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Welcome to 1L!

  • by Philip Mayer
  • Aug 25, 2016
  • Law School


Two years ago, I started law school. I was terrified. I didn’t think I fit in with the group of highly motivated, successful students around me. I didn’t have any exciting resume lines, I hadn’t participated in any humanitarian ventures, and I hadn’t gone to a fancy private school for undergrad. If you’re starting your law school journey, you might be experiencing similar bouts of self-doubt and fear. Here’s my advice for how to ease your way into this newfound scholastic endeavor.

First off, don’t compare yourself to other people. A tremendous amount of people’s stress in law school comes from feeling behind the pack. There inevitably will be students who talk about spending twelve hours in the library every day or taking practice exams starting the second week of the semester. Ignore them. It doesn’t matter how much anyone else studies, and you don’t have to try to win some arms race of misery. Do your work, don’t fall behind, and ask questions if you’re confused. Beyond that, try not to stress about the gunners taking caffeine pills in some dark recess of the library.

Second, heed the advice of others (like yours truly). When I was a 1L, I talked to other students and I listened to their advice, but I somehow always managed to think that I was different or that my experience was unique. It wasn’t. And yours won’t be either. For example, at my school, there is a three-week intro course happening right now. Almost universally, the upper-classmen told me not to worry about it and not to take it seriously. I, however, decided to do all the reading, attend every TA session, and generally spend way more time than I should have on it. At the end of the class, everyone passed the “exam.” The takeaway here is just to realize that you’re walking a well-trodden path, and you should follow the advice of those who have walked it before.

Third, find a group of friends (but don’t stress about it). Everyone at orientation is in a similar position—they are all afraid of the haunting specter of first-year exams, and they all want to find friends. I have no doubt that everyone will find their group, but you do have to put in a little effort to stay social and put yourself out there. If I hadn’t found a strong, core group of friends, I would’ve been miserable. I was lucky enough to find my best friends early on, and they have vastly improved my overall experience in school.

The first year of law school is difficult. For me, it was the most challenging academic experience I have ever faced. But I got through it, and so will you. There’s a lot of built in pressure associated with 1L, so don’t put extra stress on yourself by comparing yourself to others. Listen to the advice of the 2Ls and 3Ls, and find a group of friends that will help you deal with the unpleasantness that necessarily comes with learning the law.

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