When I started law school, I had no clue what I was getting myself into. I had worked for a few years, and it was strange to think about being in a classroom and having homework again. Plus, I knew that law school was going to be a completely different beast than college, with things like the curve, outlining, and cold calls. Luckily, BC Law fosters an extremely supportive environment, including by assigning upperclassman mentors to 1Ls, and tries to give you all the tools you need for success early on. But most of what I figured out about law school was through trial and error. Therefore, I reached out to a few 1Ls with the following question to see what they learned from their first semester at BC Law.
You’ve survived your first semester of law school. Looking back, what advice do you have for your first semester 1L self?
I would’ve made more of an effort to get to know people in other sections. (Nothing against my section — section 3, best section!!) I would’ve also spent less time briefing and preparing for class. I definitely spent a lot of time fixating on minute details that ended up not being important. Lastly, I would tell myself to breathe! Getting a cold call wrong, etc. doesn’t matter and everything is going to be ok at the end of the day.
Say yes! First semester was definitely overwhelming and felt like a lot all at once so I was often too preoccupied with work to pay attention to all the amazing opportunities offered in the fall. All of BC’s clubs host such great events, I really wish I would’ve said yes to more. These various panels, events, etc. are such an incredible way to learn more about different types of law and to meet other students.
Go to office hours early and often! Professors are eager to engage with students outside of the classroom and you’ll succeed in the classes you discuss throughout the semester. Best ice breaker: What made you want to be a law school professor?
I would tell my first semester 1L self to focus less on briefing my cases and more on crafting my outlines. I realized after last semester that the facts in each case didn’t matter as much as the holdings and the doctrine that applied beyond the case itself. If I had known this back then, I know the readings and exam prep would have been much smoother.
My advice to my first semester 1L self would be to welcome failure, in and out of the classroom. I had anxiety about cold calls, making friends, networking, and whether I would fail all of my courses. I fumbled with all of those things. Once I had (too) many people reassure and remind me that this was a shared experience, I leaned into the challenging parts of law school beyond the curriculum. I still fumble, but I do it knowing that it’s part of the process, my newfound friends struggle too, and I welcome that as a learning experience for all of us.
One piece of advice I would have for my 1L self is to invest less time in reading/briefing the facts of a case and more time into learning rules/doctrines and how to apply them.
I would remind my 0L-self of “everything in moderation.” Getting your readings done is important but so is going outside on a Saturday. You have way more time than you think, so might as well visit friends for the weekend. At least for me, stepping away from school for a day or two made me more energized when I opened the books back up. And not for nothing, but November/December are going to be stressful with finals looming, so don’t stress too hard in September/October. I would also recommend fully embracing the burnout if you feel it coming on. Trying to fight through it will make you miserable. Do something to recharge the batteries and come back to it later.
I would reassure myself that keeping up with the readings and engaging with the material outside of class is invaluable–there is no secret recipe for learning known to everyone but you!
When studying, only pay attention to what you need to do to succeed. You are going to be surrounded by extremely bright classmates and you may sometimes worry about how others are studying or outlining. But focusing on your own work is the best way to avoid stress and stay on track your 1L year.
Start outlining after Halloween, but also start running hypotheticals after Halloween and prioritize practice exams. And keep your blinders on–comparing yourself to others is distracting and unhelpful.
-Claire Marie Kuhn
Study aids! Even though outlining is a helpful study tool, it is not the only one. Looking back, I would tell my 1L semester self to invest time in practice problems from relevant E&Es or practice exams from professors.
I think my advice to my first semester self would be to become an expert self evaluator. Law school is a foreign experience for everyone. There will be times you fail and times you succeed. After both it is important to reflect on what you did well and what you could have improved. Too often we focus on results. Instead, evaluate the process and results will follow.
I would tell my first semester 1L self to ‘relax because it will all get done’. Specifically, I found myself worrying about getting readings/assignments done on time and making sure I was prepared for class. In retrospect, I didn’t need to worry because everything always got done when it was supposed to and, more likely than not, I had some free time to watch Netflix or go for a walk.
The best piece of advice I can give to any Law student is to enjoy the process. This is the second time I am studying law in my life and I wish I could have known that the 1st time. Law school is hard, and the first semester can be the toughest, but it will be better if you are eager to learn and take each class as a priceless opportunity to reach your dreams and enlarge your knowledge. Law school is also a short period of time in our lives but it will impact our lives forever. Thus, do not let this time pass without enjoying every second, the difference between being good and being the best resides on whether you love what you do or not.
-Manuel Sanchez Wong
I’d tell myself to work a review into my weekly schedule or through office hours to alleviate some stress during finals, and then I’d also tell myself to take more advantage of the breaks as actual BREAKS to relax and recover.
Now that I’ve gone through my first semester of law school, I would advise myself to remember that law school itself has a learning curve. It is such a different beast than undergrad, and it is different for every person. Going back, I would tell myself to explore different ways to brief cases, take notes, and study so that I can learn effectively. Also, it is totally okay for it to take some time to learn how to be a law student! Now that I’m in my second semester, I feel like I’ve gotten into a better groove of learning that best caters to me.
The hardest part about the first semester of 1L is staying focused on the big picture. Law school is absolutely a marathon as opposed to a sprint. If I could go back in time, I would tell myself to stress less over each individual day or obstacle, and focus more on taking thoughtful steps toward my semester-long goals.
Well there you have it–some very helpful words of wisdom from first-year students at BC Law. Thanks to all the 1Ls for their responses, and to all the future 1Ls, best of luck! You’ll figure out law school; it just may take some time.
Courney Ruggeri is a third-year student and president of the Impact blog. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.