Survival Tips for the First Month of Law School

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You can catch stress. Seriously y’all, it is contagious as the flu. By the end of September, I hit my stride, and was able to read cases, take some notes, and come to class prepared and in control of the material. Or so I thought. Because the girl next to me had 5 pages from the reading the night before, color coded. And the girl on the other side was already outlining. And suddenly I wasn’t sure if what was working for me was really working for me. And I didn’t always understand things in class. And as those two girls who seemed to be working so much harder than I was continued to turn to me and tell me how confused they were, I reached for my hair to start pulling it out because I hadn’t been taking my books home if I finished my work ahead of time and I wasn’t outlining and this is the shortest three years of your life and my future depends on this and OMG why wasn’t I working harder – stop. Breathe. Things started to click. I could answer some questions, if not all of them. I wrote a memo, I took a quiz, I answered a cold call, and I realized…

No one has any idea what they’re doing. So it’s okay if you don’t either. Academically, if anyone knew all the answers, they wouldn’t need law school. In terms of studying, everyone is going to need to adjust from what they did in undergrad. What worked before won’t work anymore. Socially, people are stuck between competition and needing support from people who understand the unique experience. Trust me, nobody has a clue what’s going on, including me currently, and the sooner you embrace this, the less stressful 1L will be for you.

Make time to make friends. Some people who go to law school are married. Or have families. Or are still working. Or commute really far. Or literally whatever. I don’t care. It doesn’t matter. You have to make time to make friends. Because your best friend from high school isn’t going to be able to help you edit a memo, your mom can’t explain the difference between vertical and horizontal privity to you, and it’s socially unacceptable to wake your kids (or other loved ones frankly) up at midnight frantically asking if the practice problem your teacher assigned was more of a suggestion or a “you’re turning this in at the start of class” kind of thing. Aside from that, people outside law school just won’t get it all the time. A balance is important, but you need a group to send a Ruth Bader Ginsburg joke to while you’re learning about virtual representation.

Clubs don’t matter. My mentor had to fill me in on this…while they can be a good way to meet people, hone your interests, or find out about cool events/opportunities, they’re not going to be a major topic in your job interviews. If it’s a choice between Person A with a 4.0 GPA and no involvement versus Person B with a 3.0 GPA and tons of involvement, employers are still going to want Person A. Grades will get you in the door where clubs will not, so focus on your grades. If that means you don’t have time for club meetings or to hold a position, that’s okay.

Your career starts now; reputation matters. The legal field is a small one, and if you’re looking at a job in the future where a former classmate works, you better hope you weren’t “the kid who threw up deuces after making an argument in class” or “the kid who picked tastebuds off their tongue in class” or “the kid who told a classmate they were in an open marriage, just in case said classmate was interested” or “the kids who felt each other up under the table in class” or even “the kid who never did the homework”. I’m not saying that any of these happened. I’m not saying they didn’t. All I’m saying is that it’s not hard to be nice, and it’s not hard to be respectful. Smile, participate, be aware of your surroundings, and make counter-arguments but don’t be a jerk. You will see these people again, and they will remember the impression you made.

Is there anything you wish you’d known when you started school? Any particular questions you have about starting? Leave me a comment and I’ll add it in here!

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