Four Helpful Tips For 1L Students Starting Law School
You’ve taken the LSAT, submitted your law school applications, received your acceptances, and committed to law school. Congratulations! That was the easy part. Now the work really begins. As a first-year law student, or “1L,” you’re going to be tossed into an unfamiliar world. New concepts, terms, and ways of thinking are all ready to meet you on day one. Check out our post on what one student wished she knew before 1L. Remember, everyone is in the same boat no matter how well prepared they may seem. To be clear, as a 1L you will eventually get the hang of the whole law school thing. Our job is to get you to that goal sooner rather than later. To kickstart your 1L success, we’ve assembled a list of our top tips for 1L students. Whether you’re a future 1L, a new 1L, or a 1L looking for a refresher, we’ve got you covered.
Four Helpful Tips For 1L Students Starting Law School
If you’re a new 1L, you may have heard other students talk about “briefing” cases. So what the heck is a case brief, and should you be doing it for every case you’re assigned?
A case brief is designed to summarize a case and include all relevant details. You can think of a case brief as a handy bite-size case summary that’s easy to read. Nobody will likely ever read your case briefs and professors almost never look at them. So, why should you make a habit of briefing most cases? The answer is really quite simple: To survive getting cold-called. Having an easy-to-read summary of the case in front of you when getting cold-called is invaluable. It will allow you to quickly access the information you need and fire back at your professor.
How do you write a case brief? The answer is different for everyone because a case brief is a personalized learning tool. Generally, a case brief is comprised of case facts, procedural history, the primary issue, the holding, and the court’s rationale. Some may include sections for the concurrence or the dissent. Again, everyone’s case briefs will look different and there is no one size fits all approach.
Law schools emphasize the importance of outlining, and it may seem like you need to outline from day one. Similar to case briefs, outlines are really a tool to help you succeed come finals season. Professors won’t ask to see your outlines and it’s completely up to each student on when and what they outline. Outlining is a powerful tool that can help you learn and retain knowledge, while simultaneously preparing you for a final. Check out our complete guide on how to outline in law school!
The process of going through each concept and outlining important details, cases, and other material is important. While you can purchase outlines or find old outlines, doing so is only recommended to supplement your outlines. The main reason for this is because it deprives you of the outline creation process, which is where you learn. Sure, outside outlines are helpful to see how other people structure their outlines or to cross-reference with your own. Just don’t rely on them completely. Outlining is a critical part of the studying process.
So when should you start outlining? The answer is different for each class and for each student. One thing that is highly recommended is to start early. Outlines span an extensive number of pages and take an extended period of time to complete. It’s not something you want to be doing the week before finals. Generally, after a few major concepts have been covered in each class, we recommend starting your outline. You can update it as the class progresses and by the time finals roll around, you’ll have a full outline.
Taking notes is such an important and vital key to your success in law school. While case briefing before class is awesome, take notes in class to edit or supplement those briefs. No matter how well you think you understood a case, the professor likely has something to add. Having notes to reference later on down the line is a great way to ensure your understanding of subject material.
Effective note-taking is more impactful than simply attempting to write down every word spoken in class. You don’t want your notes to end up being the length of a Harry Potter novel. Listen for important points the professor makes and for questions asked by other students. Chances are, if you have a question about something, a bunch of others do too and vice versa. Here are some tips and shortcuts for how to take notes in law school.
Law school is where you will meet a majority of your initial legal connections and references. While it may be difficult to imagine, your classmates will be employees, employers, connections, and references down the line. Your classmates will also play a role in your immediate success in law school as a support system and more.
That’s why it is important that you try and get to know most people in your 1L class. That guy in the back that you always see partying on Instagram and never studying? He could end up as a partner in a prestigious law firm. That girl who you’ve never talked to in the front of the class and who answers EVERY question? She could be the next nominee to the Supreme Court. Networking is also important for situations in which you find yourself needing help in law school. A larger network means a larger resource pool for getting class notes and outlines if you’re sick or miss class. A large network will also allow you to join and/or form study groups, attend social events, or join academic clubs.