This month we continue our focus on maintaining a positive mindset in your first year of law school. More specifically, we get into your first year mindset and how easy that can turn negative if you let it. These are some ways to refocus your mindset, even when your first year is getting to you.
- The Power of Mindset in Law School – Part 1
- The Power of Mindset in Law School – Part 2
- The Power of Mindset in Law School – Part 3
1L year is only temporary: There is something comforting to know that your 1L year is already decided for you. You will take the same classes all 1Ls take (Torts, Civil Procedure, Contracts, Property, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, and some sort of legal writing course). These classes will all likely have a final exam. You will write your legal memo and legal brief in your legal writing class. With a few exceptions, there is not much variation to this curriculumå. But your 1L year also comes with a lot of stress. The stress of learning how to read and brief a case, how to understand the legalese in these cases, how to create an outline, how to study, how to BE a law student. It also comes with the likelihood that your 1L year will include the most final exams that you will ever have to take in a one-year period in law school. And you’re doing this all in a new place, with new people, and learning new material about classes that may not be all that interesting.1Looking at you Civil Procedure. But I am here to tell you that it DOES get better.
Your 1L year will not last forever, although it may seem like it. And you will have so much to look forward to in your next two years at law school. Yes, you will have other requirements that you must fulfill in order to graduate, but you will have more control over your schedule so you can choose the classes you are interested in with the professors that you prefer. You can control (to a certain extent) the number of final exams that you have each semester by doing a mix of doctrinal classes and practical/experiential classes, which may be more project-based (ie-your grade is based on assignments you do throughout the semester rather than a final exam). You can also mix in an externship, internship, or clinic.2These may go by different names at different schools. You will even “have time”3I put this in quotes because the “not having time” issue is never really gone in law school, no matter what year you are in. You get better at being a law student, so the stress of having to read a case 6 times and look every other word up in a law dictionary is gone, but you will fill that time with plenty of other stuff, so you will never truly feel like you have enough time. to take part in some extracurricular activities like student run organizations, law review, moot court, trial teams, etc. In your upper years at law school, you really get to try everything to see what you like and don’t like. Your upper years are a great opportunity to take the time to really put some thought into choosing your classes each semester. So while you are still a 1L struggling over what the word “dictum” means in the case you just read and what the hell the Dormant Commerce Clause is, remind yourself 1L year is only temporary and you will soon get to start concentrating on what interests you and what made you come to law school in the first place, which brings me to my next point…
Don’t lose sight of WHY you came to law school: You came to law school for a reason. It was likely not to take a class in Civil Procedure or learn the Rule Against Perpetuities4Unless it was. If so, more power to you., but for some deeper reason that may be very personal to you. But it can be easy to forget this reason when you are in the thick of your 1L year. Don’t lose sight of the reason you wanted to be a lawyer. Don’t let the first year of classes which you may not be interested in stop you from learning the law and making your 2L and 3L years about what YOU want. Most of all, don’t lose that spark that made you want to change the world around you for the better when you decided to go to law school.5Or maybe you did it just to get that fancy looking “Esq.” at the end of your name. That’s ok. Don’t lose sight of that either. This is the spark that will get you through your first year and through the day/week/month that you are feeling frustrated about the law school process. So before your first day of law school classes, write the reason (or reasons) you came to law school on a bright piece of paper and tape that paper in eyeshot of you. This way, any time you are feeling the pressure and stress of law school, you can look up and remind yourself that there are bigger and better things to come!
That’s it for this month, but we will see you again next month for the exciting conclusion to this series!