Monday, October 13, 2014

Things I Wish I'd Known: 1L

For those of you who are planning to attend law school or are still in your first year, I thought I would share a few of the things I wish I'd known in the beginning. I'm not saying I'd go back and start over, but there are definitely things I might have done differently.

1. Meet With Your Professors
I know you've probably been told (will be told) this a thousand times, but seriously. Even if you think you understand the material, find something to go ask them about. You never know what information they might "leak" to you, i.e. "Well on the exam I might ask it this way," kind of thing. My 1L year I went to see each of my professors maybe once, and that was great, but I really wish I had gone more often. My grades turned out fine, but they could have been better and I honestly think that going to see my professors could have made a difference.

2. Choose Your Friends Carefully
You're probably thinking, "Duh." However, let me be the first to warn you, this may be easier said than done. During orientation and even the first few weeks of school you will probably be drawn to the same people, whether it is because you are in all of the same classes or because you're stuck together in the alphabet. Maybe nine times out of ten that will be fine, but just be cautious in the beginning that you are not the one time out of ten that it goes south. As you are hanging out and studying with people try to be aware of how serious they really are about school, if they are people you plan on spending a lot of time with, you want to be sure that they spend their time well.

3. Choose Your Friends Early
This goes with the previous one. As much as I hate to admit it, Law School can be very much like High School, especially in your first year. You have lockers, you're told which classes to take, the drama is off the charts, and cliques start to form. Now I am not saying that you need to form a clique, but do not underestimate how difficult it is to break into a group of people who have already established a strong bond through their first week trials and triumphs. Picture Elle Woods when all she wanted to do was join a study group, not everyone is going to be as bitchy as Vivian, but law school is deceivingly competitive and everyone else is just as guarded as you.

I cannot reiterate this enough. If your law school has a social event, go. If someone invites you to go play trivia, go. If everyone is going bowling, go. You get the point. My first year one of the upperclassman told us that her only free time during the week was about 6 hours on the weekend. That is, one HALF DAY of the entire week. We. Were. Terrified. Luckily as the semester went on, I realized that I needed to take her advice with a grain of salt. Don't get me wrong, it is very important to stay on top of, and ahead of your assignments and readings. However, don't become a recluse in your first semester f law school. The first year is when solid friendships are formed and memories are made,  you don't want to miss out on those. So take advantage of the invitations you get, who knows what great stories you will have to tell years later!

5. Make a Schedule
The same said upperclassman who terrified us, also gave us the hearty advice to schedule our time down to the hour. I realize this sounds a bit intense, and it was, but it really helps put into perspective what you are doing with your time and how many hours you actually have in a day. The key to this tip is not to get down on yourself if you don't follow the schedule exactly. In your first year of law school, and especially the first semester there is a steep learning curve to reading cases and the related material. Sometimes it is difficult to acurately schedule the appropriate amount of time to prepare for each class. My advice there would be to schedule what you think it will take you to complete a task and ideally it will balance out. Contracts might take longer because there are a lot of new vocabulary words, but Criminal Law might be quick because the cases are interesting and "fun" to read.

6. Take Practice Exams
Whether you have an old exam available via a data base or your professor gives you the option to submit an answer to a practice exam, do it. It may seem time consuming, and you may feel like it isn't worth your time, but it is. Trust me. This is especially true if your professor gives you the option to do one. There is no better way to prepare for an exam than to have your professor read over an answer you prepared and critique or grade it, it is an invaluable opportunity. Also, even if you are just using an old exam that you found, you still might be able to take your prepared answers to the professor and at the least talk through them, even if you are not able to receive specific comments. I have done this since 1L year and I can say with certainty it is what has really helped me get the grade.

I hope these tips are helpful, even as a 2L and 3L they can come in handy. Please comment with the things you wish you'd known as a 1L!

Have a great day, y'all!

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