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What to Expect as a 1L

Expect to get called on in class, and expect it to feel like an interrogation. Expect to have too much reading to do and not enough time to do it. Expect to feel nervous, confused, anxious, and angry. In the end, though, you can ultimately expect to feel proud and relieved.

What you shouldn’t expect during your first year of law school is to have everything figured out by your first day. You won’t, because law school is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced.

The Classroom Experience
In general, law school professors use one of two teaching methods: the Socratic method or Black Letter Law. The Socratic method involves professors relentlessly calling on a few students and forcing them to evaluate cases and laws. It can be an uncomfortable and embarrassing experience for the students being called on–especially if they haven’t done the reading and briefing. Black Letter Law is a teaching approach more similar to what you experienced in your undergraduate program. The professor lectures and then discusses the material with the class.

During your first year of law school, you’ll likely have a pretty heavy course load consisting of classes on topics that make up the foundation of the law–civil procedure, contracts, criminal law, property and torts. Each of these courses will come with casebooks full of thousands of dull-looking pages, and you will likely be expected to read–and brief–nearly every page.

It will feel overwhelming at the start, but it will get better–especially if you hire a law tutor or get involved in a study group and learn how to effectively and efficiently read and brief casebooks.

Nerves, Anxiety, and Relief
If you’re like the vast majority of law school students, things have always come easy to you. You’ve always been a top-performing student. You’ve always been able to easily understand complex concepts and translate your understanding into good grades. You know how the system works, and you’ve always been able to manipulate it for your benefit–and do it with confidence.

All of that might be about to change. In addition to the Socratic method of teaching, law school is different in that all of the exams come at the end of the semester. That means you only have one chance to do well and get a good grade. And it will cause at least some nervousness and anxiety.

But at the end of the semester: relief.

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