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Look smart this summer


Well, anytime, really—but these tips might especially help you if you’re headed off to a summer associate position or your first “real job.”

What behaviors help you seem smart—and which ones will sabotage your efforts to make a great first impression? A study reported on by the Wall Street Journal and in an ABA Journal( post called “Want to appear smart? Pretentious language and a poker face don’t work” found that standing up straight and looking at others when listening and speaking help project your intelligence.

Behaviors that make you seem less intelligent include: using long, complicated words, putting on a deliberately serious face, talking too much or too loudly, and being the first to blurt out an answer during a meeting.

Other “smart” behaviors, according to the ABA Journal post: “having a self-confident expression; speaking in a pleasant, expressive voice; and responding thoughtfully to others’ comments.”

And if you really want to go the extra mile? Wear glasses and use your middle initial.

Welcome to “post-normal” times

Given the ongoing changes in the legal marketplace, it’s possible that at some point in your law school career, you’ve heard the phrase “the new normal.”

But that might not be quite accurate, writes J. B. Ruhl, a distinguished chair at Vanderbilt University Law School, in a post called “Still in post-normal times (not the new normal) in the legal industry.”

At his blog Law 2050: A Forum About the Legal Future (, Ruhl cites scientist Ziauddin Sardar, who has written about “post-normal times” as “an in-between period where old orthodoxies are dying, new ones have yet to be born, and very few things seem to make sense.”

Post-normal times “are characterized by three c’s,” Sardar writes: “complexity, chaos and contradictions.” Ruhl believes these terms aptly describe the legal profession that you are now preparing to enter.

How can you navigate post-normal times? Well, if you’ve been in a study group, made it a point to get to know your classmates, or otherwise extended yourself to your peers, you’re off to a great start. A discipline called post-normal science recommends creating an “extended peer community” that brings together all who are affected by an issue and who are willing to discuss it with each other.

Instead of cutthroat competition in law school or in the legal profession, Ruhl believes that “humility, modesty, and accountability” might help facilitate “law’s imagining itself out of post-normal times and into a new age of normalcy.”

The role of legal employers in improving legal education

In an attempt to better prepare their students for law practice, schools across the country are redesigning their curricula, adding new clinics, and otherwise creating “practice-ready” programs.

But another key part of the equation, writes Alli Gerkman, in a post called “Legal employers have a critical role to play in improving legal education” is that law firms and other employers value these programs and trust that they’re effective at preparing students to practice.

In a blog on the IAALS Online: National Conversations About the Advancement of the Civil Justice System website (, Gerkman, director of the Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers initiative, writes that some of the most successful practice-ready programs have been ones in which legal employers have been directly involved.

One example, she says, is the Daniel Webster Scholar Honors Program at the University of New Hampshire School of Law; at the time of her writing, Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers was preparing to release a report on a study of that program and how well it has succeeded.

“If we want legal employers and members of the legal profession to value programs that turn law students into lawyers,” Gerkman writes, “they should play a role in developing and sustaining them.”

Quick! Here are a few outlining tips

With second-semester exams right around the corner, you’re probably doing some outlining to help you study, or to use during an open-book test.

But what, exactly, are you including in those outlines of hypos?

However your exam is written, you’ll never face a question like this, says Libby Adler, a professor at Northeastern University School of Law: “‘Please state the facts and holding of Smith v. Jones.’”

So, Adler writes in a post called “Start outlining now to prepare for exams later,” don’t organize your outline like that, either.

Instead, she advises at NUSL Blogs (, focus on the issues. What are the issues in the case? Which one should be settled first? Does the outcome of that one affect the outcome of the next?

For each issue, outline what the plaintiff or prosecutor will argue, and what the defendant will counter-argue. And what facts work in favor of the plaintiff on that issue? And in favor of the defendant?

A good exam answer reads almost as if you’re arguing with yourself, Adler says, because the case is not likely to be cut and dried. “The whole idea,” she writes, “is that there are strengths and weaknesses to each side’s case and you need to find them.”

Then, move on to outline the next issue, and how the previous one affects it, too. Keep repeating that process, Adler writes, and you’ll be training yourself to analyze the hypo and its issues rather than just reciting the facts. Also, you’ll have a set of arguments and rationales that, especially if your exam is open book, you’ll be able to adapt to the new set of facts presented by the hypo that you’re given.

Back that up with practice exams and a study group, Adler advises, and you’ll be well on your way to providing what most—or even all—law professors want to see in exam answers: “arguments that use facts on both sides of each issue presented in an organized fashion.”

Vol. 43 No. 8

Student Lawyer Student Lawyer magazine provides guidance on educational, career, and related issues for ABA Law Student Division members and other subscribers. It is published four times a year by the Law Student Division of the American Bar Association. Student Lawyer is available online to members of the ABA Law Student Division and to print subscribers.