February 4, 2004

Engineers in Law School

Someone started a thread over at the PR Boards about how engineers do in law school. That's a good question, and I've had many thoughts about it but haven't tried to put them all into one post. So here's a few things I've noticed:

In my experience, at saturation points, the workload is the same amount of time and brain drainage. You just can't do more than you can do at your max. Engineering school took my max at points and law school takes my max at points. Sure they're different kinds of thinking (one thing I wish was more true about law school is that there's not enough walk-around-and-think type work), but both can give you messed up dreams and leave you incapable of finding basic english words.

In my experience, the period of performance saturation is longer in law school. In engineering, I'd put in a few difficult weeks for one or two projects a semester and then have a rough week before each final. In law school, it's like having projects every week and then finals prep starts 6 weeks before the exam. I think it's a very personal decision though. I suspect it's possible to get by on much less work and be an average student in law school than it is to be an average student in engineering school. But most people in law school are interested in what they are learning and don't want to get by with less, so the point is moot. On the other hand, I think the amount of work to distinguish yourself in Engineering and Law School are roughly the same: all you can handle, all the time.

How engineers perform in law school, I imagine, on average, is fairly well, but I haven't taken a poll. Seems like the engineers who wouldn't do well in law school wouldn't be interested in going. One of my ex-techie friends had some problems in LWR with the writing requirement, but he got it all sorted before grade-time came around.

The hardest thing is that there's no satisfying list of answers to check against. There's no bright line test to know that it's okay if you go to bed because the work really is done, and you got it right. Often, I have this nagging feeling that I haven't completely understood everything because it just doesn't seem elegant enough to be the "actual" solution. Getting over the engineer's desire for an answer is probably the hardest part of being in law school. Other than that, as long as you aren't too quick to wield Occam's Razor, your background should be good for you.

Also, the social activity and club aspect of law school is time consuming and not very optional. That was shocking to me after the loner culture of an engineering program. Organized social activities take more time than you'd imagine, but you learn quite a bit from the legally-oriented ones and you make plenty of friends at all of 'em. Sure, you can opt out, but a complete lack of involvement would be difficult to pull off when there's constantly one-hour seminars with food and drinks between class, parties to go to and cool lectures to attend.

That's what I can come up with off the top of my head...

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