The first few weeks of law school can be intimidating and overwhelming. It’s a brand new environment. You’ve heard a bunch of horror stories. Each professor assigns reading as if you only have one class. You don’t know many other students. I can go on and on but you get the idea. Well there are a few things that you can do to make sure that you start your year off right.
1) Get to Know Your Small Group: A lot of law schools will cluster 30-90 1L’s and give them similar (if not the exact same) class schedules. Get to know the other people in your group. Over the course of the semester some will become invaluable resources for you academically and/or socially. Plus, having a few people to talk to early on helps to ease some of your anxiety and reduces lonely lunches. 🙂
Don’t have small groups? Introduce yourself to the students you sit next to in each class as well as that familiar face that seems to have a few of the same classes. Often, they want to know a few more people as much as you do.
2) Sit Where the Professor Can See You: Most professors don’t call on students any more frequently just because they are in the line of view. Sit in his or her line of view. It’s a good thing if your professor knows who you are (assuming you aren’t goofing off). Sitting in clear view will force you to pay attention more often. It also reduces the chance that you’ll have to start your request for a recommendation letter with “You may not remember me but…”
3) Take Notes: I shouldn’t have to list this but I’m frequently amazed at how many people don’t take notes. Assume that you will NOT remember what happened in class. For goodness sakes, just take notes. If your professor uses the socratic method, make sure that you include the questions asked by the professor in your notes as well. The logic behind your professor’s line of questioning may be more important than the answers. Remember that they are trying to teach you to “think like a lawyer” and your professor’s questions are a glimpse into how lawyers think.
4) Be an Active Listener: It’s really easy to space out or play around on your laptop while someone else is being grilled by your professor. However, an active listener will play along silently. Assume that you are the student in the hot seat and attempt to answer all of the questions too. Being an active listener forces you to process the information. When we listen passively, we tend to assume that we would have gotten the answer right. Unfortunately, that’s seldom true and active listening will help make that fact clear. You’ll be able to spot where you may have given a better or worse answer than the other student.