A couple days ago, a colleague posted on our 1L class’s old Facebook group (still very active, even though we are all now jaded 2.5Ls). She was asking a question on behalf of a friend, and it’s one of those questions that gets lobbed my way more than I perhaps would prefer: “What is the one thing you wish someone had told you before beginning your 1L year at NYU?”
Notwithstanding the fact that the first poster replied, within moments, and I quote, “RUN AWAY,” the thread actually became a sort of constructive brainstorm on the part of 90 people who had suddenly found themselves halfway done with law school. So here below I reproduce some of the gems of the conversation. Many thanks to my peers for being so awesome and essentially writing this post for me.
“You are no longer the biggest fish in the pond, so be humble and soak in all you can from the amazing peers around you. That said, you are also not the smallest fish in the pond – don’t lose your confidence in yourself, sense of self-worth, etc.”
I will never forget sitting in orientation as some assistant dean for something or another calmly explained that we were all in the top five, 10 percent of our LSAT and undergrad cohorts, but that the curve dictated that 90 percent of us couldn’t be in the top 10 percent here. But NYU really does provide you with amazing peers, and I find myself challenged by them to become not just a better law student or lawyer or whatever, but (in a weird way) a generally better person. That’s something pretty cool to say for a trade school.
“Bareburger has a student discount.”
Bareburger is delicious. Not all advice has to be deep.
“Ask smart older students (e.g., TAs) questions about how to read, how to study, how to take exams, how to interview, etc. Ignore their tips that seem like they won’t work for you, but take to heart the ones that you think will be useful.”
Two important points here. First, 2Ls and 3Ls exist, were 1Ls once, and most likely enjoy hearing themselves talk (we’re in law school, after all). Use them. The best advice I got my 1L year came from my Contracts TA, and some of my best friends in law school period are upperclassmen. Second, feel free to ignore their advice once you solicit it. You got to law school based on your own set of study habits. While law school exams are certainly terrible and awful and completely different from anything else you’ve done, don’t fall all over yourself to reinvent your academic wheel just because that PILC mentor (or, God forbid, some stupid book like Law School Confidential) says you’re doing it wrong. Seek advice from people who can give it, but remember you’re not completely helpless yourself. Besides:
“Chill out. You’re going to NYU so you will probably get a job. Just don’t let the mass stress orgy drive you crazy.”
I agree. I would, however, be remiss not to point out that this post triggered an entire subthread discussing job placement, the legal market, and the worthiness of the law school investment. That’s another post for another day, but in my opinion the statistics speak for themselves.
“1L is not unlike basic training, both in that it’s grueling and you will not get through it alone. Sometimes, the only people who will truly appreciate the unique and special torture that is your Admin reading assignment and the utter unfairness of life will be in your section. So get to know them. As, like, individuals. Because the odds are good that they’re pretty interesting, and it’s a near certainty that they will commiserate with you (and lend you notes). What I mean is, NYU does pretty well in the “Don’t be a Dick” Dept. Appreciate and respect this.”
I don’t really have anything to say to this other than:
Also, Admin reading really is torture. Sorry, current 1Ls. I feel your pain.
“Get eight hours of sleep every night. The specifics of any one case don’t matter nearly as much as being conscious and healthy during the day.”
As someone whose standard academic year sleep schedule is often hilariously, hopelessy ruined (I’m talking 4:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. with a 7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. nap sort of ruined), this is advice I both agree with and find incredibly difficult to follow. This is often because I am following the next piece of advice:
“Do some fun things. You’ll meet some people who are actually pretty cool.”
This last one, however, was by far my favorite – and, I think, the most important piece of advice a prospective student can receive.
“Know why you’re going to law school. Write it down on an 8.5″ x 11″ sheet of paper and tape it over your desk, inside your locker, etc. There are going to be days when the stress, frustration and uncertainty will drive you insane and you are going to need some tangible reminder of why you decided to do this. If you can’t think of something to write on that paper (and I would strongly suggest that it not be a particular starting salary), then for the love of all that is good and holy do NOT go to law school.”
Consistently, I find the most interesting people in law school are the ones who have something to write on that proverbial piece of paper. It doesn’t need to be “I will feed the hungry” or “I will BE JUSTICE” or some similarly pat sentiment, nor does it have to be “I will be <job title> in <number of> years.” But it also probably shouldn’t be “I have a liberal arts degree and I like reading and 160K sounds nice so #YOLO.” Do it because you want it, and the rest (I’ve found) largely takes care of itself.