What I Wish I Knew Before Law School

Credit: JVinocur, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0, available at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:University_of_Pennsylvania_Law_School-angled.JPG

Credit: JVinocur, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0, available at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:University_of_Pennsylvania_Law_School-angled.JPG

If you ultimately decide to attend law school, you'll likely be excited, yet somewhat nervous about your new life as a law student.  These feelings are normal.  Having said this, a good way to calm your nerves is to understand some of the common trials and tribulations of 1Ls, so that you can manage your expectations as you begin this new journey.

Before I began law school at Penn, I wish I would have known about the challenge of obtaining high 1L grades in a new environment.  I knew that my 1L grades would have a large effect on my options after graduation, but I didn’t realize the difficulty of doing well in my 1L courses while simultaneously adjusting to law school.

It may be unfortunate, but law school is structured so that the stakes are highest during your first year.  Recruiters for certain jobs (particularly those from Big Law) will be using your 1L grades as a proxy as they filter through job candidates.  Because of this, your 1L grades are a large determinant of whether you are able to get a particular job, along with the reputation of your school, your experience, and any prior relationships with that employer.  If your grades are lower than expected, you’ll have to hustle, whether that’s going to networking events or sending out cold emails.

The stakes are high during your 1L year, but the situation becomes even more challenging since you’ll be making some major life adjustments.  You will meet new people, will take a deep dive into unfamiliar jargon and concepts, and perhaps will be adjusting to a new city.  You’ll feel some nerves as you experience the feeling of being grilled by a professor in class.  While all of this is going on, the looming prospect of exams will be in the back of your mind.

This is a lot to juggle, so you’ll have to be adaptable.  It’s critical to develop processes to maximize your odds of doing well on your exams, whether that’s joining a study group or devoting a certain amount of time to reading per evening.  Just understand that you’ll have to be flexible in adjusting to this change and the constant pressure throughout your 1L year.