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What I wish I knew before 1L. Reflections from a Harvard Law Student

Mike_RossMike_Ross Monthly Member Sage
edited June 2021 in Sage Advice 2814 karma

Hello everyone,

I hope you're all well. I know that many of you are either in the midst of LSAT prep or gearing up to go to law school. This is a wonderful community and I'm writing this post, "what I wish I knew before law school" to share some insight about what lies ahead. Wherever you are on your journey, I hope it gives you valuable perspective about what you are going into or working towards. My objective is to offer you the perspective I wish I had so that you can make more informed decisions in the coming months.

A little about me: I'm a rising 2L at Harvard Law School currently spending my Summer in BigLaw. I'm also an LSAT tutor and primarily teach LR and RC. I took the LSAT twice and scored a 164 (July, 2019) and 174 (October Asia, 2019). You can read more about my LSAT journey on this post here: https://7sage.com/discussion/#/discussion/21717/140s-to174-thank-you-7sage. The focus of this post will be for rising 1Ls and anyone who is generally interested about what 1L is like.

Who is this post for?

  • Rising 1Ls preparing for the grind that is 1L
  • LSAT prep students interested in knowing what 1L is like

What I wish I knew and a collection of thoughts:

1. The shock of the transition: Law school is very hard. This is what JY says at the start of the core curriculum and it's absolutely the case ('the LSAT is hard and Law school is harder'). I really feel the need to stress this because I wish I had a better idea before 1L. Even though I knew on some abstract level that it was going to be a challenge, I didn't really understand how challenging it was going to be until it began. I'm starting with this because I think many of the posts about this subject tend to be so optimistic that they fail to mention about these moments. The transition from 'yay i'm so excited about law school' to 'omg I'm actually doing it and I have no idea what is happening' felt so sudden and shocking to me that I can only compare it to being thrown into the deep end of the pool and frantically trying to stay above water. I seriously questioned whether or not I had made a mistake on day 2. Everyone around me seemed far cooler and more prepared and I couldn't even remember the names of cases and even high level details. You'll find yourself in this moment I've just described in the first few weeks of law school. It can be very isolating when you think you're the only one experiencing the dread, the shock and the initial fear but let me assure you: everyone is going to be experiencing the shock and varying levels of self-doubt. You are not the only one and know that you'll eventually find your way.

2. The pace of 1L is unrelenting. In fact, it feels like it was designed to be impossible. I wish I could say something like it’s a marathon not a sprint but to me, it really felt like a dead sprint to the end. And then you'll have journal write-on competitions right after your last final. (lol wtf?).

A. You have a shit ton of reading for your classes and it takes much longer than you think. @"Cant Get Right" once told me that law school reading is like "drinking out of a firehose" and I believe that's the best description I've heard. Please be sure to start early with the readings and budget more time than you expect because if you fall behind it can be damn near impossible to catch up. This is the case because in the beginning you just have no idea what you're supposed to prioritize or how to read and digest cases. You end up reading ultra closely because it's so difficult, but you have so much to go over so you end up spending a lot of time on some readings and not so much on others. In class, the professor cold calls a student and asks about details she (and everyone else) didn't realize were important so she flubs the cold call (or some combination of going blank at the very moment she is cold called). Then everyone else freaks out because they realize "shit I'm supposed to know that?" and spend even more time reading so that they will be more prepared for cold calls in the future. My advice is to invest in Quimbee and read the case summaries––facts, holding, reasoning––before you start so you at least have context about where the case is heading. Apart from this, knowing what matters when reading cases will take time but you'll eventually get it. Also, COLD CALLS ARE NOT GRADED. Nobody remembers a bad cold call because they are too busy worrying about being called next.

B. You are learning a new language (the law) and yet expected to also hone, interpret and analyze it at a high level of fluency. Frequently, I found myself reading and re-reading the same paragraph 5 times and not knowing what in the world I just read. It's english. It's right in front of me. But I had no idea what the combination of words meant. You'll also come across latin terms that you've never encountered before like sua sponte, de novo, lex loci delicti, infra, intra, etc.  My advice for this is to immediately google it and get the definition. It will save you time. Don't think you can just read on and infer the meaning based on context. You can't. These are usually procedural terms with very esoteric meanings and you simply have no context to understand before law school. Next, take a deep breath and believe me when I say: the best and most fruitful work comes AFTER class and during review.  My advice is to pick ONE study partner (some people do well in study groups but I personally felt it had diminishing returns) and hold each other accountable. Pick a time slot in the week that you dedicate to reviewing a single course's concepts from the week and stick to it. In between these sessions, stay after class, go to office hours, take the time to clarify points of confusion with professors and then quickly review and consolidate your notes. Over time, these notes will become your course outline. Repeat for the other courses for different time slots. Doing this steadily throughout the semester will help you stay on track and save you a ton of grief and time for finals.  Get over the embarrassment of asking questions because everyone is just as confused and will thank you for it. Personally, this is what I found most helpful. Once I started to see the benefits, I grew to accept the discomfort and confusion about the material before and during class because I realized that I would eventually understand it in review. You'll understand what I mean when you take Civil Procedure. Going from total confusion to eventually getting it felt like magic.

