. Complaints against the Socratic Method are overblown and over-hyped to the point of being tired. There were too many anecdotes that Professor J did X, Y, and Z to unprepared student A. Of course, X, Y, and Z never actually happen to any known student, it was always a couple of years prior. Preparing for class and giving a good faith effort are perfect defenses to any dramatic attacks from a professor wielding the Socratic Method as the humiliation weapon of choice. Nonetheless, some of these brilliant minds, nimble, open to subtle reasoning and argumentation complained that it was "unfair and intimidating." Intimidating? Maybe. Unfair? Not at all. On exactly what grounds should it be considered unfair? Turow never tells you.

7. The rumors circulated about individuals are likewise absurd. Professor Morris, Turow's Civ Pro professor and recent HLS graduate at the top of his class, was verbally fellated by students given to hero-worship. Turow writes, "About Morris, our talk was especially reverential, because he had so recently been through the law school himself and had left such an astonishing record. The most amazing tale of his prowess was a story, perhaps apocryphal, that in a single four-hour exam period he had written not only the test in the course, but also a term paper which he'd forgotten to do in the crush of Law Review duties. On both, he'd received the highest grade in the class." "Perhaps" it was apocryphal, Turow says. And right after that exam, Morris challenged Bill Brasky to a bare-knuckle boxing bout--and won; word is that he "had him on his back in forty seconds."

8. The amount of self-induced fear and pressure is way beyond absurd when you step back and realize that all law school requires is writing of exams and papers. That's it. No big deal. No wars, no torturing, no cancer or other illness to battle, no physical assaults, no deaths. Just academic work. No one cares nearly as much about it as the individual students.

9. If "One L" makes the people in law school sound superhuman, here's a nice dose of reality written in the Vanderbilt Law Review (gasp, Vanderbilt isn't even T14, but the author went to HLS so maybe it's acceptable?): http://www.averyindex.com/happy_healt...
data di revisione 04/21/2020
Adeline Canipe

This book is fine, except how people keep insisting it has anything to do with the actual common experience of law school. A good read for anyone who does not want to go to law school, who has already gone to law school and wants to read a book that does not correspond in any way with their own experiences, those lawyers who persist in thinking that law is "really hard" and not just a terminal degree for the aimlessly clever, or those who will find confirmation of their existing prejudices about lawyers as snakes, demons or robots and law students as the larval forms thereof.

This book would be unremarkable and harmless - I enjoyed reading it and would recommend it - were it not for the insistence by REAL LIVE LAWYERS who should know better to continue prodding college students into reading this book as part of their decision making process. Please, law students keep away or, at the least, don't treat this book as any true statement of the social or intellectual experience of law school.
data di revisione 04/21/2020
Grace Ochalek

Not that I was ever considering going to law school, but Scott Turow's account of his time as a "One L" at Harvard Law School in 1976 squashed that inkling of mine that it might be fun to try.

It's a well-written book, though, and certainly a must for anyone headed down that path. Turow doesn't sugarcoat any of it -- the unyielding professors, the cattiness between students. And just because the story itself is 30 years old doesn't mean it isn't valid: Very few law schools have changed dramatically since then.

My favorite quote came at the end:

"I want the advantage," I said. "I want the competitive advantage. I don't give a damn about anybody else. I want to do better than them."
[...]
It took me awhile to believe I had actually said that. I told myself I was kidding. I told myself that I had said that to shock Terry and Stephen. But I knew better. What had been suppressed all year was in the open now.
[...]
I had not been talking about any innocent striving to achieve. There had been murder in my voice. And what were the stakes? The difference between a B-plus and a B? This was supposed to be education -- a humane, cooperative enterprise.
data di revisione 04/21/2020
Northrop Rabenold


Before I started law school, I was repeatedly told to buy best selling author Turow’s version of his first year at Harvard “if for no other reason than everyone else there will have read it”.

Well, I’m one week into law school, and no one has mentioned it, thanks. Still, it wasn’t a totally waste of time. Reading how horrific Turow’s professors were to him steeled me for my first day of class. I was totally ready for someone to cry. No one did. I was almost disappointed at how nice all my professors are, then I came to my senses and was just fucking relieved.

