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Getting accepted into law school is an amazing achievement, but it’s only just the beginning of a long and challenging road to becoming a lawyer. Law school presents students with a much more advanced curriculum and workload than they experienced during their undergraduate program.

The Basics

The first year of law school, referred to as L1, gives many students anxiety, but it is a valuable learning opportunity that shapes character, forms habits and teaches incredible personal lessons.

Rather than emphasizing assignments or lectures, law school classes adopt a Socratic approach, meaning professors engage in heavy discourse with their students to promote a personal connection and deeper understanding of the material.

Exams are not traditionally graded with names; instead, they are all graded on a curve. Curved exams mean that the actual weight of a letter grade is based upon the entire class’s general performance; doing as good as possible on every exam is vital because each student’s performance will ultimately impact the curve a professor uses. Curves can either improve grades or lower them, so students need to always be applying themselves to their utmost ability.

Supplemental Materials Are Lifesavers

Casebooks are common reading among all law students, but there are other materials that can make law school reading easier to understand. Developing strong analytical reading ability is crucial, especially when exploring the often dense and difficult legal jargon found in law books.

Hornbooks are texts that provide overviews of a case from a judge’s perspective, which can help clarify concepts that were difficult to follow in a casebook. Asking professors for additional resources and taking full advantage of other academic enhancement opportunities will serve beneficial.

Surviving the first year of law school is overwhelming for many students; it’s okay to feel over one’s head or completely out of one’s element. What’s important is picking yourself up and learning from mistakes—always move forward!

Break Down Cases

Rather than attempting to memorize everything presented in a class, L1 students need to master the fundamentals of legal analysis. This means that the core principals of each casebook should be the focus; details are important, but they play a larger role in future courses.

First-year law students should concentrate most on understanding which legal issues are involved in each case, why they matter, consequences at stake, and how the court utilized the law to reach a resolution.