The Turbulent True Story of a First Year at Harvard Law School
One L is the first attempt at non fiction writing by Scott Turrow, an attorney by profession and a best selling novelist. Mr. He graduated from Harvard Law School and He has been a partner in the Chicago office of Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal, a national law firm, since 1986, Turrow has won multiple awards for his writings including the Heartland Prize in 2003 For “Reversible Errors” and the Robert F.
Kennedy award in 2004 for Ultimate punishment. He is best known for his second non fictional work “The Ultimate Punishment” in which he discusses the death penalty. He is currently a Member of Illinois’ Executive Ethics Commission. Turrow’s fictional work is widely popular and although he confines his writing only to the murder mystery genre his work is commendable. Turrow’s reasons for finding this genre the most captivating are simple he says “Only in the mystery novel are we delivered final and unquestionable solutions. The joke to me is that fiction gives you a truth that reality can’t deliver.” (Scott Turrow, 2001)
Turrow in his book One L gives an account of what a first year law student goes through. Scott Turrow interprets the authenticity of the life of law students ubiquitously. He describes an array of situations beginning of course with the excitement of being accepted into an Ivy League school, Harvard Law the most prestigious law school in the country. Mr. Turrow attended law school in the 70’s but he manages to narrate his story in a manner that seems enduring enough to keep a reader captivated all through the book he gets a tad dramatic at times giving details about everything one might experience in the first year of law college from the unusual kinds of students to the remarkable teachers, the stress the pressure even some horrific accounts about the way students are treated by the professors.
It is common knowledge that Teachers in most law schools use the Socratic method of teaching which apparently comes as a surprise to Turrow The first year law students have to study the law of contracts, torts and criminal law. “Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, the mornings we have Contracts . . . I’m nearly sick to my stomach. . . . I can’t believe it, but I think about that class and I get ill,” writes turrow. As a common practice in colleges Turrow write about his study group.
He also has ideas for improving the system and the overall experience of the first year law students. He suggests “brief writing, research, courtroom technique, document drafting, negotiation, client counseling, and the paramount task of gathering the facts.” Mr. Turow’s study of the other students also appears rather outward and small-minded. The students are basically stereotyped into the “achievers”, “the complainers” “intellectuals,” “but who, in reality, are no more intellectual than a kindergartener with a crayon” and the professors who “harass” the students. He mentions nothing about the types of queries one comes across in a law school.
He attended law school while he was married and his marital life added to the dilemmas of law school but what Mr. Turrow never mentions is that the average first year law student is not married his problems can not be compared to an average law student which eradicates the validity of the book as a true experience of an average student in addition to all these factors the fact that the seventies experience can not be compared to a present day experience should also be taken into account
Another factor which is different in the present times compared to the time Turrow attended law school is the admissions procedure students planning to go to law school nowadays have the option of taking an editing test which means a lot of studying before the actual admissions meanwhile in the seventies students got admissions on the basis of their grades only Scotts work though comprehensive and interesting at times is nothing extraordinary much better books about first year experience as a law student have been written his style is true to his attorney self and drags the story along in mostly a negative tone giving the readers every horrific account possible with great insight into his own emotions and at times it almost sounds like he’s suggesting people should stop going to law schools just because the first year is tough. Mr. Turrow forgets to mention that for every student starting college being nervous is a natural thing and the first year of college anywhere is just as tough as the first year of law school. Also an Ivy League school can not be compared to other schools.
Turrow’s story is completely subjective without any comprehensive insight into the facts of the situation and at times dramatic to the point of being annoying and pretentious, reading a book about another person’s life experience should open up a new world for the reader instead of imposing the author’s ideas. Perhaps it never occurred to Mr. Turrow that a school like Harvard would not change its 200 years old methods of teaching just because the first year students didn’t get a warm enough welcome at the school. Although Scott makes an honest effort to convey in the best possible way all his experiences he fails at achieving his goal. It’s an good enough book for students planning to go to law college but people with no interest in attending a law college would find this book over rated.
1. Amazon inc (2006) book Review of One L: The Turbulent True Story of a First Year at Harvard Law School. Retrieved on 12th October 2006 from:
2. Scott Turrow (2006) biography of Scott Turrow. Retrieved on 12th October 2006 from: