Law students blog on terrifying (and not-so-terrifying) tales of life in law school

By John Foren

Legal News

In one entry, a student confesses his first semester finals in law school were more terrifying than the time he was in a Kurdish neighborhood in Istanbul, Turkey, and a drunk fired an AK-47, hollering ethnic slurs.

In another, a student recalls the nightmare of being called on in class and having no idea where the professor was in the textbook.

Others give advice on whether to have a pet while in law school (no) and how to avoid illness (wipe down desk tops, drink green tea). Plus, there's a cautionary tale about drinking too much Red Bull before a mock court session ("Objection!" "Michael, what was objectionable about the Plaintiff's name?" "Ummm... I withdraw my objection.")

These often-unique insights on life as a law school student are in Spartan bLAWg, a new blog started by the Michigan State University College of Law. Find it at

The blog contains regular entries from nine MSU law students with the goal of giving prospective attendees a peek at law school life beyond standard marketing pitches. Plus, it's a way to humanize and promote the law school.

Bloggers are asked to make at least two entries a month (they receive a $250 cash incentive) and get across law school life without disparaging specific professors and taking potshots at MSU. The writings aren't edited in advance, though they can be changed once posted.

The styles vary: some are fairly formal and self-conscious or go over routine happenings, such as spring break and preparing for graduation. Others are self-deprecating and have a little more of an edge.

Put first-year student Brett Manchel, 22, of West Bloomfield, in the latter camp. He says he's enjoying the blog, though he struggles with the writer's dilemma of coming up with ideas that will resonate.

"It's just a very exciting application of new media. That's what pushed me into it," Manchel says.

"I like talking and blogs are kind of a way to talk."

Manchel describes his style as conversational and friendly but professional. He cites with pride his favorite entry, a Feb. 17 posting on the first time he was called on in class to discuss a case.

"The first time the professor first utters of the first syllable of the first letter of your name, you swallow that lump in your throat and find your words," Manchel wrote. "Then, you either breathe a sigh of relief when he calls on someone else, or everything you had in your mind and all your notes in front of you, it all gets jumbled up in nervousness."

The law school blog isn't exactly outside Manchel's comfort zone. He blogged as part of a New Media class during his undergrad days at the University of Michigan.

"When I saw this opportunity pop up at the beginning of the semester here, I thought, well, it seems cool," he says. " ... I'm part of the Internet generation. I use all the tools, Twitter, LinkedIn ... I'm conscious of the audience."

Of course, there are creative limits. Manchel was asked to edit an early entry in which he unfavorably compared East Lansing to Ann Arbor. He later blogged about his pet peeves at MSU, including parking and some complaints about downtown East Lansing.

Kristen Flory, the law school's marketing and communications director, says censorship hasn't been a problem, in part because student bloggers know the value of their degrees is based on the reputation of the school.

Flory got the idea for the blog a few years ago from one being done at Ball State University. She pushed for it for years before getting the OK to start it in mid February.

The law school solicited bloggers from its student body. Half of the 18 applicants were selected, based on a writing sample and whether they could be not just a good writer, but a conversational one.

Law school students nationally have used the Web for years for their own personal and pointed blogs, such as Law schools have slowly begun using the device, often having their deans and professors do the postings.

Student-written blogs overseen by law schools still appear relatively rare, though it's probably a safe bet that one day they'll be omnipresent.

"The more dynamic you can make your Web site, the better you can communicate," Flory says.

Some might worry about letting students post about their schools without advance editing, but Flory notes that that's the nature of the Web.

The upside is "you're allowing students to participate and engage in the recruiting process and the reputation of the college," she says.

Law school officials haven't been able to record how many hits the blogs are getting. Flory says the feedback has been good and that the audience appears to be future and current students, plus law school staff. Some administrators now have the itch to do their own blog, she says.

Adrea Korthase, 33 and in her second year of law school, says she wishes she could have read a blog from someone like her who had been out of school for awhile and had decided to return to classes to become an attorney.

"I have a different view of everything, from class to living in a big college town and just being back in school after having a regular income and regular job," says Korthase, a Boyne City native who formerly worked as an administrative assistant in Los Angeles.

"I'm just able to share that perspective and get across that not everyone is 22 or 23 years old at the law school."

Korthase says several prospective MSU law students told her they had read her blog, and she's heard from alumni and faculty, too.

She says she hopes the blog offers good advice to future students, such as considering what they're passionate about and want to devote themselves to, and using all the opportunities they'll have at the law school.

"I feel like it's enlightened me," Korthase says.

Published: Thu, Apr 22, 2010