In law school, the term 1L refers to a law student’s first year of school. It is widely agreed that this is the most strenuous year for a variety of reasons. Here are some survival tips.
After getting settled in, expect to have your orientation last a week. This is the same period of time that student organizations will host meet and greet social events. This is a great opportunity to be introduced to the university community. Make sure you take advantage of these friendly gatherings. Too often, law students get sucked into the mentality that they need to be 100% serious, but it’s important to remember that your fellow law school students will be the people you will end up leaning on for years. These are the beginnings of lifelong friendships. Aside from the obvious connections you could potentially make out in the real world after graduation, these people know better than anyone else what you are going through as you navigate your way through the stresses of law school.
Once classes officially begin, you will notice that some life skills you thought you understood have to be relearned. Academic ways of doing things in law school are nothing like with other trades. Case briefs are how you prepare for lectures, and outlines are what you write to study for exams. Even the method of writing is different. IRACing stands for Issue, Rule, Application, and Conclusion. It is an analytical style of writing that is used in legal hypotheticals. Perhaps the worst example of culture shock is the fact that law school professors abide by the Socratic method of teaching. This means that any student, at any time, can be called upon without warning and be expected to engage the professor in the previously assigned reading material.
This is also the time you will be introduced to new research sources not available to the general public, such as LexisNexis and Westlaw, in addition to The Bluebook, which teaches the uniform model of the citations required for all legal briefs.
As the year progresses, be sure to balance out work-life with a social life. Attend any small group sessions being organized by teaching assistants or fellow students. Take time out to have an occasional lunch with your professors.
Don’t forget to productively fill any limited remaining free time. Engage in extracurricular activities such as joining clubs. Keep in mind there are a lot of clubs and the peer pressure to join everything is very high. Be selective and prioritize and join the clubs that interest you. It’s also important to diversify your interests. Even if you think your life is going to follow one specific path of law, be prepared for other options by expanding horizons while still in school. The worst thing would be to graduate and not get your dream job, leaving you wholly unprepared for any other type of branch.
Lastly, make use of academic support if you feel overwhelmed. Everyone else is also feeling the same way you are. Don’t engage in negative self-talk – be your own cheerleader.