The 1L Bucket List: what to do during your first year of law school

If you’re about to start law school, you probably only have one goal: to graduate with a high GPA and a job offer. But law school, specifically 1L year, is like no other experience. And while doing well during your 1L year is a huge factor in securing a successful legal professional future, it’s not the only goal you should have.

Your upcoming law school experience is so much more than a potential GPA. It opens a door to lifelong friendships. It gives you a network of valuable professional relationships and meaningful experiences. It can even be an opportunity to help others. At the end of the day, law school is an experience that will shape who you are as a person. With that in mind, here are a few things we feel should be included in your 1L Bucket List.

Participate in a Pubilc Interest Clinic

While your first semester of law school will require the most attention, your second semester and beyond could include a Public Interest Clinic. Many law schools have programs for students to gain practical experience under the supervision of upperclassmen and law school professors. These clinics offer pro-bono legal services to clients in the local community. Many of these clinics are open to 1L students and provide an opportunity to get real work experience, while also helping those in need.

For example, Cornell offers a 1L Immigration and Advocacy Clinic. “The 1L Immigration Law and Advocacy clinic is designed to provide first-year law students with the experience of counseling clients on immigration cases, performing research and writing for real cases, and engaging in community advocacy on emerging immigration issues.”

Participating in a clinic gives you the opportunity to give back to your community, gain real-life legal experience, and add to your professional network. You can find a list of Public Interest Clinics here.

Make friends with your classmates

While it’s true that your classmates are your competition in law school, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be friends with them. Not only are they going to be the only people in your life who know exactly what you’re going through, they’re also the people you might be working with one day.

Your law school classmates will be part of part of your professional network. Your legal career requires a good reputation: you want the people you’re working with to like and respect you.

More importantly than this, your classmates are going through this unique experience with you. Like you, they know the time and energy that 1L year is going to require. Making friends in law school means you have people you can study with, go over complicated cases with, go for coffee breaks with, and so much more. You can read more about why making friends in law school is so important here.

Practice self care whenever possible

Your first year of law school is a sprint and it’s going to push you mentally. With 1L grades being the most important grades in law school, there’s no doubt you’re going to experience a high amount of stress during 1L year. Knowing this, it’s important to practice self-care whenever possible throughout your first year of law school.

When creating your schedule, make sure you’re making time for things that help you de-stress. Whether it’s going for a walk in the park, exercising, grabbing coffee with a friend, or taking a yoga class, make time for the things that bring you happiness. Scheduling time for these things can actually improve your 1L performance because it helps prevent academic burnout!

You can read more about the importance of self-care during 1L year here.

Crush a cold call

Cold calling (AKA, the Socratic Method), is used by most law professors to help students learn how to use critical thinking skills to analyze cases. The professor will call on students individually (sometimes at random), and ask them to summarize the case. They will also follow up with a series of questions surrounding the case.

While this sounds intense and it might make you feel nervous, there are things you can do to make sure you’re ready to crush the cold call. Ultimately, the best way to prepare for a cold call is to make sure you’re always prepared for class. Make sure you’re reading the assigned cases and outlining each case (case briefing). Having your case brief in front of you is like having a “cheat sheet” for when you get called on.

And, of course, get good grades

Your 1L grades are the most important grades: they determine your class rank, awarded honors, as well as offers for summer employment. Firms that hire for summer employment often hire law school graduates who worked with them during law school. With this in mind, it’s incredibly important to finish 1L year with a high GPA.

One of the best things you can do to make sure you do well during your first year of law school is to make sure you’re prepared before you step foot in a law school classroom. The Law Preview course is designed to do just that. It gives students an understanding of core 1L material and the skills they need to get to the top of the class.  

Law Preview gives students a competitive advantage by giving them an in-depth introduction to core 1L courses before day one. It teaches students how to brief actual cases and helps them learn proven exam-taking strategies from top law school professors. The course also gives students access to resources like best-selling study-aids and study schedules.

Take the first step toward the top of the class today.

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