New law students should approach the next three years as if they were working a regular 40-hour a week job, while reserving weekends for recreation and relaxation.
They should also try to develop close friendships with others in their class. These will be the people they can count on for jobs, referrals and moral support after graduation.
Those tips came from two attorneys who responded to an ABA Journal query: What advice do you have for new law students?
“Work hard, do the right thing, and take no short-cuts,” another lawyer advised. “Don’t let the fear of failure, judgment or ridicule stop you from giving your all and reaching for the top. I learned an incalculable amount of legal knowledge in law school, but what matters most to me is who I became during those three years.”
And a slightly different take: “If you can get a refund of your tuition, quit now.”
Read Your Notes, Skip “Bar Reviews”
Each week, the ABA Journal polls its readers on issues ranging from office attire to awful hires. Here is a sampling of responses to its “advice for new law students” question:
- Keep a sense of perspective. Law school can turn into a stressful echo chamber, where everything is The Most Important Thing, every test is the Most Important Test, every grade is the Most Important Grade, and everyone is constantly comparing themselves to everyone else. Don’t play this game.
- Make friends (you will need them) but make a point of socializing beyond law school. Engage in recreation to keep yourself engaged with the broader world. Remember constantly that learning law is a privilege extended to relatively few people.
- I found that the two classes I disliked the most, civil procedure and evidence, were the most useful to me in my law practice.
- Make sure you learn a real skilled trade too, so you have a backup plan. If law is your only plan, you need a fallback so you can pay your school loans off.
- Consider honest work first.
- Before you read the cases in your casebook, look them up in the West reporters and read the headnotes. You will then have an outline of both the facts of the case and its major points of law. The cases in your textbooks will make so much more sense and you will have a much easier time briefing them if you already know what to look for as you read them.
- Find copies of actual exams and actual answers in your school library, and study how to structure an answer, from day one. 100 percent of your grade is based on that. Nothing about class participation counts, and studying even the “model answers” in study guides is not quite the same as looking at the real thing. So, start with the exams first.
- Every day, look back over your outlines in every class. Even if you spend only a few minutes. This promotes learning. By the end of the semester you won’t waste time on “re-learning the law” that was discussed in class and that you forgot.
- Understand that the content (the laws) serves as a vehicle through which professors teach students how to think like an attorney, write like an attorney and speak like an attorney. If you leave law school with these key abilities, your three years will have been a success. You can always research and find the law.
- Scheduling is a really important component to succeeding in law school. Schedule and set deadlines for assignments, readings, and even time for yourself. It is also important to realize that you will never have a perfect schedule and will often fall behind. That is okay!
- Bond with your section-mates. These are the people you’ll lean on – and they’ll lean on you – for the next three or four years (and beyond). You’re all going through the 1L-transformation together, and it can be rough. Work with each other, not against each other.
- Don’t go to the weekly “Bar Reviews.” The legal profession already has enough problems with substance abuse. You don’t need to augment that by heavy drinking during law school.