6 Things to Know Before Your First Year of Law School

Law school is a three-year, expensive whirlwind.

You’ve probably heard many painful stories from current or former law school students. One of the oft-repeated mantras heard by prospective law school students is the importance of excelling academically. There’s a lot of truth to this, and we’ll cover in a later post why (and to what extent) grades, particularly first-year grades, are important.

But for now, knowing what’s ahead and learning from others’ mistakes should be your starting point. So, here are six fundamental things to know as you embark on your law school journey: 

1. Pace yourself.

You are about to have your brain rewired to think, act, and write like a law school student. As soon as your 1L year begins you are going to have to learn new ways of preparing for class, studying for final exams, and writing notes.

You’ll have to get used to a new learning environment where cold calling (i.e., the Socratic method) is the norm. On top of all this, there are internships, networking events, clubs, and more.

The bottom line is this: there will be A LOT thrown at you in your first year, but you don’t need to do it all. You simply can’t. So it’s important to remember to prioritize what’s most important (usually it should be grades, activities, and events geared towards future employment, than extracurriculars like clubs). If you don’t pace and prioritize, you’ll burn out, and your grades will suffer.  

2. Be flexible.

Some law school students think they have their whole life figured out and they plan their whole three years around it. It’s great to have a specific area of interest or a dream job that you aspire to after graduation, but it’s important to give yourself some leeway to explore opportunities. Don’t be closed off to certain courses or internships because it’s not a direct path to your dream job.

3. Gift yourself time to read.

You have probably already heard how much reading will be expected of you in law school. And it’s probably more than what you’re imagining right now. You’ll eventually figure out how to add layers of efficiency to this process and cut down on your time.

But starting out using shortcuts is a path to bigger problems down the road. So, prepare yourself and set aside at least 10 hours a week for reading everything that’s assigned. One of the worst things you can do is get behind. There are only so many hours in a day.

4. Take risks.

It can be quite difficult adjusting to the Socratic Method. The best thing to do, beyond being prepared (doing the assigned reading and briefing cases), is being willing to answer even if you think you might be wrong. If you’ve done the reading, you can give an informed answer, which is always better than no answer.

5. Talk yourself up.

Everyone feels lost and unintelligent after being thrown into law school, even if they don’t show it. Don’t let your negative thoughts get you down. It’s important to realize that everyone is doubting themselves at some point during law school. You’re not alone and there are lots of academic resources out there to support your learning and help you feel in control again. Don’t forget that you’ve put in the time and work. You deserve to be there.

6. Have fun.

Law school sounds like a grind, and it can be (and on some level should be). But it doesn’t have to be all pain. Yes, law school is difficult, overwhelming, and time-consuming, but it can (and should be) fun. You don’t want to look back on your law school career as a miserable experience. Thus, it’s important to seek a balance between work and play. You need to have some fun and socialize amongst your peers (not just to network).

You’ll also need a few friends to get you through these three years, and they’ll need you just the same. You’ll probably need a friend who isn’t in law school to give you some perspective on your darkest days.

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