First Year of Law School : Do's and Don'ts
Quoting the words of D’Andra Simmons from Real Housewives of Dallas, law school is one. tough. mother. There is a ton of competition and the workload is intense. You want to nap all the time but have about five thousand different things to get done. You can, however, go in feeling prepared by following some of these tips which will set your mind-frame toward success.
DO: Buy yourself a rolling backpack
Law textbooks are heavy. Like, so heavy I had to get a series of spine adjustments after my first semester because they were so heavy-heavy. Spare yourself the discomfort and strain by investing in a good backpack with wheels. It feels dorky at first, but your back will thank you in the end.
DON’T: Buy every supplement
It is so tempting to buy three to four supplements plus online programs for all of your classes. In truth, though, if you go into finals with a fairly strong understanding of the class, then chances are your outline will suit you just find and refine the information toward what exactly your professor will be looking for. Save your money on the supplements and put it toward the very-needed coffee instead!
DO: all the readings
I would be lying if I said you won’t do a TON of reading in law school, and probably more than you’ve ever needed to do in your life. I had one professor who would regularly assign 120-150 pages for each class. This is a lot, but it is crucial to read all of the material to be ready for class and your finals. Professors have not only read their assigned books cover-to-cover, but have likely been teaching the material for years (and maybe even wrote the book, as was the case with my Criminal Law professor). Save yourself the potential embarrassment of being unprepared for a cold-call and plan ahead for your readings. For example, I would usually dedicate my Saturdays and Sundays to doing as much of my readings for the week as possible and limiting my readings during the week.
DON’T: keep quiet
You will likely have questions come up as you go through law school. In fact, I can guarantee it. And as intimidating as your professors can be, they are oftentimes the only one who can give you the right answers to your questions. I recommend dropping by their office hours and speaking to them anytime you are confused or the material is too dense. They can clear up any of the issues you may have, and it helps them recognize your face and the hard work you are putting into your class.
DO: Join a study group
Along with talking to your professors, studying with your peers can be a great way to bounce ideas off each other, figure out where your “blind spots” are, and build a strong network of colleagues who can help you in a pinch. Try to meet at least once every couple weeks to cover material and practice essay questions so as to stay on track and not fall behind.
DON’T: Be stingy with the outlines
…or your notes, or anything else you can share, for that matter. While law school is incredibly competitive and grades are super important to job placement, what matters even more is the relationships you will develop with your peers. Your greatest asset for finding clients and making connections will be those you meet in law school, and you greatly limit yourself when you alienate those around you. Be nice and make friends, because you will definitely regret it if you don’t.
DO: Focus on yourself
It can be so difficult in law school to not look at what others are doing and freak out a little bit. You constantly wonder, “Am I studying enough? Does everyone get the material better than I do? Am I not on track?” You, however, are the only person who really knows what studying techniques work for you and what you need to do to digest all of the information you will receive. Don’t let the snake-oil techniques of others impact what you already know about yourself and go with what feels best to you.
DON’T: Get caught up in drama
The law school social scene can sometimes feel akin to that of high school. People whisper about who is dating who, who said something mean about someone else, and all that junk. Even if you are not someone who normally gets involved in those sorts of goings-on, you still may find yourself getting dragged into the heap. Ignore it. Hold your head high and don’t go low, even when you may feel like it would make the situation better. After all, those sorts of things will be talked about too, and engaging will only keep the cycle going.