Written by: Andrew Gil
It’s finally here: orientation week. You may be excited. You may be terrified. Most of you will be a little of both. That’s to be expected. You are about to begin one of the most challenging experiences of your life, a time filled with books and oral arguments and learning interesting Latin terminology like res ipsa loquitur. I won’t lie to you, it’s going to be hard. I can also say that this has been one of the most interesting and rewarding experiences I’ve had, and I hope your experience will be just as fulfilling. As you adjust to life as a 1L, here are a few things to keep in mind:
First, the bad news. Law school is hard. If you’ve gotten this far, chances are you’re pretty smart. As an undergrad, you got good grades, and a lot of the time you were able to get an A by doing “enough.” In comparison to your classmates, you were one of the smartest people in your classes. Now that you’re in law school, that changes a little. Your classmates were also the smart people in their classes, so your classes are going to be a lot more competitive than you might be used to.
In addition, most of your classes will be graded on a curve, so you’ll be competing directly with all those other smart people for the coveted A. Before you panic, remember that there’s no reason that you can’t be the one to get that A. It just means you have to adjust your study habits. What used to be “enough” as an undergrad might now be just average, so that means you’ll need to work harder in order to stay competitive. Do the reading, participate in class, and prepare good outlines for exams, and you’ll do fine.
Of course, there’s more to law school than just classes. There are extracurricular activities, social events, networking, and clubs. Some of the extracurricular activities, such as the law journals, will have to wait until your second year. Others, such as Moot Court, you can get involved with earlier. Once the Moot Court competitions start up, 1Ls are allowed to act as bailiffs for the competitions, giving you a chance to participate and get to know other like-minded individuals. Other activities available to 1Ls include our intramural sports leagues, which include softball, soccer, and flag football.
Professional networking is an important and fun part of the law school experience. The USD Alumni Association, the San Diego County Bar Association, the American Bar Association, Career Services, and many of our clubs provide opportunities throughout the year to let you meet with practicing attorneys and judges. These professionals can offer you career advice or help you find a job, and most of them love to talk to law students. Also, networking events sometimes have free food and drinks, in case you need more encouragement to attend.
Social events abound throughout the school year. The big events the Student Bar Association (SBA) sponsors every year are the annual Halloween party (one of the biggest in San Diego) and the Barristers’ Ball (law school prom). In addition, the SBA also hosts bar reviews, in which USD law students gather for off-campus socialization, usually in one of several downtown venues.
This year, the SBA also plans to host a variety of other events, including movie nights, bowling nights, karaoke, and maybe even a Padres game. With so much of our time devoted to work, law students need to take a break to play every once in a while, and our social committee is dedicated to providing opportunities to do just that.
Finally, the clubs offer a great way to get involved at school. USD hosts a number of student organizations appealing to a variety of professional interests, such as Sports & Entertainment Law Society (SELS), Middle Eastern Law Student Association (MELSA), and Pride Law. These clubs provide a way for 1Ls to mingle with people outside their sections and with upperclassmen who share common interests. Most of the events on campus, such as attorney panels, mixers, and luncheons, are planned and sponsored by the clubs. Being a member of a club allows you to attend and even plan such events, and many clubs select 1L members to represent them at the biweekly SBA meetings.
If you’re interested in finding out more about the clubs at USD, visit our Club Fair on Monday, August 29, 2 to 4 p.m. in the Warren Hall courtyard, where representatives of the clubs will be available to speak with you about their organization. You can also check out the master calendar of events on the SBA website (http://sbausd.com/) for the most current schedule of events, including club meetings, networking events, social events, and academic dates.
Welcome and good luck to all our incoming classmates!