As a 1L, I had heard that 1L and 2L are vastly different. Having experienced a semester as a 2L now, I can understand this opinion. However, there are other ways in which these years compare more than I had expected.
1L year is obviously unique in that you are handed a schedule of bar prescribed classes that you must take in order to complete law school. You travel everywhere with your section. 2L is obviously quite unlike this because of the greater degree of control you have over your schedule. You have many classes to select from, from large lectures to small seminars to clinics and externships. So not only do you have control over the classes you take, you have the opportunity to spend less time in large lectures and more time in seminars.
My 2L year started off quite similarly to 1L in some ways. I registered for corporations and tax, which were especially similar to my 1L lectures. Aside from breaking apart from a section, the classes were quite like what I had experienced my first year. There were, however, some significant differences.
The most significant difference between 1L and 2L is the fact that journal begins. Joining the Review of Banking and Financial Law meant enrolling in a required class related to banking and financial law. Journal also involves assignments, such as checking sources and editing footnotes of articles that are submitted to the journal by professors and other professionals. Finally, journal involves a great deal of writing and research. During first semester, I have been researching a note topic in preparation of writing my own note. Overall, journal throws occasional twists and turns in your schedule and involves ongoing projects. This is vastly different from 1L, which had a fairly predictable schedule.
Another difference between 1L and 2L is the overlap with the summer job search. The 2L summer job search starts nearly a year in advance, so the job search begins before 2L classes commence. Needless to say, job applications may continue to be on the list of things to do right alongside homework as the semester progresses. The 2L job search can also be lengthier than the 1L job search, which was confined more or less to second semester.
A final difference is the opportunity to get more involved in leadership positions. This is a great way to take on some additional responsibilities and expand your experience. I applied to be a writing fellow and have been working with 1L students in the writing program. This has added additional variety to my 2L year. It has also given me the opportunity to challenge myself and improve my own writing.
In sum, 1L and 2L year can be quite similar if you choose to take similar lecture-style classes. However, if you choose to take other types of classes, add moot court or journal, serve as a TA or writing fellow, the years quickly become quite different from one another. As with many aspects of law school, 2L is exactly what you make it. These types of flexibility set 2L apart from 1L.