Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Welcome to Law School

For many, this is the first or second week of their first year of law school. The other day, someone on twitter asked for advice for first year law students, so I thought this was a good opportunity to give it!

This year is undoubtedly different for so many reasons. Most of you are entering law school remotely, and even if you are physically entering campus, there are probably things that make this year different. There are many resources out there on how to maximize your ability to learn online, so I want to focus on what you should know upon entering law school, in this environment or any other.

  1. It’s a new skill, so it will take practice. Learning the law really is a skill. That gets lost on so many students, who get frustrated in the beginning. Everything you are learning is brand new, and it will take time. Embrace growth mindset, this lesson can help.
  1. It will be difficult and that’s ok. Like learning any new skill, it’s going to be hard. For many of you, academic endeavors have never been this difficult, so it’s easy to think that you don’t belong, or it’s just you. It’s not just you, this is difficult for everyone. Give yourself permission to not get it right, and learn from your failures. Most importantly, remember that every practicing attorney has stories of things they didn't get, or messed up on, their first year. And they are practicing, and they are fine!
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Trust me, you're not the only one with questions. Don't be afraid to ask fellow classmates, professors, or others questions. For example, there was plenty of law related vocabulary that was very new to me. I had no idea what these words meant, and was too nervous to ask. So I made this for you! (but you can still ask if something is not clear)
  3. Start to think like a lawyer. The reason law school is a skill is because it's teaching you how to write differently, and think differently. You will often hear "you are learning to think like a lawyer" and that's true. But what does it mean? Here is a resource with a little help.
  4. Think about what your exams will be like. Law school exams are different. Instead of asking you to recite facts from cases, or memorize holdings, you will need to solve a problem. To this end, work on practice questions, so you get used to it. Also, keep this in mind as you read and study - it's not about mastering and remembering everything from every case, but rather, thinking about how the cases help you solve a problem!
  5. Don’t be afraid to use resources. It might seem overwhelming and difficult to navigate at first. But there are plenty of resources available to you, that aim to make your life a bit easier. One such resource is, and specifically CALI lessons geared towards academic success.

Many of your school’s libraries will also have a great deal of supplements and study aids that are available to you. Make the library’s website one of your favorites, and make your librarians your friends.

In addition, many of you will have an Academic Support department at your law school. Listen to them, and don’t be afraid to use them. I am sure I can speak for all of us when I say we love to see you. In a normal semester, I’d say that we will welcome you into our offices with open arms and chocolate. This semester that’s a bit trickier, but many Academic Support professors and departments have set up online resources for you. Use them! Finally, set up a zoom call with them, I promise they want to help!

On that note, remember you do belong, and this is difficult for everyone.

(Melissa Hale)

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