The 1L Orientation Experience
The 1L Orientation Experience: For any incoming 1L student, it is perfectly normal for the anxiety and nerves to be high. Luckily for you, pretty much every member of your class is feeling the same way right now. Law school is completely unknown to you. You’ve probably heard a lot of horror stories, or seen the t.v. show portrayals – but everything is still a mystery. But while law school is extremely difficult, it can also be a great experience. You’ll make lifelong friends, meet incredibly supportive mentors, and develop skills that will benefit you in so many ways.
The 1L Orientation Experience
The first step in conquering law school is 1L orientation day/week. Understandably, you’re probably dreading the end of summer and the beginning of such a long, grueling journey. But the 1L orientation experience can actually be very educational if you approach it properly. I can’t speak to the procedure at every school, but here is how my orientation worked at Wayne State University:
One evening barbecue and information session
The entire incoming class met up at school for a dinner, chance to mingle, and an opportunity to learn about the school. We also had small group sessions with an upper level student where we could ask questions about their experience. All of the various organizations set up tables so that we could get information about the activities we could join. After a dinner, we all met up in the auditorium for remarks by the dean and various faculty. The atmosphere was very welcoming and encouraging. I was expecting the 1L orientation experience to include the standard “Turn to your left, now turn to your right – one of these people won’t be here at the end of three years.” However, that never came. There was no cutthroat competition on day 1. Only 150 anxious adults trying to get their bearings and form new allies.
Legal Research and Writing Introductory Classes
The remainder of the week was spent in legal research and writing introductory classes. This actually formed the foundation of our entire legal education. We learned many invaluable skills during these days alone, including how to brief cases and how to begin researching legal issues. Did we have homework? Yes, but it was minimal. These first few days were an excellent introduction into how the legal world operates. It also afforded us the opportunity to get to know the students who would be in our section. During our first year, all of our classes were with the same smaller segment of the entire 1L class. Whereas at the orientation barbeque we got the chance to mingle with everyone, these opening research and writing classes allowed us to interact with those we would spend most of our time with.
Here are a few tips to get the most out of the 1L orientation experience:
1. Be social and friendly.
Your law school classmates are going to become your closest confidants over the next three years. You’ll probably find that few other people in your life truly understand what you’re going through, unless they went to law school themselves. The people you meet at orientation are going to be with you every step of the way. They’ll share the same fears, the same complaints, the same highs and lows. They will be great resources for you, especially when it comes to studying and outline-sharing. They may even refer you to employers and get you a job in the future!
Try to make as many friends and connections as you can and form a support system. As tempting as it might be to sit along at a table and wait for someone to come to you, be proactive instead!
2. Don’t blow off any work.
Take any material you learn the first few days very seriously. The professors are there during those introductory sessions to give you the tools you need to succeed in law school. Any assignments are being given to you for a reason. Don’t start law school off on the wrong foot by procrastinating or avoiding work you think is remedial. Put forth the effort right away and it will pay off in the long run.
3. Just be yourself!
Now is not the time to be something you’re not or to put on an act. You won’t be able to keep it up for three years. By the end of your time at law school, your classmates will know your strengths, your weaknesses, and your deepest fears. So, don’t hide who you really are! Try not to let any preconceived notions of law school stereotypes affect how you act around others. My experience in law school was not the ultra-competitive atmosphere that you see in pop-culture. We were all supportive of each other and became a family by the end. Use the 1L orientation experience to show people who you really are!