Hi there! Congratulations on being accepted to the Peter A. Allard School of Law (“Allard”). As someone who just finished first year (1L) a couple months ago, I would like to give you some advice… likely, every upper year student you meet will have the same impulse — we know the rollercoaster of 1L, and we want to ease your transition into it as best as we can. I certainly received lots of advice from other students, and while some of it was helpful, some of it was not, so please take all advice with a grain of salt.
You will be blown away by the number of clubs and programs offered at Allard (and this is not including clubs outside of Allard, by the way), and you will be constantly pestered to join one, the other or both. You will encounter upper years who will swear that the clubs they were part of were the best possible clubs to join.
Before 1L, I had looked through the Allard website over a dozen times, seeing what clubs I should join and what groups I should volunteer for. I even had a spreadsheet. One column listed the group, the next listed contact information and the third listed why I wanted to join it. It was not useful.
What was useful, however, was the saying, “stay in your own lane.” During your first year, you will inevitably try to “keep up with the Joneses,” but it is not sustainable. If you are like me, you might end up stretching yourself too thin, constantly worrying about something else you have to do as well. Reflecting on 1L, I should have “stayed in my own lane” and stuck to the couple of things I was really passionate about rather than doing something because someone said it was a good idea.
Your success will not determined by how many events you go to or how many clubs you join. Tailor your experience to what is right for you and your future. If you know you want to be a solicitor in a big law firm, then clinical volunteering may not be useful for you. If you only want to work at a small firm in a rural city, then attending big-firm networking events may not have the best return-on-investment.
When you have a fixed amount of time for clubs, studying, networking, sleep (!), and non-law activities, prioritization is paramount. You won’t be able to do everything, but with some discipline, you’ll still be able to do some things you care about. I realized I didn’t need Netflix as much as I wanted to rehearse with my community musical theatre group in my spare time. One of my 1L friends watched many seasons of Ru-Paul’s Drag Race. Both are perfectly acceptable!
Once again, when it comes to advice, take everything with a grain of salt. Everyone wants to share what worked for them, but maybe nothing they say will work for you. If there is anything you should take away from from this, though, it is this: everyone wants to help, and everyone wants you to succeed. Allard may feel competitive because everyone wants to do their best, but it is also collegial because that success is not at the expense of others. Instead, you’ll find that if you are looking for assistance, you will get it, whether it is through classmates, upper years, faculty, or staff. In my first month, I asked a 3L how she managed to keep up with her readings even though she mentioned she was a slow reader. I’m a slow reader too, and her advice undoubtedly improved my reading habits. In 1L, you may have those same questions, and when they come, don’t hesitate to ask someone, because they’ll likely be willing to answer as well.