To be honest, I was not exactly sure what to expect from my first week of law school. I am a very prepared and detail-orientated person, so when I had my first day for undergraduate, I felt ready for what was about to come. Law school was a little bit different, however. I almost felt like I was lacking information and was unable to locate resources. I am sure that part of it was just nerves and being anxious to begin my journey. Especially seeing I am enrolled at Wayne State University Law School, an institution that is an hour away from my hometown. Meaning, a new city, new challenges. Also, as a first generation college student, let alone a first generation law student, I felt a little worried about how I would transition into this new adventure. However, I knew I needed to stay confident and work hard in order to be successful. This philosophy is what got me through orientation.
The Week/Days Before Orientation
Since I have been wanting to go to law school since I was in the sixth grade, it is safe to say I was very anxious to start. I received my class schedule about three weeks prior to orientation. Since I am a 1L, my schedule was set by my university, thus, I was as excited as I can be about ‘general education’ law classes. After I officially registered for classes, I went to campus to get my ID and pick up my $1,000 worth of books. I had to remind myself that this is all for a greater purpose but that was a good amount of money to drop for your first semester.
I had quite a few things to accomplish before orientation. First, I needed to relocate to my new apartment in a city outside of my law school. This involved packing up all my belongings from my family home and officially moving out. I also contacted a few of the classmates that I had met during recruiting and admissions events. We compared schedules and planned on providing a support system to one another during school. In addition to all of this, I had my first homework assignment. Prior to the first day of orientation, I needed to read three chapters of one of my legal research and writing books. Although this was review from law classes I had taken in undergraduate, I decided to take notes as I read in order to further be prepared for class next week.
I received some informational emails outlining the orientation schedule so I would know what to expect. I knew that I had orientation during the entire week, that my legal research and writing class would begin Monday and that everything was not optional. While I had a general understanding of expectations, there was still a lot of nervousness and pre-school jitters. Nevertheless, I prepared the best I could and enjoyed my last few days of ‘freedom’ before law school.
I would like to start by saying today was a long day. My apartment is roughly twenty minutes away from my university, so commuting was a new world for me. Also, I graduated a semester early from undergraduate, so the last time I had class was in early December thus it was an adjustment to be back in the classroom. After I arrived, I found some classmates I knew and we shared our nervousness and excitement. We had to get our professional headshots today so we were all in business attire, making it feel like we were all lawyers already.
Some of the law school deans welcomed us to the university and even provided us some free Wayne State University goodies. We were also informed we get unlimited free coffee and water throughout the year from Student Affairs (a big plus for me). They outlined the rest of the week and explained some of the challenges to come. We were then dismissed to take our first law school class.
Legal Writing Class
I was a bit nervous for my first class because this was the first time I was taking a real course in law school. This was a big moment. Fortunately, a lot of the material was just a review from previous classes. We went over what the law is and how it is created. This included discussing at lengths the importance of Case Law and Precedent especially in establishing authority for other cases. We also discussed the federal and state Court Systems. We concluded with an overview of civil cases.
Convocation and The Oath
The Dean of our law school addressed us and expressed the new challenges and adventures that would come. She restated that the university is here to support us and we will be successful if we work hard. Most law schools make you take an oath of professionalism as you enter law school to ensure your commitment and seriousness. A local judge who is an alumna of my institution administered it to us. After the oath was completed, I had a “This is it” moment. Today was the first step in my legal journey. I am really a law student and one day I will be a lawyer who will have to take a similar oath. Needless to say, this oath I took today was very serious and life changing for me.
Departure and Homework
After we were officially dismissed, it was time to make the trek home and begin the homework. We were asked to read a case and answer some questions regarding it. I desynthesized the day and was anxious to begin again tomorrow.
Overall, today was a very successful first day. While it was a bit tiring and some of what I learned was review, it was an excellent day. Like everyone else, not only is this the first day as a 1L but also the first step in my journey to become a lawyer and thus, achieving my dreams.
Today was a good but overwhelming day. It began when I arrived with many bar prep companies with information and free goodies for all of us 1Ls. The law school was selling apparel so I decided to become ‘official’ and purchase a Wayne Law shirt. To top off an already amazing morning, we had pizza and frozen yogurt provided for us for lunch.
Cultivating Law School Success
After lunch, we had a speech about cultivating success in law school by Ashley Heidemann of JD Advising. As the valedictorian of her graduating class, she gave us several tips on how to excel in law school. First, she advised us what to actually include in our outlines and why they are so important. She also explained how to create a study schedule. After her talk was over, I had an overwhelming feeling that ‘it is going to be okay’.
The law school invited successful alumni back to the university to talk with us 1Ls. Essentially, we were allowed to ask any questions we had about their careers, experience in law school, or ask for general advice. These conversations were helpful in clearing any misconceptions and guiding our paths for our legal education.
Class seemed to drag on a bit today. Part of it was just the day seemed so long while another part was just general anxiety about law school. We discussed the homework from the night before and did a quick recap. The professor explained parts of opinions and the importance of case law. A major part of law school is understanding the importance of cases based on the laws they prescribe. An excellent tool to use in comprehending cases are briefs. These explain parts of the case while making a critical evaluation of its worth.
