One semester down, five more to go. As a 1L, I learned a few tricks of the trade my first time around and it has nothing to do with commercial outlines….
With one semester of law school officially under my belt, I feel as though I now have a better handle on the game. Choosing The University of Tulsa College of Law is not a decision I have regretted once. After graduating with a BA in History from the University of Georgia, I packed up my life and moved to Tulsa to begin a journey I had been told would be the hardest three years of my life. Georgia is the only state I have ever called home, and I am still adjusting to the Midwest. I love the city, the people, and the school. Absolutely no complaints there. But the weather, now that is something I struggle with daily
Needless to say, my first semester consisted of not only adjusting to a new way of life, but also adjusting to a completely new style of learning. Here are a few tips from a 1L who successfully completed (and survived) one semester of law school.
1. Have a Reason for Being Here Hank Williams Jr. was simply carrying on the ol’ family tradition, but I do not believe this should be your reason for attending law school. While everyone attends law school for a different reason, I feel those who are just trying to fill the shoes of their family members are more miserable than the rest of us. I will luckily be the first member of my family to attend law school and received no outside pressure to do so. My intentions have been to become a victim’s advocate for several years now, and law school was the logical next step in my process. The desire for advocacy came from an attorney reaching out and helping me in a time of need, and I want to be able to offer the same to victims in the future. Passion is everything. This passion is what drives me to do the work and take an interest in what I am doing. I know that my future and the future of others depend on me doing well in school, so I use that as motivation.
2. Do your readings! You will be given an endless amount of reading. I thought the reading I did as a history major would prepare me for this, but it did not. Thanks to the wonderful Socratic method utilized by law school professors, you can no longer get by not reading the material assigned. Teachers call on a student, normally at random, and drill them for answers, and if you didn’t read, you will be embarrassed, or may even be asked to leave class. Simply reading it does not suffice. Read the cases and understand what you are reading. Sure, you can use online case briefs, but they more than likely lack the facts the nit-picky professors will question you over.
3. Take Practice Exams! There is no way to imagine how hard a law school exam is, but a practice exam is the best way to see what you may be facing before final exams roll around. Most professors have a bank of past exams they are willing to give to you, and they will even offer tips and advice if you submit your answer. I took practice exams, but never asked for any feedback. This is a huge regret from my first semester. The best way to take a practice exam is under timed conditions, and start at least two months before finals. You’ll never want to sit down for 4 hours on a weekend to take a test, but is it not easier to fix an error before it substantially lowers your GPA?
4. Grades are Everything (but networking can help too!) I know what you’re thinking. Grades were important in undergrad, and without good grades you wouldn’t get into law school. Correct, but it is handled completely differently in law school. Your grade translates into your rank, and your rank determines if you’ll get paid for your summer internship or work for free (sort of.) With the fall in our economy, law students are working for free, except for the 10-20% who land OCIs. On campus interviews are only available to the top of the class. So, unless you want to work for free, you better keep your grades as high as possible. While this does not mean if you are in the bottom you will not get paid, but the school has less leverage to help you in securing a paid internship.
5. Do not forget where you came from & those who love you Regardless if you are moving 800 miles away from your family and loved ones, or if you will be in the same town, you must make time for those most important to you. I often find it difficult to find even 15 minutes to phone home and talk to my loved ones, but I make sure to do it and do it often. It is hard to explain why I have so little time to talk to them, but they get it. Budgeting you friend/family time is just as important as doing practice tests and finishing your readings, because, at the end of the day, those people will be there for you regardless of what happens. And now, more than ever, a support system mean more than it ever has. Those same people who just want to know how you’re doing will give you those words of reassurance when you think your life is over and you just failed your final (which is 95% of your grade).
6. Make friends with your classmates I’m not saying you have to be best friends with those you’re in school with, but get to know your fellow soldiers who will be digging through the trenches with you for the next three years. As much support as your think your parents and friends can give you, they do not know exactly what is going on because they are not experiencing it. You will need help, and they will be the ones to extend a hand. I can honestly say the support of my family back home, alongside the amazing new friends I have made here, is what not only allowed me to finish my first semester, but to do so with sanity still intact.
- Heather Kinsaul, TU Law 1L