Reflecting on 1L year in law school

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Congratulations! You now have two semesters under your belt. You’re no longer a law school novice.

The first year of law school likely challenged you from many angles. You probably even changed your approach a time or two between the first and second semesters to adjust to the beast that is law school. Nonetheless, you persevered and now it’s time to assess all that you did last year to find what worked, what went well and what is best tweaked for the road ahead.

The process of self-assessment is critical to building a game plan and making thoughtful decisions for 2L year. While everyone’s law school experience is unique, there are some things that most students can draw upon from 1L year to pave the way for smoother semesters to come.

Honesty is your best policy

Start by being completely honest with yourself when reflecting. If you sugarcoat how the experience of 1L year truly was, you’re liable to cheat yourself out of making beneficial adjustments going into 2L.

You want your second year in law school to be less stressful, right? Then don’t stop at doing a partial assessment of your time management, sleep and study patterns, law school relationships and anything else that contributed to your 1L outcome.

Review your exams

Take time over the summer to reflect on your performance on spring semester exams. Did you change how you prepared from first semester to second semester? What was the end result?

This is a good exercise to help ensure you understand any concepts that gave you issue on exams. You should be able to determine if something went wrong due to how you approached a question or if there was a blind spot in your learning that needs to be filled. Here are more tips for reflecting on your exam performance from one year to the next as well as between semesters.

Assess how you spent your time

Some may say that law school gets easier each year, but the reality is you’ll likely have more and more commitments. The difference is that you can now handle them and multitask better. That’s why it’s important to review how you spent your time as a 1L. This should help you see how you can make the most of your fall schedule as a 2L.

  • Case-briefing
    Did you brief all cases last semester? Did you feel prepared for class? How you answer will likely help you know if you had a tried-and-true approach to carry forward into 2L year.
  • After class review
    Did you spend time after each class reviewing what you just went over and where it fits in the big picture? Though this process adds time in the moment, the time you’ll save doing your outlines and during your final exam study period more than makes up for it. Consider adding this approach to your 2L strategy if you didn’t as a 1L.
  • Outlining
    When did you start outlining? Did it work for you? Remember, it’s never too early to start and as mentioned above, it will save you time in the long run.
  • Studying for exams
    What was your process like? Did you study in public places, at the library with a few peers? Did it work? If your grades didn’t match your effort, it might be worth finding a new game plan for the upcoming year.
  • Self-care
    Law school is very important for your future, but so is taking care of yourself. If you didn’t take any time for yourself (including sleeping) during 1L year, that mindset needs to change. Take breaks, take walks, practice mindfulness, or do whatever it is you normally do to help take the edge off. Your mind and body will thank you.

Grade your class participation

At some schools and for some classes, class participation can result in a “bump-up”. If this is true at your school, keep your class participation in mind as you determine how much you intend to put yourself out there during discussions.

Don’t forget the professor factor

Did you spend any extra time (outside of class) interacting with your professors? It’s okay if you were a little too shy to do this as a 1L. But as a 2L, it will serve you well to attend office hours or stay after class to ask questions that might solidify your understanding of a concept. Your professors can help guide you toward the expectations they have for your exams. Learn more about the importance of connecting with your professors in law school.

Whatever your assessment of 1L year unveils … remember that if it worked, don’t fix it. If it didn’t, change it up. Reflect on your first year in law school as a great learning experience. As you gain confidence for what lies ahead, consider BARBRI 2L/3L Mastery for every possible advantage.

Time to move into the 2L zone — best of luck.

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