A Brief (of a Case)
Our first big assignment was to complete a case brief of State v. Kelley. We had to address the facts, rule, issue, holding, and reasoning all while critically evaluating the case. I have handled case briefs before so I knew the general structure of one and how to go about completing them. While I am fortunate to have this prior knowledge, however, I know law school documents will be a bit different and will have to adjust accordingly.
Networking, Friends, and Syllabi
Throughout the day I was able to communicate more with my classmates and begin making friendships. I was even able to talk with some staff and upperclassmen from the university and make some useful connections. After talking with some law school professionals, I (finally) figured out where to find my syllabi!! This was a huge sigh of relief for me.
A Brief (Moment of Panic)
I will admit, I had a moment of doubt and uncertainty today. We heard a lot about how students can be unsuccessful or not achieve the grades they want to. Like any student, I began to feel the pressure of law school and was concerned about how I would be successful. Fortunately, I have a great support system so a quick conversation with my boyfriend helped reverse my initial assessment. Sometimes this happens, and all it takes is a text from home or a call from a significant other to help encourage you once again. My advice is never lose site of your goals and stay confident in yourself!
While today was a bit more challenging and nerve-wracking than the last, it was still a successful day. After a bit a round doubt and a little encouragement, successfully finishing my first ‘official’ case brief, and making some helpful connections, I feel excited to go in my last day of conceptual orientation. I feel confident that I can be prosperous.
Day Three: Wednesday
Today seemed to go very smoothly. It started out with my parking pass/ID FINALLY working in the parking structure, so I knew the day would be a good one. Some legal database companies were at the law school to help us register for their services which are typically included in law school tuition. After we had tours of the law library and was able to meet staff that are there to assist us in being successful. It was a great way to start the day because it made things seem very low-key and less intense than the days prior. Also, I noticed that a group of classmates and I were starting to form friendships which is always a plus.
TItle IX and Bias Prevention
Today we had a presentation about Title IX and bias prevention. Title IX is a serious issue on several campuses that many university have dropped the ball on. I was overjoyed that my school was addressing this topic because these awful situations happen and I would hope that a law school has a serious stance. We also talked about biases and how this can interfere with one’s ability to objectively help a client. Since we took an oath of professionalism, us law students are held at a level of scrutiny similar to lawyers. Thus, we need to strive to be objective, fair members of the law community and society as a whole.
I was anxious to be done with class today. Three days of 2.5 hour writing classes in week is a bit overwhelming for a new law student. I would feel very fatigued after each night and just ready to be in my first week of actual classes. Fortunately, class was very short today (or so it seemed). All we did was go over the case briefs that we completed the night before and talk more about the importance of precedents and similar cases in the legal system. We concluded class with discussing our next big project for the first few weeks of class: a memo.
There are three main databases that lawyers and law students use: LexisNexis, Westlaw, and Bloomberg Law. All three companies brought a representative to explain the services provided on each. This was very insightful because little did I know, all course information and assignments would be available on one of these websites.
While I feel more prepared for law school to begin, I am grateful to have five more days off of ‘actual classes’. I definitely need more time to prepare for classes, mentally and physically. As I continue to get ready for my first day and go through the rest of orientation, I will get more excited and ready for actual classes.
Thursday and Friday of orientation were non-informative days, meaning no class or specific informational sessions. On Thursday, the law school hosted a school-wide service project at the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative (MUFI). This is a non-profit organization that is committed to providing fresh, local produce to the Detroit community.
As for our volunteer work, it was manual labor. Coming from a working-class background and my father having a profession in sheet metal, this is something that is practically second-nature to me. My group was tasked with clearing an alleyway by removing trash, weeding, and cutting down some trees. This was a very humbling experience because we were able to do something to help the area. It was nice to give back to the community in which we are studying in.
Day Five: Friday
Today was extremely low-key. All that was on the agenda was the student organization fair for law students and a bbq dinner. The dinner was from Slow’s BBQ which was beyond delicious. I was able to talk to the Women’s Law Caucus, the Student Board of Governors, Mock Trial, the externships coordinator, and Career Services. I intend on joining the Women’s Law Caucus which helps bring together women in legal professions. I also hope to run for Student Board of Governors who are the advocates of law students to faculty and staff. I will not be able to try out for Mock Trial until the end of my first year, however, I am able to volunteer as a witness and support for this year. Overall, I had a very fun and successful time and am excited for the organizations that I plan on joining.
After this long week of orientation, I am very glad to be done. From what I am told by some 2 and 3Ls, orientation week is definitely the toughest time during your first year. Many people try to alarm students about the difficulty that presents itself in law school. I am not claiming that law school is not hard, far from it actually. I feel like while it is definitely not easy, people just want to make sure incoming students know that there will be challenges and hard work ahead, before it is too late.
Even in this first week, I have realized that I have begun to transform into a law student. I can already notice a change in the way I think and talk. As I formulate my sentences, I am noticing that I am attempting to make a point and support it with relevant facts. My words are calculated even in normal conversations and my brain is being wired to see things in the world of the law.
Law school is no joke. When you are thinking about going to law school, first generation or otherwise, a lot of what law school is actually like is far different than what you imagined. It is a lot of hard work, studying, and putting in extra hours in order to understand certain concepts. While it is difficult, it is also very rewarding. Being a lawyer is a very satisfying career and you are one step closer as a law student.
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