The idea for this post came from another blog, but I wanted to share my thoughts about some smart things to do when you start law school. Law school is a fresh start, and you can improve yourself and your habits to make 1L year a lot easier.
1. Behave At Least Halfway Like An Adult
Yes, dancing on the bar was a socially sound decision in undergrad. In law school, do too much acting out right when you start the first term, and you’ll get a reputation that it takes until 3L year to repair. Take it from someone who likes to partake in my fair share of bad behavior on the weekends (this is Evan speaking, Josh is a total angel): chill on it until you know who your friends are. This means don’t get too crazy at bar review.
This advice isn’t for everyone: some people have to shine bright like a diamond, and they are going to do it whether they are in law school or not. Just be aware that there are drawbacks. Down the road, your classmates might be helping you lateral to a new firm or what have you. It’s probably best if they don’t think you have an alcohol problem.
A related point: get some friends outside of law school. This way you can do whatever and tales of your weekend glories won’t be echoing around the halls come Monday. I recommend making some art school friends.
Also: fix up your facebook. It’s okay to be holding a beverage in some photos, but make it look like you have some interests besides frequenting the bar. Create, if not the reality of maturity, the semblance thereof.
2. Get Good Email Habits
This tip is a “do as I say, not as I do” piece of advice (I have 5,901 unopened emails lingering in my box), but you’ll save yourself a lot of headaches if you get good email habits now. When you start law school, you’ll have to contend with thousands of emails on the various listserves. Student sell their books on the listserve, other students complain about these emails, and then another vocal subgroup complains about the complainers. It’s a zoo.
So first things first, don’t be a jerk on the listserve. Hardly a week passed in law school where there wasn’t some minor scandal over what so-and-so said in an email to the whole school.
3. Meet Everyone
It’s tempting when you start out law school to find a few other people to hang out with and then cordon yourself off from the rest of the herd. I think this is a significant mistake. I hate the word networking, but these people are your connections for the rest of your life. The more good pals you have, the better. Also, you will have more couch surfing options later on this way.
I am not advising you to treat making friends like a sport that you have to win. I saw way too much of that in law school. Just don’t be too cliquish. Law school students should have matured beyond the ‘in group’ stage of social development, but unfortunately many have not.
Don’t worry if you aren’t naturally outgoing. A LOT of law students aren’t, and law schools do a great job of providing opportunities for people to socialize that make meeting other students easy. Getting out of your comfort zone can help you develop as a person, and might make you better prepared when it’s time to get a job.
I do recommend, perhaps paradoxically, a small school if you want to make a lot of friends. At my school, U Chicago, it was almost impossible NOT to get to know everyone. However, from what I heard from friends at NYU, where the larger class size makes it more likely that you won’t run into people so often.
4. Pick up a habit that requires some physicality
I didn’t get to do it as often as I would have liked, but playing tennis with a friend helped me relax 1L year of law school. I know there are those among you that don’t do any exercise and that’s fine. However, I think you’ll be happier if you partake in some physical activity at least once a week. I don’t know whether it’s cause or effect, but the students that hit the gym or something similar all did well in school and seemed pretty happy most of the time.
Law schools usually have excellent facilities available on campus. You are paying for it, so take advantage.
I recommend intramurals. Quick story: An outsized business school student knocked over one of my friends, a relatively small girl, during a soccer match. Rather than helping her up he said, “I’m going to make more money than you” and ran off. It was pretty satisfying when they then went on to lose the match. Business school kids are jerks. Please show them you think so by beating them at sports.
5. Find three places to study that are NOT the law library.
I’m stealing this one from Alison Monahan of Girl’s Guide to Law School.
There will come a time when you can’t stand to enter the law library. (For me, that day arrived about two weeks into the semester, but your mileage may vary.) Go ahead and scout out at least three alternative locations where you can study. Maybe it’s a coffee shop, maybe it’s a different campus library, maybe it’s your kitchen table. Whatever, just find some nice places, and make a mental note of them. Then, when you can’t stand to be around your classmates for another second, you’ll know where to go.
I second this strongly. Find your special place(s) while you still have time at the beginning of the semester. Did you know that the food court in Chicago’s Chinatown has wi-fi? I would not have known this either if I didn’t explore the city actively during my first month of school. Find a study buddy and scour the city for good spots.
Starting law school on the right track is really about taking care of yourself. Get plenty of sleep, eat well, make use of supplements (legal supplements, not vitamins, though vitamins are good too), do all your reading, get a perfect law school backpack, don’t steal or hide library books, and don’t try to speak five times in every class.
Best of luck new law students!