Hello, all! I have not blogged in over a month. It has been a rough semester. In short, this semester was more difficult than last semester because the topics were different, expectations were higher, and I was looking for an internship or Externship. The good news is that I finished my first-year without dropping out (as much as I said I would), and I also landed an Externship at an amazing law firm in downtown Charleston. An Externship is when you get class credit for working. My next blog will be more in-depth about Externships, so stay tuned!
Alright! So, my first-year is done. How do I feel? What is it like being done? Well, buckle in because I am about to recap it all in one blog!
Is Law School as bad as it seems?
Yes, in my opinion it is as bad as I was told. I try to remain positive on this blog, but I struggled a lot throughout my first-year. The one thing everyone tells me is that “You’ll be okay because you’re smart”, but I am surrounded around other smart people. I get anxious because we are not graded off our raw score. We are graded off how the rest of our classmates do. If you do below what the average person is scoring, then your grade suffers. It also depends on your background. I know some people who just get the information and do not have to study that much and end up with amazing grades. There are people who have attorneys in their family, so they have been around it all there life, or people who have already worked in the legal field. I have heard people say that it has helped them. Then you have people like me, ones who don’t understand it fully because there a no attorneys in the family and not had a prior legal job. My biggest advice is to know where you fall and plan accordingly. If you know that it takes a while to understand the material, then plan accordingly. Just keep up with the readings, outline sooner rather than later, and reach out for help when you need it.
I would NOT have made it through law school if it wasn’t for my amazing support system back home and within the school. I remember going to the co-academic advisor after my first day in Property and I told her “Yeah, so I am going to need a tutor, or I am going to fail out.” I like to tell this story because this woman stood with me every step of the way prior and post having a tutor. I had three categories of support. First, I had my peers. Second, I had the faculty. Lastly, I had my friends back home whom are not in law school. Law school pushes you in ways you would probably never imagine. It is something that you likely cannot fully prepare for or know how you’ll react to things until you are in the situation. Law school broke me down and built me up all over again. It is a lot easier when you can go to people to talk about law school that understand, and sometimes it is amazing to NOT talk about law school with people who are not in law school. You need a mix. I try not to have law school control all aspects of my life.
Support from Upper-Level Students
I can only speak from my own experience, but 2Ls and 3Ls seemed very willing to help 1Ls. Whenever I was struggling they would always ask what they could do to help. Some sent outlines, some were there for emotional support, and some were even available to help in certain topics that I struggled in. What is nice about their outlines rather than commercial outlines is that they have outlines from the professor you are taking classes with. In my opinion, that is the best type of outline to have.
The reason why the best type of outline to have is one that someone made that previously had your professor is because you are taking the professor and not the class. What this means is that your professor is the one giving you the exam. They want you to have their language in your essay writing. If you do purchase a commercial outline, then just make sure you are still using the terminology that your professor gave you. It is important to use their language given to you in class. If you use other language, then I have heard that it can raise red flags. Know your professor and what they want. So, if they say “memorize this word for word for the exam” or “you’ll need to know this”, then they are hinting that this will be on the exam and they expect for you to know it.
I would also say to go to your professor and see what you got wrong or right on your exams. Most people I talk to don’t do this because it is old information that you will not need. However, I believe that you could still learn from them. You can see how to improve your essay writing skills and how to improve on your multiple choice taking skills. This is one thing that truly helped me as a law student. I used to suck at multiple choice and now I realize that multiple choice and essay writing aren’t that different from each other and I have improved in my multiple choice taking skills.
Legal Writing is the MOST important, then Civil Procedure is a close second
The two most important classes that you will take are Legal Writing and Civil Procedure. This is pretty consistent with what I hear from law students across the country. Legal Writing is the most important because this is where you learn how to write legally. Legal Writing is its own monster, but like all subjects not impossible to get. My advice is to not blow off legal writing. The second most important is Civil Procedure. To me, this is the second most important because a case may get thrown out without hearing what the substance is if the process is not done correctly.
Time Management and Setting Deadlines
Law school is about how you manage your time. The main way for me to get stuff done is if there is a deadline. I will get stuff done either way, but it seems better when there is a deadline running. I would plan out how long readings would take me, and what time I should be moved on to the next reading. At the beginning, it took me forever to read through my casebooks. Now, it shouldn’t take me longer than two hours to get through a reading. Time management is everything and you never want to waste any of your time because it is valuable. You want to get as much as you can done in as little time as possible.
Don’t Disclose Your Grades
I learned this the hard way. DON’T DO WHAT I DID. In undergrad, I would say my GPA because I didn’t care what people knew I had. Yeah, law school is not the same. You may disclose, but I would advise that you don’t. If you do, then don’t lie about it. For a first semester law student, I did well. I also didn’t know what a “good GPA” was in law school. By disclosing, I opened up the door for a lot of people saying I only have good grades because of the “easy” professors I have, try to talk down to me, make me feel guilty about the grades I earned. If I could redo it, then I wouldn’t disclose. This is the biggest mistake that I made. It’s rough hearing that you didn’t “earn your grades” when you see how hard that you worked to obtain those grades. If someone ask you how you did, then I would just advise to not say what your GPA is. You can say “I did alright, but there is always room for improvement”, but you do not have to disclose specifics. I would keep it to yourself whether it is good or bad. If you do disclose, then just don’t lie. I heard this from multiple people. People somehow find out everything, and you don’t want to be known for lying about your grades.
Go Hard or Go Home
If you did well your first semester of law school, then do not get too cocky or put your guard down. Still do everything of what you did the prior semester and look for all ways that you can improve. There are ALWAYS ways to improve. They say that people do better the second semester because they have an better idea of what to expect. See what really worked and what did not work. Try new things and see if it works for you. I saw myself getting lazy and I tried to put a stop to it immediately. I still need to put in the same amount of work as last because you never know where you will fall on the curve.
Law School is Similar to High School
This is something I have heard across the country. You have class with the same people for the whole year. You do not get to choose your classes or class time. One thing that stood out to me is that there is a lot of drama that can happen in law school. I try to stay away from it, but I heard about it frequently.
What do you I do now?
Unlike last semester where I had to wait for grades and had nothing to do, I enrolled in a Maymester course. I have been too busy to think about if I failed out of law school or if I rocked my exams. I am learning 16 weeks of material in 2 weeks. I am taking professional responsibility which teaches you how to be an ethical lawyer. I am also doing an Externship which is working with a law firm to get class credit. I will be at a law firm all summer and I am so far enjoying it. I am realizing that this is truly the field for me. I am actually excited to go to work. I like that no case is ever the same. It keeps everything interesting.
These are the 10 things that I learned during my time in law school. I love writing these blogs because it gives me time to reflect on what I have learned as a student and what I need to keep doing or stop doing in order to grow. I am also a big fan of helping other students and potential students out. I believe that you can learn from other people, and you do not have to make all the mistakes for yourself. I believe that you can be very similar to other people. You can try things that other people do to see if it works for you or not.
Thanks to y’all for following me through my first-year of law school. The great thing about law school is that there are three years, so I will still be blogging as I go through this journey! Stay tuned for what adventures I go through next in my 2L and 3L year.