C. You're usually tasked with a legal research and writing project in the midst of everything I mentioned above (we had a 10-page legal memo in the fall and a 20-page legal brief in the Spring). To simplify, these projects require you to make an argument for legal questions usually about a fictional case you are assigned. To answer, you find relevant cases on westlaw or lexisnexis and make analogies to your case's facts to support your argument. I personally hated these projects (but maybe future litigators here will find it more bearable). They take up so much time and you'll find yourself going down rabbit holes that lead to dead ends but don't worry, you'll get there eventually. In between all the reading and review sessions, these assignments made keeping up with everything unmanageable. But that's just how things are going to be. It's difficult to appreciate how much work I've described so far until you're in the midst of it. Looking back, I can't fathom how I got through all of it but I did and so did generations of law students before me. My advice is to quickly accept that legal writing is completely different from what you are used to in college essay writing but it's formulaic and you will learn how to do it. It will take longer than you think so dont beat yourself up when it seems like what should only take 3 hours turns into an all-day affair. Budget your time accordingly and remember that it takes time because you're learning a totally new skill! Take this very seriously because much of the work you are given as a summer associate involves legal research and writing. Let me tell you, when you're dealing with a real case, the stakes are much higher and your work will feel more meaningful.

D. I never felt like I was introduced to concepts throughout 1L. Rather, I always felt like I was suddenly in the thick of it and professors were using terms as if I was just expected to know them, learn them on my own, or just keep up. I'm not sure if it was just an HLS thing but my sense is it's the same everywhere because there's just too much to go through. I also think professors have taught the same things for so long that they have forgotten how it felt like to be 1Ls. In any case, I'm telling you this because you'll find yourself experiencing everything above and your first instinct will probably be to question and doubt yourself. Then the toxic self-talk will settle in and if you don't check that early, it could devolve into something worse. If this post scares you, I think it's a good thing. It's really important to know what you are getting into, if only so you know what to expect mentally and emotionally. Many of us here are super type A and used to keeping on top of things, but know that it can feel impossible to do so and it's often the case that something always has to give. Just make sure that you are making the trade-offs wisely. Speaking of trade-offs...

3. You're going to have to make some trade-offs. After reading everything above, I hope you get the sense that you will always be busy throughout 1L. There are always several competing priorities, not to mention things happening outside of school and life that are also competing for your time and energy. On this note, I advise you to take care of as many things you know are important before law school starts. This can include seeing your doctor, all your annual health check-ups, budgeting, etc. The goal is to minimize these competing priorities. During the school year, trade-offs can mean many things. You may prioritize preparing for the courses you believe you can excel at but you never want to do it at the cost of totally give up on another course. Don't put too many eggs in one basket. Or maybe you start cutting back on sleep, hobbies, and even exercise to keep up. I know this sounds extreme but it happened all the time during 1L. Sometimes you dont have a choice but in my experience, not getting enough sleep wasn't a sacrifice worth making. You'll find that you read more efficiently when you are well-rested than not. I also think that you have to pay attention to your body. If you simply aren't retaining or processing information after a certain point at night, there's nothing to gain if you keep going. Best to just call it a night. 

