The Six Best Pieces of Advice I’ve Received as a 0L

The Six Best Pieces of Advice I’ve Received as a 0LThis week we welcome back Julia Gourary to discuss the best advice she’s been given before starting law school.

For incoming 1L students, or “0Ls”, the summer before school starts can be full of nervous excitement and anticipation. As a 0L, I’ve been making an effort to talk to current and recent law students for advice on everything from preparation to academics to social life. If you know anyone in law school, especially the law school you’re planning on attending, it’s definitely worth reaching out before you start. Everyone I’ve talked to has a unique perspective, emphasizing different things, including aspects of law school life I had not previously considered. In this post, I’m passing on some of the best pieces of advice I’ve received.

1. There’s not much you can do to prepare ahead of time

Law students tend to be on the Type A side of the spectrum, so it can be hard to accept that you might not be able to plan, schedule, and prepare for everything law school will throw at you. Of course, it’s a good idea to get some life logistics out of the way, and to buy some tech essentials and school supplies that will help you on your law school journey. But in terms of the actual school part, what you can do before you start is fairly limited. Your education up to this point has given you a lot of the skills you’ll need, from close reading to research and writing to study and time management skills. But the new aspects of law school, like reading cases and figuring out how to prepare for class and for exams, is something you’ll have to learn by doing. Furthermore, professors won’t expect any background knowledge coming in, so there’s no reason to learn all of civil procedure before you arrive (unless you really want to!).

2. Don’t overcommit yourself, especially during 1L fall

As mentioned above, while some parts of law school will be familiar to you, there will be a lot to adjust to when you get there. Starting law school might feel like moving to a foreign country where you don’t know anyone and don’t speak the language. It’s important to give yourself the time and space to adjust and adapt, without adding in lots of other commitments beyond your classwork. Your 1L classes will also probably be some of the most demanding of your law school career, so it’s okay to prioritize school while you get your footing. There will be plenty of time to get involved during your 2L and 3L years, once you’ve settled and gotten into the swing of things.

3. Hold onto your non-law school friends

While new law school friends can provide a great support system because they understand exactly what you’re going through, it’s also important to hang onto your relationships from before law school. Your non-law school friends can remind you that the world is bigger than law school, help keep you grounded, and provide some much-needed non-law-related conversation. When the law school bubble becomes too much, and you just need a break from it all, you’ll be glad to have those friends to lean on.

4. Keep your eyes on your own paper

It can be easy to get caught up in what everyone else is doing, but there is no “right way” to do law school. Everyone has different learning styles, study preferences, and career goals. As this post discusses, it’s important to keep in touch with yourself and stay true to that. It’s okay if you don’t want to be part of a specific extracurricular or work at a particular firm over the summer, even if it seems like everyone else wants those things. And it’s also okay if your study habits are different than other people’s—for example, if you prefer to study solo rather than join a study group, or study at home rather than in the library.

5. Set boundaries

On one of my law school tours, the tour guide, a current student, mentioned that many people treat law school like a job. You spend the day at school, working and attending classes, then go home at the end of the day and leave school at school. While this might not be possible during busier periods like exams, the idea of setting boundaries came up with several of the students I talked to. One student told me she works one weekend day, but keeps the other one open. Another mentioned that even setting small boundaries can be helpful, like committing to not checking your phone for thirty minutes after you wake up. Law school can completely take over your life if you let it, so imposing boundaries helps you maintain a sense of control and also leave time for healthy habits like exercise, sleep, socializing, and leisure. Furthermore, practicing setting boundaries now will help you later in your career as a lawyer.

6. Go to class!

When I asked a recent law school grad what advice she would give someone starting law school, she said simply, “go to class.” It seems simple, but skipping class to catch up on other things can easily become a habit, and attending class is vital for success. Your professor can teach you things that you might not get from your books and supplements, and going to class also lets you know what your professor thinks is important. In addition, knowing that you might be cold-called can provide an incentive to keep up with the reading schedule.

If you’re a 0L like me, I hope sharing some of the advice I’ve received is helpful as you look ahead to starting law school. We’ve got this!


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About Julia Gourary

Julia is a 2L at NYU School of Law. She received her B.A. in Art History from Yale University, where she graduated magna cum laude in December 2021. In addition to writing for Law School Toolbox, she currently works as an LSAT tutor. In her spare time, she enjoys reading novels, doing yoga, and binge-watching reality TV.

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