For the past three months, I’ve been away from Balls & Strikes on parental leave with my son, who was born in March. It was time wonderfully spent: We went for long walks with the dog, howled our way through obligatory tummy time sessions, and took lots of naps. As a person who writes about the horrorshow that is the U.S. Supreme Court for a living, this period also served as a badly-needed mental break. For the first time in a long time, Sam Alito was no longer the most prominent figure in my life who couldn’t stop shitting his pants.

To my immense displeasure, however, none of the Court’s myriad crises—its bottomless supply of corruption scandals, its gleeful war on multiracial democracy, its ongoing composition as a nine-member body, its public approval numbers that even Comcast would find embarrassing—seem to have been fixed during my absence. Thus, with a heavy heart, I am back at the desk and ready to talk my shit.

Fortunately for me and also for you, I am not alone in doing so: I am thrilled to announce that the writer Madiba Dennie has joined B&S as our deputy editor and senior contributor. Madiba has written a ton for Balls & Strikes already—you may remember her expertly unpacking the right-wing media ecosystem’s collective freakout about the existence of Black federal judges—and I’m very glad that she’ll be doing more of this going forward. Madiba also has a book coming next summer about the Court’s cynical use of originalism to extinguish vibrant social justice movements. I can’t wait to find out whether she takes a pro or con angle on the subject!

As it so happens, I am returning to work at the time of year when law students are returning to campus, which means that lots of people who graduated from law school once upon a time are eagerly doling out unsolicited advice to people who are now enrolled in one. Most of this career advice is of limited utility for the same reason that all career advice is of limited utility: It necessarily tracks the career trajectory of the person giving it, and subtly or not-so-subtly ratifies the life choices they made along the way. For example, a person whose advice is “work extremely hard so you can clerk for a feeder judge and compete for a tenure-track law professor job” probably worked extremely hard so they could clerk for a feeder judge and compete for a tenure-track law professor job. But the relevance of this wisdom for someone who wants to be, say, a public defender in a rural area is dubious at best; as Steve Kennedy recently wrote for Balls & Strikes, a far more prudent strategy is to find people who are hiring for the actual jobs you want, ask THEM for advice, and ignore everyone else.

Except me! You should not ignore me, because I have the only good, correct, and universal bit of law school advice, and it is as follows: Understand that after you graduate, you will remember your classmates in three buckets. First, people you liked and were (and hopefully remain!) friends with; second, people you didn’t know well, but who seemed cool and nice and normal whenever you had a class together or ran into them at the bar; and finally, people you fucking hated. At all times, you should behave—in the classroom and outside of it—in such a way that no one has reason to put you in their third bucket.

Here is why: Over the course of your hopefully-long career, relationships and connections and reputations will matter more than, like, your Bankruptcy grade from 2L year. And at some point, you are going to have to send a sheepish email to a law school classmate—likely someone to whom you haven’t spoken since law school!—asking for something you need: an introduction, an overview of the legal market in the city where they live, a lead on a particular job, and so on. When they see your name pop up in their inbox all those years later, asking for their help, you want their reaction to be “Yes, glad to!” or, at worst, “Sure,” and not “LOL FUCK NO,” right before they send a screenshot of your stupid email to their law school group chat and then delete it without bothering to respond.

Among the many cruelties of this country’s legal education infrastructure is that it forces you to spend six figures’ worth of money you probably don’t have for a credential that may or may not yield the career you imagine you want. You will forget most of what you learn in law school, in many cases the moment you turn in your final exam. But I promise that, wherever life takes you, you will vividly remember who the deranged shitbags are long after you walk across the graduation stage with them, and so will everyone else. Conduct yourselves accordingly.

Lastly, special thanks to the people who kept Balls & Strikes publishing during my absence, particularly during the Court’s busiest season: Rhiannon Hamam and James LaRock, who, in order, profiled some of the Court’s worst-ever opinions and the gaggle of baby-faced FedSoc freaks who hope to one day write new ones; Josie Duffy Rice and Cristian Farias, who lent their considerable editing talents to the project and always make everything they work on better; and Colin Diersing and Liyanga de Silva, who maintained the backend here without once hitting the red flashing DELETE WEBSITE button. Appreciate all of you.