Turow’s writing is punchy and enjoyable, and shit, the thing took no time at all to read. Though when I had drinks with a group of “older students” (by which the law school means anyone over 28) the book didn't come up.
data di revisione 04/21/2020
Atalie Buchann

Dear Dad,

Thanks for giving me One L to read! You rarely impress upon me the need to read any one book in particular, so when you put this book in my hands I actually put down the book I had recently started and instantly began devouring Turow’s memoir about his first year of law school. I don’t do that often. It stresses me out to put a book aside unfinished in favor of another book (which is also ironic considering the content of One L — it’s all about stress!). One L was also a little unusual for me because it’s an older book — first published in 1977. I typically don’t read books written between 1955 and 2000, not as a matter of strategy but rather an accident of practice.

I had a lot of thoughts about this book! I read this book slowly because I was really paying a lot of attention, stopping to think about it, stopping to discuss it, before starting a new page. I think Turow fully realizes all of his goals in this memoir — he thoroughly conveys the rigors, terrors, and hysteria of his first year at Harvard Law School. Beyond simply relating his experience, Turow immerses his reader in the experience of law school. He doesn’t candy-coat it; he tells it all — good, bad, and neurotic.

Aside from pondering Turow’s experience of law school, I also found myself thinking about why you put this book in my hands. Probably so I would understand what you, too, experienced when you were in law school. I’ve always been proud to say my dad is an attorney. In my little kid (and big kid) brain, this meant you were smart. And that meant that I could be smart, too. But I have a whole new respect for those smarts after reading Turow’s account of the demands — both intellectual and emotional — of law school.

You probably also gave me this book to read because you know that I’ve always wanted to be a lawyer — that I still think about being a lawyer from time to time. This book gave me a lot to think about. I’ve always figured that I have the rational mind to think through legal problems, and I love speaking and writing (and noble causes). So I’d be a great lawyer, right? After One L, I don’t know. It’s possible if not probable that, indeed, I shouldn’t have been a lawyer after all! There are a lot of still-appealing factors. I think the mental exercises are fascinating. I think reasoning out the law based on precedents that often contradict one another is a stimulating way to spend time. I love researching. I love writing. However, throughout One L, Turow emphasizes “learning to love the law”. .. and I don’t know that I ever would. Not in that way. Actually, I love education! Thinking through educational issues excites me and stimulates my mind. I am interested to talk law, but I adore talking school. For maybe the first time in my life, reading One L gave me a real sense that I didn’t somehow miss my legal calling … however alluring I might find it.

Thanks for a great read, Dad. It made me see your legal education in an entirely different light.

Love,

Rebekah
data di revisione 04/21/2020
Rosen Schoenberg

Not really a fan. Problems:

- I thought Turow, in protecting the identities of many students and professors, distilled them all into way less interesting, one-note caricatures. The urbane, wealthy aristocrat who makes a diligent but unremarkable student. The nervous basket case who constantly sandbags himself yet gets great grades every time. The scrappy Italian kid from Jersey who balks at authority and likes to make his own way. The pretty blonde with crying outbursts whose frequency serves as a barometer for academic pressure. And so on. The professors were worse--the friendly young guy professor, the absent-minded but occasionally brilliant professor, and of course the bullying, intimidating but also undeniably engaging Contracts professor.

- Turow has it pretty good, yet he does an awful lot of complaining. He grouses about employment prospects for lawyers in 1975, which, while the legal market was certainly competitive, I don't think it was anything like as dismal as it is now. Plus, he mentions how steep the price is--3,000 dollars a year--several times, incredulously. Which makes the whole book seem hilariously dated. You know what that is in today's money? 13,000 bucks. 40,000 total for a degree. Yet tuition now at a top school is more like 50,000...per year. Add in living expenses in an area like Boston and you are looking at a quarter million dollars for a JD, if you are unfortunate enough to have to pay sticker price. That's after probably spending something similar during undergrad. So law school is a much dicier proposition now than it was then. End rant.

- I do see how egos and pressure can make law school more competitive than it has to be, and manufacture a lot of artificial work in addition. But weirdly, Turow didn't make the work seem that hard. I expected to come away happy that I would never attend Harvard, not perplexed at the big deal everyone seemed to like to make out of a work load that didn't seem out of control.
data di revisione 04/21/2020
Isidor Toppa

Now, granted, I didn't go to Harvard Law, but I DID attend a fairly high ranked law school and, from my experience, Turow protests FAR too much. It makes for a good story, but oh, the drama! I only wish that William and Mary had been that exciting and filled with academic intrigue!
data di revisione 04/21/2020
Raddatz Lurvey

