The Difference Between 1L vs. 2L Stressors

The Difference Between 1L vs. 2L StressorsPlease welcome back 2L guest writer Jaclyn Wishnia to discuss the differences between the stress of 1L and 2L year.

As duly noted by the majority of law students, the first year of law school carries a notoriously dreadful reputation that spans continents, even decades. It is characterized by infinite amounts of reading, a highly stressful, anxiety-inducing environment, and often referred to as one of the worst educational gauntlets that a student could scarcely fathom conjuring until personally immersed in the experience. What most law students eventually learn, however, is that this myth is quickly displaced by the juggling acts required to actually survive the second year of law school. Keep that in mind as you read through the discussion.

1L Stressors

The first year of law school seems daunting because it is brand new. There are fresh modes of thinking to solve class problems. For years, the methods of memorization worked wonders to perform well on tests, but suddenly, law school necessitated that you apply and analyze the material learned in class. It forces you to adjust from rote test-taking habits, which automatically creates discomfort, to being able to instantaneously manipulate information to form an argument related to a blind fact-pattern. Then it builds upon this discomfort by designating an entire semester’s grade to one final exam, adding an extra layer of stress. Law school curriculums are intentionally designed this way to prepare law students to function properly in future legal practice.

Another reason the first year appears intimidating is due to the professional atmosphere. Many law professors are also practicing attorneys meaning that their time is limited and they may possess the attitudes that match this sentiment. While they might hold office hours and encourage students to ask further questions, it is far from the typical “hand-holding” manner you may have received previously in college or high school. Depending on the law school, you may encounter similar attributes regarding the student body. Law students are competitive by nature, so making new friends, who are also trustworthy, may prove difficult as well.

In sum, the first year of law school is challenging because it is incomparable to anything you have experienced thus far. The schooling operates distinctly, the student culture behaves differently, and the pressure placed upon you during the first year is intense. That is an enormous amount of stress to assimilate to, not even including any personal obstacles, which you will have to balance simultaneously. These are substantial reasons to support giving the title of “worst year ever” to 1L, but when you dissect why, they encapsulate one main theme: adapting to a heightened learning curve.

2L Stressors

Arguably, there is a much stronger case for dubbing the second year of law school as “the worst.” There is a widely-held perception that 2L is easier than 1L, and, for certain reasons, it is, but this view usually neglects a significant factor – every law student is now processing information on the same level. The second year feels more straightforward for several reasons: you now know what is expected of you both in class and on exams; you have hopefully learned how to navigate the essential portions of cases and found short-cuts to organize your outlines; and, of course, you have bypassed the awkward stages of meeting new acquaintances. Unfortunately, most of your colleagues have experienced these same alleviations. Thus, if your 1L grades were just average, you are going to have to compete that much harder this year to advance into a higher grade-percentile.

In addition to concentrating on improving or maintaining your grades, there are also extra-curriculars to focus on, such as: internships and/or externships, moot court, law review or law journals, and law societies. Though you will have better techniques for handling class work, you will now have to manage multiple commitments along with studying for school. During 1L year, your grades were all that mattered. In 2L year, your grades still matter just as much, but there is less time to study because of these essential external responsibilities. One other item of note is that your 1L study group will most likely be disbanded by 2L year. Colleagues specialize in different areas of law and internships cause haphazard schedules, unless you plan to take core classes together or specialize in the same area of law, you will have the added obstacle of finding a new core group.

Finally, your 2L summer internship is more important than your 1L internship. During your 1L summer, you may have searched for a role that was closely related to your interests, but if you did not find one, then getting hands-on experience became the ultimate goal. For 2L summer, not only should your job pertain to your interests, but for many law students it could also be where you receive a job offer for post law school, or at the very least, a critical networking intermediary that connects you to a permanent role elsewhere. By 2L spring semester, finding the right job for summer will be a very stressful process compared to your 1L year.


To conclude, before you banish 1L memories to your island of “the forgotten” and embrace the notion that 2L will be easier, consider these arguments. Your first year is all about learning how to cope strictly with educational styles. Your second year is mastering everything you learned 1L year and applying it to 2L courses,while simultaneously managing outside disciplines, which hopefully relate to your interests, to make you a viable candidate for your professional legal career. Take it from a current 2L, you will be pining for the good ole’ days of only studying for con law or civ pro, free from all other obligations.


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About Jaclyn Wishnia

Jaclyn Wishnia graduated from Fordham University with a double major in Journalism and the Classics. Upon graduation, she accepted a role as a paralegal. After several years of working for both criminal and entertainment law firms, she decided to pursue her passion, to become an attorney, and enrolled in law school. She is currently a 2L at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law located in New York, NY. Additionally, she serves as a staff editor for Cardozo's Arts & Entertainment Law Journal, Treasurer of Cardozo's Entertainment Law Society, and is a student liaison for the NYS Bar EASL committee.


  1. Attorney WatchGroup says

    Essentially its a tie with 2L being all about the legal life 25/7…

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