As my second semester as a 2L comes to a quick close, I’ve been reflecting on some of the major differences between 1L and 2L year. Needless to say, there are drastic differences between the first two years of law school. In my opinion, 2L appears to be a much better reflection of how the working world operates. Time management is critical as you often have to balance classes, journal responsibilities and extracurricular activities all at one time. Some students also choose to participate in clinics and externship opportunities which allows you to get varying amounts of class credit with no letter grade assigned. Much less of the focus of 2L is on the outcome of classes and grades and instead, gives you a much well rounded experience of the practice of law. While grades remain important and law students, as part of their nature, remain motivated and competitive, a lot of attention shifts away from grades during your 2L year and more towards the experiences that you have.
One of the major differences in your 2L year is being able to not only choose the substance of your classes but also the time when you take classes. This allows students to plan their schedules how they see fit and not be assigned class times and days as they are during their 1L years. With this flexibility, students are able to take on part-time jobs or participate in other activities outside of law school – something most students elect not to do during their 1L year. In addition, students are generally more engaged and interested in the subject matter of the courses. Student occasionally will have a background in a certain area of law which is less likely to be the case during 1L year. For instance, most law students don’t often have a background in contract or tort law but may have past experience in a human resources position that they bring to an employment law class.
Class size and dimension is also drastically different from your first year to your second year of law school. For example, just this semester, I have a class where there are only 12 students enrolled as compared to a class last semester where there were over 100 students enrolled. Professors who teach upper class courses often go away from the traditional cold call system and instead use panels or volunteer systems to generate class participation. Many professors remark that they understand how busy 2L and 3L year can be and they are much less demanding in terms of classroom participation. With this said, the reading assignments are typically much heavier than your 1L courses because you are expected to be able to comprehend and understand the material at a quicker level.
All in all, 2L year has been much different than my 1L year. I’ve learned a lot about how to manage time and what it takes to understand a lot of material in a shorter period of time. With finals on the horizon, I look forward to what my third year will bring and look forward to the anticipated differences in that year.