June 5, 2012
Congratulations on finishing your first year! Now what?
Amy and guests have recently written some fabulous posts for graduating law students. I am going to address students who can celebrate a different accomplishment: finishing their first year of law school. In many ways, the first year of law school is the toughest year. Students are learning new material, presented in a new format, from an unfamiliar type of book (since most colleges use textbooks, not casebooks). Here is a list of thought questions for students who have finished their first year of law school.
1) Did I meet my own goals?
It's easy to go on autopilot during the 1L year. Getting through the day, the week, and the semester are important short-term goals. However, everyone comes to law school with certain long-term goals. The time after 1L exams, but before 2L classes begin, is the ideal time to evaluate your long-term goals. Law school is an expensive, life-altering commitment. Are you meeting your own goals? If not, are these goals still in reach? What can you do to reach those goals next year? Are those goals reasonable? If your goals were reasonable and you did not reach them, should you be reworking your long-term plans?
2) What did I enjoy this year?
It's so easy to kvetch about what didn't go right. Almost no one does as well as they think they will or should do on exams. This is the time to consider what was enjoyable during the 1L year. Did you really enjoy a specific class? What did you enjoy about the class (was it the teacher, was it the material, or both?) Are there upper-division classes in this area of law or with this teacher? What are the employment prospects in this area of law? What type of clinical, externship, or volunteer experiences will I need if I want to work in this area of law? If you really liked the teacher, does the teacher employ RA's during the school year? If what you really enjoyed was something outside the classroom, how are you going to nurture that part of your life next year?
3) What should I think about changing for next year?
This is the time to really evaluate your successes and your failures. Evaluating your actions is not the same as judging yourself. don't beat up on yourself if you did not reach all your goals; figure out how to change so you can reach those goals next year. Evaluate how close you came to your goals if you did not reach them, and think about what it will take to reach them next year. If you succeeded, break down what you can replicate for the future. (RCF)
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