Ten Effective Habits for First Year Law Students
READ AND PREPARE. A good habit is to read the syllabus to know what to
MAKE FRIENDS AND ASSOCIATES. You should make friends with those that share your goals or good habits. Those friends will support you and could help you in a study group. Associates are key as well. You should be respectful and cordial to those who have different goals or those who study differently. You may be on the other side of the courtroom from a classmate in the future and your professional relationship starts in your first year of law school.
GET A MENTOR. You may be assigned to a faculty advisor, if so, take advantage of that opportunity. Share your goals and interests and your advisor may soon be a mentor. Alternatively your advisor could direct you to another professor or alumnae to mentor you. Some schools use their vast alumni network to connect students with mentors. Mentors provide a wealth of knowledge, support and connections.
ASK QUESTIONS. A good habit of successful law students is to ask questions. If you don’t understand something, ask during class, or during office hours. Make sure you are not asking something that you could look up in the book or materials, but perhaps something mentioned in class or something that goes beyond the reading. Don’t hesitate to ask others, such as a class specific teaching assistant, staff in academic support, the Dean of Students or your Career Counselor questions if something is unclear.
KEEP A DAILY AND WEEKLY CALENDAR. It is critical that you are organized. You should use a planner or put due dates in your calendar (perhaps in your phone with reminders) and plan all of your time. Know when you are studying and when you are relaxing. It will help you to focus and get your schoolwork done. This is also critical for long-term assignments like papers, projects, mid-terms and finals exams. Setting up a reminder for a week or two weeks prior can help you stay ahead of the game..
PLAN FOR YOUR FIRST SUMMER EXPERIENCE FROM THE START. You won’t get a job in September, but if you are attending Career Services workshops and learning how a law school resume is different from a regular resume in September or October, then you will be on your way to a good opportunity for your first summer after law school. You could choose to volunteer or try to get externship credit for working, but the key to a great summer is to start planning for this early.
ATTEND OPTIONAL EVENTS. Even if you feel overwhelmed, make the time to attend optional events hosted by student organizations and offices, like Career Services or Student Services. When you attend these events you get the chance to explore different areas of law, hear from great speakers or learn about upper-level opportunities. Many students come to law school and learn about a new area of law or something different that they had not considered. If you attend events you may find something new that you are passionate about.
8. GET A STUDY GROUP OR AT LEAST A STUDY PLAN. Many lawyers say they survived law school because of their study group. Study groups work well for many law students because it’s a chance to review the law and get feedback from your classmates. However, study groups might not work well for everyone, so if you try this and it doesn’t work, or you know that you work better alone, plan your studying so you don’t fall behind. You are in law school, after all.
DON’T LIVE LAW SCHOOL 24/7. You must take time at least once a week to connect with those NOT in law school. Whether this be friends or family, this will keep you sane and keep you grounded. Law school will feed your mind and soul, but you must take care of your body, too. If law school has been a long dream, or studying or practicing law is your passion, then law school will feed your soul. The rules and learning the law and how to think like a lawyer will feed your mind. It is critical you feed (and take care of) your body. If you sit in class for three hours a day and sit to study for another six, your legs and neck and shoulders might cramp. It is important to incorporate some type of exercise, even if it’s walking 20 minutes a day. Finally you must eat healthy. No law student survived the entire year on takeout pizza.
FIND A WAY TO STAY MOTIVATED. It is true that law school can be grueling and difficult. However the rewards are worth it if this is your dream. Some classes will be challenging and sometimes writing a paper will be frustrating so you have to figure out how to stay motivated. Keep a list of your favorite quotes on the wall, or keep your motivation playlist of songs on your phone to listen to when you are discouraged. I tell my first year students to re-read their personal essay submitted when applying to law school. Hopefully the reasons why you are here and what you want to do will keep you motivated through the first year challenges and help you not just survive, but thrive in your first year and beyond.