By: Michelle Silva
First, I would like to welcome you to USD School and congratulate you on your decision to attend law school!
The next few years may be the most challenging of your life. Law school is tough and I am not here to tell you otherwise. However, your time at USD will likely be one of your most rewarding experiences too. I have really enjoyed law school. After a couple of weeks of class, you may think that is a strange thing for someone to say about law school. While you are studying for your first midterm, or writing your first memo, you may actually think that I am crazy.
There is a lot to enjoy, though. It is just easy to forget during those particularly stressful times of the year. We have a great community here at USD, and I hope you will find that the opportunities to get to know your classmates, to participate in various student organizations, and to find an area of the law you are passionate about, are well worth the challenges you are sure to face in the next three years.
To help you ease into law school, here is a bit of advice based on my experience. Start by making good first impressions – with professors, with upperclassman, with your classmates. You will be seeing these people practically everyday for the rest of the school year – you want to get along with them. You should also take advantage of the 2L and 3L students on campus; they can be incredibly useful resources. They have all taken first year courses, many will have had some of your professors, and they have all made mistakes along the way. They can provide a lot of good advice if you seek it out.
Get a planner. It is so helpful to have all your assignments in one place. But, maybe more importantly, you should try to plan something fun between all the studying – so that you don’t burn out too quickly. Balance is important. If you don’t give yourself the time to enjoy a nap, trip to the beach, night out with friends, or whatever activity you enjoyed before law school took over your life, you may soon hate law school. While there are ways to make your time in the LRC more enjoyable, that probably won’t be enough if you are spending your every waking moment there. Don’t spend time goofing off in the library. Get out, have fun, and then come back to campus to study without distractions.
When you are studying hard and 100 percent without distractions, there are ways to make it more pleasant. First, I would recommend a study buddy. You don’t have to actually have to go over class material with your study buddy, but its nice to have someone studying nearby. Working together is better than working alone. They can also watch you laptop when you make a coffee run or need a brief breather. Second, figure out how you prefer to study, and find others who prefer to study that way as well. I like to have a group and I like to chat (about class material, of course). It is difficult to study when you want to discuss class and the rest of the group wants to just silently sit and study independently. Finally, find a nice place to study. You will be spending a lot of time in your study spot – so if you need a quiet place, a bustling coffee shop, or something in between, find it. Your study spot can make all the difference in your study experience.
Now that I have offered you a whole bunch of advice, I have one last little tidbit. Take all of the advice you hear with a grain of salt. What works well for one person may not work well for you. At this point, you have already done a lot of studying in undergrad and you know how to find the balance between work and play. While law school is a completely different creature, you have the advantage of knowing yourself and what you need to be successful. There may be some trial and error along the way, but you will quickly figure out what you need to be successful in law school, and it may not be the same as what others before you have done.
That being said, welcome! If you ever need anything at all, please feel free to contact me at Usdlawpres@gmail.com or anyone else on the SBA Executive Board. We are always happy to help.