How to Survive and Thrive First Year of Law School

"COLLEGE IS COLLEGIAL; it’s right there in the name. Students have plenty of time to socialize, explore and acclimate. Many college students spend their first year just learning the ropes.

In law school, however, the first year – called 1L – is most critical. The curriculum and teaching methods are established. Most classes are large, intimidating lectures. Professors typically base their grades on final exams graded blindly using a fixed curve, with percentage quotas for each grade. And 1L grades are a key factor in determining summer positions, future job opportunities, eligibility for law review and transfer applications.

Even if not as cutthroat as in the past, 1L year is a high-pressure setting – like legal practice itself. To succeed in this daunting environment, first-year students should:

  • Narrow your focus
  • Annotate readings
  • Use study aids
  • Attend office hours
  • Join an extracurricular activity
  • Narrow Your Focus

Liberal arts colleges reward broad-mindedness, and many students end up majoring in a subject for which they had little previous inclination. Law school is a professional school meant to prepare you for a career. Students who choose and pursue clear career goals get the most out of the opportunities and resources provided." …

Disagree that a first year law student should “narrow his or her focus”. All first year courses are important. And all first year courses are designed to encourage law students to think in an analytical fashion.

Nevertheless, it is reasonable advice that a law student narrow his or her focus by selecting appropriate courses and activities during one’s second and third year of law school. Reasonable, but not necessary as most courses taken during the three years of law school may be areas tested on bar exams. Also, most large law firms prefer brainpower & intellectual horsepower and a strong work ethic over specific knowledge. (Lateral hires–experienced attorneys–are granted interviews based on familiarity with specific practice areas, however.)