We’re excited to introduce you to our new intern, Cara Defilippis. Cara just finished her first year at the University of San Francisco School of Law, and she’s going to be sharing her experience — and what she learned — with you this summer. Give her a warm welcome!
There are many things the first-year law student should aim to keep in mind throughout the year. Unfortunately for this student, keeping anything in mind beyond a day’s work is difficult, if not seemingly impossible.
We are in uncharted territory, fielding an unrelenting workload, and sometimes the only way to make it all seem manageable is by doing two things:
- living one-day-at-a-time
- adopting mainstream approaches to your first year.
However, these choices can have the harmful effect of clouding the Big Picture: success on exam day.
What I Did First Semester
I worked hard my first semester. I posted up in the law library, read and briefed all the cases, used all of the approved highlighter colors, and my social life dwindled to next-to-nothing — a pretty typical experience.
In truth, I had developed tunnel vision to the extent that I did not really think about exams until classes had ended and reading period began.
I soon figured out that the way I had navigated my first semester of law school had not left me well prepared for testing, and that the evaluation of my first-semester choices was left to a single letter grade.
Knowing the way the curve is thrown, I assure you, my story is not atypical if not the norm. Dissatisfaction is common within a class of people who are used to doing well, when only a small percentage of them can actually receive A’s.
What I Did Second Semester
Second-semester, I made some changes — and got better grades.
- I made a point of talking to others about what I was going through; I found it particularly helpful to gain some perspective by talking to non-law students.
- I began practicing those pesky exam hypos from the start.
- I revamped my social life from next-to-nothing to next-to-something.
By reevaluating the choices I had made in the beginning, I was able to craft a healthier and more successful approach to law school.
My Advice to You
I share my experience with you so that you may be more conscious of your ability to make adjustments early on.
Your first-semester grades should not be the point at which you realize you may have to change something about your approach — you can be more certain from the start, and a more successful student for it.
Stay tuned for personal accounts of the common experiences of a first-year law student, and their ensuing messages, throughout the summer months. I will first discuss habits of study: place and solo- versus group-study.
For now, know that no one is 100% sure how to approach law school when they arrive. Instead of feeling confined to doing what everyone else is doing, find freedom in the options that are available to you.
Experiment! Check in with yourself and reevaluate your methods along the way. It will combat tunnel vision and allow the big picture — exams — to remain in view.
— – —
Thanks, Cara! Want more? Here you go!
- Lessons from My 1L Year: You Don’t Have to Live in the Law Library
- Lessons from My 1L Year: Be Careful with Study Groups
- Lessons from My 1L Year: Have Fun!
- Lessons from My 1L Year: Make Friends
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Great advice Cara! Thanks for sharing.
Congrats on completing your first year, Cara. That’s no easy feat. It gets easier from now on (kind of).
Cara – I am so glad to hear that you are trying new things, and finding better success. So few law students are willing to experiment, practice, or try different approaches. Outlining doesn’t work for everyone, but because it is “what everyone else is doing” – seems like the only way to go. By looking towards the end goal (practice exams) from the beginning, and being willing to experiment outside the box, you are likely better equipped to find success in law school, and as a lawyer. Sure does help to be working with and learning from Lee as well. Best of luck!
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Thanks for sharing your experience! I have heard tons of horror stories and I can’t wait to jump into this on my own and make it what I want it to be. I’ll be starting in approximately less than a month!
Oh I know that feeling! Congratulations on making a difficult decision. If you are already leaning into law school resources like this one, you are setting yourself up for a more mindful experience–healthier, happier, and one more likely to get the grades! Nice work.
And thank you for reading!
Hi, cara thank you for your advice. Is that meaning you are not necessary to read case and brief everyday, but to practice exam?
It’s always a balancing act! Reading the cases is quite critical (in my opinion), but I never found briefing helpful. I think the biggest bang for the buck is usually practice exams (and it’s what most students neglect).