- This is all new. No one except the former paralegals in your class know anything more than you do.
- This path has been well-traveled. Hundreds of thousands of former first year law students have been in your chair. It is only recently that they have been assisted by Westlaw, Lexis, and Google. In the Olden Days they had to figure everything out with Black’s Law Dictionary and Shepard’s Citations’ in a (gasp!) book. [Note to self: Amazon.com says that my copy of Black's 5th is worth $125.00.]
- This is hard. Getting your mind around new concepts, new ideas, and new definitions for old favorite words requires a different kind of brain power than whatever you used to memorize dates in U.S. History 101.
|Black's 5th: A book|
- The security of your 1L section has evaporated. Most of the people in the classes that you picked out all by yourself are new to you. Watch out for the Gunners; steer clear of the back-row smart-alecks who will distract you; and get to know your professors.
- 2L writing activities: You may be on a journal or a moot court and/or you may have selected a seminar-paper class. Whatever you picked, the writing will take more time than you imagined. Start early.
- 2L writing activities: If you are fortunate enough to know what you want to do after graduation, select writing projects that might be vocationally useful. Budding Family Lawyers might write about divorce procedures, international custody rules, tax-related issues, or the intersection of family law, juvenile law, and criminal law. Many students choose wisely, and have writing samples that they use to connect with the lawyers for whom they wish to work.
|The Comp Guide|
- If you have no practical experience, get it now. While you may have written a brief during the summer, your best practice-for-professional-life strategy is to represent a real client, either in a clinic or through a pro bono project. There is no substitute for looking at a live client and feeling the weight of the responsibility for resolving a real problem. Minnesota Justice Foundation is a sterling example of an organization creating a collaboration among four law schools to provide pro bono opportunities. Most schools have clinic programs in which students can provide direct legal services under the supervision of a licensed attorney.
- Bar application deadlines are looming. You must have moral certainty about the deadlines for the bar exam(s) for which you may apply. Bar app deadlines are set in stone, and no amount of whining about the dog or computer that ate your application will get a waiver. Refer to the estimable ABA Section on Legal Education & Admission to the Bar's Comprehensive Guide to the Bar Exam.
- Bar applications require significant amounts of potentially obscure information. You will be asked about credit and criminal history (including your 245 unpaid parking tickets), where you have lived and worked for the past 15 years, and much, much more. Get a copy of the application for any state for which you might be taking the test. Start gathering your information now.