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Advice for First Year Law Students

August 13, 2007

Here is some good advice for 1Ls that I borrowed:

Relax. Take deep breaths: You’re going to be under a lot of pressure, especially in December, to consider what you’re doing right now the most important thing you ever have, or will, do. It’s not. It’s barely even the real world. Nothing here should determine your self worth. Go out into the city (or country wherever you are), watch the world go by in wonder, and every so often just put it all aside.

Learn the game: Law school isn’t really that difficult, it’s just different. There are rules, patterns and strategies to be discovered. You want to maximize the amount of learning–where “learning” means “what you’ll need for the exam”–with the minimum amount of effort. The learning you get joy from may coincide with this, but if it doesn’t, just make it a free-time activity.

Ask your elders: 2Ls have gone through this already. Befriend a couple who you trust and ask their advice.

Everyone else is jumping off a bridge. Don’t join them: Start thinking right now about what you want from the law. Then ask your counselors, your professors and your compatriots how to get there. Don’t sign up, join up, compete for or get ulcers over things that aren’t imperative to your goals. This, by the way, is excellent advice well beyond your 1L year.

Here’s some additional advice from me:

Avoid the “experts” in your class:  They haven’t been a first year before and don’t know anymore than you do.  Stay sane.  You are an otherwise reasonable person who managed to graduate from college on your own.  Law school is different from college (you may notice some additional reading), but completely disregarding how you operate is a bad idea. Remember that you won’t fail just because you write on purple paper and you won’t be first in the class just because you use a yellow highlighter instead of green.

Don’t go crazy in January after grades are released:  Don’t be smug if you got good grades.  Don’t be bitter if your friend did and you didn’t.  Law school is long and the years of practice that follow are even longer.  Everyone remembers the jerk from law school just like everyone remembers the smelly kid from elementary school.  Don’t be that person. 

Put yourself first and cut your family some slack: Don’t forget to exercise, eat well and maintain contact with your non-law school friends and family members.  They may not understand exactly what you are going through, but remember that those people know you for who you really are and not in the vacuum of law school.       

9 Comments leave one →
  1. Patty Walsh permalink
    August 14, 2007 9:57 pm

    Several points from someone who was a 1L eons ago (1994)-

    I agree with the author about the importance of non-law school related friends- they are more important than you can imagine right now. Make it a priority to talk to these friends regularly, even if its just a quick email. Try not to talk too much about school with them.

    While getting a job is important, not all legal jobs are in firms. If you realize firm life isn’t for you, explore other options. They are out there, but rarely come up in the law school enviroment/career counselling offices.

    Try to minimize the student loans as much as possible. While it isn’t fun to live like a college student, the payoff is worth it when you aren’t faced with making what amounts to a mortgage payment 6 months after graduation.

  2. Heather permalink
    August 14, 2007 10:22 pm

    I second that!

  3. Abbie permalink
    August 15, 2007 3:43 pm

    That’s also good advice…especially about minimizing student loans. It’s easy to borrow money and forget that you will have to pay it back (with interest). Make sure that you can afford to eat, but also be conscious of how much you are borrowing and how you are spending your money.

  4. October 15, 2009 7:44 am

    This is what I call advice that’s motivating, yet insightful as well as stimulating. The harder law school is the more easy it would be to be a law practitioner, just remember that…

  5. June 17, 2011 6:13 pm

    This is extremely good

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