Wednesday, August 8, 2018
I asked a few rising 2L and 3L students what they wish they knew as first year, first semester, law students and I received a slew of answers. Not every answer is listed here and certainly, there is a lot more one could consider outside of the categories listed here. The responses I received fall into some of the categories listed below and I limited categories to the six below.
The Library Can Distract You. The library is typically thought of as a place where one goes to focus and study. In law school, the library can be a very distracting and social place. Some classmates want to talk to each other or you and you might want to have conversations to avoid reading or completing your tasks. Students who previously frequented the library and considered their visits productive might now find it to be the most distracting location to study. Give the library a try and see what happens, closely monitor your time and productivity. Simply clocking hours in the library does not equate with quality and fruitful study time. “I spent several hours, all semester long, in the library but when I consider the time I spent studying, it was minimal. I accomplished a lot more at home.” Student A
Attend Office Hours. Meeting with professors one-on-one can humanize the professors and cultivate the student-professor dynamics. Professors are human beings, really. This is a good time to ask pertinent questions and sort through difficult concepts early. Also, this interaction allows professors to get to know you which might become helpful in the future when they seek a teaching assistant or research assistant. This interaction can also be helpful if you need a letter of recommendation in the future but you must engage with professors to cultivate that relationship. “When I needed a reference, my professor was willing to write me one and remembered me because I was in office hours with at least one course related question every week.” Student B
You Can Sleep Before Midnight. Law students spend hours preparing for class and completing legal writing assignments, particularly in the beginning. Students often pull all-nighters to balance class preparation and completion of assignments. However, if you plan out your time and maximize the time you spend on various assignments and tasks, you can accomplish a lot. “I worked (which I was advised against), commuted to school from about an hour away, am married, and have three children but still managed to complete all of the requirements of my 1L curriculum. It is doable. It is all about time management, prioritizing, and temporary sacrifice.” Student C
Be Humble. Some students can be more confident than they should be particularly if they were high achieving students in a previous academic environment. It can also be difficult when your path in life was to make it to law school so you took the necessary classes, participated in pre-law programs, worked with lawyers and other members of the legal profession, and have family members with experience in the legal profession. All of the above and more are confidence building and present knowledge that other students might not have. You must keep in mind that everyone will have their own journey, path, and experience which might be different from yours. Just because another person’s experience does not fit the cookie cutter law school experience does not mean it is of any less value. “I had a lot of exposure to the legal profession, legal terminology, law school environment, etc. and I understood things quicker than it seemed others did but that was not enough when I saw my law school first semester grades. I should have approached things the way some of my classmates did and I could have learned from them but refused to. I wish that I was more open to the Academic Support Program and what other individuals in the law school environment had to say about preparing for exams. My attitude also isolated me from some of my classmates.” Student D
There Are Endless Opportunities. Some students often feel limited by their academic performance or perceived ability compared to other students. Students have the impression that there is only one trajectory to achieving a goal or developing a skill or to be a part of particular programs, co-curricular activities, and/or extracurricular activities. Everyone is not going to have the same opportunity to do the same things. There might be an alternative route to whatever you would like to do and/or accomplish but you may need to chat with someone, reach out to others, and be okay with alternatives. It is never the end of the world; therefore, you might just have to take a different path.
Invest In Your Well-being. Always ensure that you keep the friends you made outside of law school as they can keep you grounded and remind you of who you are and your values. They also provide a means of escaping law school. Schedule some fun on a weekly basis whether it is a movie, dinner, a walk, a run, or anything that makes you happy. This will keep you motivated and centered. Consider investing in a locker or a roller bag which will help with carrying your books around and save your back. Overall, simply pay attention to your body and your mental, physical, and emotional health. This will serve you well in the future.
This is a very exciting time for new students! Welcome to your new journey but remember to stay as true as you can to your authentic self. (Goldie Pritchard)