How to Prepare for Class as a 1L

How to prepare for class as a 1LThis week we welcome back Shirlene Armstrong, rising 3L, to discuss some great advice for getting ready for class as a 1L.

Sharpen your pencils and get your notebooks ready, school is just around the corner. Starting law school is a daunting experience. In general, beginning something new can feel uncomfortable. However, law school is an entirely new experience that is unlike anything you have experienced before. Thus, you are probably feeling nervous and worried about what to expect, especially when it comes to classes. Fortunately, you are already being proactive and trying to prepare prior to classes. Here are some tips to help you prepare for class as a 1L.

1L Year In General

Your first year of law school is 1L Year. This year is well known as the toughest year for law students and is considered the “scared to death” year in law school. People like to scare 1Ls by sharing horror stories of people dropping out, telling them about how hard they are going work, and saying they need to constantly worry about finding a job. 1L year is an experience that all law students must survive. Law school is hard in general, and the first year of law school can be really challenging. It may be one of the most difficult experiences of your life. Your first year may be frustrating and overwhelming at times. Most first year law students are stressed, overworked, and a bit frustrated. This makes sense since 1Ls are just learning how to think about the law and apply it to specific areas of law all while juggling classes, figuring out how (and when) to study and how to get over the mental headache of classes.

Be Mentally Prepared

Becoming a 1L is a great change. You have to navigate this crazy thing called law school after just being thrown into it. Thus, you want to get your mind ready for law school. In your first year, especially in the beginning, you may be overwhelmed by it all. Not only do you need to figure out the law, you also need to figure out how to be a law student (a stressed one at that!) The best strategy for getting prepared for 1L classes is to get into the mindset so that you are ready to learn and mentally prepared for understanding the law.

Read the Materials

In order to prepare for classes you have to, well, go over the materials and actually read your case book. Thus, you need to set aside time to go through your assigned materials and cases and begin to conceptualize the law. The best way to feel more prepared is to familiarize yourself with the text and begin thinking about it. You will feel much more prepared for class and your 1L year if you actually know what you will be discussing. This also helps when you are going to get called on in class.

Get Ready for the Cold Call

Many law students’ least favorite thing about law is the dreaded cold call. This well-known spotlight of law school is when a professor calls on a student without that student volunteering to answer a question. These questions range in difficulty and can look different depending on the class and professor. Many professors cold call on cases and hypotheticals that they pose to the class. However, some professors would ask your opinion or have you analyze a fact-scenario. Each individual has their own method on how to conduct cold calls, but typically professors will either choose randomly from their class roster or from their seating chart. It is important that you are prepared not only for class but also for being called on (even if you didn’t understand everything from the materials!)

Take Detailed Notes

In order to feel prepared and ready for class, you need to take notes. Note-taking is necessary to be successful in law school, especially your first year. Your memory can only hold so much information at once. If you decide not to take any notes, when it comes time for studying for exams, you may find yourself in a sticky situation. Thus, you need to take notes. You can write notes in whatever way makes sense to you (after all, don’t reinvent the wheel!) However, your notes should be detailed enough to help you be prepared for class and comfortable with the material. It will also help you check your understanding and see where the shortcomings are in your knowledge of a certain area of law. Taking notes will help you feel more prepared and confident in your legal knowledge.

Get Ready For One Heck of a Year!

Your first year is going to be an adventure. You will learn SO much about yourself as a student and as a future attorney. You are taking the first step toward accomplishing your dreams so you should be pumped up for your first year of law school! Not only is this generally an exciting time in your life but you should also take this time to reflect and be proud of yourself. You are already taking a great step in trying to prepare for class so that you can feel confident and ready for what law school will throw at you. Thus, get your supplies together and your smart-caps on, you got this!


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About Shirlene Brown

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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