First year has come to an end, so a retrospective is probably in order (if not overdue).
On our very first day of orientation, the president of the Law Student’s Society compared first year to a roller-coaster ride. I couldn’t agree more with her analogy. There were a few people who appeared to love every moment of it, but I think for most of us there were ups and downs, with twists and turns. With that said, it was more good than bad. The workload is challenging, but it’s manageable. The marks look nothing like undergrad (the days of A+’s are OVER), but at least everyone’s in the same boat. For me, it took a couple months to get oriented, but once I did it became much easier to set priorities, estimate how much time an assignment should take, and anticipate my professors’ expectations.
Here are a few things that worked well and that I learned over the last eight months:
Sign-ups for the extra-curricular activities took place at the very beginning of the year. I decided to join the curling team and LSLAP. I found this to be just the right amount of commitment: I don’t wish I did more. I’ve talked about LSLAP in other posts, so I’ll just say that it was a good way of getting some exposure to the legal profession right off the bat. I learned about procedural stuff (like file management), as well as really key lawyer stuff (like how important it is to manage your client’s expectations).
The curling team was a blast. Not only did I learn to throw rocks, it was a way to connect with upper year students. This was the furthest thing from my mind when I signed up for the team, but it turned out to be a pleasant surprise. It was awesome to be able to discuss the first year experience, the second-year summer job hunt, upper year classes, and post-law school plans in an informal environment.
Besides the standard extra-curriculars, there were numerous events we were invited to attend. I went to a handful of things, and was always glad when I did. But I missed to a lot of things too. For me, it was important to keep some room in my life for non-law stuff. I live with my partner and have friends and family that were also priorities. Of course, this is not to say that the social/ firm events aren’t worthwhile! Not only are they a good time, they’re great opportunities to connect with interesting people. My point is that there are always things going on, so don’t feel like you have to go to everything.
As for school itself, it was a lot of work (no surprise). My strategy was to take notes by hand in class and then type them up over the weekend, filling in any blanks and reviewing as I went along. I know— this sounds like a time-consuming way of doing things, and it was. But when March and April hit, I was glad that I had put in all that effort throughout the year. I couldn’t believe how much material we had covered in each class. Reviewing it all was a ton of work! I was glad that I wasn’t also trying to learn new concepts at the same time. With that said, I saw lots of approaches and I’m not saying this is the best/ only way. It’s just what I did.
The last thing I’d like to pass along is that people are really approachable. Lawyers are busy, but most of them are not too busy for you. I was put in contact with a few lawyers who work in areas of law I find interesting. They were more than happy to answer my somewhat-silly questions, such as “What do you like about your job?” It can be intimidating establishing those connections, but it’s easier than it may look.
Professors also make lots of time for their students and are excellent resources. The workload was such that I didn’t find a whole lot of time to indulge when my interest was piqued, but on the one occasion when I did meet with a professor to discuss an area of interest, it was very rewarding. Not only are profs experts in their fields, they know a lot about the opportunities in those fields. They’re worth talking to.
So that’s first year! Good luck!