Raise your hand if you’re a 1L and you’ve felt personally victimized by your law school experience so far? Ok maybe victimized is too strong of a word but if you’re a few weeks or months into your first semester of law school, I’m sure you get the gist. After getting some experience under your belt, despite the grueling hours that you’ve spent going through case law, reviewing your class notes or even outlining, if you feel like you have no idea what is happening, you’re not alone. I want to reassure you that it’s normal to feel lost despite your hard work. You’ve been exposed to a wealth of information that will take some time to completely process.
So, if you’re wondering whether it will all click, the answer is it absolutely will, but only if you take proactive efforts to process the catalog of information muddled in your head. Recognizing your confusion early on and proactively straightening this out will inevitably make you more confident and trusting of your ability to excel.
So how does one build this confidence? Although these methods aren’t foolproof, I would recommend: refocusing your mindset, asking questions and actively internalizing each lesson.
1. Refocus Your Mindset
This step is perhaps the most important if you genuinely want to activate confidence. Currently you may be bewildered by thoughts of failure or fear of embarrassment, but it’s helpful to remember that you are the same exceptional student who made it through college and the LSAT exams. Use these past accomplishments to generate positive affirmations for the future. Don’t get bogged down by negative thoughts and instead affirm that you will understand the lessons being taught, you will pass your exams, and you will ultimately obtain your JD.
Additionally, remind yourself that you and your classmates are one in the same. You are all new to this venture, so there is no need to be embarrassed if you slip up on a cold call or if you simply just don’t understand something. Even if someone else claims to be the perfect student and appears to have it all in check, chances are, this student is also facing similar struggles that they have not vocalized. Don’t allow this appearance to bring you down.
2. Ask Questions
Question everything and everyone. I know sometimes as humans we hesitate to ask questions for fear of looking like a fool, but questioning everything only serves to empower and enlighten you, especially in this new setting which is practically foreign. I recommend questioning your professor if you fail to understand a topic. I am a huge proponent of office hours. Take advantage of your professor’s office hours or take advantage of your class time. Most professors are willing to stick around after classes to expound on areas covered during the class. Therefore, during the lecture, jot down every possible topic that is unclear and seek an explanation after class.
These questions can also extend beyond your professors. As the semester continues you may begin to form study groups or closer bonds with your classmates. Ask questions of your peers who may be able to break down different topic areas for you. It is likely that you may be able to do the same for them, through providing guidance on your stronger topic areas. Use these easily accessible resources to your advantage and you may just be surprised how gaining this additional insight will boost your confidence.
3. Internalize Each Lesson
A great way to exude confidence is simply through owning what you know and you can own what you know by internalizing the wealth of information you receive each day. I know it may be tempting to look at your notes, recognize your confusion but push it away as a “to do” item to conquer closer to finals. However, it will only help to do the heavy lifting early on. So, while you’re in class, be sure to take detailed notes and then make the commitment to dedicating at least one hour to going over your notes for the day. Take that time to recognize any holes that may be missing and jot down your questions. This process will help you to be better prepared for office hours and the combination of this along with note review will assist with internalizing.
Additionally, consider an early start on your finals prep. I truly don’t want to overwhelm you with the thought of finals too early, but if you’re actively internalizing your lesson plans daily, it doesn’t hurt to begin putting this into an outline or to even begin practice questions. Getting ahead on your outlines will only benefit you when you don’t have to spend the two weeks before finals starting an outline from scratch. Also, completing practice questions can be a good scale and can ultimately be a testament of what you know and what areas you need to brush up on. I recommend getting started on these as early as possible and using your growing knowledge to empower the confidence I know exists within you.
It Takes Time!
As you put the steps above into practice, I want you to remember that it will take time for your confidence to build, so be patient. However, if you can just kick at least one of the above factors into high gear, I anticipate that it can absolutely give you the confidence boost you need to get to the finish line.
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