4. The only thing that matters is your final exam. Seriously. So, understand that this is what you are working towards, not to be the star of cold calls! Remember what I said about being cold called on details you didn't think were important? They usually aren't important for exams. In exams you typically only need to know the holding for the specific cases. I'll try to give my best explanation for what to expect but exams are typically composed of issue-spotters and sometimes policy questions. Issue-spotters are fact patterns you are expected to diagnose and analyze for possible causes of action that may be brought, defenses and the likelihood of success on each. Sometimes they can involve the application of procedural arguments that can affect which actions can be brought and in which jurisdiction (Civ Pro, Torts, and Crim usually).  Policy questions are usually short-essay questions involving how aspects of the law advantage/disadvantage certain groups of people and how you might change it. You would answer both of these question types essay-style and I recommend taking as many PTs as you can to practice honing your writing style and organizing your answers. I should also say that these exams tend to be comprehensive, or at least cover a large majority of the material over the semester. Doing well therefore requires a comprehensive understanding of the course and how to apply the concepts you are taught. This is also why I didn't think that having a social science or humanities undergraduate background necessarily helped that much. The reason is most students with these majors write long, well-polished essays that made up most of their grades in college. For such essays, you didn't necessarily need to have a complete grasp over everything in the course. Rather, it was possible to answer the essay question with depth and ignore entire areas of a course. You can't do that on a law school final. You really need to know how the pieces all come together BUT this is quite difficult to do until the end of the course. I've mentioned some reasons above but another reason is you are usually learning components of the course week by week and at that time, you're so engrossed in the details of specific topics that you cannot see the forest but only the trees. It's usually only at the end that you get to see how the whole course comes together and realize what it is you're supposed to do. This is why you'll be feeling a lot of discomfort and confusion throughout the whole semester. Looking back, I think Law school felt a lot like watching the Witcher. Nothing seemed to make any sense because we were taught so many seemingly incongruent concepts but they eventually fall into place. I wont spoil the series for anyone that plans to watch it but I think anyone who stuck with the series after several episodes will know what I mean. In any case, let me assure you that this means it's highly unlikely to feel like you are on top of things until the end. For me, things only started to come together during finals week after taking several PTs. So, my advice for preparing for exams is to gather as many past PTs as you can get for your professor's class. Pick out an older exam and look at it 4 weeks into law school (no need to take the whole exam--you wont be ready for it) and read the questions and skim the fact pattern so you get a sense of what your professor wants. This will help you develop a study direction. Then plan to take PTs after you are done outlining at the end of the course. It's probably not that important to simulate full exams because there isn't enough time to do so. I found that simply outlining answers was enough. Then check your exam answers against example answers your professor gives you or if there are past exams on a database and modify your outline accordingly.

5. What are outlines? There are two kinds of outlines: Study outlines and Attack outlines. Study outlines are what you use to learn and review the material throughout the semester. There are usually outline banks with great outlines created by previous students that are available on a database in your law school. I highly encourage you to download a few at the start of the semester and then decide which ones to stick with. Some people would take notes in those outlines. I personally preferred to take my notes separately.  Either way, you'll have to consolidate a combination of the outline notes and your own notes. The goal is to eventually make this other student's outline into "yours" as you rearrange it and use language more familiar to you. You will need to know where to look to find relevant sections etc. Attack outlines are outlines you develop for taking the exam. While study outlines can be over 100 pages, these are typically far shorter and contain all the relevant guidelines/templates you create for answering the exam question. These would include things like a prima facie case for assault, what differentiates a murder from voluntary or involuntary manslaughter etc... or flowcharts for determining personal jurisdiction etc. I personally found the outlining process to be very helpful for reviewing course material and getting ready for the exam. Just dont forget that you should budget enough time to take as many exams as you can. Your attack outline typically gets more useful with each past exam you take and review. 

6. Take moments to unplug. Everything I said above seems to suggest that you will be going hard all the time. That's not the case. You will definitely find some moments of reprieve and even if you don't, sometimes you have to make time for it. We all have needs and there is no reason to neglect them. Recognize that if you don't take the time to fill your cup, unwind and rest your mind, you'll suffer burnout. If that means rewarding yourself with netflix within reason, do it! You can definitely budget time to do fun things and see your friends. Always pay attention to your body. Practice good sleep discipline and organize your study and reading sessions around the times you are most productive. Exercise and eat healthy.

7. Please remember that you are in a community that is much smaller than you think. One of the unfortunate things about law school is that everyone is in competition with each other and you are graded on a curve. A professor told us: "many of you have always been in the top 10% of your class. For the first time, 90% of you won't be at the end of the semester." When you put the most type A people together in the same room, you can imagine that things can get pretty toxic. Everyone has heard of stories and anecdotes so there's no need to mention them here. I'm very lucky to share that I had a very positive experience in my section but nevertheless, I say all this because this is only 1 year of your life and how you treat your classmates can have career-long consequences you don't foresee. Even though you are competing with your classmates, you can choose to make it a more positive experience for everyone. People remember how you treat them. If you decide to do some shady shit or repeatedly let your classmates/study partners down, they will remember that. Know that one of the most valuable things you can get out of your law school experience is your professional network. Your current classmates are your future colleagues. So don't be an asshole. It's not worth it.

