With the unoffical end of summer gone by, the official beginning of school is here for students all around the country. For many law students entering school, this can be a stressful time. Perhaps you have moved your family across the country, set aside a stable career, or are beginning your 18th first day of school in a row. In any event, you are starting on a journey that is bound to be different than your last endeavor. Law school can take up so much of your time (and money), that we want to make sure that you are equipped with the tools to do it right and find success!
1. Get Organized.
If you aren’t a planner, you need to become one. Organization will be key to reaching your potential in law school and keeping track of classes, assignments, and other appointments will be vital. In the beginning build into your plan that all that you do will take you longer than you can imagine. Some classes will come easier than others but all will require time.
2. Effort now, or pay later.
Unlike what you may have experienced as an undergrad, you cannot wait to study and outline your courses. If you wait until exam time to figure this out, you will end up paying with your grades. Try different approaches to studying and class preparation, but make sure to not just go with the flow! Find study methods that work best for you and stick to it. Your new best friends may all love to study together, but make sure not to compromise your success, if that method doesn’t work for you!
3. Gain respect, not friends.
Become involved in activities that you are truly committed to and gain respect from those communities. While you need to have interests that renew your energy, be strategic about those and ensure that you are professional, even in the school setting. Being connected to your classmates is crucial to finding success after law school. These are your future colleagues and your reputation is formed now.
The old adage about “it’s about who you know” isn’t completely wrong. Meeting lawyers at events like bar association events gives you the opportunity to build connections with in the legal community who can give you good advice on doing well in law school, getting a job after law school, and succeeding in that position.
5. Focus on your grades.
Seriously. With the current hiring market and the reality that is the new normal in the legal industry of running a firm with fewer attorneys, making sure you are as high in your class as you can be is vital, even if you are in a Top 14 law school.
6. Don’t overjoin.
No matter how many extra-curricular activities you have, being in the bottom half of your class will make it extremely difficult to find employment. Find a few activities that are meaningful and interesting to you and do them well. Signing on to too many activities will not only leave you stressed out, it won’t give you enough time to study or sleep.
7. Visit Career Services.
Prepare your resume and sample cover letters as you would a brief. Then visit your Career planning office for review and advice on planning your career. The general rule is that Career Services can begin meeting 1L students on November 1. Try to get into their office soon after to start thinking about your plans for next summer! Most legal employers cannot accept your applications or resumes until December 1, but when that rolls around be ready to go!
8. Take some time for yourself.
Take a break! It is important not to lose sight of things that you were interested in before starting law school. Exercise, watch reality TV or your favorite movie, play a mindless video game, or attend the latest play at your local theater. It’s easy to get bogged down in everything that you have to do, but maintaining parts of your life that you enjoyed before law school is important to remaining who you are!
What other tips do you have for incoming 1Ls? Is there anything that worked well for you in your first year?