There are blogs and books and people that always want to advise you on how to be successful in law school. I know I myself have posted several different tips and tricks of how to be sucessful in law school, with hopes that someone will be able to take my advice and be a more successful law student. However, I'm sure I'm not alone in occasionally wondering, what are some things I should NOT do in law school? After almost a full year in law school, I've learned from some of my mistakes and the mistakes of those around me. Turns out, there are a few guidelines as to certain things you should NOT do in law school.
1. SKIP CLASS
Some of you are going to read this and be like, "Duh. Bailey, everyone knows you shouldn't skip class." But seriously, I mean it. Do not skip class if at all possible. Yesterday, I was going through my outline, and I came up to a topic that I missed when I had to skip class for a gastroenterologist appointment (yay, stomach ulcers!). Of course, the absence was excused and I did the readings for class anyway. But as I came to review the material, I realized that I had absolutely no idea what the material for the day meant. Sure, I have plenty of time to get notes from classmates or meet with my professor in office hours. But think about how much easier it would've been if I had just gone to class? Yeah, I missed for a valid reason that day. There have been other days where I've skipped for not-so-valid reasons. When I have to put in the extra effort to cover that material, I'm going to wish I had just sucked it up and went to contracts that day.
2. JUST "SKIM" THE READINGS
We've all been there. You'd rather take a nap or watch Netflix, but you also have to read for class. So you just skim the readings, get the basic ideas, and call it good for the day. Fast foward to sitting in class, and your Constitutional law professor calls on you to explain Scalia's scathing dissent in some case. Good luck with trying to explain the textual argument that you barely read. Just do the readings. Take notes. Highlight. Reading is about half of your job in law school, so really it's the one thing you should actually do. It phsyically pains me when I heard people casually say "Oh I don't even read for that class anymore" and then go on to complain that they don't understand what's going on. So read. Pay attention. Take notes. It might suck, but you just have to do it.
3. WORK AN OUTSIDE JOB
Some of you might know that the American Bar Association puts a cap on how many hours that law students can work in a week. This is for a very good reason - law school is your job. It is a 40-hour a week, 9-to-5, takes over your entire being job. As someone who worked full time in all of undergrad, I did not know what to do when I quit my job to start law school. I thought I was going to be so bored. Newsflash: I wasn't. I was tired, stress, and could not imagine working an outside job. So save yourself some stress, and don't worry about working.
*Side note: I know most people don't want to work - they have to for the money. And I get it. Some of us (including myself) are not lucky to be financed by mommy and daddy, or don't want to feel the crushing debt of student loans. I graduated undergrad debt-free, and when I had to take out loans to live on, it felt a bit crushing. But, I'm so glad I did it for my own mental health.
4. GET OVER-INVOLVED
So when you start law school, you'll consistently hear people say "Get involved! Join a club! Be on the Student Bar Association! Volunteer!" and so on and so forth. What they won't tell you is that there's a flip side to this. If you join EVERYTHING (or even more than couple of organizations, really) you will be overwhelmed. There will be tons of events, information to keep up with, leadership positions, etc. When you're probably already going to be stressed about school, you don't want to be stressed about your outside activities as well. Accordingly, employers will get suspicious with overly involved 1Ls. Join just a few things that you are REALLY interested in, and you won't regret it. My outside involvement is limited to an honors organization, one club, and volunteering with an organization on my university's main campus. Because I've limited my involvement, I'm able to actually commit to these organizations and get something out of it.
5. FORGET TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF YOUR RESOURCES
Law school is hella hard. We all know that. But your law school tries to make it at least a little bit easier by providing you with some awesome resources to help make your law school journey as smooth as possible. For example, when it comes time to get a law school internship, it can be overwhelming creating a resume, writing a cover letter, preparing for interviews, and all of the other crazy things that come with job hunting. But I am positive that your school has a career services office that can help you out with those exact things. If you are feeling stressed or emotional, most schools provide some sort of mental health counseling. Academic questions? You probably have an advising program at your school. Struggling in a class? I bet there is some sort of tutoring program you could go to. Check out all the resources that your school has, and take advantage of them while you still can. After all, that's what your student fees pay for!
6. BE "THAT GUY" IN YOUR CLASSES
You already know who I'm talking about. There's always one person who has to "play the devil's advocate" in every situation. Or the person that literally always raises their hand, even when the professor didn't ask for anyone to talk. Or someone who always tries to bring the dicussion back to their favorite topic, whether it relates to the dicussion or not. Or the person that always has some crazy experience or story they have to tell the class about. You know, those people that have a less-than-positive reputation in class. This isn't only because I want people to like you - although it is good to have friends. This is because now, more than ever, your peers in the classroom are future networking contacts. You never know who will be a powerful attorney at a firm you want a job at one day, or a judge you have to argue in front of, or even just a good connection to have to boost your resume. Thus, you want to make a positive impression. So don't give them a weird or annoying memory of you from classes.
7. FORGET THE BIG PICTURE - YOU'RE GOING TO BE A LAWYER ONE DAY
Law school is so hard. Days are long, classes are intimidating, and the work load is enormous. Sometimes it is a lot to handle, and it seems like the struggle of law school will literally never end. But don't lose sight of the end goal. One day, you will graduate and you will be a lawyer. It's easy to forget the big picture and get focused on some of the little, stupid things that don't matter. Once your three years are up, nobody is going to remember the cold call you didn't know the answer to, or the day where you were 20 minutes late to class because you couldn't find a parking spot, or how how you didn't get to go out with your friends one Friday night because you were in the library studying. Although the day-to-day may be long and hard, in the end you'll be a lawyer. Don't forget that.
Overall, there are a lot of dos and don'ts to mastering the law school game. I wish I could give each and every one of you a foolproof survival guide, but unfortunately I'm still figuring it out as well. I hope some of these little things can help you get through this crazy law school adventure. What are some other things you guys would not reccommend other law students do?