Surviving Your First Month of Law School

The dog days of summer are over, which means the dog days for first-year law students are just around the corner.

The first year of law school is unique and arduous experience. For many law students, adjusting to the rigors of law school during the first month is the hardest part. Here are some tips to ease the transition and put you on the path experiencing law school success.

Hang in there, it will get easier

I will never forget spending two hours trying to read a four-page property case during my first week. Because the case was old, real old, I spent most of that time trying to figure out what the heck was going on.

Fortunately, after the first week or so, you will not read many cases that originated on a different continent. On top of that, you will learn how to read cases and digest them much faster. Every student has their own study techniques, but you will become much more efficient in your readings and class prep.

Don’t believe the hype

I can remember thinking that everyone who talked in class was a genius and that I must be a complete moron. Don’t fall for the hype. Sure, some people make some great points in class. Others just like to hear themselves talk. Just because somebody nailed the reasoning of one case does not mean they are light years ahead of your understanding of that class.

In addition, design your studying around what works for you. Your classmates who go out and party every night, yet make seemingly brilliant comments in class or a study group are probably a bit behind in their studies. At the same time, don’t assume that the student who claims to have spent 12 hours at the library is guaranteed academic success—they probably spent half that time on Facebook.

In other words–have some faith in yourself and live in a little bubble. You are probably in better shape than you realize. Try not to freak yourself out by comparing your efforts to your classmates.

Remember the real world

Don’t forget that the world still exists: you still have friends from before law school, you still have a family, and exercise and social activities are good for you. You can still be successful in law school (and after) while maintaining a healthy balance.

I admit that my social life took a dive, but I still took time to go to the gym and relax after class everyday. Allowing yourself to get away from the rigors and drama of law school will pay dividends in the long run.

Hang in there–you will survive!

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/joshfassbind/4565556323/)

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  • http://www.jacksonlaws.com Joseph the Lawyer

    The biggest tip that I never had when in law school is to take the practice bar exam classes. You will laugh your way to bank when everyone is figuring out contracts for two years and you learned it in two days. Yes, it cost some money, but you are already in the hole. Get out with good grades, at least.

    • http://consumerlawyer.mn/cgi-sys/suspendedpage.cgi Randall Ryder

      I’ve never heard of the practice bar exam classes—can you explain a bit more?

      • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

        I think he means BarBri. Which I always wished I had taken the summer before law school. That would have made first year a cinch.

        • http://consumerlawyer.mn/cgi-sys/suspendedpage.cgi Randall Ryder

          Yes, that would have been awesome.

  • Michelle

    I am halfway into my first month. I’m still waiting for it to get easier. I really need time for the gym and a break, but with 3-4 classes a day and having to prepare for those classes on my shorter days, I’d either have to lose sleep in the morning by heading out at 6 or at night by going at 11. I am not physically able to do either one.

    • http://consumerlawyer.mn/cgi-sys/suspendedpage.cgi Randall Ryder

      Make time for it, it will save your sanity. If you do not take breaks, you will burn out by the end of the semester.

  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/American-Law-Institute-American-Bar-Association-Ali-Aba-Diversity/100796016691594 Tanesha Readom

    Try to find humor in the law. Most of the stuff you learn during the is dry (Civ Pro), perplexing ( Real property- Rule of Perpetuity), or frustrating (aspects of every other course). My torts book was filled with stick figures meeting unfortunate ends. My law school buddies would add witty though bubbles and we would have a good laugh. I found this awesome webcomic by a law student named Andrew Wong that poked fun at law school life and helped cement some legal concepts (As a 3L I would even use them to help 1Ls issue spot in preparation for exams) check it out http://tortbunnies.com.

    Most importantly surround yourself with a good circle of law school friends. By the end of the first month you will have a good idea who they are. A good circle helps you remember all the important dates or tells you what you need to know from an info session you missed, shares class notes without you having ask and checks on you if you don’t show up. They let you have your panic attack/pity party but know when to cut you off with words of encouragement. They challenge you by poking holes in you legal theories so you polish your arguments. They drops friendly hints, but don’t give you the answer when you get stuck. They leave you alone when you want to have space to study but still make sure you get out there and socialize every once in a while even when you don’t want to. (Yes my circle is awesome and I would do the same for all of them.)

    I won’t say that law school gets “easier” but if you have the things above, its more bearable (besides during 2L and 3L year you can’t grip as must because you picked the classes).

    You will survive law school, pass the bar and be an all-star in whatever you decide to do next.