First Few Weeks of 1L as a “Non-Traditional” Student

First Few Weeks of 1L as a "Non-Traditional" StudentThis week we welcome back new 1L Stephanie Gregoire to discuss what it’s been like transitioning from a career to starting law school.

The first few weeks of 1L can be a lot. If you’re someone who, like me, had a career before law school and wonder what those first few weeks are like from that perspective, look no further!

Orientation – New Employee Orientation + High School All in One

1L orientation experiences vary by school, so keep that in mind because this may not necessarily apply depending on your particular situation. My orientation felt just like orientation at a new job combined with high school. We heard a lot about high-level goals of the school, how we can make a difference, and how they set us up for success if we put in the work, as well as the various resources available to us – career office, student services, etc. They gave us opportunities to meet and mingle with classmates, which was great for the first few days because that meant we had at least a couple of familiar if not friendly faces in the crowd. Our student bar association also had a 1L-only bar review night the Friday before classes so that gave us another socializing opportunity.

First Day – A FULL First Day of a New Job

This also felt very similar to starting a new job, except now you’re with everyone else. You’re in a new environment, don’t really know many people, and you’re just hoping not to make a bad first impression. I woke up very excited and ready to take this challenge on. It was a jam-packed day, I had three of my four classes, two of them were doctrinal, and they jumped right into the material. If you’re hoping for an experience like undergrad where professors introduce themselves, maybe do an ice-breaker activity, go over the syllabus, then dismiss class 45 minutes early, think again. There is a finite amount of time between day one and finals, and professors will take every second they get.

First Week – Being Comfortable with Uncertainty

My second day of class, I got cold-called, and it was the first day of my third doctrinal course with that one professor everyone warned me about. He was very true to what was described, and my palms definitely got a little sweaty when I heard my name called, but I made it through, and I promise it really isn’t as bad as it seems if you’re prepared. Something that helped from my “previous life” is being used to not knowing everything. At orientation, they really emphasized the need for us to become comfortable with uncertainty and incorrectness, because there will be several moments of both as we move through this journey. Already having that box checked when you walk in makes it less daunting. It’s still not fun, but at least it isn’t unfamiliar, and that alone is a win.

Second Week–Tired, But Adapting

People were tired. All of us, traditional or non-traditional, were feeling some kind of overwhelmed. But generally, it felt like an extension of week 1. Glitches were still being worked out, we were all getting to know and become more comfortable around each other, and things were slowly becoming more routine. This was the week I started to really swear by my digital calendar rather than just relying on a list of tasks and having to figure out where the pieces fit. This felt very natural because I had been doing the exact same thing with my work calendar for the past five years. Some people prefer paper planners, but it just wasn’t working for me, and this was the ideal time to figure that out. So my classes = standing meetings. The rest of my time gets blocked out according to my list of things to do that seems never-ending. Which is exactly what I did when working too!

Third Week and Beyond–More Work, Long But Doable Days

Week 3 is where things started to get “real.” The workload picked up and people trying to sprint the marathon of law school weren’t loving it. The biggest thing I noticed was that the adjustment at this point did not seem nearly as bad as anticipated. Going in, I was more concerned with the time commitment that would be required than anything else. Looking back, I had no reason to worry. I’m “on” for around 13 hours on my longest days, and those days are sporadic so far. My shortest days are closer to 10 hours. Going from 8-hour workdays to 10 has been pretty smooth so far. The 13-hour days can get brutal, but again, they’re rare, and even if they become the norm, I’m just having to go from 10 because I’ve already adjusted to that. In other words, the thing that many seem to be struggling with is less of a struggle because of that work experience I came in with and the hours I was already used to working.

Overall, leaving my career to start law school has been an intense, challenging, rewarding, exciting experience. Yes, I’m probably more tired than I’ve been in years and sure, I sometimes feel like I don’t necessarily belong, but a few weeks in, I can confidently say that law school is not the terrifying beast that some would have you believe, and I am so glad I am where I am. This absolutely was the right decision for me, and hopefully this will give you some peace of mind as you make the move from work to school.


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About Stephanie Gregoire

Stephanie is a 2L at the University of Houston Law Center in Houston, Texas. She graduated from the University of Florida in 2017, where she majored in History. In the years since completing her B.A., she has worked in Human Resources across the country, working in South Carolina, Louisiana, and Washington before moving to Texas. Outside of school, her hobbies include baking, working out, and travelling.

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