Published February 24, 2023
Like most things in life, it does you well to be prepared and law school is certainly no exception. But what if you could get right to the good stuff, the stuff you really need to know? There’s a perfect book to help you do that! Written by the University at Buffalo School of Law’s very own Professor Tanya Monestier, Sh*t No One Tells You About Law School is billed as a book that’s “a tell-it-like-it-is account of how students can successfully navigate the law school experience.” Prof. Monestier’s 2022 book gives you all the great advice—and hard truths—about preparing for, dealing with and succeeding in law school.
Let’s take a sneak peek at some of the sage words of wisdom you can glean by adding this book to your reading pile.
Before we jump into the book itself, let’s discuss the author of this witty and helpful guide. In addition to her recently published book, her work has been published in leading academic journals, including Cornell Law Review, Boston University Law Journal, Cardozo Law Review, American University Law Review, Hastings Law Journal and the Ohio State Law Journal. She’s been recognized as an exceptional teacher, winning “Professor of the Year” awards at Roger Williams University School of Law and Queen’s University Faculty of Law. She has had her work cited numerous times in trial and appellate courts, including the Supreme Court of Canada, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, and dozens of federal and state courts.
There’s no doubt that she’s a well-respected scholar and popular in the classroom.
But it’s her life story that may connect you to this book in a very different way. In a recent UBNow article, Prof. Monestier shared a look into her childhood:
My parents were born and raised in small villages in northern Italy. They were poor by any standard: no running water, electricity, heat or indoor bathroom. They left school at the age of 11 or 12 and went to work. They came to Toronto in their early 20s, right after their wedding.
I think my background buys me a little street cred with my students. Many law school professors come from privileged backgrounds. I didn’t. And I succeeded despite that. My message is that students from whatever walk of life can do the same — if they are thoughtful and strategic.
Or as Prof. Monestier would put it in Chapter 2: Law School is a Mind F*ck. The academic world in broad terms may seem like that—you’re suddenly thrust into a new environment with a dozen classes and professors as you attempt to study new themes and subjects and keep everything straight. Law school is like that—on steroids—but there’s no need to let it catch you off guard. “If you are prepared for something and know it’s coming, it’s not so daunting when it happens,” says Prof. Monestier. You can be ready for it. But also give it time, she says: “Spend the first few weeks of law school getting oriented and figuring out what YOU think,” instead of assuming everyone else has the right answers.
With every piece of advice that is given, Prof. Monestier provides an anecdote connecting it to her own life and her experience—making her advice feel genuine. She reminds you that there’s no perfect formula, but there are ways to be prepared. In Chapter 4, Prof. Monestier recommends outlining every day! This may seem overwhelming to those getting ready to start law school, but she backs up this suggestion with facts. She touches on “the forgetting curve,” explaining that you lose about 50% of what you learned in one hour. So, if you don’t outline straight away, you can lose progress. She ties this into a personal story about her husband eating potato chips while walking on the treadmill. Eating chips negates all your progress (like your note taking and reading and class participation). “Don’t eat potato chips while running on a treadmill,” Monestier says. And she notes that “Once you get into the habit, you will not be able to image it any other way. Sort of like flossing.” Her students can back this up!
Don’t forget to study. Sounds silly when you say it out loud but studying correctly is crucial. Repetition works, but it’s how you go about it that can make all the difference. Prof. Monestier gets blunt with her recommendation in Chapter 5. “I am going to tell you not to read and re-read your outlines, but to memorize them…I am going to tell you that flashcards are a waste of your time. I am going to tell you that study groups are a waste of your time. I am going to tell you that practice questions have limited utility.”
Those examples are the tried-and-true versions found in many academic support books, but Prof. Monestier has her own approach which isn’t outlandish by any means. “Take the material in bite-sized chunks,” she says. “Study them until you’ve learned them…and can recite them off the top of your head.” She goes on to mention returning to previous chunks to make sure they’re still making sense in your head and to do it for all your subjects. “It’s called spaced repetition,” says Prof. Monestier, “and it has a strong backing in the science of learning.”
That’s pretty straight-forward. End of section!
But in all seriousness, her tips may seem like common sense, but clearly there is a good reason they are being reiterated!
Number one: watch what you put on social media. Generational differences are a real thing. You need to appeal to employers and colleagues who might not understand the tendency to post every thought publicly.
And number two: avoid drama. If you find yourself in the company of “frenemies,” the ones who talk kindly to your face but not so kindly behind your back, Prof. Monestier says to cut those people loose.
There’s no time for nonsense in law school. Makes sense, right?
And the readers agree. Check out what other law students have to say:
5.0 out of 5 stars
This book is the perfect response to all the "how to" manuals out there for incoming law school students. Having graduated from law school myself, I can't think of any other resource on the market that tells it like it is. This book is accurate, accessible, informative, and wildly entertaining. Tanya Monestier takes a funny and attainable approach, and provides a way for students to develop a playbook for success in law school. I followed the approach she recommends during my time in law school and can definitely say that this book contains the keys to success. I strongly recommend this book to any prospective or current law students, or lawyers looking for a good read!
5.0 out of 5 stars
Hilarious, useful, brutally honest, trustworthy, and reliable, are just a few words I would use to describe this book. I read this book at the end of my 2L year, and there is definitely information in here that will be useful as I start my third year of law school. But I truly do wish I had this book before I started law school, it would have made that transition to law school that much easier. This book is much easier to read than other prelaw books, like 1L of a ride. The author uses true stories from her law school experience, teaching experience, and other students’ experiences to help illustrate her points. The book is filled with good humor but is also brutally honest about the trials and tribulations of law school and give students a good sense of what they can expect. I also had Professor Monestier as a professor and can personally attest that her methods do work.
So, there you have it! Prof. Monestier’s book covers a lot of ground. Some of the themes are familiar, but her approach is refreshingly direct. Whether you’re a prospective student awaiting your acceptance, or a 1L looking for some additional words of wisdom, Prof. Monestier’s book can give you the honest advice needed to tackle law school with confidence.
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