Ultimate Guide to Law School Orientation: Top Questions and Concerns Answered
If you are preparing to attend law school in the fall, you likely feel some anxiety and nervousness. It’s not unusual for students who are preparing for law school to experience some nerves as they gear up for their first day! Even though you’ve attended school for most of your life, law school is a very different experience from what you might be used to. The good news is that there are ways to prepare ahead of time and set yourself up for a successful law school career. One of those ways is to make the make the most of your law school orientation! In this post, we provide our guide to law school orientation, addressing the top questions and concerns of most incoming 1Ls!
Ultimate Guide to Law School Orientation: Top Questions and Concerns Answered
Law school orientation is the beginning of your law school career. You’ll meet your professors, classmates, upper-level students, and law school staff. You might also meet some alumni. You’ll likely attend information sessions concerning what to expect and introductory classes going over basic skills such as how to brief a case. It truly is an opportunity to meet new people, make friends, and gain invaluable knowledge and skills.
To help ease any anxiety and ensure that you are well prepared, we have created the below guide to law school orientation with our answers to incoming 1Ls top questions and concerns!
1. What is law school orientation like?
The 1L law school orientation experience differs slightly from school to school. Generally, law school orientation lasts three to four days—although it could be anywhere from one day to a full week. There will be certain portions that you are required to participate in and other optional activities. Your law school orientation schedule may include any or all of the following:
At most (if not all) law schools, you likely will participate in an introduction to your Legal Research and Writing course. This class teaches you about the U.S. court system, what a court opinion is, and how to synthesize or brief cases. You may also attend introductory sessions of your other courses, such as Contracts, Torts, and so on.
You can expect to attend information sessions about all that the law school has to offer, including student organizations that you can join. Perhaps there will be a session with tips on how to deal with law school anxiety and stress. There usually is a session setting expectations as well. Soak up all the information from these sessions, as they are designed to prepare you for the year ahead!
You are certain to attend numerous social events during law school orientation. These may be formal or informal and could include a dinner, barbeque, ice cream social, and so on. Regardless of the setting, attend social events even if they are not required because they offer the perfect opportunity to get to know your fellow law students and professors!
Almost every law school will have tours of the campus included as part of orientation. We recommend that you attend a tour, especially if you have not previously spent a lot of time on campus. Knowing where everything is on campus ahead of time will help alleviate some stress during your first days of school, particularly if your law school is part of a larger university campus!
Often, a trip to the campus bookstore is included so that incoming 1Ls who ordered their books are given time to collect them prior to the start of classes. This can be the perfect time to stock up on supplies. Check out this post with our top 10 must-have law school supplies!
Many law schools hold a convocation towards the end of orientation to formally welcome you to the legal profession and go over ethics, justice, and morals. During these gatherings, you may be required to take a formal “oath of professionalism” designed to remind you of your duties as a law student and future attorney.
Regardless of what your exact law school orientation schedule looks like, you can expect to meet new people, learn important information, and start to develop invaluable skills for your career!
2. What should I wear to law school orientation?
It may seem like a superficial topic, but how you dress matters. And what to wear is a question that with an answer that most students are not sure of. You likely are nervous about attending law school orientation and want to make a good impression, which is why it is important to plan what you will wear ahead of time! That way, you take out any guesswork, and it is one less thing to worry about. You can simply lay out your clothes the night before orientation and make sure everything is nicely ironed.
So, what should you wear to your law school orientation? Before all else, check if your law school has a dress code. For example, some schools require students to require professional attire for at least part of orientation week, such as convocation. Others may require incoming 1Ls to wear business casual clothing for the entirety. Research if your school has a dress code for law school orientation and plan your outfits accordingly.
Even if your school does not have a dress code, you should still carefully consider what you will wear. Remember that first impressions count. During orientation, you will meet your professors, classmates, and other law school staff, so you want to look neat, clean, and put together. Dressing sloppy sends the message that you don’t really care. Definitely don’t show up in sweatpants and a t-shirt! Choose outfits that look professional and make you feel confident. Business casual pants and a nice shirt is a good way to go. There is generally no need to wear a suit!
3. Should I do the assignments that we are going over during law school orientation ahead of time?
The answer to this is a resounding YES! You may be thinking that you don’t need to complete your law school orientation assignments. After all, classes have not yet begun, and you won’t be getting graded. You may also be unsure on exactly what to do. You could just show up and wait for the professors to go over the assignments. Think again!
The introductory sessions during law school orientation give you the tools you need to succeed in law school, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t have to do any work beforehand. The assignments for those sessions are given to you for a reason, which is why it is very important to complete any assignments before law school orientation and be well prepared. You also do not want to be caught unprepared if you are called on to answer a question! Although no one will expect you to be a legal expert at this point, do your best to have a meaningful understanding of your reading and be ready to discuss.
