Many law schools are starting fall term next week or the week after. Here are the tips for the first week of school I shared with my 1Ls at orientation earlier in the week.
Remember the “safe” assumptions faculty get to make about their students
At many schools, there are only two, safe, universal assumptions that law faculty can make about the students in their classes. First, the students have taken the LSAT and done well enough to get through the admissions committee. Second, the students have a bachelor’s degree in something, but we as faculty don’t usually know what.
If you’re at a school that accepts the GRE in lieu of the LSAT or a school with a 3+3 program, even those aren’t safe assumptions.
With that context in mind, here are the things I want my students to keep in mind during the first week.
Remember you are a capable learner
Given the uncertainty of a common base of knowledge, some of the material you encounter in the first semester is probably going to be opaque to you. What we can learn is constrained somewhat by what we already know.
Expect it, acknowledge it, and then remind yourself that you are a capable learner and take steps to turn on a light. That might be cracking open a dictionary. That might be messaging a friend. That might mean making an appointment with your local, friendly, academic success professor.
Allocate time to each subject, and then move on to the next thing when that time is up
As novices, you aren’t going to have enough time to get “everything” done. It’s not a great idea to start the semester off with full preparation in one class, and no preparation in another because class 1’s prep took longer than you anticipated. If you finish another class’s prep early, you can use that time to go back and work on the incomplete class. Once you’ve gotten through the first week of classes, re-evaluate and set realistic time allotments based on experience moving forward.
Embrace making mistakes
Making a mistake and then correcting it builds a better bridge for your brain to remember something than getting it right the first time. See Making it stick by Peter Brown, et. al. and other similar books.
This is not advice to go make purposeful mistakes borne from “I can’t be bothered” with details, but it is permission to give yourself grace for messing up an answer to a cold-call in class. It is permission to allow yourself several efforts at remembering something before you can successfully recall it. Mistakes are part of the process, don’t fight it.
Monitor your energy
Some people are morning larks and their brains work best in the morning. Others are night owls whose brains work best late at night. Still others work best in late morning and early afternoon. Don’t follow the crowd, structure your studies according to your particular needs.
Practice retrieving information
If memorize is a struggle for you, one of the best activities to help with memorization is self-quizzing and actively trying to recall information.
This is a non-exhaustive list
The tips offered above were merely the ones I chose to prioritize for my students in this year. There are dozens of other quality tips that could be imparted to 1Ls beginning their law school journey. Soon, I’ll type up my tips for the first semester that I shared with my students.