The start of 2L year is generally something to look forward to – the uncertainty that surrounds the first year of law school is in the past, the stress of final exams are months away, and you get to pick electives for the first time! 2L year has a lot going for it, but you shouldn’t let your newfound confidence as an upperclassman make you complacent.
The beginning of 2L year is an ideal time to evaluate your first-year performance, consider your employment prospects, and start taking action to make you an attractive candidate post-graduation. If you don’t rank at the top of your class, or are concerned that your grades may impact your ability to find a job, consider implementing these strategies during the upcoming academic year to bolster your resume and distinguish yourself from the crowd.
Pursue every opportunity that gives you on-the-job experience.
Whether it’s working part time at a local firm, volunteering at a legal non-profit, completing an externship through your school, or enrolling in a practical skills class, you should be doing everything you can to gain real word experience. Sure, the editor of the law review and her perfect GPA will impress future employers, but so will a candidate who knows how to file documents, set a hearing, draft a motion, and respond to discovery requests. If you don’t have stellar academic credentials, you’ll need to market yourself as someone who can get real legal work done efficiently and effectively (with minimal supervision) from day one.
Find your niche.
I’ve seen more than one lawyer with a less than impressive law school rank secure a job at a prestigious firm based on their experience and knowledge in a specialized area of law. Similarly, some of the most successful trial attorneys are people who had mediocre grades in law school. Developing other important legal skills or gaining experience in a niche area can help you compensate for an average academic record. Be sure to take classes that will expose you to new legal fields so that you can start building your knowledge early. Not everyone can be in the top 10% of their class, but everyone can find a special skill or niche to distinguish themselves.
Participate in moot court and law review.
Experience on a competition team or legal journal will enhance your academic bona fides, so if you have a chance to write on to law review, work for a journal that doesn’t have a stringent GPA requirement, or compete on a moot court team, go for it! Participating in these activities will reflect well on your work ethic because other lawyers (like the ones who might be interviewing you for a job two years from now) know that they are rigorous and time-consuming. In addition to enhancing your resume, participating in law review or moot court can give you another area in which to excel.
Get academic support.
There’s no reason you can’t improve your academic performance during 2L year and start bringing that cumulative GPA up. While a lot of students become complacent after 1L year, you can still make changes necessary to improve your grades. Future employers will appreciate a candidate who learns from past experience and shows steady improvement. If you are truly committed to strengthening your academic performance, it’s a good idea to seek guidance and support from an experienced tutor or academic advisor. Your tutor can help you identify areas for improvement, give you new strategies to use, and keep you accountable. The objective perspective and accountability that a tutor can bring are invaluable if you’re trying to pull your grades up.
In many ways, law school is a means to an end – getting a job as a lawyer. Achieving that goal will be impacted by your experiences in law school, so be sure to use your 2L year to distinguish yourself, especially if your grades don’t do it for you. The reality of having to find a real legal job may seem far away, but it will be here before you know it.
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And check out these helpful posts:
- How to Get Stuff Done in Law School
- The 2L Slip: Academic Success (Or Lack of Success)
- The 2L Slip: Balancing On-Campus Interviews and Extra Curricular Activities
- How Many Weeks are Left Until Final Exams?
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