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Dispatches from Law School: First Two Weeks as a 1L

Blueprint instructor and Most Strongly Supported contributing writer, Jacqueline Uranga, just began her first year at Columbia Law School. To give you a first-hand account of what the law school experience is really like — and to allow her to occasionally work through some of the most stressful aspects of law school — she’ll be periodically sharing her thoughts on her time as a 1L.

My law school orientation began August 22, so I’ve officially experienced two weeks of law school orientation and classes as a 1L. My year before law school was filled with current law students and lawyers providing ominous and contradictory clues about the first year law school experience: “It was the worst year, but it’s supposed to be that way” or “I hated 1L — it was the best year of my life.” While it’s still very fresh in my mind, I’m here to provide at least a few more concrete details about my experience of the very beginning of law school.

My impression of orientation is that it’s really a schedule of events that are either optional, required or “required” (as in, the school requires attendance, but a chunk of students don’t go anyway because they realize there aren’t any consequences). You’ll say your name and where you’re from a couple hundred times as you interact with a constant stream of new people, but you won’t see most of these other students again unless you have the same first year classes. If you have an uncommon name or complicated backstory, meeting this many new people will force you to explain these things constantly or find a shortcut that other people will remember.

One main difference from undergrad is that your classmates in law school are adults. Not 18-year-old adults who’ve never done their own laundry, but people who’ve had jobs, started businesses, and above all, have chosen to go back to school over many less-expensive alternatives. My impression of other students is that they’re all very conscious of their choice to be here: everybody participates, everybody tries in class.

As orientation transitioned to regular classes, there was an expectation building every day about how much work the classes would entail. My outlook during first day classes was like standing on a dry beach as the tide is coming in, when you just know that you’re going to be hit with a wave of freezing cold water at any moment. The workload has hit now in the second week (after Labor Day weekend), with no signs that it’s going to let up before finals. But the greatest relief I’ve shared with some of my classmates is how we feel like we’ve found a purpose in law school — we know what the next three years will be like and why we’re here, and it’s that feeling of purpose that makes everything more enjoyable.

My experience is that of just one current law student at one school, but so much of the first year is the same from one school to the next. If you’re studying for the LSAT or applying to law school right now, this is what your future could be like just a short time from now.