Reflections from a 3L: what I wish I knew as a 1L

I’ve wanted to be a lawyer since I was ten years old. I took mock trial in high school, loved it, and excelled in our state competition. I took a job in a local law office and delved into the minutiae of running a three-attorney firm, from certified mail to calling the local courthouse. I went to college angling to end up in law school: majored in a field that would hone critical thinking skills, researched and wrote papers which I presented at national conferences, joined college mock trial, and put in all the legwork to keep my GPA up. And even when it was time to send in to my deposit to BU, after years of knowing I wanted to become a lawyer, I still didn’t really have any idea what I was getting myself into.

I don’t think that anyone who hasn’t been to law school can properly understand what it’s like to actually be in law school. Law school is an insular yet shared experience all at once: everyone experiences their life inside the law school bubble uniquely, yet shares this unique process with classmates all the same. When it comes to reflecting upon the past three years, having gained this experience in such a hard-fought and hard-won way, I’ve thought about what I would tell a college student in my shoes about each of the three years. I’ve tried to sum it up, hoping that someone like past-me might stumble across this blog some day and find it useful.

1L Year

1L year is going to be a rollercoaster. You’re going to walk in and have no idea what’s going on, how to do the work, or even what some of the terms and phrases mean. It’s a steeplearning curve, academically and culturally. But the good thing is that you’re here to learn, and you presumably like to learn and want to learn. It’s going to be a bumpy ride, but you’ll get the hang of it. You’ll learn how to brief a case (the good way, pulling out the important bits and ignoring what you don’t need). You’ll learn what an outline is, what the Bluebook is, and why footnotes are a pain in the butt. You’ll learn how to write like a lawyer, how to read like a lawyer, how to listen like a lawyer. It’s hard work, and you may not feel great about it the majority of the time. But it’s so very important to always keep going, and never give up on why you came to law school. You’re going to have a lot of information thrown at you from a lot of sources. Try to make sure you’re paying attention to the good stuff. Don’t get caught up in comparing yourself to your classmates. Don’t be afraid to make adjustments between semesters and let go of what isn’t working for you. Be nice to everyone, and try to meet 2Ls and 3Ls—they’re going to be invaluable. Keep going, remain positive, and know that it’s okay if you don’t feel invigorated by the material. You’re learning the backbone of the law, and for most people, there’s only a little bit of this backbone stuff that’s interesting. Push through always, and you’re going to be rewarded during 2L and 3L when you get to take classes you want to take—and it’s then that you’ll feel that spark of learning the law.

2L Year

Ok, so I know everyone told you 1L year is the hardest. I think that’s a lie, and every year is going to be hard in its own way. I don’t want to freak you out, because 2L year is more fun, too. It’s just a heck of a lot of work, so be prepared to be really disciplined. It might be easier to be disciplined, though, when you realize you’re getting to take courses that you enjoy a whole lot. Your love for learning is going to come back, and it’s going to feel amazing. You’re going to feel it when you’re in the class you had been waiting for all of 1L year. You’re going to feel it when you take a chance on that random seminar and feel invigorated by the class discussion. You’re going to feel it when you’re  presenting your argument in front of the bench during moot court, or leading a panel you put together from scratch through your affinity group. You’re going to cultivate it through relationships with superstar professors who do amazing work in the field you are fascinated by. You’re going to foster it through clinics and externships where you finally get a chance to see what this all looks like in the real world and not just in case briefs and outlines. And all of those moments are going to be really important, because you’re probably going to have a lot of not-so-amazing-moments too: when you’re up doing a tech check for journal until 2am; when you’re frantically hoping your note isn’t pre-empted and running to the librarians in a panic; when you’re sludging through readings for a class you know you need but don’t love. But at this point, you know how to make all of this work. You know you can make it through the readings you don’t love and the outline that takes forever. You’ve done this, and you’ll do it again.

3L Year

It’s hard to believe it, but your law school career is already winding down. You’re going to be a little burnt out—you’ve been running at a pretty fast pace for two years now. But don’t let that prevent you from giving your all this year. It’s your last year, and making the most of it means a lot of different things. It means taking that externship you’ve been interested in, regardless of whether it furthers your career prospects. It means going to class and being present, realizing that this is the last year you get to learn from these incredible professors. It means going to bar review, too, and making more free time available to spend with friends, knowing that some of them will be flung all across the world come next October. It means taking that leadership role in journal or doing that moot court competition or picking up that RA job because, well, these things are invaluable in offering a different way of learning than just classrooms and homework. It means being confident in your abilities: you’ve come this far! But also remaining humble and mindful of all that you have left to learn. And at the end of the year, it means being proud of your accomplishments and how you’ve handled every challenge and success. It means soaking it all in and understanding that you’ve done it: you’ve earned the finisher’s medal from one of the craziest marathons out there, and you’ve gained knowledge and friendships and access to this weird world of law along the way.

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