Looking Back on the First Semester of Law School

I know, it’s been far too long since my last post. For those of you in law school you probably understand why, memos and the first round of exams are virtually all-encompassing. For those of you looking into law school, you’ll soon know the plight. I thought it’d be a great idea to share some of what I learned and wished that I had known before and in hindsight of my first semester of law school.

  • Briefing cases is everything and nothing.

Sounds contradictory? Well, it kinda is. Case briefs are great, and I definitely recommend doing them all the way the first few weeks of class. By this I mean the whole model of Facts, Issues, Procedural History, Rule, etc. This makes sure you learn how to do them but you don’t have to do if you don’t need to. Within two or three weeks you’ll know what each of your professors expects from you. Some professors focus on just the facts, some just the issues, some want a little of everything. Learn early on what your professor is looking for and focus your work for class on those things. There’s no need to waste time looking up the procedural history of cases for a professor who is never going to ask about it. Remember, your cases are (usually) not on the exam, the concepts are. The work you spend on your briefs probably won’t even make it into your outline. Do what you need to do for class but don’t spend unnecessary amounts of time on it. Is it rough and embarrassing to mess up in class? Of course it is, but remember to work toward what your grade is, the final exam. If it doesn’t get you to that final exam grade don’t stress over it.

  • Exams are 100% of your grade.

As I mentioned in the last point, focus your efforts where they matter. Whether or not you’re a great orator or not, your classroom performance probably doesn’t factor into your grade. Don’t fall asleep and certainly do your best, but there’s no reason to kill yourself to look up the cases cited as footnotes in your casebook for that day’s material. Exams are where you’ll get your grade, not your ability to recite the plaintiff lawyer’s name from every case you read that semester. 

  • Attendance, while you only have to be there 80% of the time it’ll affect 100% of your grade.

 The ABA mandates that you have to be in class at least 80% of the time. I haven’t had a professor take points off for missing anything until that threshold. However, every class you do miss is that much material you’re not digesting. You’d be amazed how much you can learn by just being their while it’s being said, regardless of if you take notes. Plus, are you really going to rely on people you’re competing against for 1/5 of your course material? Think of it this way, why take a risk missing any classes you don’t absolutely have to. Any particular lecture could be the lecture that boosts you (or drops you) that 1/3 of a letter that you’ll need and/or want.

  • It’s a marathon with a final sprint.

Each semester is one long drawn out marathon and your final exam is the sprint at the very end. Don’t exhaust yourself early on in the semester. You really need to make sure you take time to recharge your batteries on a weekly basis or you’ll simply be too out of steam to perform at the end of the semester. I for one made sure I never did anything pertaining to the law on Sunday. I simply used that day to recharge. It involved waking up late and watching football with friends. 

  • Have fun.

I’m not saying law school itself is fun, but if you don’t at least enjoy some tiny aspect of something about the law during your first semester I’d highly suggest considering if it’s going to be the career path for you. My understanding is it doesn’t get any easier it’s merely that you now have an idea of what to expect.

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About Scott Goldsmith

Future Law Student preparing for Law School. Follow me on my journey.
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2 Responses to Looking Back on the First Semester of Law School

  1. Hello! I have been skimming through your blog and this post caught my attention because I will be starting law school in August. I enjoyed reading the posts that I have gotten to so far! I am following you to keep up with your blog :) I myself started a law school blog to keep track of my personal law school experience as well as to pose generalities about school for other pre-law or law students to read! Keep posting!

  2. Thanks! Looking forward to reading your posts too! If you have any questions don’t hesitate to post them here or tweet at me on twitter.

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