As the first semester of your 1L year starts rolling, you might feel a bit overwhelmed. Well, there is good news and there is bad news (the bad news is not so bad). First, the good news: exams are not until December! That means you have plenty of time to get acclimated to school and your classes before having to worry about taking exams. At this point you should be keeping up with your reading, taking copious notes in class, and paying close attention in your Lawyering class. (I know Lawyering is ungraded, but properly learning how to do legal research and writing might be the most important thing you take away from law school and will pay tremendous dividends in whatever legal career you pursue.)
Now, the bad news: you are about to foray into the mysterious and challenging world of Fascinating-and-Informative-Law-School-Distractions (or “FAILS-Ds”). In order to succeed, you need to conquer FAILS-Ds…and I am confident you can do it!
Upon entering law school, you were aware that you would be challenged by complex material, would have to study extremely hard, and might have to miss a few episodes of Duck Dynasty (ah, the sacrifices). While this is all an accurate description of law school life, there is an added element that I was very unprepared for: a veritable potpourri of potentially fascinating and informative law school distractions, or FAILS-Ds. As oxymoronic as “fascinating and informative distractions” might sound, let me explain. The Law School and student organizations do an amazing job of putting together fascinating and informative meetings, discussions, lunch panels, and the like, in order to give students exposure to different career paths and practice areas, cutting-edge scholarly work, or opportunities to help the community. Some of my most memorable moments of 1L year came from attending a few of these events—you cannot beat the opportunity to hearChen Guangcheng speak about human rights violations in China, or listen to Kenneth Feinberg ’70 give his views on compensating retired NFL players who are suffering from post-concussion syndrome.
With that being said, it is oftentimes difficult to decide which of these meetings, panels, or discussions qualify as FAILS-Ds you should attend, and FAILS-Ds you should not attend. It all comes down to time and setting your personal priorities. While these FAILS-Ds might sometimes sound as seductive as the Sirens’ song, in order to succeed as a 1L, you need to make sure that you keep your ears plugged with beeswax and remain tied to your mast more often than not (yes, I took too many Classics courses in college).
Although that upcoming panel discussion on changes in maritime law might float your boat, you need to decide whether you can actually afford to spend time attending it. Are you up-to-date on your reading? Will you be on-call tomorrow in your class? Do you need to visit a professor during office hours to ask her a question? Were you planning on starting your outlining today? These are all questions you should consider before deciding whether or not to attend a FAILS-D. And remember, there will be new and better FAILS-Ds around the corner during your 2L and 3L years, when you’ll likely have more time to attend them.
That is not to say that you should never attend one, but rather that you have to be vigilant in deciding which FAILS-Ds are worth it professionally and intellectually, and which ones you can let fall by the wayside. Might a networking event with practitioners in your field of interest take priority over briefing that one case you have left for tomorrow’s class? The answer might indeed be a resounding YES, but this is a decision that you need to make after considering your time, priorities, and the costs and benefits of choosing one over the other.
Ultimately, if you keep your eyes on the prize—a successful 1L year, however you define it—I have no doubt that you can conquer the mysterious world of FAILS-Ds.