1. Don’t get too comfortable. If you killed it first semester, good for you! Now get back to studying. First-semester grades are only half of your 1L GPA, and the curve is just as bell-like and difficult your second semester. Stick to your first-semester study routine, and keep working hard.
2. Don’t concentrate on failure. If you didn’t do as well as you wanted to first semester, don’t let your less-than-stellar marks consume you during your second semester. You can’t change your grades now, and the unfortunate part of the bell curve is that only a small number will come out on top. Instead of freaking out, figure out which study methods didn’t work for you, and implement tools that can help you improve second semester: see a tutor, join a study group, leave your study group if it was more distracting than helpful, outline, book-brief, take more practice exams or whatever other study techniques you find helpful.
3. Land a Summer Gig. It’s hard to put the books aside and think about the summer, but you’ve got to move fast if you want to land the summer internship of your choice. Deadlines begin looming early in your second semester (some even lapsing in January and early February), so set aside some time to research jobs and visit career services.
4. Connect with Professors. Grades are critical for securing your dream job, but networking is important too. Don’t wait until 2L year to build relationships with your professors. They can help you understand class material, figure out your summer-internship goals and give you long-term career advice. They also will be essential if you decide to transfer law schools and need a recommendation.
5. Make Time for Yourself. In law school, especially during your 1L year, there is always more to read, more to outline and more to learn. But sometimes you have to back away from the books, and give yourself a break. Everyone has warned you about burning out, but all you can think about is getting top grades so you can get a job. I completely understand. But after a while your efficiency, productivity, health and sanity will crumble if you don’t give yourself some me-time. Keep up with your work-out schedule, allow yourself nights out with family and friends and get away from the issues, rules, analyses, and conclusions for a while.
6. Don’t Look Too Far Ahead. It’s always important to see the forest of your legal career and keep in mind that your 1L grades and connections can impact your career. But don’t focus so much on the forest that you lose sight of your current goal: beating the curve. Great 1L grades will create a foundation for future opportunities. So stay focused.
This post is authored by Mary Kate Sheridan, Vault.com’s law editor. She covers legal news and trends relating to top law firms, law schools and the general legal industry. In search of a practical use for her writing, she wound up on the liberal arts path often-traveled: law school. After law school, she worked as a litigation associate in a large New York law firm. Mary Kate holds a BA in English from Mary Washington College and a JD from Columbia Law School.
Stay tuned for our upcoming show on this topic! To learn more about how to survive and thrive in your first year of law school, check out our podcast Law School Survival Guide: Advice to Hit the Ground Running as a 1L and Beyond