By Ms. JD Editor • August 09, 2021•Ms. JD, Writers in Residence, Law School
Coming into law school as a first-generation law student, I felt pressured to find out as much information as possible to prepare me for what was ahead. Within the first week of applying to law school, I was bombarded with information about expensive online prep courses that promised a "successful first year." I began to see book recommendations that swore they would guide me into the mindset needed for my first year of law school. Along with high-priced course recommendations and out-of-touch books, I began to receive unsolicited advice from people who had never been to law school. The first month of my summer before law school felt very stressful. I spent hours researching, trying to figure out how I could best prepare or set myself apart from my classmates without spending money I did not have. I felt overwhelmed and lost. Therefore, I decided to reach out to current law students at the school I will attend in the fall.
After weeks of stressing over finding the best-recommended prep courses, books and trying to decipher through unsolicited advice, I began scouring LinkedIn to find a law student to talk to. It was very important for me to find someone who went to my law school because their experience would differ from any other law school in the country. As an incoming law student at Howard University School of law, I knew many of the prep courses I was finding and recommended books would not relate to my experience at one of the most prominent Historically Black Colleges and Universities, HBCU. The culture, community, and even curriculum would vary. Most importantly, the mentality would be different. Deciding to attend an HBCU was very important for me, and it was equally important for me to find out what to expect from the Mecca, also known as Howard University. After making a few cold calls, I heard back from 9 out of 10 students I had reached out to in less than 24 hours. All gave me the same advice in preparation for law school at the Mecca, "Do nothing. There is nothing you can do to prepare, and it is better to rest." When inquiring about book recommendations, I unanimously was told 'absolutely not.' One student jokingly suggested not to read subtitles this summer. They explained that many of the materials out there were not relevant for Black students and, more importantly, were not geared towards students preparing to attend the Mecca. "Honestly, reading those books and attending the courses might mess you up. Those resources are designed to teach you how to do outlines or brief a case, and it might not be the way your professor wants you to do it. It will only add confusion when you should be outside," said a rising 2L. Hearing this made me sit and process. As first-generation law students, we work hard to get into law school through internships, LSAT prep, applications, etc. Once we are accepted into a school, we are then bombarded with unnecessary and expensive prep programs or books that will somehow "prepare us for law school." Yet, most of what is offered is not necessarily beneficial for us to "do well" in our first year.
My whole life, I was indoctrinated to persevere. I was told it was imperative to always work three times harder than my peers. Like most first-generation students, we do not want to fail, and in times of stillness, I often feel like I should be doing more. As a Black woman, I learned that I would not get any handouts. When I decided to go to law school, I knew there would be many barriers and obstacles. Although I did not fully listen to the advice I received from the students at the Mecca (I still read subtitles when watching movies, and I have an even busier schedule than I had before the summer started), I am choosing to do things that I am interested in and things that make me happy. I am making time to be OUTSIDE, deep condition my hair, explore my new city, and at times allow myself to be still and do absolutely nothing.