To First Year Law Students: Welcome as You Start the Intensive Study of the Second Most Important Subject

Law school can be a fascinating, valuable  experience.  If you are as lucky as I was – I graduated from Vermont Law School in 1978 – it will be.  That said, it is worth knowing at the outset that for lawyers, practicing lawyers, law alone can never rise higher than being the second most important subject.  Facts are the first priority.  To practice law effectively one must always know, as best as one can, what the facts are, what the evidence is. Law students and young lawyers tend to think that answers to legal problems will be found in law books. Sometimes they are.  It is important to know how to do legal research and to write well, very well.  But it won’t matter if one doesn’t have the facts straight.  Young associates are often given research assignments and head off to do legal research without paying enough attention to the facts, or to the assumptions of fact, that have given rise to the research assignment in the first place.  Legal analysis not founded on a clearly stated set of facts – or on authorized, justifiable, accurate and complete assumptions of fact – is unlikely to have any use.

Enjoy law school.  Enjoy the challenge of learning about law and legal process.  But, from the beginning – from the moment you walk into law school for the first time – remember:  Facts matter.  Evidence matters. Both are elusive.  Both require consistent attention and respect.  Always.