Getting Ready For Your Second Semester Of Law School
With 10 minutes left, you submit the last exam of your first semester of law school. You close your laptop and walk down to the proctor to turn in your paperwork. As you exit the exam room, a feeling of elation and relief washes over you. You did it! You completed your first semester of law school despite some back-to-back final exams. Now what? While you are waiting for your exam grades to come out, make sure to take some time for yourself and prepare for the road ahead. Here are some ideas to help you get ready for your second semester of law school!
Getting Ready For Your Second Semester Of Law School
1. Relax and Unwind
The first thing you should do is relax and unwind. Being a law school student often means studying night and day, giving up your weekends, and panicking about cold calls in class. Also, you may have taken an intensive legal writing course and are learning to write in a new way that may be difficult. Every week you may have thought to yourself “if I can just get through this week, next week will be better.” Now here you are–one of the most challenging times in your life is now in your rearview mirror. Your second semester of law school looms ahead, but first, take some time to relax and unwind. You deserve it!
Oh no but wait! Second semester course readings are already posted. Also, you are not feeling great about your final exams and are afraid your grade point average might be in the bottom third. Should you start studying now to get ahead in your second semester of law school? The answer is not yet.
The first thing you should do for your mental and physical health is to take a break. Some law school students report sleeping for days after they finish their first semester of law school finals. Others may lay on the couch and catch up on streaming shows they may have gotten behind on while spending endless hours in the law library. Whatever you decide to do, make sure it allows you to completely relax and take your mind off of next semester. You need to recharge for what will be another challenging semester of law school ahead.
2. Enjoy the Holidays
Holidays are usually a special time for families and friends, so be present. Take time to do something outdoors or attend a social gathering. This might be the last time with loads of free time before starting your second semester of law school. This also may be a nice break away from your law school classmates and the competitive atmosphere. Hopefully, you can let your guard down and enjoy being with those you hold closest to your heart. They probably missed you during your first semester of law school and will be happy to hear about your experiences.
3. Go on a Vacation
If you have the means, take a short vacation. When you are a practicing attorney, you won’t have end of semester breaks. Take advantage of some time off school to take a road trip or go lay on a beach somewhere. Your summer after your first year of law school will likely be filled with a clerkship or an internship, so take advantage of this semester break.
If you can’t afford to take a trip (after all, you have been learning, not earning!)- consider taking a “stay-cation”? Act like a tourist in your own town and take in the sites. Try visiting museums, going to restaurants you have never been to before, or attending a local event.
4. Read Books or Magazines for Enjoyment
You often spend so much time reading during your first semester of law school, that you push other reading to the side. Now that you don’t have three hours of reading to do every night, pick up a fun book or a magazine on a topic you like. Look on #bookstagram to find the novel everyone is obsessed with at the moment and dig in. You can even read books that are about law school or the legal field such as One L by Scott Turow or The Nine by Jeffrey Toobin. These books will teach you about the law, while enjoying great story-telling. Reading can be a great way to escape and let your mind relax.
This can also be a good time to see what is going on in current events or popular culture. Pick up a magazine when checking out at the grocery store or log on to your favorite online magazine. You may want to catch up with what is going on in the world- even if it means checking out who was best dressed at the Emmy Awards or reading the latest celebrity gossip. Often law school students are so focused on school, they have no idea what is happening in the world outside of the law library. Winter break is a good time before your second semester of law school to get caught up. Knowing this information is important for navigating networking events you may attend during second semester of law school.
All Rested? What’s Next?
Now that you have sufficiently relaxed and enjoyed your winter break, take some time before the second semester begins to plan the next steps in your law school career. The second semester of your 1L year includes taking substantively challenging classes such as constitutional law, criminal law, torts, and real property. Some law schools may require an advocacy class where you prepare and deliver an oral argument in front of a panel of attorneys and judges. Also, second-semester schedules fill up with on-campus interviews for summer jobs and applying for clinics and competition teams.
Taking time to prepare for the challenges ahead is essential. Think about your successes and your failures. Was your study group focused and driven? Or did you suffer on exams because your group spent more time socializing? Now is the time to make changes before you dive into your second semester!
Here are some things you can do to prepare for your second semester of law school and even help you get ready for your 2L year.
