An Insider's Guide to Law School: 3L

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By the time your third year rolls around, whatever terror accompanied 1L courses will be a distant memory. ''Expect to be challenged, not tortured'' in your last year, says Heather Parker, a 2000 graduate of The John Marshall Law School in Atlanta. ''You can absorb information much more easily and rapidly.''

You may find that the real difficulty lies not in staying up to speed in your classes, but in simply staying motivated. If your 2L summer went as planned, you will probably have your post-graduation job lined up already. As long as you don't flunk out, your offer is safe. So unless you're in the running for a degree with honors (and you care about making it), grades are just as irrelevant as they were during the spring of your senior year in high school.

Since the pressure is off, you finally have the opportunity to study what you like and to learn for learning's sake. ''You are going to learn what you need to know for the bar when you take the [bar review] class over the summer, so choose classes that truly interest you and that you have wanted to take since you got to school,'' says an NYU 3L. Chances are, this is it for your academic career, so don't miss the chance to try a course in a new field.

If you'd rather not use this year to catch up on sleep, focus on extracurriculars. ''I've worked more this year than I have in years past, but that is entirely because of my activities,'' explains David Bigge, a Harvard 3L.

While extracurriculars may become more intense as graduation approaches, you may also find that the nature of the work changes in positive ways. 3Ls usually run the show at journals, so 2Ls are stuck with the scut work. Take the opportunity to develop your leadership skills, and mentor 2Ls as they learn the ropes at your organization.

If you end up without a tempting offer after your 2L summer, the job hunt will dominate your 3L experience. ''The earlier you find a job, the less hectic third year will be,'' says Kevin Willen, a 3L at the Washington College of Law at American University. Even if you have an offer from a firm, you might want to defer it to apply for a public-interest fellowship or other special program. ''Looking for jobs didn't help [make third year any easier],'' says Bigge, who explored public-service options despite having an offer from a prestigious firm. ''I tried (and failed) to get a fellowship; that was very busy and stressful.''

If your school provides services to make the process easier, take advantage of whatever help is available. ''Be sure to make use of all that your school has to offer in the way of career services and mock-interviewing sessions,'' Parker recommends.

Tip: Since personal contacts are key to finding jobs outside of the organized interview process, attend as many networking events as possible.

Remember that your first job is only that—a first job—and that greater opportunities may present themselves after you've spent a year in the market.

Bar Prep
Although the bar exam isn't until late July, you'll probably take one part of it before you graduate—the professional responsibility exam. Depending on the state, over the summer you will take some combination of the multistate bar exam, a state essay exam, and a performance exam. For more information, check out our article Behind the Bar.

You can sign up for a bar exam review class any time (doing it early often allows you to lock in a low price), but try to do so by spring of your third year. The class runs from May through July, wrapping up just before the test date. Popular courses include Bar-Bri and PMBR.

Tip: Sign up for a review class as early as possible to lock in a low price.

Saying Goodbye
While most 3Ls say that they feel ready to move on, they also encourage their 2L counterparts to enjoy the freedom of their last year in school. ''Take advantage of it, make plans to see people you don't always get to see, explore the city you live in, pursue any hobbies or things you have been wanting to try—because your schedule will never be this flexible again,'' advises an NYU 3L. You may also feel that your final year is whizzing by much more quickly than the previous two. ''I did actually start to see the light at the end of the tunnel,'' Parker agrees. ''Your third year will be over before you know it.''

After three years of bonding with your classmates, saying goodbye may be one of the roughest challenges of the last year. ''I have met lots of great people at law school, and many of them are good friends that I will miss,'' says Robert Wolinsky, a Harvard 3L. Hopefully, you'll feel the same way about your class after you've been scared, worked, and bored to death together. Try to stay in touch with your classmates after graduation; after all, no one else will truly understand what you've been through.

The John Marshall Law School


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