As 1Ls proceed through their first semester, I thought it would be helpful to reiterate some general pieces of advice that I've previously offered to incoming 1Ls. While this isn't a comprehensive list, in retrospect, I wish I would have understood the importance of these tips as a young law student.
Befriend 2Ls and 3Ls
This is an underrated, but perhaps critical strategy to increase your odds of success in your 1L year. Beyond simply building personal friendships with your colleagues, 2Ls and 3Ls can provide invaluable advice about your courses, certain professors, and law school life in general. Importantly, they can also give you old outlines, which will save you time as you prepare for exams. While you’ll spend most of your time getting to know your fellow 1Ls, try to meet 2Ls and 3Ls. It may pay off in the long run.
Find some positive outlet outside of classwork
We all know how important 1L grades are. There’s this temptation to keep our heads in our books before and after class. Yet it’s absolutely critical to find some hobby or activity outside of law school—preferably something physical. Whether you play in a weekly basketball game, volunteer in your city, or do something else, you should get away from law school and do something fun. While you may think you need to stay tied to your books, stepping away will actually make it easier to concentrate when you get back to the grind.
Emphasize the fact pattern on exam questions
Going into exams, you and your classmates are going to be familiar with the most important cases and their associated rules. You may even have the same outline. While you’ll need to mention case law and associated rules on the exam, avoid the temptation to spend more time dropping doctrine and less time paying attention to the facts. What separates a high and low grade is how you play with the offered facts and how you use your case law to analyze arguments related to those facts. Don’t forget this.
There will probably come a time where you don’t know exactly what is going on in your one (or more) of your courses. To get back on track, I’d recommend buying or renting commercial treatises. For instance, I found Glannon’s Guide to Civil Procedure to be extremely helpful as I prepared for my civil procedure exam. These treatises may be expensive, but they are absolutely worth it if they can help you obtain a higher grade.