8. You are at a professional school. Act like it. In law school, you'll have classmates older and younger than you. Personally, I didn't notice much of a gap between the older and younger students but there was an exception: KJDs. They often said things and behaved in ways that showed a complete lack of self-awareness and maturity. This was probably because they lacked professional work experience and believed that law school was simply an extension of the undergraduate culture they were used to. This is not to say that KJDs always behaved in these ways or that only KJDs made these mistakes. But my observation was that it happened to them more often because a lack of experience sometimes made them unaware of certain things. Whether or not this applies to you, my best advice is to remember you are among your future colleagues. Think before you act. Think twice before you make that post in groupme and what it signals to everyone around you. Exercise some situational awareness and be sensitive to your audience, especially when it comes to politics, religion, etc. Ask any HLS student and they can tell you about the classmate who commented a little too much about last Summer's protests in groupme (however well-intentioned) and got sidelined hard by many of the students. I don't mean to say that you should self-censor but know that presentation matters and how you carry yourself sends positive or negative signals. In law school, you'll be talking about all kinds of difficult subjects that people have strong opinions about so consider your presentation before speaking up.

9. On another note: if you are a KJD contemplating whether you should get some work experience before law school, I highly recommend it. Know that law school isn't going away any time soon. There is simply no hurry to rush into this. Working for a few years before law school is beneficial in many ways. It gives you a better perspective the decisions you make for your career, clarifies your legal interests, and generally helps you build professional and emotional maturity. I also think it gives you a boost in admissions and perhaps more time to study for the LSAT.

Finally, if there's only one thing to take away here, I want to assure you that you are capable of getting through law school successfully. So many of you take the LSAT very seriously. That's why you come to the discussion forum and read about posts to get advice and encouragement for your journey. You are all already very conscientious and if you apply the same energy and seriousness to law school, you'll do just fine. Yes it will be challenging and the learning curve will be steep, but the discipline you develop from LSAT prep will serve you well in the year ahead. Again, my goal is to give you the perspectives I wish I had. I hope it helps you navigate the exciting journey ahead!

Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions. Happy to help anyone just as so many have helped me.

Comments

  • lrw0009lrw0009 Monthly Member
    14 karma

    When you used the analogy about the Witcher I instantly got it 😂 thanks for your creativity!

  • Jahn.SnowJahn.Snow Alum Member
    307 karma

    Thank you so much for this!

  • WoodsCommaElleWoodsCommaElle Monthly Member
    361 karma

    Thank you so much for this. I'm not there yet and still kneck-deep in LSAT prep, but I will definitely make sure to come back to this post again when the time comes :)

  • bigballer2bigballer2 Alum Member
    13 karma

    Thank you for this

  • Granger DangerGranger Danger Alum Member
    712 karma

    Witcher analogy for the win!! Excellent post, thank you very much for taking the time to write this.

  • love2learnlove2learn Member
    edited June 2021 252 karma

    Did you read any prep books before you started 1L (were they helpful?)? I'm starting 1L this fall and I've been reading the E&Es to try to learn terms in advance ... . Did you use LEEWS?

    Thank you so much for sharing this, it is so insightful

  • WinningHereWinningHere Monthly Member
    371 karma

    Mahalo!

  • njtnoletanjtnoleta Yearly Member
    34 karma

    Thank you for sharing this

  • Tori98765Tori98765 Alum Member
    105 karma

    Thank you for taking the time and energy to post this! I appreciate you!

  • PROMISED LANDPROMISED LAND Monthly Member
    328 karma

    Thanks a billion!

  • LuxxTabooLuxxTaboo Monthly Member
    212 karma

    This is an awesome post :)

  • sarahblairsarahblair Monthly Member
    604 karma

    Thank you @Mike_Ross. Very well written. Good luck with the rest of law school!

  • MistaTee001MistaTee001 Legacy Member
    105 karma

    Thanks so much for this comprehensive and insightful post, @Mike_Ross !

  • teechj117teechj117 Monthly Member
    279 karma

    Great post, thanks for sharing your experience!

  • Nadzter19Nadzter19 Monthly Member
    123 karma

    Thank you!

  • Mike_RossMike_Ross Monthly Member Sage
    2814 karma

    @love2learn said:
    Did you read any prep books before you started 1L (were they helpful?)? I'm starting 1L this fall and I've been reading the E&Es to try to learn terms in advance ... . Did you use LEEWS?

    Thank you so much for sharing this, it is so insightful

    @love2learn
    Hey there, personally I did not read any prep books before law school and I’m glad I didn’t. The reason is sure they can help you get an intro to the course but they won’t give an advantage that is worth spending that much time and energy before any of it begins. The reason is you just have no idea what your professor is looking for until you start. There’s a good chance that you read the whole book, take all the notes, etc, only to eventually realize that none of it was particularly applicable for your class.

    During law school however, I did have a professor recommend we read the E&Es. It was my CivPro class and it was actually very helpful. Would it have helped if I had read it before law school? No I don’t think so because so much of the learning happened in review, after going over the concepts multiple times.

