Law school is an experience no one can prepare you for. There are some things I wish I could have known upon entering law school that I just never expected:
Law school is hard. Yep, we hear it constantly, but it really is one of the toughest challenges you will ever face. 2L is different from 1L in the sense that you have just finished the hardest academic year of your life and now feel like you can accomplish anything.
However…you first have to survive that 1L. Some things I wish I would have known are listed below. I hope everyone who reads this examines these ten points and truly tries to think about them before orientation begins. I wish I had asked more people for advice before entering law school…those who have been through that first year are often very willing to help!
Attending a competitive school in the heart of New York City, here’s what I learned:
- Everything is based on the curve, so most people around you will want you to do worse than they do (basically so they can get the higher grade). I suppose it’s a sort of survival mode: adjust, learn how to cope with the reality of it, and guard your notebook. Fortunately, you can find people who will look out for your best interest, which brings me to point 2.
- It is not essential to find a study group, although it can be helpful. Try to find people who are will help you think about the cases and theories from different perspectives while pulling their own weight. Sometimes the key to a creating a successful team is in choosing the right players whose work ethic, integrity, and time management skills are aligned.
- Talk to your professors outside of class. The classes I received the highest grade in were the classes where I consistently went to office hours. Seriously, talk to your professors outside of class.
- Prioritize readings and get Quimbee https://www.quimbee.com - a resource that summarizes cases. Your pride might get in the way of using it but it will definitely help you. Do the readings diligently, and don’t fall behind. Time Management is key.
- If you are exhausted at 7pm and need to take a break, take that break - you can always go back to your readings. When I first heard this piece of advice, I laughed. I thought, “I know how to work efficiently; no way am I going to have to be doing work past 7pm.” I was so wrong. You’ll be doing work until late at night almost every single night. Get ready for 40-100 pages of reading A NIGHT. Yep, that’s heard that correctly; every NIGHT. Luckily, most of the content you’re reading is pretty interesting…but if you simply can’t read another case, Quimbee that sucker and make sure to go back when you have more time.
- Start outlining your courses by Halloween for first semester, and by the beginning of March for second semester. If you begin early, you won’t have to spend endless hours cramming to get the outlines done before finals. Outlines are pretty much study guides for the entire class. One outline can be anywhere from 40-100 pages. Find upperclassmen willing to send you outlines. It is MUCH easier to outline using the guidelines of those who have done well in that particular class with that particular professor.
- Don’t tell anyone your grades. Keep them to yourself. Be humble. As noted in point 1, you will likely be surrounded by very cutthroat competitors who enjoy hearing you’re doing poorly and/or they’re doing better than you. Don’t give them ammunition.
- Set schedules and stick to them. The semester/quarters will fly by and finals will sneak up on you. Stay focused and don’t worry about how other people study or complete their readings. Find the best routine that works for you.
- Follow the career path that is right for you! If you want to go into Big Law, then follow the path your school recommends. But, if you want to go into entertainment, real estate, public interest, etc., or anything that is not prioritized at your school then follow your dream! Make it happen. Reach out to established lawyers and ask for advice. Don’t be afraid to cold-email people. There are a lot of established lawyers who really do want to just help you! BUILD YOUR NETWORK!
- Take care of yourself. Mental health is SO important and rarely talked about in this industry, which is extremely unfortunate and often dangerous. So many lawyers and law students experience depression and anxiety and are too scared to reach out for help. REACH OUT. You are not alone and there is nothing wrong with the way you are feeling. Utilize your school’s counselors, reach out to family and friends, and talk to someone about your issues.
Once you make it through, and you will, your sense of accomplishment is incredible! So hang in there, manage your time wisely, and before you know it, you’ll be adding to this list to help the next round of students!