When I started law school in fall of 2022, I was excited to head back to the classroom after a stint in banking and a COVID-19 shortened college experience. Law school, especially the first year (dubbed 1L), has an infamous reputation based on movies ranging from The Paper Chase and Legally Blonde. Emerging from the fray, I can say that law school has been wonderful so far.
Below are some of my biggest takeaways and tips from my first year.
1. Finding your people is key
Although most, if not all, people who go to law school want to be lawyers, there are so many niches and communities to explore. For me, the interaction of law and business is interesting and will drive my career. Finding people who share your academic and intellectual interests will help you feel at “home” at school. Joining affinity groups can also be very fulfilling. Different organizations will provide you with both mentorship and career opportunities and strong friendships. Take advantage of these groups and also be sure to pay forward any mentorship you receive!
2. Go at your own pace
People at law school are driven and have likely excelled academically in all stages of their lives. However, it is important to approach law school and studying with the strategies that enabled you to succeed in the past. While some students take extremely meticulous notes and others are able to get by with simply marking their casebook, find what works for you and stick to it. Attempting to mold yourself into the “ideal law student” is both impossible and a barrier to your own development as a student.
3. Dive deep into the “mushy” areas of the law
My first-year contracts professor emphasized that some of the most interesting areas of analysis in the law are in the gray areas. Law in many ways is subjective, and exploring tensions and edge cases will make 1L year, and law school in general, much more interesting. For example, in contracts we examined many cases through the lens of the dichotomy between autonomy of contracting and fairness. Ultimately, legal scholars have grappled, and continue to grapple with, many unresolved issues in the law. As a law student, it is important to develop your own opinions of these issues.
4. Jump out of your comfort zone
As someone who studied STEM in college, law school presented many new and interesting challenges. The onus was on me to take these challenges in stride and immerse myself in new opportunities. One of my favorite experiences in 1L year was legal research and writing. In the first semester, we prepared a memo using research tools on Westlaw. In the second semester, we took one step further and presented an oral argument in front of a mock appellate court. Both of these experiences immensely strengthened my skills as a writer and public speaker, and I am excited to take advantage of similar opportunities moving forward.
5. Have fun!
Although fun may seem like a misnomer in law school, I have found a vibrant academic culture and wonderful extracurricular opportunities. Studying law is a true privilege, and the legal profession is more important than ever. The JD degree is extremely powerful and versatile, and it is important to enjoy law school because it will pass by in the blink of an eye. Develop relationships, learn some things, and above all think of how you will be able to contribute to the world through your legal career.