    I should say that I talked to many people before law school about prepping. A very small handful recommended reading Getting to Maybe. I haven’t looked at it myself so I can’t really comment but I think if I have to make any recommendations, I don’t believe you can actually prep for law school.
    I think your time would be better served just taking the time to read what you’re interested in or just chilling out because there will be few opportunities to do so in the months ahead!

  • Glutton for the LSATGlutton for the LSAT Alum Member
    473 karma

    Thanks for the reminder on classroom etiquette! Type A people can be the most positive and uplifting community if we choose it to be. Best of luck in law school! :smile:

  • lsatplaylistlsatplaylist Alum Member
    5244 karma

    It's great that @Mike_Ross is back on here!

  • Legally Brunette-1Legally Brunette-1 Monthly Member
    67 karma

    Thank you for this!

  • HarveySpectraHarveySpectra Alum Member
    42 karma

    Thank you so much for this post, and good luck in your 2L and 3L next year!!

  • Help2222Help2222 Legacy Member
    240 karma

    Thanks

  • mellomelmellomel Alum Member
    292 karma

    This is golden. Thank you for taking the time to explain everything! Enjoy your internship and hopefully some well-deserved summer vacay.

  • love2learnlove2learn Member
    252 karma

    @Mike_Ross thanks for the reply! Good luck in 2L

  • Mike_RossMike_Ross Monthly Member Sage
    2814 karma

    @love2learn said:
    @Mike_Ross thanks for the reply! Good luck in 2L

    Thanks @love2learn! Happy to be a resource along the way

    @lsatplaylist said:
    @lsatplaylist at @Mike_Ross is back on here!

    Good to see you around @lsatplaylist ! I hope you’re doing well!

  • Bushy_BrowBushy_Brow Yearly Member
    edited July 2021 61 karma

    I want to give a special shoutout to @Mike_Ross for his amazing LSAT coaching, which helped me climb out of my mid-160s plateau and score a 172 (June 2021). I use the word “coaching” because he went above and beyond to make sure that I had both the right technique for solving various LR question types but also the correct mindset for taking on this beast that is the LSAT.

    Our typical lesson consisted of going over questions that I struggled with, diagnosing my weaknesses (often a product of poor technique and wrong attitude), coming up with fixes (usually revisiting fundamentals), and discussing timing strategies (which he has a brilliant approach to). And at the end of the lesson, he would give me a pep talk and remind me of the correct mindset I should have. He was and still is very responsive on WhatsApp and happily shared snippets from his 1L journey to keep me motivated. And as you can tell from the article, he doesn’t sugarcoat things. He has always given me honest feedback and pushed me to be honest with myself, too. I hope you are starting to see why I call him a coach.

    If you are taking on the LSAT, this is the guy you want in your corner.

  • Apollo888Apollo888 Monthly Member
    24 karma

    Thank you, Mike. I really appreciate you taking the time to write this.

  • Lucas CarterLucas Carter Alum Member
    edited July 2021 2793 karma

    Great post! This captures the pain and struggles of 1L perfectly!

  • the19rowsthe19rows Alum Member
    38 karma

    Wow. Thank you so much for this.

  • MichalleMichalle Alum Member
    30 karma

    Thanks for the insight!

  • Cam_the_MANCam_the_MAN Yearly Member
    18 karma

    Thank you!

  • CoyoteTea-1CoyoteTea-1 Monthly Member
    8 karma

    Thank you so much! I was wondering how you felt about applying next year and not this year due to the crazy cycle blah blah? And I noticed how you talked about not being in a hurry to get to law school! I feel really anxious about "not starting my career" quickly enough (26 years old). Do you have any advice for me and others like me?

  • fdedonfdedon Monthly Member
    7 karma

    This is everything I expected, but I still felt sick reading it. Out of everything I’m most concerne about staying mentally strong and balanced. It seems I will have my work cut out for me.

  • Burt ReynoldsBurt Reynolds Alum Member Sage
    952 karma

    This is an excellent post - thanks for sharing!

  • ilovethelsatilovethelsat Alum Member
    348 karma

    Thank you so much!! This is so helpful. One specific question I have - I've often heard that mental health issues are really a problem in law schools, especially top law schools. Is this accurate? I remember reading about one study at Yale Law - something like 70%+ of students had clinical depression and/or anxiety (among other things, like imposter syndrome, etc.). I'm curious to know, if this is true, how do you y'all manage your mental health AND also make it through law school successfully? It seems like kind of a contradiction. It would seem like people who are at these law schools and in these intensive environments can function extremely well under pressure. There seem to be two components to this - law school can cause mental health issues and also people who go to these top law schools are more likely to have mental health issues because mental health issues are associated with type A/higher-stress individuals. Hope that's not confusing! Just trying to get a more accurate picture of what the mental health scene looks like in law school and what your experience has been with it, if you're willing to share. I think it's SUCH an important an issue for everyone to know about! Thanks so much again

  • ilovethelsatilovethelsat Alum Member
    348 karma

    @Mike_Ross Sorry forgot to tag you ^

  • Thy RainThy Rain Monthly Member
    81 karma

    This was really helpful! Thank you for sharing!!

