If you’re starting your first year of law school this fall, you might be feeling a mix of nervousness and excitement. And rightly so! You’re about to embark on a brand-new chapter in your life—one that will bring its own challenges and rewards. Your first year, or 1L, will involve meeting new people, reading, attending classes, more reading, familiarizing yourself with the law school environment, and finally, even more reading. (Just kidding—there isn’t that much reading).
Here are a few tried and true tips to help you make the most of your 1L experience:
1. Balance Your Priorities
It will come as no surprise that law school is demanding and requires a lot of work. It’s important to develop strong habits in 1L that will help you succeed in the future. Make sure to stay organized, keep up with required readings, and devote enough time to school work each week. But remember to keep things balanced by making time for yourself outside of school! Go to the movies, have lunch with a friend, or head to the gym.
It may be helpful to create a weekly schedule where you block out dedicated time for classes, academic commitments, volunteering/extracurriculars, and personal matters. By clearly setting aside time for each of these activities, you can ensure that you don’t feel overwhelmed. Additionally, don’t forget to keep your schedule flexible. If you’re assigned longer readings one week, you’ll want time available to complete them. Make sure your schedule works for you and your lifestyle.
2. Go To Court
Visiting a courtroom is the best way to get exposure to the legal system. It’ll give you a chance to learn about how the court works and the procedures involved in bringing motions or holding a trial. Most court proceedings are open to the public, which means you could find yourself sitting in on a variety of different cases. You might even find yourself interested in a new area of law!
3. Get Involved
There are a number of ways to get involved at law school. Joining a club or group is the best way to get involved in the community while engaging in an activity you enjoy. Whether you join the choir, an academic journal, or an intramural sports team, an extracurricular activity can help you connect with other students and give you a much-needed break from school.
Getting involved is also a great way to enhance your resume! It demonstrates your interests outside of the law and provides employers with a better sense of who you are. It also allows you to improve a number of transferable skills that employers value, such as teamwork, leadership, and time management.
4. Build Your Network
It’s never too early to start building your professional network. As a first-year law student, you’ll have the opportunity to meet tons of new people: fellow 1Ls, upper-year students, alumni, professors, and practising lawyers. Developing these professional relationships early in your legal education can be an invaluable asset in the future.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to alumni or practicing lawyers who are working in areas that you find interesting. Many lawyers are more than happy to meet with 1Ls to provide their insights into the legal profession. Most law schools also offer mentorship programs, where you are paired with upper-year students or alumni who have similar professional interests. Sign up for these opportunities early! There’s never a bad time to learn something new from someone with more experience.
5. Stay In The Loop
With all the new opportunities that will arise during 1L, it can be easy to miss a few of them. Make sure that you check your email regularly for updates from the law school, the law student’s association, and other groups on campus. You may also want to join the relevant Facebook pages for the groups that you are interested in. Facebook (and other social media platforms) are often used to share information about upcoming events and opportunities. Staying connected can help ensure that you don’t miss anything important!
While we believe that the above tips can help you make the most of 1L, remember that there is no right or wrong way to do law school. The key is to figure out what works best for you. Use your first year to experiment and learn. Find your balance, determine how you want to get involved at school and in the legal community, and start thinking about your future as a lawyer. This is the beginning of the rest of your life!