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Calling All 1Ls: Some Helpful Rules for Law School Success

Rene Morency

Calling All 1Ls:  Some Helpful Rules for Law School Success

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We are all familiar with the benefits of hindsight.  Unfortunately, as a 1L, we do not yet know what we do not yet know.  At least, if we do know, it is not with as much clarity as we have with hindsight.

Well, here are six success rules that will hopefully help.  You have many competent authorities available to teach you how to study for and write a law school exam, how to prepare for the bar exams, how to perform legal research, and even how to finance a law school education.  The following rules are neither technical nor substantive, but they are of substantial importance.

Rule 1.  Work your butt off.

The good news is that you did not make it this far by being a slacker.  However, by way of reminder, now and for decades to come, there will be no great substitute for being extremely well prepared.  Sorry, no good news here.  Except that you will sometimes compete against others who do not follow Rule 1.

Rule 2.  Don’t be a jerk.

Being a gunner is great.  Social climbing has its place.  However, if a certain conduct or comment would not be OK in kindergarten, think twice about it in law school.  People who get ahead by being mean or putting down others when they are in law school succeed far less in the years following school than otherwise.  The loss of political capital can be a long-lasting detriment.  Worse yet, being a jerk can be habit-forming.  While you are at it, listen more than you speak.

Rule 3.  Don’t compromise your professional integrity.

Some days, it will be all that you have.  Jobs come and go.  That dream job that you are angling so hard to obtain right now may be over a few short years from now.  What is even more surprising, you may be happy to see that job end.  All those fat checks and sign-on bonuses that many of us are hoping for today, will be a distant memory in a few years.  In five years, every dollar of that first year's compensation will have been spent long ago.  Your professional integrity, on the other hand — how you treat your clients, coworkers, and counterparts — will be the ticket to the next job.  That professional integrity is the check you can cash in perpetuity.

Rule 4.  Relax.

It really will be ok.  I know that as a 1L, it sounds trite, or even absurd.  Yet, please listen:  It will be ok.  Grades, interviews, and jobs may or may not be exactly what you ideally would like right now.  But in the fullness of time, we all get jobs.  Many of us even figure out what sort of law is the best fit, whether we even want to practice law, and where we fit in.  For three years, I stressed out about jobs.  Eventually, my 1L and 2L summer jobs were better than I could have imagined.  Now, I have several great options ahead of me.  It will be ok.

Now that you have the foundation, here’s one more:

Rule 5.  Network.

No, really, network.  What I mean is, start attending local and national bar association events, alumni-student events for your school, and yes, even CLEs.  (Do not do so to the detriment of your grades!)  Who you know may not be a substitute for being well-prepared and working your tail off.  But your network can afford you opportunities to excel with all that great preparation.  As a result of my networking, I now have scores of lawyers and judges all over the country, and in a variety of practice areas whom I can call.  These good people have shared with me their advice, time, encouragement, and contacts.  Most importantly, they have inspired me to do the same for others.

Rule 6.  Reread Rules 2 and 4.