I never, ever had a desire to go to law school, but for some reason this book called me to it. I heard it mentioned somewhere and then kept running into it at the store where I work. It was on sale for $3.99, so that was another bonus. I haven't read any of Turow's legal thrillers, yet, but I may now. One L is the story of Turow's first year at Harvard Law School in 1977. He covers the emotional ups and downs of that first year and how and why he and his peers changed for the better and how some became jaded. Turow had a contract to write the book before he started his first year and kept a journal in which he wrote several times a week throughout the year. This is not a how to make it through law school book. Its more about the emotional roller coaster ride that one goes through when being initiated into a new system (for me, it read like a mash up between my experience of Marine Corps boot camp and graduate school in literature). Although the book doesn't seem dated in any outward sense, other than Turow's use of an electric typewriter when writing exams, it does seem a little dated in that I think first year law students--first year anythings--are better prepared now than people were in the 1970s and earlier. Why? Because people talk more about their experiences and there are many more resources out there to consult, particularly the internet. My sister and I have been struck by the difference in approach from how we thought about college and went about applying to college and how her eldest child is being groomed by teachers for college as a sophomore in high school. I couldn't help think of this difference while reading One L and thinking that people entering Harvard Law cannot possibly be as naive as Turow and his group were. Still, I think what keeps this book fresh is its emphasis on the emotional experience of going through such an intense initiation into a new language, a new way of thinking, and a new profession with the added stress of being at THE law school, Harvard. I image that even if today's One L aren't as naive, they still experience the same mind fuck that comes with indoctrination into a highly competitive and relatively closed society.
data di revisione 04/21/2020
Olnay Bibee

The traumatic experiences of Scott Turow at Harvard veneered in not-so subtle fiction. Read it years ago and loved it. My brother, who went to Harvard Law School says it's very true to reality. I was reminded or it by a scene from The Abbey in which Detective Sergeant Ashraf Rashid's cell phone goes off during law class. The professor in The Abbey, who bears a likeness to One L's Professor Perini/Kingsfield admonishes

Scene from The Abbey: “ 'And I’m sorry we allowed a clearly unqualified applicant into this law school based on some supposed community service.' My nails bit into my palms. I shook my head and started gathering my notebooks. 'Did I pick up your daughter for solicitation or something? Or are you an asshole to everybody?' I didn’t think there was going to be any oxygen left in the room after the collective intake. That’s probably going to hurt my grade."

data di revisione 04/21/2020
Adele Eliassaint

I'm hesitant about writing a review of this before completing my own 1L. I think the most I can say is that you have to respect how unvarnished and detailed it is, but I didn't necessarily enjoy reading it.

Post-2L Update: This is more useful as a scare-you-straight book than as a even-handed introduction to an average law school experience.
data di revisione 04/21/2020
Hook Haberman

It is profoundly ironic and just-about-right that most people who will study law and become lawyers read “One L” BEFORE their first year of law school. Before they know anything about what the book references. Before they can relate. Before all the nuances and insights have any real meaning. This book is not at all a guide, and so it is of very limited utility when it is read in advance instead of in reflection. But law students simply cannot help themselves. In anticipating and trying to prepare for the tumultuous first year, most readers are already, subconsciously or not, engaging in a kind of slow-motion oneupmanship. In some sense, the book describes and critiques the natural inclinations displayed by the very people most often reading it.

I (solely by coincidence) did not read “One L” until I had completely finished my 1L year. I started the book one hour after I hit send on the final assignment for NLaw’s Write-On. Immediately, I felt like I was being given the hug I had not known I needed. Turow writes with such honesty and frankness, and only a very small and tasteful dose of rose-tinted-glasses syndrome, that one is sometimes left wondering why he didn’t abandon the law for a career as a psychologist.

I highly recommend that absolutely no one reads One L before starting law school; it would seem overwrought, melodramatic, and serious in ways that are crude and self-important. I also highly recommend that absolutely everyone reads One L after their first year. In doing so, I realized that the neuroses and paranoia, the complex emotional cocktail of competitiveness, pride, envy, forced collaboration, genuine companionship, shame, and self-effacing identity crisis that Turow puts under the microscope are common to first year students at American law schools and have not evolved substantially since the mid 1970s (by Turow’s estimation, since the late 1880s). The sense of connection I feel now, after peering into Turow’s mind and heart, flows from his sheer vulnerability, an aspect of humans that is sometimes hard to come by at law school, but, when found, is always the diamond in the rough that makes the whole experience bearable.
data di revisione 04/21/2020
Oringa Lebron

Very interesting account of one person's (now a lawyer and author)n account of first year law school. I found it very insightful regarding different teaching techniques and his Afterward comments on practicing law and how Law Schools might better prepare people beyond just the academics.

