By Emily Thomas • June 15, 2020•Law School, Pre-Law
Your first year of law school is a journey, and how well you handle its challenges could have a pretty big impact on your career. That being said, when I started law school, I was pretty terrified. I spent the summer before 1L poring over blogs and ordering advice books online, desperate to find some form of certainty to cling to.
Even though there are lots of resources out there, listening to advice in person is still probably the most effective way to get pre-law school help. Lawyers have all gone through exactly what you’re about to tackle, and they probably have some valuable insight to share. 1L orientations are also probably going to walk students through a lot of first year tips.
Learning the law is not the most difficult part of your first semester of law school; the real challenge lies in learning how to become a law student. Law school’s pedagogy is not at all like undergrad; you’re dealing with (absolutely necessary) constant reading and reviewing, ever-evolving and dense content, and the dreaded one-exam format. It takes a lot of getting used to and lots of practice after you get settled in. Advice is going to come pouring in from everywhere: books, other students, deans, professors, websites, and more.
The best piece of law school advice I ever received is this: “Learn when to tune things out.”
You are an individual, and although law school might look like everybody’s doing the same thing, that’s usually not true. People may tell you to create case briefs a certain way, outline a certain way, and maybe join a study group. But success in your first year has nothing to do with matching what other students are doing and taking every tidbit you hear and rigidly applying it. You're going to have to trust your gut.
Not every piece of advice is going to work for you, and that’s okay. Traditional case briefing and outlining, for example, really wasn’t helpful for me. I opted for study methods that came to me more naturally, and realizing that it was okay to tune out some of the advice I had received paid off. Starting law school is scary, and it takes time to get the hang of it. You have to trust yourself to make study decisions that will work for you, not just what conforms to what people normally do as law students.
1L is daunting and has been for years. Even if you come from a long line of attorneys, you’re probably at least a little nervous. Trust yourself to do what is best for you. Listen carefully to the advice you hear and only apply what works. Learning the law is vital, but learning about who you are as a law student and what study methods work for you is far more important.