By Tandis Taghavi
Chapter 2: The Chamber of Secrets (read Chapter 1 here)
Class of 2020!! Can you believe it? Our first year of law school is winding down. With less than 10 weeks to go, the closer we get to finals, appellate briefs being due, and oral arguments, the more it feels like walking into a colony of Acromantulas (this can be quite a sticky situation). Rightfully named the “Forbidden Forest,” its eerie roots are known to domicile these spooky creatures and mystical secrets. Aragog’s lair is considered unsafe for man, and therefore Hogwarts prohibits students from entry (beware ejectment). While trespassing onto these treacherous lands in search of the ultimate secret (how to survive law school), might delay studying for a Civil Procedure midterm, entering Aragog’s lair will make learning about affirmative defenses (FRCP 8(c)) seem like less of an intentional tort.
What is—The Secret?
Ah, at last, we are faced with the ultimate question. What is the secret behind success in law school? Do you really want to know? It is…magic (how cliché). All law students have fallen for this basic illusion. The illusion being, that your performance in law school is based on some colossal secret. If only you could just get your hands on this formula, then you too could succeed, right? Wrong.
While all first-year students spend precious time agonizing over how that one magical student got an A without a time turner (*cough cough* Hermione), you have essentially and inadvertently tricked yourself. It is all an illusion. (Hint # 5: Success in law school depends 90% on efficient time-management and 10% on hard-work). You will hear professors and students chant, “work smarter, not harder.” Rather than waste your energy on trying to figure out how Wizard A got an A or how Wizard B answered every question in every class perfectly, you should be investing that energy and time into rehearsing and practicing your own magic tricks. Secrets are our stock and trade. Without them, we cannot create the mysteries most people find entertaining and amusing.
What is so Special about The Secret Anyway?
Harry and Ron gather little information from Aragog, via oral depositions, other than what they already knew: Hagrid was innocent of any harms done during the last time the Chamber of Secrets was opened. Similarly, although the law school “secret” is non-privileged, initial disclosures will not guarantee success in law school (FRCP 26(a)). As Harry and Ron demonstrate, facts and circumstances change. There is a lot of uncertainty in both law and the wizard world (Hint # 6: Do not get dismissed by a 12(b)(6) motion by making a legal conclusion; factual proof is needed to back up any allegation).
Traditional Common Law with a Hint of Creativity
The thing is, law school could use more creative people. The problem is that we do not allow for creative and adaptive thinking to flourish in our studying because we see others putting in a certain type of effort, done in a certain fashion, and we feel the need to keep up. Law school is more about deadlines, at least where the statute of limitations cannot be overcome by an amendment (FRCP 15). As long as the work product is good and the deadline is met, no sanctions will be imposed for wacky spells. Break away from patterned tradition. If you only study and approach law school in a generic way, then you will end up “petrified in the hallway,” like Argus Filch’s cat. Much like the first time Harry Potter whispered Parseltongue, you too will be surprised when you spew out legalese unknowingly.
Know that being different has its perks. Though some wizards and witches descended from degrees of “pure-blood,” there are “mudbloods,” like Hermione, who are equally talented. Hermione has singlehandedly proven that books are the source of power. This applies in both law school and in wizarding school. (Hint # 7: Read everything assigned on the syllabus. Yes, this includes every case. However, this does not mean that you should spend 6 hours briefing every detail of one particular case. Locate the issue and the rule, jot down a few things about the court’s reasoning and holding, then move on! You do not have time to dwell on the facts, as these will most likely not be tested anyway).
Hermione spends all her free time in the Hogwarts Library, reading and investigating. Why?
“Because that’s what Hermione does,” said Ron, shrugging. “When in doubt, go to the library.”― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Like Hermione, you too will spend every waking moment researching the tales of the Bloody Baron and Nearly Headless Nick (Posner and Cardozo). Seconds before death, or when called on in class, a wizard needs to be quick on her feet, to not only address issues and solutions, but to apply the correct “spell” (rule of law) to the circumstances (facts of a case). With the legal conclusion that Draco Malfoy is the “Heir of Slytherin,” Hermione applied the law found in Moste Potente Potions to create her Polyjuice Potion that helped her discover (get it?) enough facts to support this claim.
Law books and your professors are the only “secrets” you need. Part of the process of education is learning how to decipher words of power in books. However, as Hermione demonstrated, when she mistakenly added cat hair to the Polyjuice Potion, books too have limitations. (Hint # 8: Your main focus throughout the semester should be on the exam. So, it is important to begin putting together your study plan and resources early on. This means, you must begin working on your outlines early!! Do them. Outlines, in the words of Squints, take “FOR-EV-ER…FOR-EV-ER…FOR-EV-ERRR”). It is critical to begin organizing your study tools sooner than later. If flashcards help you, then start creating flashcards! If not, try supplements! If not, find a study group!) Hopefully, this will help you find your own chamber of secrets. Don’t be afraid to take on the Basilisk!!
Do you have any secrets of your own to law school success? Send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will include our favorites in the next Harry Potter column!
Tandis Taghavi, a 1L at California Western School of Law, was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. She completed her bachelor’s degree in political science with a minor in business at Texas A&M University. Lastly, but most importantly, she’s a huge football fanatic . . . go COWBOYS!!