Experience First Year Law School
First year law school can be terrifying experience. But as long as you follow the right advice, first year will be a breeze.
First year law school can be terrifying. Not only are you placed in a new environment and expected to learn a foreign subject, but it soon becomes clear that first year grades are the only ones that really matter for your entire legal career. Law firms look only at first year grades to determine whether to hire you or not. After first year, law school is pretty much like high school.
There are ten tips that I believe all first years can follow to successfully complete their first year of law school.
First, even though older law students may tell you to brief every case you read, this is a lie! Exams concentrate on the overall big picture of the course, details in cases are worthless. You might want to brief cases to prepare for being called on in class, but as far as exams go, briefing cases is a waste of time.
Second, another thing other students may tell you is to outline every class. Outlines are useful if you make them yourself - it is really just a simple summary of the course that you can understand. If you take outlines from other students, you are wasting time because you cannot learn the course from the summary written by another.
Third, commercial outlines may be helpful to help you learn topics you did not understand in class. They are expensive, but if you can afford them, they may be helpful. If you cannot afford them, the best advice I can give is to talk with the professor directly as they are paid to help you.
Fourth, everyone entering law school talks about getting a study group of people. It may not sound important, but it turns out to be a big deal. Studying with others can help you see cases from all different points of view, which may be helpful for exams. But it is important to find the right people to study with. Try not to have more than two other people to study with and make certain that they are compatible with your personality. Any more than three, and every meeting becomes a debating match between law students.
Fifth, it is really important to listen in class. Law students like to speak, but if you can restrain yourself, it is a good exercise to hear how other students respond to cases and how the professor reacts to their responses. This will help you learn how the professor thinks and since the professor grades exams, it is important to know how he/she analyzes cases.
Sixth, although professors in class may stress details, details are not important for exams. The best exams are written concisely and analyze questions given general knowledge of the law. Exam questions are typically hypothetical stories that you are asked to analyze (as if a client came to you with this imaginary problem). Books on how to write law school exams give some really helpful tips.
Seventh, look at past exams given by professors. Some professors even use the same exam questions or slightly altered versions. All professors use the same format they used on their last exam (and if they do not, they will tell you in class).
Eigth, go to as many mock interview programs as possible. It will prepare you for the real job interviews that you undergo during your second year in law school. Try to find a common ground with your interviewer and impress them with you personality, rather than your knowledge of the law.
Ninth, having a job at a law firm the summer of your first year is pretty impressive as they usually only go to the ones with top grades. However, since you most likely will work at a law firm for the rest of your life, the best thing to do during the first summer is to have a government job or to intern for a judge. Interning for a judge will show you how judges decide cases - and knowing this makes you a better lawyer.
Finally, if you enter law school knowing what type of law you want to practice, by all means go for classes that only teach you about that type of law. But, for the majority of us who have no idea what type of law to practice, go to as many discussions and special events as possible. You might have to miss some classes to attend these events, but in the end, it is worth it.