How the 2L experience differs from 1L

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Makenzie Way, University of Pennsylvania Law School 

1L year was tough. And I won’t lie, 2L year is also tough. But they’re challenging in different ways.

Maybe your 1L year was exactly what you expected, or maybe it was no way near what you had imagined. But the beauty of 2L year is that you’ve now completed a solid year of law school. You can use what you learned from 1L year to help you tackle what’s to come in 2L year. Here are my thoughts on how the two years differ:

1) 2L year is rarely discussed

Unlike 1L year where there are countless resources available, your 2L year will largely leave you on your own in terms of preparation. Research outside resources such as BARBRI 2L/3L Mastery and information about internships, clerkships and clinics to plan for early bar exam requirements you can take care of starting now.

2) Time for a social life

During 1L year, it can feel like you’re expected to live in the library with limited time for social activities outside of chatting with fellow students between classes. During 2L year, you’re encouraged to attend events (even virtually) and network more (email and Zoom calls) while maintaining your grades and classroom presence.

3) Case briefing revisited

By 2L year, you have tested the waters and understand what works well for you and what doesn’t when it comes to your briefing system. Many of my fellow peers continued to brief a case as they did in 1L year, while others pivoted to different ways to organize their readings, notes and thoughts. You can utilize these helpful tips if you’re looking for a refresher on case briefing and what to do/not to do.

4) Course selection freedom

Also known as “the Holy Grail” of not being a 1L student. Gone are the days of forced enrollment in required first-year courses. With this newfound freedom, make sure to understand how your school opens course selection and be ready with your ideal schedule.

5) Get ready for clerkships

You may have talked about clerking as a 1L student, especially during your summer job hunt. However, 2L year is the time to submit your application and decide whether you want to pursue a post-graduation clerkship. (No pressure though!)

6) A chance to eat healthier

Well, maybe. During 1L year, your typical meal plan probably felt like a lot of pizza and other less than healthy options as you made your way through a large variety of Lexis and/or research training lunches and other school-mandated events. As a 2L student, many of those events are no longer required, and if you’re interested in attending a lunchtime presentation, you can bring a healthy lunch. Plus, in my experience, most 2L-targeted events have a healthier food selection.

7) Journals

We love them for the resume boost but, man, they are a lot of work. I think every 2L on a journal has, at some point during an edit, questioned why they joined the journal to begin with. Just remember that although rigorous, journals can provide a lot of benefits.

8) Classes with new people

The average 1L does not encounter this struggle, since the cohort-style section structuring ensures you’ll build relationships and have classes with the same people for the entire year. While meeting new people is great, there’s also something comforting about getting cold-called in front of people you already know (something that won’t necessarily be the case in your 2L year).

9) More accountability, time and effort

You may have been a 1L rep for a student organization, but as a 2L, you’ll have the opportunity to take on a leadership position that grants you more involvement and influence. Just keep in mind that this requires more accountability, time commitment and general effort.

10) Better sense of security

While I could go on, the most notable difference about being a 2L is that you enter with a sense of security because you survived 1L year. Best of luck with the 2L experience!

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