  • Mike_RossMike_Ross Monthly Member Sage
    2814 karma

    @YerimCKim said:
    Thank you so much! I was wondering how you felt about applying next year and not this year due to the crazy cycle blah blah? And I noticed how you talked about not being in a hurry to get to law school! I feel really anxious about "not starting my career" quickly enough (26 years old). Do you have any advice for me and others like me?

    Hey @YerimCKim, I totally understand. I assume you meant not attending law school this year and applying for the class of 2025 cycle. If that is the case, it sounds like you already made the choice and are asking whether it was a mistake to wait another cycle. Is that right? If so, let me just say that there isn’t a noticeable difference between attending law school at 26 vs 27.Any sense of “being behind” is probably self-imposed based on arbitrary expectations.

    I think it’s more important to attend law school on your terms, when you’re ready, and satisfied with where you’re beginning your education, rather than rushing into it. It’s much like taking the LSAT I think. Ideally, you’d want to take the LSAT when you’re ready. Similarly, if you needed to take another year to improve your admissions chances, and it means more time to study for the LSAT, get a better score, have more opportunities to apply at a better time with less competition, hence getting into better schools, why not? I think it’s better to go to a school you want to attend rather than feel like you rushed and had to settle.

    On the flip side, career-wise, it means delaying another year of making a six figure salary (assuming you’re on the big law track). But it sounds like you’ve already made your choice with delaying the cycle so not really something to dwell on.

    As for advice, I’d definitely take this year to do whatever it is you want to do for the last time in a long time! Read, travel, etc.. In biglaw, hours will be long and the work will be demanding. You’ll find yourself wishing for moments to breathe and once you get on this train, you’re probably not getting off for a longggg time. So instead of focusing on the anxiety of waiting, try to approach this year with the mindset of: “I get to have one last year to do whatever it is I want to do so I can go into the next year fully charged and ready to go”

    if you want to get ahead of the career game, it might help to get an internship or job at a law firm. It helps with getting exposure to types of law you may want to practice in. This helps with positioning yourself for which opportunities you want to pursue when you get to law school.

    Hope this helps offer you some perspective!

  • Mike_RossMike_Ross Monthly Member Sage
    2814 karma

    @ilovethelsat said:
    Thank you so much!! This is so helpful. One specific question I have - I've often heard that mental health issues are really a problem in law schools, especially top law schools. Is this accurate? I remember reading about one study at Yale Law - something like 70%+ of students had clinical depression and/or anxiety (among other things, like imposter syndrome, etc.). I'm curious to know, if this is true, how do you y'all manage your mental health AND also make it through law school successfully? It seems like kind of a contradiction. It would seem like people who are at these law schools and in these intensive environments can function extremely well under pressure. There seem to be two components to this - law school can cause mental health issues and also people who go to these top law schools are more likely to have mental health issues because mental health issues are associated with type A/higher-stress individuals. Hope that's not confusing! Just trying to get a more accurate picture of what the mental health scene looks like in law school and what your experience has been with it, if you're willing to share. I think it's SUCH an important an issue for everyone to know about! Thanks so much again

    Hey @ilovethelsat im happy to offer one perspective. TBH, this is a tough one to answer. Two reasons: like you said, it’s like an LSAT question. 1) Do people who attend law school tend to have more anxious dispositions or 2) does law school cause students to become more anxious? I think it’s probably a combination of both.

    Law students, like many of us here, are always looking to get an edge, worried about whether we are doing enough, perfectionists etc. So, much of how most of us dealt with anxiety all our lives till this point will probably be what we need to keep doing even in law school. Just make sure that it’s a healthy way of dealing with it. One of the best things any rising 1L can do is to start building good habits for managing anxiety now rather than try to pick up new habits in law school. Cause it’s not going to happen.

    Regarding the law school causing anxiety idea: As I wrote above, 1L seems designed to be impossible because the workload is unreal and you’re forced to make trade offs between even the classes you spend time on, much more for non law school things. People think law students complain a lot, and they’re probably right about that, but anyone who’s been through 1L will admit that maintaining balance was close to impossible. It’s just going to demand everything of you for many of the reasons I mentioned above I also think the forced curved grading is a huge source of stress. That pretty much means that your grades can come down to not how well you know the material but how you performed relative to your classmates on a single exam. I’ve mentioned that it’s simply not worth worrying about that and engaging in any shady shit. Just focus on yourself and your journey because that’s the only thing within your control.

