6 Tips for Law Students
So you want to go to law school?
Congratulations! You’re in! Now what?
Unfortunately, the answer is one you should get used to as it is likely the answer to every exam you are about to take – it depends.
If you are anything like me, you are terrified to start 1L (1L = 1st-year law student) and you will google things like “how to do well in law school?” and “is law school hard?”. You will then get trapped in an endless world of forums and blogs that will shake you to your core. You will start to wonder if you should take a class that claims to prepare you for law school and you may even read the book “1L.” Here are a few things I wish I had known my first year to help you through.
1. Relax. You will be great. You made it through high school and undergrad. You did not forget how to succeed academically overnight. You can do it. With that being said, you are not in undergrad anymore and you need to act like it. The key to success in law school is different for everyone.
2. Interact. Your classmates are your colleagues. That’s right, your classmates are your new network. After you all graduate and pass the bar exam, you will have an instant network of 100+ attorneys for to turn to for support and referrals. Treat your classmates with dignity and respect. The impression you leave while in law school may follow you for years to come. I am not saying you need to pass out candy, but kindness and professionalism will go a long way.
3. Get to know your professors. You may or may not be used to attending office hours. If you are, keep it up. If not, get in the habit of it. Take any questions you may have about the class content and concepts straight to your professors. They can present the information in a different form than they presented it in class. Don’t have any questions? Lucky you! But do not think that office hours are only for those who need academic help. Your professors have taught hundreds of law students and know exactly what it is like to be in your shoes. I have yet to hear of a professor who does not want the best for their students. Let them be your mentor. They have an endless amount of connections in your geographical area and beyond.
4. Prepare. You will likely have at least one professor who uses the Socratic method of teaching i.e. they pick a name at random to answer a question. The first time your name is called at random, it may feel as if the world is ending and you are a toddler who cannot speak in coherent sentences. It gets easier, I promise. Be prepared for class and if you do not understand something in the materials, come with questions in the event you do get called on and cannot answer confidently. With that being said, if you are not prepared, own it. In my experience, a professor has more respect for a student who is honest as opposed to a student who tries to lie their way through an answer.
5. Participate. In the event that your professor does not cold call and you have the opportunity to participate, do it! It is a great public speaking experience. It will challenge you and help you retain information. However, a general rule of thumb is that you will never know more than the professor and, if you do, do not dare tell the professor you know more than them in front of their class. Participate when you can add value to the discussion.
6. Review. When it comes to final prep, reviewing past exams can be one of the best study tools. Some professors give students access to all of their past exams or release a few questions, but if your professor does not release exams, then google other law school’s exam libraries. You should find some exams pretty easily. I personally found the “Examples and Explanations” book series immensely helpful when studying. Oh, and Barbri has killer videos (I think they are free or, if not, they are cheap) to help you cram for finals and master key topics. Ask your school’s Barbri representative to help you gain access.
There is no formula for success. You know yourself better than anyone. There is no “one size fits all” approach to success. My suggestions? Take an upperclassman to coffee and pick their brain on what did and did not work for them. Be open with your classmates on how you are preparing and they will do the same. Be sure to take advantage of your school’s peer tutoring services and try out a study group or two.
Do grades matter? It depends. I told you to get used to that answer. What do you want to do after law school? What kind of job do you want? If you are thinking of nailing a big firm summer associate position, then your first-year grades are extremely important. Do you a small or midsize firm is the best fit for you? Grades may not be as important. I recommend reaching out to your career center and doing some research on what those firms are looking for in candidates. With that being said, remain calm if your grades are not top tier. Grades are not everything. I recommend that you work on your writing sample and engage in extra circular activities to help enhance your resume.
Enjoy it. 1L was my favorite year of law school and I had no idea it was the best year until it was over. Undoubtedly, you will be stressed and you will be challenged. Embrace it and know that it will be okay. You are smart, you have made it this far, and you can do it.
Would I be an attorney if I did not add a disclaimer to this? These are simply my experiences and recommendations based on those experiences. Feel free to send me an email or connect with me on LinkedIn to chat!
Attorney At Law