Staring in the face of a new year (2012 already? Is it just me or was it just yesterday that people were stockpiling water for the Millennium?), it is that time that we all begin to reflect on our past year went, so I thought it appropriate to offer some of my thoughts on the first semester of law school and what I learned.
The first thing is that as much as we all may joke about it, it genuinely can be difficult to get yourself out of the law vortex. As one of our professors said during Orientation Week “Your friends and family will no longer understand you, nor be able to stand you” and to a degree, this could not be more true. You forget that not everyone can relate to your frustrations with the seemingly endless exceptions in contract law, knows the definition of various torts, or understands what it means that an exam is composed of fact patterns. It is important to remember that you had friends before you came to law school and that while it can admittedly sometimes be easier to hang out with your new friends who speak the same language, it is really important to make time for the people who matter. These people are the ones who will provide you with an excuse to NOT talk about law and will remind you that law school is not the entirety of your existence. Otherwise you might find your world limited to legal jokes (I admit to writing a few song parodies), and as much as everyone loves the classic “What do you call 1000 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean”, you don’t really want to be that guy/gal.
The second thing is that you should (ideally) not do anything last minute because it will probably take you a lot longer than you anticipate. I think a perfect example of when a lot of us 1Ls learned this was during our first open memorandum. Set loose in the library and on legal databases, most of us, myself included, became incredibly overwhelmed at the sheer volume of information out there and had a difficult time narrowing down our searches to the truly relevant facts. In undergrad a lot of students, as long as they have done their research, can just sit down and write a paper in a few hours. This was absolutely not the case for our memorandum. Because law is a foreign area to all first years, you are simply not as comfortable with the material and it becomes a lot more difficult to write since you are constantly questioning whether what you are saying really is correct. I am sure that this process will speed up with practice, but needless to say…don’t leave it to the last minute. You will get it done, but your stress level will be far higher than is necessary.
The last thing I will mention is: Make a plan and stick to it during exams. This was something I picked up after attending an academic success lecture held by upper years. When you are in seven classes, studying for December exams is a complex juggling act and can seem unbelievably daunting. If you don’t have a plan, it seems as though there is an unmanageable volume of material to review and you spend more of your studying time staring forlornly at your stacks of books than actually studying. Making yourself study schedule will break the courses up and let you better focus your attention since you know exactly when you will be studying the other materials. I can honestly say that if I hadn’t taken this approach to finals, my studying would have been far less efficient and there would have been a lot more panicking.
I will do an updated post to this effect in April, as I am sure that I will have learned a lot more by the time that finals (gulp!) are over, but if you have any specific questions in the meantime, fire away! I will be posting again within the next week or two about the Law Games (basic information regarding them can be found here: http://lawgames2012.ca/#/about/4554150810), which were a crazy and amazing experience.
Best of luck with your resolutions everyone!