Planning your 2L year can feel overwhelming, especially after 1L year where all your classes were arranged for you. You may have been told that you should do a journal, clinics, student orgs — and maybe you want to try all these things, but at the same time you also want to enjoy 2L year and not overload yourself! Coming out of 1L year, you may be feeling burnt out or feeling like you need to continue the nonstop grind into 2L year. But while 2L year can be busy, remember that it is a totally different ballgame from 1L year — you will be adding extracurriculars to the mix but also have full control over your schedule. It’s important to plan your law school commitments so that you don’t burn yourself out but also get involved in the activities that are most meaningful to you! Here are three questions to ask yourself when planning your 2L year:
1. What are your career goals, and what will help you get there?
Think about what you want to do out of law school, then think about what will best position you to reach those goals and how you want the rest of your law school experience to go. You may have come into law school wanting to get involved in a particular student organization, take certain classes, or be part of an honors program or clinic at your school. Now is the time to reflect on what you want to get out of law school and what opportunities you want to pursue. Here are some opportunities to consider:
- Clinics/Externships: Gaining practical experience is a great way to start honing your lawyering skills and figuring out what type of law you might be interested in. They can be a lot of work, but the experience you gain is invaluable and can put what you’re learning in class into perspective. If your school doesn’t have a clinic tailored to your interests, an externship may be a good alternative.
- Honors Programs: Law Review or moot court take up a lot of time and each are the equivalent of an extra class, but there are several advantages of doing an Honors Program, including improving your research and writing skills, developing your work ethic, and building community (and maybe even perks like free swag!). If you’re thinking about clerking for a judge, doing an Honors Program can be especially beneficial.
- Student Orgs: A good rule of thumb is to commit yourself to a max of two student orgs, and choose orgs that you’re passionate about. While leading student orgs is an incredibly rewarding way to give back to the law student community, it requires time that you are not being paid or receiving academic credit for. Therefore, if you decide to be in a leadership position for a student org, make sure you choose a role that you are excited about, within an org with a mission that you care about.
- Research Assistant: A great way to work closely with a professor in an area of interest to you!
- Classes: It’s tempting to want to slack off on your courses 2L year, but remember that grades are still important. And for most of us, this is the last time we’ll be learning in a formal school setting! So if there are subjects you are genuinely curious about or professors you’ve heard are amazing, consider prioritizing those classes. You can take as many or as few bar classes as you’d like (though it’s well-advised to take a few).
- Remember other things that may unexpectedly take up a significant amount of your time, such as job applications or pro bono work. These may have less of a set schedule, but it can be beneficial to create a buffer in your schedule for events like these that may come up.
2. What do you envision yourself doing day-to-day?
When I was deciding between doing a clinic or an externship for my 2L year, someone advised me to imagine what my day-to-day would look like. Did I want to be sitting at my computer doing legal research and writing, or did I want to be going to court and interacting with people? When I imagined how a typical week would go and how all my commitments would fit together, I realized that I wanted to be involved in a variety of experiences that would make for a more dynamic 2L year. In addition, with all my other commitments, the clinic made more sense schedule-wise. Clinics vary in time commitment, so make sure you’re aware of the expected time commitment. If you’re not sure what your commitments might look like on a day-to-day or week-to-week basis, your 2L and 3L friends are the perfect resource!
3. How busy do you want to be?
I have classmates who overcommitted and appear to be running the school, and others who seem to out of town every week and don’t regret that choice. Remember that you don’t have to do anything or everything. You don’t have to do Law Review or moot court just because everyone says you should, especially if you know you’ll be miserable. You don’t have to take every bar class if certain subjects just don’t sound interesting to you. It’s okay to take a breather and not fill up every hour of your day! After a grueling 1L year, you may even find yourself wanting to schedule in more free time (but follow these tips for academic success so that you stay on top of your classes).
At the end of the day, 2L year is what you make of it, so reflecting on your personal goals for your law school experience will ensure that you set yourself up for a successful 2L year and have a meaningful and enjoyable year.
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