I’m not sure it’s possible to actually prepare for the first year of law school. After I submitted my applications in the Fall of 2019, I concocted all sorts of ideas to prepare and “get an edge”. I started by reading several books including The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein, Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, and some excerpts from Law School Confidential. I considered enrolling in prep courses to regain study skills. I’m pretty sure none of these tactics actually helped my GPA or experience (although both books are phenomenal reads).
As I wrote about in a previous blog post Act Like You Belong. Because You Do., the best strategy is to remain confident in your abilities that have propelled you this far. There is a lot of weight put on the competition in law school, which is not helpful. Plus, I’ve found within the BC community, my classmates want everyone to do well, not just themselves. My greatest mindset shift after surviving the first semester is that the only thing I can control is the amount of effort I put towards my studies. I like to think of my job as a law student described by three functions: academic success, professional exposure, and social network. After a semester under my belt, I intend to adjust course in three specific ways that correspond to each of those functions to boost my experience and performance at Boston College.
None of these strategies are new, nor are they applicable to everyone. However, my intent is to encourage you to engage in deep self-reflection and share your ideas in the comments section below.
First, I plan to take practice exams early in the semester and exchange responses with some of my classmates. It’s no secret that the difficulty of law school boils down to the amount of material that we’re responsible for understanding. There are movies and books about exchanging outlines, creating private study groups, and xeroxing class notes. However, none of these strategies help to actually internalize the information. In my opinion, that work is best done alone. However, given the various perspectives on exam questions, it would be fruitful to not only take practice exams but also exchange responses to think about the questions from a different angle. This strategy is not only a study skill, but also a helpful practice to build when facing any difficult issue.
To increase professional exposure, connecting with BC alumni through cold emailing will not only expand a network, but could also be life-changing. It’s likely that most students already connect with alumni, but I don’t think anyone can network too much. The challenge of networking in 2021 is the lack of physical events to access professionals. Sure, there are virtual panels and zoom webinars, but these experiences lack an important level of intimacy to build relationships. However, cold emailing to schedule a one-on-one virtual meeting with a potential mentor is efficient and effective because it increases accessibility. LinkedIn is a great resource that provides a directory of alumni that can be filtered by people in a desired practice area. The Career Services Office can help too, both with advice and possible names and contacts. Forget the anxiety of pressing send on an email to a random person because the worst that can happen is no response. BC Law alumni are legendary for their loyalty to the school and their willingness to help current students. They welcome this kind of outreach, as long as it’s done respectfully. Don’t ask for too much up front, and make sure to match their areas of practice with your own interests. Just making the connection is enough to start.
The last strategy–and perhaps the most difficult–is building and strengthening a community within Boston College. COVID-19 has made it virtually impossible for a fully remote student like myself to meet my fellow classmates and take full advantage of one of BC Law’s biggest strengths, the community of people who really care about each other and want to help others succeed. It takes intentionality and a genuine desire to connect with classmates during this pandemic. One of the most valuable assets BC Law offers is the incredible professional and collegial community of future legal leaders of our country. When I look at my classmates, I already envision future district attorneys, firm partners, politicians, and all-around movers and shakers. Along with academic success and professional exposure, genuinely curating this community within BC is a top priority.
Of course, none of these strategies are groundbreaking. However, hopefully this inspired a current or future student to at least reflect on their own practice as a means towards self-improvement. Remember, the only competition is ourselves.
Travis Salters is a first-year student at BC Law. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.