Reflections on 1L Year, From a Rising 2L

1L going on 2L: A Rising 2LToday, we welcome back Shirlene Armstrong, guest writer and now rising second-year law student, to share some of her thoughts on making it through her 1L year.

Finally, the dreaded 1L “work-to-death” year is over! Looking back, 1L year really flew by. It feels great to have the hardest year of law school in the books and be able to enjoy downtime without feeling guilty about reading for tomorrow’s class. Now, I am a rising 2L. Here are my reflections on what it is like to be a 1L going on 2L, and how to prepare for your upcoming 1L year.

Exams (Round Two)

Since this was the second time around, exams were not as intimidating as last semester. That doesn’t mean I was any less stressed or studied any less, but it was different from the “what is the exam going to be like” anxiety. Instead, my fears were focused on not being able to achieve high marks and improve my grades. Nevertheless, exams came sooner, went quicker, and were definitely less stressful.

Summer

Now that it is summer, most of my law school troubles seem to have disappeared. I am not taking any classes during the summer, so it feels nice not having to lug around casebooks or feel anxious knowing I have hours of reading/studying to do. While summer is definitely a time for rest and recuperation, it is also a busy time. Summer is when law students get to play “catch-up” on all of the things they have put off throughout the school year. This is also the time when law students work. In between academic years at law school, law students are encouraged (well, pretty much required) to do something law-related. Meaning, they have to be productive and gain some sort of experience in the legal field. However, this does not mean you don’t get to enjoy your break as well!

Working

This summer, like many rising 2Ls, I am working. This is also my first job at a law firm/doing actual legal work, so I am very excited. Many students get stressed out trying to find a job and employment for the summer. Also, many students worry about being successful at their summer job. This fear is certainly understandable as summer jobs in rising 2L or 3L years could mean post-graduate employment, references, and (in general) good legal experience. Personally, I started my “summer position” in February. An alumna of my law school and a mentor of mine had a contact at a personal injury firm that was looking to hire a law student. During my first interview, I told them I would be able to start on Fridays before summer began and they hired me soon thereafter. Now I am working 40+ hours a week and really enjoying my job. Regardless of what type of position you have, you will learn a great deal about the law, the legal profession, and yourself during the summer.

Reflections on the Year Past and Hopes for the Year to Come

I remember how nervous I was during my first week of school. As a first generation student and lawyer, I was afraid that I would not be able to succeed or that I would not have access to opportunities that my classmates might have. Let me clear the air and make a bold proclamation: Law school is NOTHING like you think it will be. Everyone’s law school experience is unique, but normally expectations and reality do not match. This is because law school is a new kind of beast, unlike you have ever encountered. My advice is to work smart, find friends and classmates that you can count on, gain experience from every opportunity you can encounter, and look for mentors who will help you along your way. I am excited for this coming year, the (equally as) dreaded “work to death” year. I have been accepted into the mock trial program, am beginning to prepare for the year to come, and I’m slowly trying to figure out what my schedule will look like. I am nervous about the new challenges, but I have already made it through one year, and what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?

In Short

Yes, law school is hard. Yes, the first year of law school can be really challenging. Yes, sometimes it sucks to choose between having a night in with your casebooks or having a fun night out. But guess what? It’s well worth it. Being a law student is an experience that only a select few get to experience. It is challenging, hard, and frustrating sometimes (well… a lot of the time…) However, it is also rewarding, inspiring, and it opens a lot of doors. Law school has been an amazing experience thus far for me. I have worked hard in order to accomplish my dreams and become a successful lawyer. And you will too. Whether you are an incoming 1L or a graduating 3L, everyone’s law school experience will be unique, but it will nevertheless be worth it. So congratulations on starting/continuing/finishing this journey. You can do this!


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About Shirlene Armstrong

Shirlene Armstrong is a first-generation student in her last year at Wayne State University Law School in Detroit, Michigan. At Wayne, Shirlene has been involved with numerous organizations and clubs, including mock trial, LexisNexis, the Women's Law Caucus, and the Journal of Law and Society. Shirlene enjoys mentoring others and sharing what she has learned on her legal journey and continues to work hard in accomplishing her dreams.

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