The National Jurist - Back to School 2017 - 20
Friends and study groups
Find your people. Getting to know people
and developing allies in law school can be a
trial-and-error process, as Monahan found
"It's always a little hard as a grown-up to
find friends," she said.
This starts with something that seems
simple enough: finding people who are
kind and who make you feel better about
yourself, life and school.
You may end up surprised.
"People who looked terrible on paper
turned out to be great friends and allies,"
Monahan writes on The Girl's Guide to
Law School. "Classmates whose political
views make my blood curdle ended up
being my people. You never know, so it pays
to keep an open mind."
Tiffany, your Secret Service detail could
pose another obstacle to making friends.
Maybe you can see if they'll back off, just
"Classmates whose political views make my blood
curdle ended up being my people. You never know,
so it pays to keep an open mind."
Cliques form early, whether they be of
the academic study group variety or social
support networks. You need to start looking
for friends quickly so you're not shut out of
"I think it's important for her classmates to understand she's her own person,"
Rapoport said about Tiffany. "She's not her
family, and she's experiencing the same law
school they're experiencing, and they should
be kind to her."
You never know where your classmates
will end up in 30 years, or who and what
What to expect in your first semester
Your first few weeks of law school will
be a blur, said Andrew McClurg, author
of "1L of a Ride: A Well-traveled
Professor's Roadmap to Success in the First Year
of Law School."
Make sure you go to all your classes, and
get there on time. Be prepared to feel overwhelmed.
"The flow of a law school class is that we're
more strict at the beginning, then professors
get more easygoing as the semester goes on,"
McClurg said. "It's impossible to go the other
way. You can't start off nice, then turn into a
Your classwork is probably starting to
speed up now, with harder material
being covered faster than before.
Your legal writing assignments are also
going to consume a lot more time than you
expected. Don't procrastinate.
Between seven and 10 weeks, you'll likely
hit a wall. McClurg says you'll feel as if you've
been run over by a steamroller. Professors don't
give you much feedback, and if they do, it's not
all positive. It's important to fight through this.
"Remember, this too shall pass,"
he said. "Take it day by day. It's a
marathon, not a sprint."
Consistency in your schoolwork will
help set you apart from your classmates as the end of the semester nears. Keep
reading, briefing and outlining.
Don't be pressured to participate in a lot
of extra activities. Stay focused on studies,
because first-year grades are disproportionately
important. Activities will still be there in your
second and third years.
Now's the time to start thinking about your
future. Meet with a career counselor to plan out
your summer and beyond, and develop a legal
You can start applying for summer
legal jobs, but first concentrate on
exams. Since doing well in your classes is of
the utmost importance, you may consider waiting until after finals to begin your job search,
recommends the National Association for Law
The NaTioNal JurisT
Back to School 2017
Joining study groups is popular, and
there can be a lot of pressure to join one.
But it should be an individual decision. If
you learn best by discussing ideas, then go
for it. If you prefer reading in a quiet room,
a study group may not be the best use of
Be clear with yourself about what's going
to be helpful.
"Make sure the people you're with
approach things the same way you do,"
Some groups may want to meet once a
week; others may want to meet four times
a week. Some may want to do a lot of practice exams; others may want to have more
discussions. The one that is a waste of time?
The group that gossips.
Pay attention to the students in your
classes to figure out who has strengths in
which areas. You can use this to your advantage when trying to form a study group, or
you can find a study partner for a specific
Law school can't be all work and no play.
It may seem counterintuitive, but taking
some scheduled time off will help you focus
better when you're studying.
You've probably heard it before: Exercise,
eat well, get enough sleep. There's a reason
the experts always stress these healthy habits: They work. If you burn out, you'll get
sick, and then you'll fall behind. Then, it
becomes close to impossible to catch up.
McClurg, who devotes a chapter in his
book to maintaining well-being, also advises
readers to be careful about alcohol abuse,
which is prevalent among law students and
lawyers. Get help if you need it.
And keep your hobby. Maybe it's hiking,
or disc golf, or playing guitar, or getting
"Get serious about your self-care, whatever that means for you," Monahan said.
"Whatever it is, it's valid, but be intentional
about how you're spending your time." n