Advice for Your First Year of Law School

Advice includes being prepared to be called on in class, going over reading material and assigned cases, creating study outlines, and forgoing a part-time job to fit in more study hours.
Student in library preparing for first year of law school

Finally, you have been accepted and will be enrolled in your first year of law school. This will be called your 1L. At this point, you may think to yourself that law school will go smoothly as long as you show up and do the work as you did in undergrad. This mindset makes sense. But it could not be more wrong.

Students in law school are expected to go above and beyond being present in class and completing assignments. Many law school professors use what is called the "Socratic Method," which is a way of cold calling students and having them answer questions that can go on until the professor is satisfied with the student's responses. You need to know the material well and be ready to demonstrate your understanding of it.

Regarding your exams, gone are the days of just writing verbatim what the professor says and memorizing notes. You'll need to answer questions by showing your thought process based on your knowledge of the law. Exams in law school will frequently be 80% of your grade. There is often a grade curve in place, so the pressure is on to make yourself an expert of the material within a short period of time and to do more than the other students in your class.

Here are a few ways to prepare for both class and exams:

  • Spend a significant amount of time going over reading material and understanding the assigned cases. You'll need to be ready for whatever question your professor hurls your way.
  • Create study outlines, which you will learn to format during your first year. These will help you learn the material.
  • Train yourself to dig deeper into study questions and recall cases that illustrate how the law applies to those questions.

Another difference between law school and undergrad is your ability to work at a part-time job. In college, it may have been possible for you to work part time to pay for some of your expenses. You will quickly realize in your 1L that the amount of time being invested into working at a job could be used to study and master the material that will be paramount in succeeding in your law school career. Once your 1L is over, it is over. If you do poorly and do not reach the standards the school sets for you, it is likely that you will be put on a probationary period or be ultimately expelled. Working too many hours and not contributing enough time to your studies is risky and should be weighed with your needs and abilities to do well with less time. You may need to depend on savings, loans, and family help to pay for those expenses that a part-time job would normally cover. But investing your time in your studies will pay off in the end.

Learn how to prepare for law school