I have enjoyed some of Scott Turow's legal novels and wanted to read this for several years. I'm glad I did. So glad I never had to go through this in my chosen profession :-)
data di revisione 04/21/2020
Donall Marbach

Great bit of non-fiction from Scott Turow. I had just read Ultimate Punishment: A Lawyer's Reflections on Dealing with the Death Penaltyand was looking for more non-fiction from him, so I went with his classic.

Ottimo libro

In short, here are my observations:

• What can get you through law school? 1) A love of the law, like Mr. Turow. 2) A prodigious amount of talent, like some of his classmates. 3) A near-sociopathic study habit, like one of his classmates who didn’t talk to anyone while he was studying, or even acknowledge them – it’s a funny scene. 4) A little bit of all of the above!
• One great scene has one of his favorite professors say ‘You will all wield enormous power, more than you realize. You will be able to destroy people’s lives. I hope you use your power to help people, but I know that this is much harder.”
• Another insight is about the law school Socratic method – where a teacher stands a student up and throws question after question at them in front of their classmates. Though it is much-maligned, it is interesting how students report that facing a judge is easier after that. It shows that sometimes in our lives we face situations that we don’t like – that make things easier later on. Comedians are horrible at mocking eachother relentlessly – that makes hecklers easier. Drill sergeants treat their cadets like dirt, and that may save their lives one day in combat.

Though man – this style of teaching does not seem fun.
• One final insight shows the difference between 1Ls and 2Ls. The former work at a feverish pace, but also work incorrectly. Turow spends three days cramming before a test and then little of the material is on the test. He worries about the Socratic stand ups when in reality, it is not that big of a deal in 2nd year. Face it and move on.

Regardless, great tale. I haven’t read any of Turow’s fiction, but after reading these two non-fiction books – I can imagine they are great!
data di revisione 04/21/2020
Averil Mains

Must disagree with the jacket/ GoodReads blurb, "entirely true." NOT according to one of his undergrad professors, Theodore Baird, who wondered how Turow could present himself as such a blank slate upon arriving at Harvard Law, when he had endured the undergrad assault of Baird's Amherst College. But of course, it makes a better story about only the Law School if the naive youth arrives so unprepared for the Big Leagues.
But he'd been in the Big Leagues for four years prior: the League that produced Robert Fagles, Richard Wilbur, James Merrill, William Pritchard, the League started by Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson.
Perhaps the Bildungsroman like this requires mental rags to riches. It does read well, as if "entirely true." But isn't that the role of Fiction? I always told my classes that if a film claimed to be based on a True Story, it was far from it, because if it really was such, it would claim the Opposite: "None of the characters are based on real people…" in order to avoid lawsuits.
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Dace Moreira

The one thing that I got form this book is that I'm very glad that I'm not a lawyer or ever contemplated law school. Even though this book is decades old, the systems still sound similar, the environment doesn't seem like one that is conductive to learning. I really hated how by the end it seemed like everyone was happy when someone else failed. Not sure how that could possibly build an environment where you have a good support system when you need one the most.
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Seyler Hennon

In the 1970s, Scott Turow left a job teaching English at Stanford University, turned down a faculty position at another university, and entered Harvard Law School where he encountered terror, depression, grinding competition, and, occasionally, mass hysteria. After living with my husband through his three years of law school, I concluded that continuing to teach history and political science at the college level was just fine with me. And I haven't regretted it for a minute.
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Taro Winterrowd

Definately an accurate portrayal of that harrowing first year of law school. Read it BEFORE you decide to go!
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Boudreaux Citrino

Scott Turow has written an illuminating account of his first year at Harvard Law School and, considering how little legal education has changed since its origins in the late nineteenth century, it is an account which is and will continue to be, for the foreseeable future, timely, relevant, and accurate.

In view of the prestige and elitism of the institution where he got his legal education, certain tendencies present in many educational institutions are likely to have been exaggerated in Turow’s experience in ways that prove revealing. The faculty there were a little more arrogant, the students a little more competitive than customarily, and therefore for Turow a little bit more effective as examples with which to probe certain characteristic tendencies (i.e. faculty arrogance) which make up the subject matter of the book. In brief, everything in this book is likely to be more over-the-top than in another school and this makes for much more exciting drama and personality clashes. The pride over good grades and the grief over bad ones is more exaggerated, the secrecy surrounding effective study aids is more pronounced, the studying more round-the-clock.

