Awesome, you’re starting law school. It’s gonna be so cool! Like, new BFFs all around, right? OMG, I can’t wait!
Yeah, probably not so much. If you’re one of the many 1Ls who shows up to find out things aren’t exactly what you expected, don’t panic. It might just be a temporary glitch in the system. (And, if not, that’s okay, too. You’ve got options.)
Here are some common 1L problems, which you might encounter:
- I hate my classmates. This is a big one. You’re a nice person, so you show up expecting to meet lots of other nice, interesting people who want to have civilized discussions about the important issues of the day, and figure out how to make the world a better place. It depend on the school, of course, but you might be surprised when a lot of your classmates are, well, not so nice. This is not the end of the world! I promise you there are good people there (you just have to find them). And some of the obnoxious people you hate the first week will turn out to be okay, after they settle in and stop posturing about how amazing they are.
- I’ve never been so bored in my life. You probably ignored my suggestion to read a few cases before showing up for Orientation, so you might be shocked to find out how boring most of them are. Largely, I think this is because you’re reading appellate cases, which have had most of the life edited out of them. District Court opinions are stories — what happened, to whom, and what results? But appellate cases are dry! There are a couple of solutions. One, just accept it, and force yourself to plow through the reading until the puzzle of understanding the law becomes more interesting. Two, find out more backstory, which can make the reading livelier. (The ______ Stories series is great for this. For example, Civil Procedure Stories, but you can get them for most 1L classes.)
- The professors are mean. Law school professors get a bad rap, from pop culture and from their own teaching style. The Socratic Method is inherently combative, so you’re probably not going to find a lot of touchy-feely discussion in class. However, just because they’re combative in class doesn’t mean your professors are horrible people! Most (not all) law professors are actually pretty normal, if you talk to them outside of the stilted classroom environment. So, before writing off all of your professors as jerks, stop by office hours and have a little chat. In many cases, you’ll find they’re supportive and eager to help! And, if not, just never take another class from them and avoid eye contact when you see them on campus.
- My roommate’s awful. The harsh reality of campus housing is that you might not be able to decide who to live with. What if your roommate is a total pain? Two choices: deal with it, or move. If you want to move, do it sooner rather than later. But, if the situation isn’t totally intolerable, it probably makes more sense just to come to a polite accommodation, where you’re not friends, but you can live together. You’ll spend most of your time studying anyway, so it’s not like college, where your social life centered around your housemates. Now your social life will revolve around the law library, and your study group. Fun!
- My apartment has bedbugs. This can actually happen. One of my law school roommates showed up a week into school looking for a new place, because her first apartment was infested with bedbugs. Ick! If you’re dealing with a health and safety issue, just make yourself a total pain until it’s taken care of. This is no time to be polite! You have work to do, and you don’t have time to deal with smushing bedbugs. Make a nuisance of yourself until the problem’s solved, if you have to.
- I want to go home! At some point in the first few weeks, any self-reflective law student is likely to have a breakdown along the lines of “I hate it here, and I just want to go home!” Yep, it’s just like summer camp, after a few too many bug bites. There’s some possibility this reaction is actually true: Maybe law school’s not right for you, and leaving might be the best choice. But, for most people, it’s a temporary stress reaction, which — if you ride it out — will seem funny in retrospect. It can be hard to tell the difference, but give it a few weeks. If you still hate everything mid-semester, and you don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel, give some serious thought to whether you’ve made the wrong choice. For now, just recognize that it’s time to take a few hours off, and go to a movie or take a nap. Things will look better after a break, and your work will still be waiting when you return!
Freaking out the first few weeks is totally normal, and don’t believe the people who seem to have it all together. They don’t!
Best of luck, and keep on keepin’ on. You can do it!