From Being One L to Teaching One L

Chapter in Beyond One L (Carolina Academic Press, 2019)

17 Pages Posted: 28 Jul 2012 Last revised: 15 Jan 2019

See all articles by Josh Blackman

Josh Blackman

South Texas College of Law Houston

Date Written: July 26, 2012


When I applied to law school, I knew next-to-nothing about law school. I really walked into it blind - I would say legally blond, but I am brunette. I had no friends or family members who were attorneys. The only political science class I had ever taken was in high school - and I distinctly remember mistakenly writing on an exam that Thomas Jefferson, and not James Madison, wrote the Constitution. I didn't know what a tort was. I had no idea what the Socratic Method was. I didn’t know what Law Review was. I didn’t know what “clerking” was. At orientation there were thirteen tables, to represent each Circuit Court of Appeals. I didn’t know what a 'Circuit' was.

When I started briefing cases, I would always take note to write down the Judge's name. Though, I did find one oddity: all of the Judges had a first initial of 'J.' 'Such a coincidence,' I wondered. And what about 'C.J.' I wondered? Curious initials for a Judge. It took me a solid month before I realized the 'J' stood for Judge. Even then, when several names were listed, followed by J.J. after the last Judge, I figured that meant 'Junior Judge' and they were listed in order of seniority, with the newest Judge last.

I had never read or heard of Scott Turow’s classic, One L. For that matter, I didn’t even know what One L meant. During orientation, someone asked if I was a 1L. I gazed back, and inquired what that was? A mere six years after I stepped into my first law school class as a bewildered evening student, I have clerked for two federal judges (after sending out 1,600 applications), published a bunch of law review articles (the first of which was dedicated to James Madison), and am an avowed Supreme Court nerd.

In hindsight, I know that the uncertainty, chaos, and confusion that is One L is hardly limited to the first year of law school. 2L, 3L, and beyond present greater challenges and tests, that are much tougher than contracts and torts. Indeed, One L is not only preparation for, but truly a metaphor for everything that attorneys have gone through, and everything we will go through. Such poignancy is what makes Turow’s writing, and our own memories, so everlasting. With these experiences, in the fall of 2012, I will begin teaching a whole new wave of One Ls as a law professor at South Texas College of Law. Having gone from clueless to obsessed, it is perhaps fitting, or maybe ironic, that I was invited to contribute to this worthy collection to talk about my experiences, from being a One L to teaching One Ls.

Keywords: law school, One L

Suggested Citation

Blackman, Josh, From Being One L to Teaching One L (July 26, 2012). Chapter in Beyond One L (Carolina Academic Press, 2019), Available at SSRN: or

Josh Blackman (Contact Author)

South Texas College of Law Houston ( email )

1303 San Jacinto Street
Houston, TX 77002
United States

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