I know absolutely nothing about law school.
Okay, that’s technically a lie. As of August 29, 2011, I know a teeny, tiny bit about law school – because I just experienced 1L Orientation. Here’s my top five take-away lessons from the first week of my new life as a law student.
1. Find, join, and pay attention to the Facebook group.
I know, I know. In this age of social media, it seems to go without saying that there’d be a Facebook group – alas! I didn’t find it until the week before I left for New York City. And I wish I’d found it earlier. Almost two-thirds of the class was there swapping stories, advice, and concerns throughout the summer, and a lot of the questions I found myself obsessing over in mid-June had been addressed and answered (sometimes exhaustively) in said forum.
Registrar problem? More than likely someone else is experiencing it too. Question about housing? Look here first. Looking for roommates? The NYU Class of 2014 Group may as well have been Craigslist. And as an added bonus, SBA President Scott Goins showed up to answer questions and keep us entertained with his rapier wit.
2. Get here early.
Whether you’re living on your own or taking advantage of one of NYU Law’s on-campus housing options (as I am), it’s seriously worth considering getting here a week before orientation. For those of you who will decide to live in an on-campus apartment building, that’s as easy as filling out an Early Arrival form in the early summer.
Why get here early, you ask? As I quickly discovered, Orientation doesn’t gently ease you into the law school life. You’re “all systems go” from the first day with a schedule jammed from morning till evening, Lawyering assignments, and the monumental task of establishing friendships before everyone starts burying themselves in books. You need time to set yourself up, and that time isn’t readily available once Orientation begins.
I used my free days to find a grocery store, a bank, a good restaurant or two, a good bar or three (there’s a few to choose from…), and those other essential places that I knew I wouldn’t have time to find later. More importantly, I was able to introduce myself to a small corner of New York City – it’s going to be home for the next three years. Might as well get acquainted.
3. Stay flexible.
Helmuth von Moltke famously said, “No plan survives contact with the adversary.” I’m not saying law school is my “adversary,” per se…more a friendly rival. And while I thought I had all my ducks in a row to arrive in New York City, move in, and get settled…well, some small hiccups cropped up. I’m a Type-A (surprise?) sort of guy, so said hiccups (What do you mean, you don’t have my loan paperwork?) were about as welcome as a defendant’s jurisdictional objection after the start of a trial. (Legal humor. I’m working on it. Cut me some slack, guys, it’s Day 2.)
NYU Law’s professional and administrative staff helped alleviate some of the panic. They’re accessible, friendly, and much more effective at fixing problems than my default strategy of cursing viciously at the computer screen. They were an excellent resource, and helped me deal with unexpected plan changes.
4. Actively participate in Orientation.
It seems to go without saying, but I’m saying it anyway. Participate in the Orientation activities. How many other times will you have the opportunity to watch a moot court presided over by three chief judges (and then ask those judges questions)? Or listen to a panel of faculty share war stories from the classroom? Or watch faculty members at said panel suddenly erupt into an impromptu debate over workplace diversity, causing the moderator (another professor, I might add) to literally throw his hands up in frustration?
Also, all Orientation activities are mandatory. So there’s that.
5. Remember to have fun!
When you arrive at NYU, you’ll probably go pick up your textbooks. After weeping over the price tag, you’ll bring them back to your apartment, unwrap them, and set them out – maybe on a desk right next to your bed, where you can see them every second of every moment you’re in your room.
Shortly thereafter, your professors will start emailing you syllabi, first assignments, and reminders about the first day of class. The question will immediately present itself: do I start reading now?
No. I mean…yes, yes, have those assignments read thoroughly before the first day of class. But every night of this past week, there have been impromptu dinners, room parties, outings to Greenwich Village eateries and bars, and a massive SBA-hosted shindig to attend. While a full-court press of available social events isn’t necessary (and would probably be bad for your wallet…and liver), some of the most important moments of Orientation for me came from leaving the books behind, going out, and meeting some of these incredible people I have the privilege of spending the next three years with.
Besides…I have a feeling the books and I will have plenty of time to get to know each other.
BONUS TIP: Brush up on your hurricane survival skills. As our class discovered this year, you’ll never know when they’ll come in handy!