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Managing The Hectic Pace Of First Year At law School

published March 01, 2013

By Harrison Barnes, CEO and Founder - BCG Attorney Search left
( 3 votes, average: 4.8 out of 5)
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The first year of law school, especially the first semester of 1L, can be one of the most thought-provoking yet mystifying, exciting yet exasperating, and eventually fulfilling times in your life. If you keep up with the hectic pace that the professors will set, you'll manage fine but if you allow the feelings of trepidation and confusion to take hold it's easy to fall behind in your assignments and your classmates.

Writing Assignments:

Basically every course in law school has extensive writing requirements. You must briefcases for all of your classes and many classes entail written projects as well. In addition to daily demonstrations of legal writing proficiency, at the completion of each course you must be able to present your written analysis of the many fact problems, which are presented as the class final, under a rigorously timed format.

While all classes do have significant writing requirements, there are some courses that are totally dedicated to improving your writing abilities. During the first year of law school you are introduced to some sort of legal research and writing course. In this class, you will learn to efficiently use the law library as a research tool and then utilize that knowledge to clearly present your findings in a standardized legal format. This course is often combined with an opportunity to orally argue your research and class writings in a moot court proceeding.

Reading Assignments:

You must expect a reading assignment for the first day of class, but then you will discover that the professor no longer provides specific reading assignments for upcoming class periods because he or she is assuming that you will have read far enough ahead to be able to participate in whatever class discussions occur on a given day. On some occasions you will only cover one case in class; other days you will cover fifty or more pages. How then will you know how much of the text to have read and briefed for a given class? You will never know for sure, but you soon develop a feel for how fast a professor progresses through the text on a day-to-day basis. After a while, you will feel comfortable with having prepared at least, for example, fifty pages of the text for a given day.

This does not imply, however, that you will be prepared in all circumstances. The day will come when a professor decides that this is the day he or she will make up for prior classes when too little material was covered. The professor will then launch into the cases and pass the student's level of preparation within the first half hour of class. In one particular law school class, after fifty pages were covered in the first half hour, each and every student called upon, explained that he or she had not prepared that far in advance. This caused the professor to recognize that he could not cover twice the usual material, and have the students be prepared, without some sort of advance warning. A student will not always be correct in his or her estimate of how many pages will be covered in class but can closely approximate the progress and then act accordingly.

Keep up with your reading assignments. It means that you realize its value and that you are putting in the effort to ensure that you don't lag behind. Moreover, keeping up with reading will allow grappling with new materials and keeping you abreast of areas that may come in handy when the exams come near - inadvertently your reading is preparing you for the examinations. Just by reading your assignments your angst levels will decrease.

Class Assignments:

It is common to hear undergraduates complain that each teacher seems to think that his or her class is the only one that students are taking and assigns extensive projects accordingly. This is a feeling common to law students as well. Each law professor has the task of teaching an enormous amount of law, in a short period of time, to a group of students who must understand the material well enough not only to receive a good grade in that class, but to pass a difficult state examination based upon that same information base as well. In order to accomplish this task, the professor realizes that student efforts made during class time are not going to be enough to gain a full under-standing of the material presented; therefore, outside class assignments are also made. It's not difficult to estimate what assignments are possible for a given class.

In Contracts class you will probably be responsible for the creation of a contract or two; in Civil Procedure you will likely complete a complaint or draft an answer. All of these projects are designed to better educate students in a practical "real-world" way; thus, students should readily engage in such activities, which reflect the work attorneys perform on an everyday basis.

Study Groups:

It is recommended that students form study groups, if possible, to share ideas about doing the class assignments and to discuss with another their understanding of the prescribed reading and writing and other assignments.

Two heads are better than one"-certainly applies to law school. Everyone has something to contribute to the learning experience. However, two things must be guarded against: One person must not be allowed to monopolize the group's time for the purpose of sorting his or her thoughts out orally. Also, the study group's time must be spent in the study of law, not visiting and discussing nonrelated topics. Use the group time wisely and try to meet on a regular basis so that members can plan ahead to attend.

A study group, if properly handled, can be the greatest learning adventure of the entire law school experience. Students can play the devil's advocate-one representing the plaintiff, the other the defendant. Students can also quiz each other about questions they feel the professor will ask. There's nothing like going to class and beating the professor at his or her own game! In fact, if you're always prepared, you just might be the one the professor always calls on for class participation.

Law school is an amazingly matchless experience. Sometimes you will feel gifted and hugely competent for understanding and comprehending such difficult material and reading all thousand and more pages of your thick casebook. At other times, you will find yourself on an immersed in a gamut of emotions of self-doubt, insecurity and doubt. But if you keep at it, you will find your own furrow and figure out what works best for you. Just don't give up easily.

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Alternative Summary

Harrison is the founder of BCG Attorney Search and several companies in the legal employment space that collectively gets thousands of attorneys jobs each year. Harrison’s writings about attorney careers and placement attract millions of reads each year. Harrison is widely considered the most successful recruiter in the United States and personally places multiple attorneys most weeks. His articles on legal search and placement are read by attorneys, law students and others millions of times per year.

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