Law school is unlike anything else I’ve done in my life. My 0L summer (the summer before law school) was filled with many emotions: excitement, anxiety, nervousness, uncertainty, worry, and more. While I did get some great advice from other law students, there were also some things I had to learn through my own trial and error. In this blog post I share the things I learned, what I wish I would have known before my first semester of law school and my tips to all incoming law students.
Have A Day Where You Don’t Do Anything Related to Law School (when possible)
There was a point in 1L where I legit contemplated if law school was for me (like actually contemplated…not the usual “ugh I hate this” rambling that usually happens). I felt burnt out and I knew what I was doing wasn’t sustainable. I forget exactly when I made the shift but I remember deciding that Sundays were going to be the days I didn’t do ANYTHING related to law school. If that wasn’t possible, whatever I had to do was only allowed to take up a max of 1-2 hours of the day. At first it was rough because I hadn’t prioritized it at the beginning of my law school journey but once I got the hang of it law school felt way less miserable and all consuming. This is the piece of advice I recommend the most. That’s why it’s first on the list! If you take away nothing else from this post, implement this!
Create a Schedule and Stick to it
A schedule prevents you from wasting time being mindlessly “busy”. Without a set schedule (that I stuck to consistently) I realize that I spent so much more time thinking I was busy than I did actually being “busy.” Most of the time I was probably scrolling on Instagram. A schedule also holds you accountable to what you need to get done. While I did manage to get all of my readings done (most of the time) semester, there is soooo much more that needs to be done when it comes to mastering law school. Doing the readings is bare minimum and for the most part of the semester that was all I did…besides taking notes in class and book briefing. A schedule also allows you to make sure you are putting the correct amount of focus on your classes. It’s also easier to notice if you aren’t making enough time for yourself. If you don’t schedule any time for yourself…you probably won’t making any.
Go to Bed at a Reasonable Time
One of the easiest things to neglect in 1L is sleep. There are so many things to do and even the most advanced and skilled time management skills are challenged when you begin your law school journey. However, neglecting sleep to “finish” everything you need to do (tip: there is always more to do) is futile and will not make you a better law student. Once you start neglecting your sleep you may struggle to pay attention in class, have worse eating habits, or rely on caffeine to function (guilty as charged over here). One thing I am focusing on this 2L year is making sure I’m getting at least 7 hours of sleep a night. This is one habit I wish I had gone into 1L with.
It’s Okay If You Bomb a Cold Call
Ahhh the dreaded cold call. The experience of many nightmares of incoming 1Ls everywhere. Here’s the truth: if you already knew everything you needed to know to take the bar and become a lawyer…you wouldn’t be in law school! It’s okay to fuck up a cold call (or few). Honestly I am a person who doesn’t typically experience being embarrassed from others but I did care a lot if I bombed my cold calls and the professors thought I was dumb. Fun fact: doing amazing in your cold calls still doesn’t guarantee you’ll be an amazing law student or lawyer. Most of your grade will come from the exam anyway and class participation is usually not that high of a percentage. Obviously come to class prepared but if you bomb a cold call the world will keep spinning and life as we know it will go on. There are enough things to stress about in law school…don’t sweat the small stuff.
Get Help from Academic Success
Law school is full of many smart people. That being said, many of us struggle with asking for help when we need it. Legal concepts are difficult. Legal writing is unlike any other type of writing you’ve done before. If your school has somewhere you can go to get help…GO! Now is not the time to be prideful if you don’t understand a subject. I went to our academic success center and office more than once and I know I was a better student because of it.
Take Practice Tests And Go To Office hours
I also recommend going to office hours because your professors will test entirely in their own style so it’s good to be familiar with the way they will structure the test. Some professors provide previous exams they’ve given and some even provide model answers. My Civil procedure professor did this and I foolishly did not take advantage of this and that ended up being the class I got the lowest grade in. If you take a professors practice exams, you get over the “I don’t know what to talk about in office hours” hump that many students fall victim to. Even if your professor doesn’t provide practice exams/questions you can probably find some around the internet (hey google!).
Take Time for Yourself Every Day
Whenever anyone asked me what I was doing during the summer (not including my internship/working), I usually responded with “getting back to myself.” There’s something about 1L year that completely shifts who you are as a person. There were many times during the school year where I felt like a shell of my former self…but not in the good way. Obviously law school is meant to change you into a lawyer to be but that doesn’t mean you should lose yourself in it completely. In retrospect, if I had taken even 10 or 20 mins a day to spend with myself EVERY day it would have made a difference. There were weeks that went by and I hadn’t even had time to sit down and just be. Try your best to avoid that.
1L will be one of the most challenging years of your academic career (yes, even if you’re really smart). However that doesn’t mean you can’t succeed and handle your business. While I can’t guarantee these tips will make you a 100% successful law student, I do think they can help. Good luck in your law school career!
If you’re getting ready to start law school, comment with a question you might still have after reading this!
If you’re already in law school/graduated law school, comment with a tip you have for incoming 1Ls!
Have a great school year everyone!✨