Earlier this month I was able to get together with a few of my law school classmates. I graduated from law school 10 years ago and the years have flown by. While I’m sure not every portion of my law school journey is unique, I hope by sharing I can help someone prepare. Law school is definitely a journey and preparation helps with the process.
In 2006, I was preparing to attend law school. I purchased a new laptop, and I even participated in a prep program at my law school, Thurgood Marshall School of Law. I was so excited! My dream of becoming a lawyer was coming true, and I couldn’t wait to start school! And then I went to orientation…and a little bit of fear set in. Was I ready for law school? Were all the stories about competitive classmates true? Did professors still use the Socratic method or was that just for movies? Would I study all night every night?
Luckily, the questions I had were questions that my other classmates had as well. First year law students are divided into sections and at least at my law school, students have all of their 1L classes with their section mates during the first year. I personally believe, and I am biased, I had the best section in my first year class. 🙂 Our personalities and study styles were different but we supported each other and continue to do so today.
So about my classes…Well I had a professor who not only believed in the Socratic method but he required students to wear a suit one day a week. (The Socratic method is essentially a dialogue between a professor and one or more students. Think Legally Blonde…Click this link for more info.) My other professors were challenging in other ways, especially my difficult to understand but highly intellectual Criminal law professor. Studying consisted of reading, reading, and more reading. With copious note taking sprinkled in. I actually loved to read but had to reconnect with reading for pleasure, when law school ended. LOL!
The first year of law school requires you to learn a new language. Many of the cases you study during the first year are to not only help you understand the law, but to help you understand basic legal terminology. (Black’s Law Dictionary will become your friend) Part of the reason the first year is difficult, is that you are learning a new language and a new way of thinking. I didn’t look at any written contract or situation the same after my first year of law school. My analysis of most situations changed and that changed me, forever!
Since you are developing and changing, some personal relationships MAY suffer. However, some relationships strengthen when someone is supported during a difficult or challenging season of life. Another change is that you may not be as available to participate in activities that your friends or family outside of law school expect you to participate in. You may need to set new boundaries to limit activities so you can get used to the new environment that you are in and the new responsibilities that you have.
Law school is only 3 years, and everyone tells you that the law is a jealous lover. That means that the law it will take up all of your time. I don’t believe in making anything on this earth an idol, but I do believe in prioritizing things properly for the season that you are in. Law school and studying are your new job for the time being so devote as much time as possible to mastering your new role.
Here are a few tips to help you, or someone you know, get through the first year of law school (This list is in no way comprehensive but I did want to share some tips I think may be helpful) :
- Prepare for law school: invest in one nice suit, save up money for unexpected school expenses, get rest, and enjoy the time prior to law school starting.
- Have an open and honest conversation with family and friends about law school. Discuss your fears about school and wanting to do your best. Follow up during the school year to let them know how they can help you.
- Find your own study method. Everyone will have a fool proof method. The goal is for you to figure out what works for you and stick to it!
- You don’t need a study group. I don’t know if this is still a big thing, but it was when I was in law school. I know that it did help me to briefly discuss certain things with people but when it came to studying I had to do that all by myself. You may not study well in groups at all. So do what works best for you!
- Work on your resume. Take time to work on your resume so you are ready for opportunities that may come your way during, and after, your First year.
- Start thinking about summer internships at the beginning of the Spring semester of your first year. It takes time to get a Summer internship, so I suggest that you start thinking about what you want to do after your first year early in your Spring semester. Work with your career services department to find out about opportunities available to first year students. Follow up with alumni that you meet and ask students or professors if they know about opportunities. Find out what requirements you need to pursue the type of opportunity you want ahead of time, so you are prepared.
- Try not to feed into the negativity. Some of the rumors I heard about law school were true. However, the more that I focused on doing that I needed to do, the less I had to worry about what others were doing.
- Find an outlet. Law school can be stressful…with that being said, you need a positive activity to help you find a healthy balance during the first year of law school. My outlet was prayer and watching a fun TV show. Find whatever you need and use it to help you get through the tough times.
- Talk with your professors. It is still important to talk to and communicate with your professors. Building relationships with professors could turn into you becoming a teaching assistant after your first year or building a relationship to support you during Law School.
- Enjoy. I know it may seem that it is impossible to enjoy your first year of law school, but I honestly have amazing memories from that year. I met amazing people who I am still friends with and I learned more than I thought was possible.
The Law School journey needs a beginning and the first year is it! If you are getting ready to start your first year, are thinking about law school, or if you’re just curious I thank you for reading and welcome any other first year Law School tips.