One of my best friends just started law school at NYU. Sean Aasen, another Life at NYU Law blogger, gave great advice on what to do the summer before you start law school (Hint: it doesn’t involve any cramming.) Below is a summary of the advice I gave my friend for the first year (edited for language, of course).
1. Pretend you’re going to be a better student than you really will be. Start the semester by briefing every case, going to office hours and thinking about the law, 24/7. No one keeps that up all semester, but it’s nice to make believe you will.
2. Don’t be a gunner. In law school, people who constantly raise their hand are called “gunners,” referring to their delightful habit of shotgunning their hand up when the teacher asks a question. Everyone in your law school class is a smart, interesting person, with well-developed thoughts. He/she will not benefit from hearing every word that comes from your precious lips.
3. Don’t freak out about exams until November. Law school is pretty stressful. No matter how well you understand the material, the fact is that your grade and numerical ranking among classmates will come down to one high-stakes exam in December, where qualities like “types faster than Mavis Beacon” are much more important than “understands the parol evidence rule better than Christopher Columbus Langdell.” That fact by itself should stop you from freaking out entirely, but it probably won’t. You’ve been successful your entire life by worrying about academics, and that won’t change now. Just try to limit the meltdowns to when they might actually help.
4. Have a life outside school. Even huge law nerds need a break (speaking from experience). Find time to watch movies, tv shows where no one shouts out objection (two of which I will sorely miss), and just relax. Join a flag football team, and make sure they actually show up to games (my career flag football record is 4-3 with 9 forfeits.)
5. Think of a good Fall Ball Halloween costume. Don’t wear the costume in the news: My 1L year was a week before the 2008 presidential election, and there were 449 1L’s dressed as Sarah Palin (that year, I went costumeless.) To any 1L’s reading this, know that everyone else has already thought of your “awesome and original” idea of being Christine O’Donnell, The Situation, or Katy Perry.
Last year, my friend wore an exercise suit and a handcuff on one hand, as the “Free Exercise Clause.” Suffice to say, she was the only one wearing that. Personally, I like splicing two totally different ideas together: last year I was Zombie Abe Lincoln. I think vampires are overplayed, so to stay a year ahead of the monster trend, I’m thinking about going as Troll Woodrow Wilson.
Or do you think a Wizard Troll Wilson would be better?
If you follow these five simple steps, you will succeed at law school, and probably, life. You won’t always drink beer, but when you do, you will prefer Dos Equis.