The Calm Before the Storm: How to Prepare For 1L Year

 

I am sure many of you are feeling many different emotions right now. Excitement. Fear. Uncertainty. The night before my first day of classes, I surprisingly felt completely calm. I had always worked hard all throughout high school and undergraduate school. All my life, people had told me to go to law school. I read books on “how to prepare for law school.” I had prepared for this my whole life, I deserved to be here and what awaited me was smooth sailing. Right?

Wrong.

I was so incredibly wrong. And it was not because I did not prepare enough for what was awaiting me in law school. I was wrong because I thought there was anything I could do to completely prepare me for all of the wonderful and horrible things about law school.

As you begin your first year as a law student, my advice to you is to keep the following things in mind. You may think “no duh,” but you would be surprised at how much law school will challenge you and change you.

Be civil. Be kind. Be nice. I cannot stress this enough. You will have situations where people will test your limits. You will have bad days when you feel like you can hardly keep it together to sit through a criminal law class, better yet be nice to your classmates. But do it. You will see the same law students, faculty and administration staff day in and day out, and these people will eventually become not only your colleagues but also your friends. Your reputation in the legal community is everything, and people will remember the snarky comment you made in Civil Procedure class years later when they are considering who to refer clients to. The decisions you make now will have a later impact on your career and your life.

Make Time for Yourself

I learned this the hard way. If you have a hobby, do not give it up. Day in and day out, you will be reading for class, studying for midterms, attending networking events, working as a clerk, etc. It feels like it never ends because, well, it really does not end. I set aside a lot of my hobbies the fi rst year of law school and told myself “after law school I’ll get back to it.” Sure you can, but time for yourself should not be set aside for 3 years. There is a real world outside of law school, and it is so easy to lose sight of that.

Do Not Compare Yourself to Others

Before I began law school, I promised myself that I would not compare myself to others. This has helped me tremendously the past two years, and I am sure it will continue to help me this year as well. Yes, there is a curve in law school. Yes, there are limited positions available for internships and clerkships. Yes, there are only a limited number of spots on Law Review. But do your absolute best and challenge yourself without comparing yourself to others. Once you begin to compare yourself to others, you will find yourself confused and frustrated.

Ask Questions (and Ask Them Early)

Asking questions can be uncomfortable and embarrassing. But I promise you that life will be a lot easier if you ask questions early and often. “There are no stupid questions.” Well, I am sure there are. I have asked plenty of those stupid questions. But what I can tell you is that it has never hurt me to ask questions whether it be at work, class or in professor’s office hours. You will quickly learn that there is limited time to finish what seems like an unlimited amount of work. You will be expected to balance class, student organizations, work, externships, mock trial, etc. Asking one seemingly stupid question and getting the correct answer is much quicker than conducting legal research for 1 hour to solve one small point made in lecture.

Do not lose sight of who you are

This is the most important thing I can tell anyone starting law school. You will be challenged in ways that you never imagined. You will have your best and worst days in law school. Think about what kind of person you are and who you want to be at the end of law school.

I wish you the best of luck this year. Remember that there are students who have been through this experience who want to help you through it. If there are ever any questions, concerns, or if you need someone to be there for you while you panic before your first civil procedure midterm (which is what happened to me) then please do not hesitate to email me at kdarrough@sandiego.edu.

Kris Darrough, SBA President

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