When you begin law school, you are quickly led to believe that your sole purpose is to “learn how to think like a lawyer.” But what in the world does that even mean? Here’s a summary of my understanding of the answer to this vital question, post-first semester:
You know you’re beginning to think like a lawyer when…
1. your first thought after being sideswiped by a biker is “battery!”
2. your fellow classmates walking with you proceed to deliberate whether you were contributorily negligent.
3. a fellow law student asks for a favor, but you refuse until they demonstrate sufficient consideration.
4. you sacrifice time outside of class to create an elaborate song and dance out of a case, in efforts to entertain your professor.
5. your mock client in your Lawyering class becomes a real person that you feel the need to emphatically defend against 1L’s in other sections that represent the opposing party.
6. when you bake cookies for your classmates, you question whether you need to give sufficient warning to avoid liability in the event that something ended up in your design of the product that wasn’t supposed to.
7. you can’t enjoy Oscar season without spotting a legal issue or term in every movie you see (The Fighter…True Grit…Conviction…The Social Network…the list goes on and on).
8. you realize that from this point forth, only other law students/lawyers will likely appreciate your sense of humor and relish for legal puns.
But these are only the insights and experiences of one 1L.
On the last day of class, my civil procedure professor, Helen Hershkoff, more aptly, in her inspirational manner, explained to us that learning to think like a lawyer involved being precise, prepared, skeptical, developing good judgment, and overall, realizing that we have been granted a great privilege that comes with great responsibility. When you attend NYU Law, you realize that this last point is the real answer to the question initially posed.
Or perhaps it is what another famous procedure professor told his class: “If you leave here thinking like a lawyer, it’s your own damn fault.”