1. Review your first-semester study skills
While you are waiting for your final exam grades (and waiting, and waiting…), take a look at your study notes and class note-taking system.
Was your notetaking system thorough, taking into account how your professor phrased legal concepts? Remember that your professors write their final exams. They are looking for responses that reflect what was being taught in class. Your note-taking system is key in documenting how your professor taught the course information. Writing down and highlighting concepts and phrases that are repeated in courses is a great way to prepare for final exams.
Review your final exam outlines. Did they actually help you respond to questions on your 1L finals? If not, you might want to work on improving your course outlines. Writing your own outlines is the best way to memorize the material for your exams and review an entire semester of legal concepts. However, if outlining is not your strength, consider finding an online resource to help you during your second semester of law school. JD Advising offers incredible law school outlines that include organized legal concepts, graphic images such as charts and graphs to simplify even the most difficult and complex topics (yes, even the rule against perpetuities!), and memorable examples to help you learn the legal rules.
2. Form study groups and find a good place to study
The break brings not only an opportunity to reevaluate how you are studying, but who you are studying with and where you are studying. It is great to be studying with a group of people you are comfortable with and that take studying seriously. However, it is good to evaluate how effective the group has been at getting things accomplished and helping each other learn. There may be other students who are looking to start new study groups so reach out to classmates to see if they would be interested in working together.
Another important thing to think about is where your study group has been studying and how conducive it is to your learning process. The law library may be more of a social hub than a quiet place to focus. Also, the local coffee shop may be a fun place to hang out, but the mocha caramel lattes may be breaking your food budget. Think about other locations where you can focus and eliminate distractions such as a local library, the apartment of a member of your study group, or a private study room on campus. The proper study location will set the tone for your study group and allow you all to work together to master your second semester of law school.
3. Utilize law school resources to improve your performance or find a tutor
If you really feel strongly that you did not do well on your first-semester final exams, it is time to get serious. You will be able to bounce back from one semester of poor grades, but it can be challenging to recover. Your first year of law school grades may determine whether you retain a scholarship, what type of summer law job you get, or whether you are eligible to apply for a law school journal. Don’t fret though, your second semester of law school is a great time to turn things around.
Many students struggle during their first semester of law school. However, your ability to overcome a rough first semester will demonstrate that you were able to turn things around. In fact, some students who do really well during their first semester may get lazy and let things slide during their second semester. Most law schools have an academic services department. Make an appointment for your first week after the break to explore what type of academic resources are available to you. Your law school may offer tutoring for certain subjects or may have free resources for you to use. You definitely want to avoid being placed on academic probation.
Another idea is to explore hiring a private tutor for your second semester of law school. (JD Advising offers law school tutoring at an affordable price!) Hiring a private tutor is an excellent plan to succeed in your second semester of law school.
4. Starting thinking about your 1L summer job and 2L law school extracurriculars
If you still have any free time before your second semester of law school, start exploring summer law job opportunities. Check out your law school job database first if you have access. They may have a list of firms or public interest opportunities that will be available to 1L students. Also, research the on-campus interview process. You will likely need a well-written cover letter and an updated resume to apply for OCIs so you can get started on those items.
Make sure to check with your law school career services office to see if they offer a free resume review. If you don’t think you will qualify for OCIs, explore other opportunities in local courts, government offices, or local firms. It is very important to have a summer law job to gain experience. Some law schools offer externships for course credit, so look into that as well. You may find online job resources on the state bar association webpage. Also, reach out to your 2L and 3L friends to see what they did to find a 1L summer job. They may have some good ideas to get you started.
You may already be involved in student organizations, but 2L year brings new law school extracurricular activities such as legal competition teams and law school journals. Your second semester of law school is a great opportunity to explore your interests in these programs. Ask a professor if you can observe a moot court team prepare for competition. Stop by the law review office and talk to the editor about what they do. Don’t forget that some extra-curricular activities consider grades when admitting students.
Whether you aced final exams or have room to improve, make sure to take stock of your first semester experiences. After exams, relax and refresh before your second semester of law school begins. After that, it is a great idea to use some of your free time preparing for the next semester. Try not to worry about your final exams! Instead, do something that will put you in a positive mindset for your second semester and beyond.