Chapter 04: The Power of Mindset in Law School – Part 3

This month we continue our focus on maintaining a positive mindset in your first year of law school. These tips discuss specific things you can proactively do while you navigate your first year, but also serve as a reminder that you are not alone on this journey. 

  1. The Power of Mindset in Law School – Part 1
  2. See last post 
  3. See last post 
  4. Go to your Academic Success Department and check in to keep yourself accountable: What’s a blog post without a little self-promotion? Go see your law school’s Academic Success Office.1Each office may have a slightly different title. They know what you’re going through. They know how you feel. They help students in the same position you are in, having the same fears you have EVERYDAY. And the best part is that this is a free resource to you. So why not use it? They are there to help you develop a study plan and prepare for exams or just to listen to some of the feelings you have in your first year. Sometimes you may just need some reassurance that what you are doing is at least going in the right direction. Your Academic Success Office can provide that, but only if you reach out. So don’t wait until it is too late in the semester to benefit from their advice. Check in with them in your first week and build a routine with them. It will make you feel a lot better, I promise.2Shameless self-promotion done!
  5. Embrace the new and uncertain: There’s no secret here, law school is a new experience for every single new 1L. No matter what you think you’re getting into, no matter how many books you read about law school, nothing will truly prepare you for the educational experience on which you are about to embark. But that’s not a bad thing. Knowing that this new experience will come with its highs and lows, uncertainty, confusion, and what seems like endless reading can help you remain calm when it starts to happen. I often describe law school as a roller coaster. It has its highs that you cherish as you sit atop them looking out at the world and its lows that seem to come fast and hard. But just like a roller coaster, if you know that drop is coming then you can innately prepare for it and it ends up being less scary than you originally feared. Knowing that law school brings on the uncertainty and self-doubt means you can prepare for it and normalize these feelings. This allows you to continue to work productively even during your lows. But if you find yourself getting stuck in those lows for too long, never feel like you’re doing this alone. Never be afraid to reach out. You know a great place to start when you want to talk about these lows? That’s right! Your Academic Success Office.3Just kidding. NOW the shameless self-promotion is done.
  6. Give yourself a planned night off to look forward to: This suggestion relates to taking a break. Give yourself something to look forward to, even if it’s something small. It makes the week go by quicker. No one is saying you have to plan a weeklong trip to Fiji4Although you may want to after your first month of law school., but give yourself something to do. When I was in law school, we had a group of us that would always plan to play wiffleball every Friday afternoon then go out for the night each week. This simple thing gave us all something to look forward to after a long, confusing week of proximate cause, personal jurisdiction, and the Dormant Commerce Clause.5Don’t worry about knowing what these topics are, you will learn. Then you will probably forget some of them. I’m not sure I even remember some of these. There’s a 45% chance I made up the term Dormant Commerce Clause. It also reenergized us for a weekend full of reading cases and writing our 1L Legal Memorandum. 
  7. Remember that every struggle and frustration is part of the learning process in law school: It is easy to get lost in the moment and the feelings that you are having at that very second. That is no different in law school. While it may seem like you don’t understand a particular Property reading for that night’s homework6Honestly, who does? and that this means you will never understand it or any other property case, this is all part of the law school learning process. It is important to remind yourself every chance you get that law school is job training. You are learning a profession that requires you to read, think, and analyze in a way that you have NEVER done before. That means you must rewire your brain and change the way it has been functioning for over 20 years in less than a semester. That’s a lot and it’s no wonder why you are stressed and constantly questioning your decision to come to law school.7I promise you that you will question your decision to come to law school. More than once. But I also promise you that it’s worth it. The frustration you’re feeling, the hours it takes to read that 7-page Property case, and the struggle you experience on your first Socratic Method cold call in Constitutional Law is all normal. It’s all part of the process. While it will still suck, at least knowing that this is not unusual goes a long way.  

Even more to come next month…

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    Meet the Author
    Stephen Iannacone is Director of Academic Success at Cardozo School of Law and a Bar Exam Coach at Vinco. Prior to joining Cardozo School of Law, Stephen was a trial attorney at the law firm of Spiegel & Barbato, LLP. He specialized in civil litigation in all New York venues and argued several appeals in the First Department. He was also an adjunct professor at Pace Law School where he taught classes to third-year students preparing for the Bar Exam as well as classes to second-year students focusing on legal writing and analysis. Read more about Stephen >