12 Things No One Tells You About First Year Law
So you’ve been accepted, enrolled in classes, and maybe had your first law lecture. At Momentum Tutoring we know from our own experiences that everything will be feeling pretty new and strange in this first week of your university career, so we have rounded up a list of the top things all first year law students should know from the very beginning (especially the things that we wish we had known!).
1. You are allowed to use to Davis Law Library
Yes, we promise! We know it seems pretty intimidating because it’s where all the ‘actual’ law students hang out, but no one is going to kick you out. It’s an awesome study space, and also great for when you just want some peace and quiet.
2. Your Law GPA is not displayed by the university, anywhere
In first year the pressure of your law GPA can be all-consuming, and once in law school a less than incredible entry mark can feel like a millstone around your neck. However, your law GPA carries little significance and will never be displayed on your transcript, official or otherwise! It’s your overall GPA which matters in the long run, so focus on keeping that up!
3. You will learn to hate the law hill with a passion
Yup, it really sucks, especially after a long day of classes when all you want to do is sleep. But on the bright side, it’s a great way to burn off all those calories which accrue by spending hours at your desk studying!
4. You will start actually reading things before you sign them
This common side-effect of being a law student will hit you very quickly once you learn what can be a stake when you don’t read the fine print i.e. whole companies.
5. Your efforts to have a great work/life balance are going to go down the drain at some point
You will go into the year with a great vision of how you will juggle studying, your social life and extracurriculars and still have time to binge a Netflix show or two, only to have the first test arrive and end up on a week-long bender fuelled by coffee, pizza and the regret of not revising sooner. And you know what? That is completely ok. Work/life balance is the hardest thing at law school to master, and even by your 5th year you are never always going to get it right. Try to cut yourself some slack every once in a while, or you really will drive yourself insane!
6. It’s important to make older friends in Law
This is a really great way to immerse yourself in law school culture as well as get a head-start on learning what awaits you later on in law school. As a degree law can be quite isolated from the rest of campus, so it’s a great way to help you settle in quickly. Getting some guidance from someone who has been there, done that is invaluable in that first year when everything can get pretty overwhelming. And who knows? In five years’ time these people could be future colleagues of yours, or even help you get your first job!
7. You realise that you might not actually want to become a lawyer
Once you've had your first law classes you might realise that its very different to what you thought it might be (and cause any ideas of being the next Harvey Specter to quickly dissolve). This might cause some panic, but don’t worry, you aren’t alone! Law is a highly versatile degree with many different options at the end of it that don’t just involve being a lawyer. (Just a heads up: this will be the subject of our next blog post!)
8. There is going to be a big adjustment period to study expectations
You will learn pretty quickly that the rote learning method high school teaches won't fly at uni. It’s no longer enough to simply regurgitate facts onto paper, which we all know gets you an E at NCEA; you need to be able to synthesise them and apply them in different contexts to show full understanding. This means studying smart, not hard; read your cases carefully to understand them rather than trying to memorise them. Besides, once you see the size of those books, you’ll realise that isn’t possible anyway!
9. Don't neglect the marks from your other faculty
With the pressure to get the highest grades possible to improve your admission chances, it’s very easy to tell yourself that your other electives don't matter. But hold fire; this is a mistake which could jeopardise you getting into law school. Enough obviously important, your law GPA isn’t everything and your overall GPA is also taken into account. Admissions will be able to see very clearly if you have neglected classes that aren’t law-related, and you are unlikely to get rewarded for it.
10. Don't let the competition intimidate you
Yes, we all know from experience that first year law equals being surrounded by hundreds of very smart and ambitious people. However, it is your own mentality that's the biggest barrier; if you allow yourself to get hung up on how intelligent everyone else is, then you have already counted yourself out of the game before you've even gotten started. Instead, keep your attention on yourself and doing the best you can, and you can’t go wrong. Remember: you deserve to be here as much as anyone!
11. Don't take assignment marks of yourself/others as a guarantee that others will get in/you won't
This naturally feeds on from the previous point; until the final grades are rounded up, it isn’t worth spending your time worrying what other people are getting. The reason? The way that assignments are weighted means that a less-than-stellar grade may not play that big a role in the final outcome; a member of our team knew someone when he was in first year that got A+ on the last Law 131 assignment but didn't get an offer, whilst he got a B+ and got in. At the end of the day, remember it’s what you get, not what other people get, that defines your chances.
12. You will come out the other end a stronger person
There's no doubt it’s going to be a tough year, but at the end of the day it’s only one year of your life and it’s worth putting in that effort; after all, it has a big reward at the end! Moreover, all of those struggles will make you into a pretty tough individual ready to take on the world. If you can get into law school, you can do anything, right? Here at Momentum Tutoring, we are here to help you through those challenges and get you to where you want to be, so give us a shout!