One of the things I loved about this book was the x-ray on grades that Turow does. He writes about grades from every angle imaginable, from analysing his own reactions to his grades to the sort of mass hysteria induced in his classmates.

At Harvard good grades are essential to getting in and in Harvard they are vital to prestigious opportunities for students such as an invitation from a faculty member to work on their research or selection to work on the Harvard Law Review. The students there have all been carefully plucked from the wider collection of humanity because of their obsession with and ability to get good grades so they’re already primed to be focused like a laser on them.

The way in which overachievers treat high grades as a trophy, as a validation, as a necessity, it’s all here. One student tells Turow that his first thought on seeing his grades was that there’s “something wrong” because one of them was not an A. One of his professors gives an exam and prefaces it by telling the class that they worry about the exams too much and ponders whether exams merely test “time management.”

People can try to escape the gravitational pull of grades but they ceaselessly return to a sort of institution-wide obsession with them. And they underpin a lot of the behaviour of the students and their teachers, including one section where Turow’s own obsession with besting his fellow students on an exam inspires him to act in ways which he is ashamed of in retrospect. The way that he can let this obsession get to him while also seeing the way the obsession undermines the mission of the school is one of the things I loved about the book.

Aside from this grade theme which runs through the book there is a complete summary of all the activities of the One L, a first year law student. Turow traces his journey from his decision to go to law school through applying, registering, shopping for textbooks, and attending classes and a few extra-curricular activities. He thoroughly explores the Socratic Method and presents the occasionally soap-opera-like interactions of the faculty and the students from classes to study groups.

The intensity of Turow’s first year of law school is extreme at times and this book really allows you to feel what he felt throughout the year. Passages of contemporaneous diary entries help with that but Turow mostly recounts his story and analysis in the past tense, something which allows you to experience all the events, along with enough background information and subsequent thought, that you really get a complete picture of what it must be like to go to law school and get this tremendous introduction to legal thinking and the legal process.
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Jac Campman

One-L, as the author intended, is a recounting of the first year of school he took at Harvard Law.

The book begins with the nostalgia of excitement most - if not all of us - feels at the start of a great journey ahead of us. As is expected of one of the most renowned law schools in the world, the journey has its challenges, ups and downs.

For those of us who did not have a chamve to study law, this book paints a picture of what the study takes, outside of reading materials available. The long hours of reading, preparing briefs and research required before class. It is a small glimpse into the training that lawyers have gone through, and how that might have shaped their thought process, their "mental reflex", as Scott had written.
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Bernadene Nordon

Brilliant. If I wasn’t so set on becoming a scientist, this book would make me want to attend law school.
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Toney Strassberg

I'm a fan of Scott Turow's writing and have been aware of this book that he wrote about his first year at Harvard Law School, but didn't give much thought to reading it until someone donated the audio book to our library's used book store. I don't normally listen to audio books because I can't concentrate on a book if I am doing other things, but I listened to this one in my car while I was driving around town so it took me several days to finish. I would have been able to read the actual book much more quickly.

The audio book begins with an introduction by Scott Turow. I'm glad he did not narrate the entire book, because his voice was not particularly pleasant. I am happy that I listened to this book. My brother graduated from Columbia Law School in the late 1960's. This book gave me a better understanding of what he might have gone through during his first year. Turow talks a lot about the competition to make the Harvard Law Review and my brother was on the Law Review at Columbia. As I listened to the book, I was trying to picture which of the characters in Turow's class my brother would have been.

At times the author was a little whiny about how difficult law school is and what the students went through. I would expect Harvard Law School to be extremely demanding and it is. This would be a good read for anyone considering attending law school.

One fun item in the book was that there was a student in Turow's class whose name was Sandy Stern and that is the name of one of the major characters in Turow's books.

Holter Graham did a nice job of narrating the book. Since it was autobiographical about one person's experience, he didn't have to use a lot of different voices or accents.

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Collis Isom

The single most read book by people contemplating law school. There are clear pros and cons to this. On the pro side, Turow is a good writer who structures even this supposed transcript of his memoir with a fair amount of novelistic suspense. Our hero must confront good and evil personified by his various professors (seriously, there are times when you'd think you were reading Harry Potter). Ultimately, as in a good modern novel, he must face the true nemesis that lies within (his capacity to cross over to the dark side and become an evil lawyer). Beyond entertainment, it does gently introduce the reader to the basic scene of law school with many of its organizing concepts (the curriculum, the socratic method, moot court, exam structure, etc.) and regalia (hornbooks, briefs, outlines).