4. How can I make friends at law school orientation?
One of the best parts of law school orientation is meeting new people. You will build friendships that will last beyond law school and that will likely be of help in your professional legal career in years to come! If you are nervous about making new friends, just remember that your classmates are all in the same boat. Many will walk into law school orientation not knowing anyone, and they will be just as nervous as you!
So, how can you make friends? Luckily, most law schools make it easy by planning small orientation groups, icebreaker activities, or one-on-one sessions, so you don’t have to worry too much about finding ways to meet people. Now is the time to go out of your way to introduce yourself and start conversations. When you do so, remember to be yourself. You won’t be able to keep up an act for three full years, and eventually the real you will come out anyways!
5. How can I figure out my “learning style” before law school orientation?
Your learning style is how you best study and absorb information. Not everyone learns the same. And you may learn different things differently so you will not have one learning style for everything. It is still a good idea to figure out more about how you learn so you can use this as a tool going into law school. Types of learning styles include:
Active and/or Reflective Learning
Active learners like discussing or applying material and tend to like to work in groups. Reflective learners, on the other hand, think about the material and tend to like working alone.
Sensing and/or Intuitive Learning
Sensing learners like repetition, memorization, predictability, and learning facts. By comparison, intuitive learners are more comfortable with new concepts and abstract ideas.
Visual and/or Verbal Learning
Visual learners like pictures, sketches, diagrams, graphs, colors, illustrations, and maps of ideas. Verbal learners, on the other hand, prefer written and spoken explanations.
Sequential and/or Global Learning
Sequential learners understand a big picture by starting small and seeing all of the pieces lined up and put together. Global learners, on the other hand, see a big picture first and use that to work backwards and understand the parts of the puzzle.
You may find that you are a combination of any of the above. Just because you are a visual learner doesn’t mean that you can’t be a verbal learner too! Many students learn well in a variety of ways. The key is to know and use your learning style to your advantage. There is a good chance that you will receive an assignment to be completed before law school orientation that will be the subject of one of your sessions, which is the perfect opportunity to test this out. By figuring out how you best learn before classes even begin, you are setting yourself up for success right on day one!
6. Should I join a law school study group during law school orientation?
During law school orientation or soon thereafter, many students will begin to form and join study groups. You should consider whether you should join a law school study group beforehand so that you can be prepared and choose one that is a good fit.
Not sure if a study group is right for you? Some of the benefits of participating in a study group include:
Accountability and Time Management
Having a regularly scheduled meeting time with your study group helps you stay up to date on assignments and outlining based on the schedule of the group. If you are a procrastinator, you might find the structure of a study group helpful for staying on track.
Multiple Viewpoints and Perspectives
The material in law school is dense and at times difficult to parse through. Not everyone will have the same takeaways. Someone may identify issues that you missed or raise an issue that you otherwise would not have considered. Your study group can provide you with new and diverse perspectives on and interpretations of debatable issues.
A study group provides a forum to talk through difficult concepts you may not fully grasp. By having discussions about these legal concepts, you are not only learning, but solidifying the knowledge in your memory.
By talking through the material with your peers, you are learning how to best articulate complex legal concepts. This is an invaluable skill to master not only for your law school classes but for your career beyond as well.
Law school is hard, time-consuming, and stressful. Your classmates are all going through the same experience as you. It is nice to be surrounded by people who not only get it, but who can help!
Read more about the pros and cons of joining a study group here.
Aside from the benefits, you should also consider how a study group fits with your learning style. For example, some students learn best by independently reading and writing, so a study group is likely not productive or beneficial. Study groups are not for everyone, so if you feel it won’t work for you, don’t join one. If, however, you think it will be beneficial, then form or find a good law school study group. It is as simple as that!
Lastly, if you are looking for a leg up before you start law school, check out the FREE JD Advising law school prep course. This course has had thousands of students enroll since its inception in 2021. It has received great feedback (4.76 stars out of 5!), and was recently mentioned in U.S. News & World Report as being a helpful law school resource!
It teaches crucial law school skills like:
- How to outline
- How to prepare for class
- How to efficiently read cases (i.e. “speed read” cases!)
- How to prepare for law school exams
- Useful law school vocabulary
It also covers the substantive law for each of the classes you will take your 1L year (Civil Procedure, Contracts, Criminal Law, Constitutional Law, Property, and Torts). And we cover vocabulary terms you will want to be familiar with ahead of time. Lastly, we’ll teach you how to make a law school study schedule so you feel more on track and less overwhelmed when you start law school. You can do this before you start orientation!
Still have more questions about what to expect? Check out this post with 5 tips for preparing for law school orientation. And just remember law school orientation helps you to gear up for your first week of law school and beyond, so take it seriously to get everything out of it that you possibly can!