Finals are just around the corner
One of my professors asked me to address a funk she noticed in class preparation of her first year students. Below is my letter to those students essentially encouraging them through the marathon that is first year first semester of law school. Hope this helps:
Last year one of my professor’s told my class that the hardest time you experience in law school is that period from the middle of October until late November during First Year. He described it as the period where the shock that you are in law school is over; it is no longer a big deal telling people you are in law school; and the period for evaluation is far enough away that you feel like coasting is at least manageable. I didn’t understand what he meant then but now I can see now how that period of time really separates those who “get it” and those who think law school is just like college.
One misconception with law school is that you are simply being tested on your ability to understand and apply the law. That is definitely part of it, but a huge part tests your ability to handle the process that IS law school. Professors have figured out a way to test us so that a canned outline or a week of cramming will just not suffice. The daily preparatory regiment and work ethic required to be in law school is not something you can fake. There was a student in my section last year who obviously barely read the cases for class and used someone else’s outlines to prepare for the final. Two days before the final he called to ask me a question and told me that he had memorized everything on his 65 page outline. The question he had was on an area of law we had not even covered that semester. Suffice it to say, he is no longer here. This isn’t an evaluation of your memorization skills but rather an assessment of the way you train for “game day.”
It is daunting to consider that you have to compete with other students; I know that feeling well being a competitive person. One of the most important things I learned last year was to “stay in your own lane.” Forget what everyone else is doing and don’t define how much you know by how much you think everyone else knows. I have learned that those who know the least spend a lot of their time trying to show others how much they know.
My overarching concept is that law school is hard. Law school is really hard. Being hard is what makes it what it is. If it were easy, everyone would do it. You were selected and are likely spending a lot of money to be here. Consider it a privilege to be forced to know what you have to know every day that you walk into class. Consider each class period a little piece of the answer to the final that you are getting that day. Every single day counts in law school and keeping pace is the only way to be successful.
Being a collegiate athlete, sport metaphors helped me to tough out my first year. Practice like you will compete and when the final leg of the race is approaching, kick it up a notch or you WILL regret it always knowing that you could have done just a little bit more.
I hope this helps and when grades for first semester finals come out, no matter what you earn, make it so you can say you left all out on the field. Best of luck.