I am often asked how I survived law school. I can tell you, it wasn’t easy. I was not your traditional single, just-graduated-from-college, mid-20s student. I was 30, married, with 2 children. But here’s the secret...
I am often asked how I survived law school. I can tell you, it wasn’t easy. I was not your traditional single, just-graduated-from-college, mid-20s student. I was 30, married, with 2 children.
But here’s the secret: PURE DETERMINATION. The truth is, for any student to graduate from law school (and pass the Bar Exam), you are going to need pure determination, passion, and an unwillingness to give up.
To be completely candid, I thought about quitting more times that I would like to admit - especially during that first semester. I was not alone in this notion, but the truth is that approximately 80% of all 1L students hide behind the facade that they “have it all together,” when in all actuality, they have also thought of quitting.
Below I have shared some things I learned along the way, as well as other things I would do differently. Looking back now through what I call my established, professional, post-law-school lenses, have a much different perspective. I hope that this shared insight will assist you in surviving all three tortuous years. *SMILE*
I have also added a few tips that will continue to assist you as you exit law school, take the Bar Exam, and move into your role as a licensed attorney.
You will have more studying than time. Create a study schedule and stick to it. Remember to include breaks for working out and spending time with family or friends. You will need to keep some type of “normal,” so time management is crucial to your success in law school. Be sure to incorporate some fun!
The first year of law school is a tough transition. You will need the support of family and friends to finish strong. You will spend long hours in the library, outlining, and in study groups, discussing the same outlines over and over again. Schedule time to catch up with family via phone, have dinner with a friend, or go out on a Saturday night.
This sounds elementary; however, the habits you may have had in college will not suffice in law school. Law school is extremely demanding. Eat healthy, drink lots of water, exercise, and don’t binge drink. You will need your stamina for the long haul.
The first year, you will consistently hear about the 1L competitions for Law Review, intern positions, the top 10%, and other honors. Do not get caught up in the race. Push yourself to do your best and focus your energies on becoming the best lawyer you can be – the rest will sort itself out. Some 1L students get too caught up in the race, and forget the reason they chose to study law. This type of thinking leads to selfishness, back-stabbing, and doing anything to get ahead. Carrying this mentality into your law practice could get you into trouble with your State’s ethics committee, should you choose to engage in the behaviors described above as a practicing lawyer. Your biggest competition is yourself and if you remember that, you will soar!
No matter what you thought law school was going to be like, look like – it never does. The sooner you get rid of all pre-law-school expectations, the happier you will be.
Like every other social event throughout life, this too will be a place where you will enter knowing virtually no one and will have to find your people. Don’t compromise yourself to fit into a group that is not “your people.” This will not work out well in the end. Stick with like-minded people, join organizations that interest you, and again, be true to yourself.
I did not have a lot of money to spend on books, so I almost always purchased used books. I also searched the internet for outlines posted by law students around the country that coincided with the book used in a particular class. I then compared the class content with the borrowed outlines and built my own outlines from there.
Most law school exams are mid-semester and end-semester. It is critical that you and/or your study group keep up with all outlines over the course of the semester. You will not have time to outline an entire course during Thanksgiving break. Do yourself a favor and build outlining into your study schedule and you will find that studying for finals becomes a breeze (at least by law school standards). Additionally, I took several open-book finals in my 2L and 3L years. Impeccable outlines, tabbing, and constant review of these outlines will help you ace open-book finals.
You will have MANY opportunities to network with professors, law professionals, judges, and others who work in the legal industry. You must take EVERY opportunity to network. This is crucial to getting a job after graduation. Make the most of every opportunity and remember that people are watching you, so don’t be that person who constantly and disrespectfully challenges the law professor in first year Torts class.
Law school is a unique experience. It will be difficult. There may even
be tears. No matter how challenging things get, try to enjoy this time. It
will be over before you know it.
The Law of Deborah E. Johnson, Esq. is located in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
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