    As for how I handled mental health, i won’t lie. It was really hard, especially in the first few weeks of Fall semester. Everything felt so overwhelming that I simply didn’t know how to not just stay up and spend more time reading. But over time, I found my rhythm and got through it. I think that being able to eventually find a routine with my review process above helped give me a sense of progression. This then helped me feel like I was able to compartmentalize how I was spending my time. Then it was also recognizing that there were periods that I simply could not be productive, so better to use them to do things like exercise or go grocery shopping. Things like that help you get some distance away from law school for a few hours. It’s learning how to prioritize the things you know you have to do for yourself to stay on top of your game and making sure those things get done. Apart from that, I tried to maintain an attitude of gratitude. I know it’s cheesy but I’m at my dream school and I made sure to remind myself everyday that I worked my ass off to come here and that I had chose to do this myself. Nobody was forcing me to do it. So, I’m very much in control of what was happening to me. Finally, it’s just school. No matter what I did, it was only going to affect me and nobody else. It wasn’t life or death situation and no real clients are going to be hurt based on how I did in a law school exam. This is why I recommend getting work experience because it gives you perspective that although what you’re doing is important to you, it isn’t THAT serious so you can CTFO and just get it done.

    If all this sounds very cool, I assure you that I struggled to do it too. It’s only because of the benefit of hindsight and experience that I can communicate these things. Part of the reason I share these things is to help everyone who reads it to know what lies ahead, if only to lessen the shock and to remember that generations of law students have overcome. You will too!

    I hope this helps!

  • edited July 2021 652 karma

    This is a great post. If I could drive any point home for rising 1Ls it's that law school is a lot of work but it's possible for you. Outlining IS studying. Start outlining from day one using your class syllabus as a guide and set aside time every week to update and refine your outline. I don't recommend using other student's outlines because the work you put into writing yours will help you master the material.

    Read and brief every assigned case. Quimbee is fine but do NOT rely on it instead of writing your own briefs. Learning to spot the court's reasoning, see details, and argue intelligently from the facts are the skills you're actually trying to gain as a 1L. You can't do that if you don't brief the cases.

    Law school exams are timed and the pressure is worse than the LSAT (at least in my experience). You need to prep for exams using your professor's past exams and model answers. Importantly, don't be too hard on yourself if your grades aren't what you think they should be. Remember that you're a smart person competing against smart people on a brutal curve.

    Take a little time every day to relax. Really. After a long day of studying, you need it. Best of luck!

    Dan - a rising 2L at William & Mary

  • opipetteopipette Alum Member
    8 karma

    @Mike_Ross said:

    @ilovethelsat said:
    Thank you so much!! This is so helpful. One specific question I have - I've often heard that mental health issues are really a problem in law schools, especially top law schools. Is this accurate? I remember reading about one study at Yale Law - something like 70%+ of students had clinical depression and/or anxiety (among other things, like imposter syndrome, etc.). I'm curious to know, if this is true, how do you y'all manage your mental health AND also make it through law school successfully? It seems like kind of a contradiction. It would seem like people who are at these law schools and in these intensive environments can function extremely well under pressure. There seem to be two components to this - law school can cause mental health issues and also people who go to these top law schools are more likely to have mental health issues because mental health issues are associated with type A/higher-stress individuals. Hope that's not confusing! Just trying to get a more accurate picture of what the mental health scene looks like in law school and what your experience has been with it, if you're willing to share. I think it's SUCH an important an issue for everyone to know about! Thanks so much again

    Hey @ilovethelsat im happy to offer one perspective. TBH, this is a tough one to answer. Two reasons: like you said, it’s like an LSAT question. 1) Do people who attend law school tend to have more anxious dispositions or 2) does law school cause students to become more anxious? I think it’s probably a combination of both.

    Law students, like many of us here, are always looking to get an edge, worried about whether we are doing enough, perfectionists etc. So, much of how most of us dealt with anxiety all our lives till this point will probably be what we need to keep doing even in law school. Just make sure that it’s a healthy way of dealing with it. One of the best things any rising 1L can do is to start building good habits for managing anxiety now rather than try to pick up new habits in law school. Cause it’s not going to happen.

    Regarding the law school causing anxiety idea: As I wrote above, 1L seems designed to be impossible because the workload is unreal and you’re forced to make trade offs between even the classes you spend time on, much more for non law school things. People think law students complain a lot, and they’re probably right about that, but anyone who’s been through 1L will admit that maintaining balance was close to impossible. It’s just going to demand everything of you for many of the reasons I mentioned above I also think the forced curved grading is a huge source of stress. That pretty much means that your grades can come down to not how well you know the material but how you performed relative to your classmates on a single exam. I’ve mentioned that it’s simply not worth worrying about that and engaging in any shady shit. Just focus on yourself and your journey because that’s the only thing within your control.

