It’s almost November. I have no doubt most of you are beginning to feel the acidic feeling of panic in your throat every morning when you wake up. I am here with a message for you: you are not alone, and you are going to be okay.
You know why 1L year is more nerve-wracking than the other years of law school? In my opinion, it is mainly the fear of the unknown, coupled with the pressure to succeed in the first year that is imposed by the legal recruiting schedule, that makes 1L so stressful. Here’s the thing though – here’s the thing - everyone feels like this. Even the ones that were paralegals, yes. Even the ones that are going into IP practice, yes.
Law school can be very isolating. You have to study, and that includes many hours of reading books and writing outlines, all of which you must do yourself. I think this isolation only amplifies the feelings of fear and stress that so often accompany the first semester of 1L year.
I know that there is a culture in law school of keeping quiet – we do not talk about our grades at all in law school. When it comes to jobs and internships, we speak mostly privately with our trusted friends. This derives, I think, from a culture of sensitivity to others’ private pains that come from disappointment about grades that did not meet our type-A expectations, or jobs we wanted that we did not get. Though this hush can feel a bit oppressive at times, I think you’ll find that if you make a few very close friends, you can discuss these sensitive subjects privately, and this will satisfy your desires to celebrate or commiserate.
Here’s my punchline, dear 1Ls: now is not the time to stay silent and alone. This very year is the time that you should reach out to your classmates! Want to know the best way to figure out if you’re understanding the course material? Create a study group among a few people you like – promise each other to be supportive and positive – and you will find, by completing practice exercises with your peers, that you can come to understand what aspects of your classes you already understand and what aspects you need to spend more time on. You will feel so relieved to find that, for the most part, your peers are very near where you are in your understanding of the material. Together you can come to understand more, as you help each other fill in the blanks. My friends from my 1L study group (which we named “the LOL study group” after Professor Hylton shortened “loss of enjoyment of life” to LOL in torts class one day,) are three of my very best friends now. They will be for the rest of my life.
Trust a few people. Commiserate together and work together. You will learn from each other while at the same time, you all help each other relieve the fear that comes from being alone and not knowing. Then, you will celebrate together just as we did at the end of our first semester:
Finally, I want to remind you that there are so many people here that can help you through this difficult time. BU’s behavioral health services can speak to you if you’re feeling overly stressed and want some tips on reducing that stress. If you want to talk to a friendly 3L about one of your classes, finding a summer job, etc., I am happy to speak with you. Just leave a comment on this blog with your bu email address (I have to approve them before publication, so your comment can only be seen by we BU law bloggers,) and I will email you back. We can have coffee.
With great sympathy and encouragement,