1L Guide: The Last Three Weeks of the Semester

Almost there. These are the last few weeks, the final stretch, and you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Sure, it’s a red, angry light – not the warm, golden glow you were hoping for – but that’s show business. Papers are due, and exams are right around the corner. This was never going to be the fun part of the semester.

Still, when you’re done, you’ll be done. For at least a little while, there will be no impending assignments to complete or grade-points to score (and if you don’t move, the summer job application deadlines can’t see you). Winter break will be a time for seeing family, celebrating whatever holidays you observe, and most decidedly NOT reading court cases about the axioms of contract interpretation.

The 2Ls and 3Ls have run this race before. For the 1Ls, Travis pulled together a great compilation of helpful final exam advice, so I’ll not bore readers with too much more of my own. Instead, I thought I’d just offer a few quick thoughts about wrapping up the semester, and the break that follows:

First of all, take some pride in what you’ve accomplished so far. Law school is hard. It’s a doctoral-level academic-program. The simple act of keeping up with assignments and getting your head halfway-wrapped around all of the legal doctrines was expected of you, but pulling it off was impressive nonetheless.

Second, be generous with your peers. Everyone is stressed and working more than they should be, or stressed because they think they’re working less than they should be. Be considerate about your behavior, especially in the moments immediately following your exams. Some students will walk out of the lecture hall and want to debrief, in detail, immediately. Others will want to purge all memory of the exam from their minds at the moment pencils go down. Whichever camp you fall into, be courteous toward the other. Similarly, some people are going to walk out of the lecture hall feeling like they knocked it out of the park, while others will walk out feeling like garbage. If you’re fortunate enough to be the former, take your victory lap privately, out of earshot of those who struggled. There are no ‘easy’ law school exams, it’s best not to inadvertently condescend to your classmates, and frankly, you won’t really know how you did until grades come back.

Third, try not to let anxieties about exam performance cloud your break. You’ll get your results sometime in early January whether you spend the weeks in-between stressing or relaxing, so you may as well try to relax. Easier said than done, I know.

Fourth, once those grades do come out, don’t fall into the trap of defining yourself by them. So much importance is ascribed to the ever-looming law school GPA – you can get tricked into thinking you’re hot sh*% because you got an A in Torts. You aren’t. Keep your head small – no one likes the classmate who forces their top-20% ranking into conversation. Likewise, if you didn’t do as well as you’d have liked, there is time to improve. 1Ls have five more semesters to do so (and the coming spring semester if OCI is a concern). Dwelling on the past won’t change it, what’s done is done. All you can do is move forward, and moving forward won’t be easy if you’re convinced you’ll never do well in class because of one bad grade in Civ Pro.

You’re going to be fine. It’s just exams – multiple choice, short answers, essay questions. All basic stuff that you’ve done a thousand times, and when it’s over you can take a well-earned break and catch your breath. Work hard. Be kind to yourself. Good luck.

Dan Riley is a third-year student at BC Law Contact him at rileydh@bc.edu.

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