    As for how I handled mental health, i won’t lie. It was really hard, especially in the first few weeks of Fall semester. Everything felt so overwhelming that I simply didn’t know how to not just stay up and spend more time reading. But over time, I found my rhythm and got through it. I think that being able to eventually find a routine with my review process above helped give me a sense of progression. This then helped me feel like I was able to compartmentalize how I was spending my time. Then it was also recognizing that there were periods that I simply could not be productive, so better to use them to do things like exercise or go grocery shopping. Things like that help you get some distance away from law school for a few hours. It’s learning how to prioritize the things you know you have to do for yourself to stay on top of your game and making sure those things get done. Apart from that, I tried to maintain an attitude of gratitude. I know it’s cheesy but I’m at my dream school and I made sure to remind myself everyday that I worked my ass off to come here and that I had chose to do this myself. Nobody was forcing me to do it. So, I’m very much in control of what was happening to me. Finally, it’s just school. No matter what I did, it was only going to affect me and nobody else. It wasn’t life or death situation and no real clients are going to be hurt based on how I did in a law school exam. This is why I recommend getting work experience because it gives you perspective that although what you’re doing is important to you, it isn’t THAT serious so you can CTFO and just get it done.

    If all this sounds very cool, I assure you that I struggled to do it too. It’s only because of the benefit of hindsight and experience that I can communicate these things. Part of the reason I share these things is to help everyone who reads it to know what lies ahead, if only to lessen the shock and to remember that generations of law students have overcome. You will too!

    I hope this helps!

    I think this is very interesting I grew up at Harvard , probably won't be able to go there but we always made fun of students as kids and growing up. I wouldn't think about how much in a daze or how stressed they must be. I just though we had the hardest schools, why do these people act like such idiots. But you'd see people break down a lot. It's a good thing Boston isn't open late. But as an adult now, and therapist. I hope people and institutions do better to spot those and give aid to those on the cusp. Stress is normal guys. But to feel like you're constantly downing and wanting to give up is not. Reach out if you need help to those who you trust.

  • blanklawblanklaw Monthly Member
    61 karma

    Question about the actual classes: Are you allowed to ask questions to professors in class?

    Throughout my schooling career, I have ALWAYS asked questions and clarified things with professors and I don't think that will change. Is there more of a limit to asking/how do you ask?

  • Mike_RossMike_Ross Monthly Member Sage
    2814 karma

    @blanklaw said:
    Question about the actual classes: Are you allowed to ask questions to professors in class?

    Throughout my schooling career, I have ALWAYS asked questions and clarified things with professors and I don't think that will change. Is there more of a limit to asking/how do you ask?

    Hey! Totally depends on the professor and the way they conduct their classes. I always found that either staying back after class or going to office hours were most helpful. If professors take a pause to ask any questions, you can always raise your hand and ask for clarification, of course

  • Glutton for the LSATGlutton for the LSAT Alum Member
    473 karma

    Great post! I'd love to read about any other "academic pitfalls" you think incoming law students should avoid. I think the emphasis that everyone in law school is just as confused as you are, especially when analyzing archaic cases with Latin words thrown in there, is really helpful.

    This post has got me thinking about the value of law school and practicing law. I'm studying for the LSAT and I love it. It's a fun test. I'm not sure if this will be my experience in law school, though. Reading your post puts things into perspective for me!

  • Mike_RossMike_Ross Monthly Member Sage
    2814 karma

    @"Glutton for the LSAT" said:
    Great post! I'd love to read about any other "academic pitfalls" you think incoming law students should avoid. I think the emphasis that everyone in law school is just as confused as you are, especially when analyzing archaic cases with Latin words thrown in there, is really helpful.

    This post has got me thinking about the value of law school and practicing law. I'm studying for the LSAT and I love it. It's a fun test. I'm not sure if this will be my experience in law school, though. Reading your post puts things into perspective for me!

    Hey happy to help! I dont think law school is as fun as studying for the LSAT, but that's just me. In either case, don't lose sight of what you're doing all this LSAT prep for!

  • keylimequeen88-1keylimequeen88-1 Monthly Member
    37 karma

    THANK YOU for taking the time to write this out. I printed all 29 pages of the post/comments for my notebook. Thank you for keeping it real.

  • Mike_RossMike_Ross Monthly Member Sage
    2814 karma

    @"keylimequeen88-1" said:
    THANK YOU for taking the time to write this out. I printed all 29 pages of the post/comments for my notebook. Thank you for keeping it real.

    Wow happy to hear it helped haha!

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