However, I've already heard (and believe me, I haven't been looking all that hard) much reaction to this book as painting a fairly extreme picture of Law School that just doesn't accurately describe most of the contemporary reality. Like "The Paper Chase" (the film most recommended to would-be law students), it is set in the sacred halls of Harvard Law School, where a very particular prestige-borne madness prevails. More fundamentally, it was written 30 years ago, and at a time Turow himself acknowledges as one of tense generational conflict. He suggests that it was in the wake of Watergate that lawyers suddenly took a massive plunge in the estimation of their fellow Americans, such that even beginning law students were anxious not to replicate the degraded culture of their predecessors. Inevitably, this generated a lot of conflict with the professoriate, which appears in Turow's book as deeply divided between conservative old guard who considered humiliation a basic teaching tool and younger faculty who fashioned themselves progressives. The kind of politicization of the classroom that added considerably to Turow's anxiety and self-doubt was a product of the times. I'm sure there are new campus politics now, but not the ones depicted in "One L."

Above all, the general consensus I've seen is that Law School is just not so traumatic anymore. Which is not to say that the madness over prestige, getting top grades, making law review and all the rest have gone away. After all, those things have an economic basis in the corporate law firms themselves. Maybe this recession will change the field somehow...
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Yulma Mondale

For lawyers, it's a fond look back to a wonderful, occasionally harrowing time. For prospective law school students this book is a wake-up call as to what the study of law will demand of you. If you're entering law school at a time when you're married, have a family, or even a set of very close friends - reading this book will help them understand why you've suddenly disappeared and, on the rare times you do see them, are unable to discuss current events or popular culture.

It submerges you into the all encompassing, alternate reality that exists in law school. Especially that first year.

I absolutely adore this book because it brings me back to that first year of law school in a single paragraph. It reminds me of the wondrous time that law school was for me and also makes me incredibly thankful that I went through school with a genuinely nice group of folks who were no where near as academically overwrought as those described in the book.

I find I miss the Socratic teaching method and the level of work it demands from students. I enjoyed that style of teaching tremendously.
This book brought me right back to those classrooms. The moments of being in thrall of the law and those moments of being completely, hopelessly lost. Again, thankfully, I had my study group mates to ensure I found my way through some of the material and didn't remain lost.


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Tonkin Angustia

Scott Turow tells his experience as a first-year student at Harvard Law School where freshmen are dubbed One Ls. I first heard about this book when it was recommended by one of our speakers during our orientation as first year law students in a premier university. But I was only able to read it when I was already in third year, or after I got kicked out and transferred to another school. Still, it was not a totally waste of time. I came to understand where I failed or what I lacked in my freshman year. I realized that first year in law school is the most critical in the life of a lawyer. Early on, you have to survive the terrors, depressions, hazing, compulsive work (e.g. reading up to 20 cases for a two-hour long recitation in class!), and very intimidating professors. One memorable account in the book is one that deals with the Socratic method of lecturing, where there were no clear answers. It was a familiar experience in my first school to be grilled with questions by the professor using that method. I suffered anxiety over a single exam that may determine my future in law school. The book narrates not only about law school but about being human in an intense, often grueling, situation. It is a must-read for first-year law students and law school applicants, or by anyone who has ever contemplated going to law school.
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Cockburn Trypaluk

I really enjoyed reading this first-hand account of Turrow's life as a Harvard Law School 1L. It terrified as well as invigorated me in my yearning to attend law school in the fall. I doubt that this account will be close to my own experiences (though perhaps maybe I'll be inclined to comment on the subject further once I finish my time as a 1L), but I enjoyed taking the journey with him.

I have to make a few comments however on how outdated some of this is, most notably the monetary figures included! Turrow at one point references the "inflated" prices of law school texts and then goes on to grumble about paying $15 to $26 on a text book. Are you shitting me! Could you imagine only spending $26 dollars on a text book in this day and age? Hell I'll be happy if I can get away with paying under $80 for most of my books. And the tuition reference. $9000 to finance an entire law career! Could you imagine? I couldn't. I will pay over $9000 for one semester of law school and that's at a much less prestigious school than Harvard Law. This comment however says nothing about the merits of the novel or Turrow's abilities as a writer. I just happened to find it striking how much more expensive things have become since the 1970s. Yikes.

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