Law Students

Law Students

Paying it forward: A guide to your 1L year (from a rising 2L)
By: John Fortin

Congratulations! Law school is a big deal. There is a lot of doom and gloom in the media about attending law school based on the market and the employment outcomes. I cannot speak for all my peers, but I am incredibly happy with my decision to take on the challenge of law school and I hope with these articles I can help make it a little easier for you than I had it.

After patting yourself on the back, if you have not yet, then plan on taking a break from everything (yes, everything!) for at least 72 hours if not a week before the semester begins. If you can afford to go to a destination and relax, great! If you can only afford to go sit by the pool and pleasure read, do Sudoku, dominate Candy Crush, or do whatever you do to unwind, do it! You are about to embark in a profession that takes very few breaks, so take one while you have a chance.

Most law schools have orientation somewhere between middle to the end of August, and this article intends to assist in preparing for the remainder of summer with an eye toward walking in the door prepared to hit the ground running on day one.

Books to read

After spending 10 years in the military, I prefer to know the enemy I am about to face so I got my hands on every “You are going to law school: Here is everything you need to know” book. A lot of them said the same things just in a different order, but the two most cogent books, 1L of a Ride and Law School Confidential, I highly recommend reading, re-reading, and keeping near you during 1L year.

1L of a Ride gives a great perspective from a professor about the Socratic method and what to do and what not to do. Law School Confidential gives a perspective from a student and provides study methods, case briefing, outlining, supplement use, and even more in-depth advice about everything discussed in this and future articles. I did not follow it verbatim, but overall I followed the author’s advice and it worked well for me.


I used bound notebooks, some of my peers used legal pads. Whatever your preference, make sure you have supplies to take handwritten notes, including lots of pens that are comfortable to spend an hour or two a class taking constant notes. You will also need highlighters (especially if you follow the Law School Confidential case briefing method) and colored tabs. You will need a computer to complete your assignments and take your exams, but I would not plan on taking your computer out when you are in class.

Some schools and professors do not allow computers in class, while some do. My advice: Do not use your computer at all in class! Research suggests computers hurt the learning process. Of all the classes from my 1L year, I did the worst in the class I could use a computer in.

Correlation does not prove causation, but when I reflected after the semester, I realized I just did not focus as well in that class. It was distracting to have a window to the outside world while class was going on. I attest that I checked and responded to emails, I researched odd things said in class, and then I took notes. This was disrespectful to my professor and was not the correct way to be successful in class.

Get rid of the electronics and focus on what your peers and the professor discuss. Writing out your notes will require you to think about how you are taking notes and not merely acting as a stenographer. There have been lots of studies on this and the academic community is pushing more toward handwriting notes. My own performance and experience support writing over typing.

Planning for the first semester

In the weeks leading up to orientation and day one you should get your syllabus, required books, and schedule. Amazon, your school book store, and the publisher themselves will sell the books.  Shop around for sure. To plug the ABA, if you sign up for premium, you will get a discount on books depending on the amount you spend. 

New technology has led to some great innovations in textbooks. Some books have a feature that allows you to input a code and then open the book on your devices or tablets. It is a cool feature that I used a couple of times, but I prefer the hard copy, so I did not take advantage of these books as much as some of my peers. But if you prefer this delivery method and it works for you, then great. 

I also always bought new books because I found reading through other people’s highlights and thoughts confusing. This is your choice; just make sure you get your books with at least the weekend to spare before classes begin.

I would get on whatever calendar system you prefer and put in every class, reading, and assignment due over the semester as soon as you get it. Additionally, I would look at your career services calendar for the semester and begin placing the different seminars that look interesting—they all should look interesting—into your calendar. As the different student groups and guest speakers are announced, make sure to add those.

After you have the firm times of class and seminars set aside, you need to begin planning when you are going to do your reading, work out, eat, do something non-law related, etc. You will want to have some of this set in stone (reading) for routine. Some you will want to be flexible (fun/working out). It will be easier to look at the whole semester and the forest now before you are in the trees on a week-to-week basis if you have planned the major things.

1L of a Ride and Law School Confidential will go into much greater detail of the nitty-gritty of what to expect and how to perform well. The best advice I can give is to plan out as much of your life, especially in November and December, as you can. That way when you are actually doing your day to day, you can spend as much brainpower on the law as you can.

Most importantly, get excited! Law school is an interesting place. You will hear from people who have a wide variety of perspectives, and you will learn fascinating things.

I hope this was valuable for you.

John Fortin is a rising 2L at the University of Richmond Law School in Virginia. John is a Navy veteran who served as a cryptologist and intelligence analyst interfacing across the intelligence community for 10 years prior to going to law school. He interned at the Supreme Court of Colorado for Justice Monica Márquez for his 1L summer. John is a member of the University of Richmond Law Review.

Editor’s note: This article was edited and republished with permission from the American Bar Association’s Before the Bar Blog.

Views and opinions expressed in eNews are those of their authors and not necessarily those of the Texas Young Lawyers Association or the State Bar of Texas.

Submit an Article

Interested in writing an article for eNews?

Contact Us

Connect With Us