GUEST BLOG Makenzie Way,
1L at the University of Pennsylvania Law School
I pressed the submit button on my final 1L exam just a few days ago!
Unlike many of my peers, I elected to direct apply for a journal so while they’re stuck on campus for another week stressing about commas and footnotes, I’ve finally said goodbye to law school for the summer. And while my brain, sleep schedule and stress-o-meter couldn’t be happier, I do feel a tad sentimental about leaving my law school campus behind. So with that, let’s do a little recap of my ‘top five best experiences’ of 1L.
1) FRIENDSHIPS AND COLLEAGUES
Without a doubt, the friend group I established throughout this year was the best part of law school. Without them I wouldn’t have made it through the first few months of law school, let alone the entire year, so really I cannot stress enough how important solid friendships are for surviving not just 1L, but life. Your law school friends won’t just support you emotionally, they’ll also support and push you academically. You’re in law school, so without a doubt the people you meet are going to be impressive, even if they don’t see it themselves. For instance, a number of the people I have the privilege to call my friends are active reproductive rights activists, some are joint degree candidates, and one landed a summer jobs with the NBA. Likewise, the insight and unique take on cases that I witnessed within the classroom showed a level of intelligence previously unmatched. The wealth of knowledge that each of my fellow colleagues posses astounds me – in all honesty, I’ve probably learned more from my friends and colleagues than my classes.
2) THE ROOMMATE SITUATION
Upon accepting my spot at Penn I looked at my parent’s and said, “I’m going to live alone next year.” I even browsed some one bedroom apartments in the area before deciding my bank account would appreciate a roommate. This turned out to be the best decision I could have made because I ended up living with the most amazing woman. This gal is like a walking Google, she somehow knows everything about everything. She memorizes cases like it’s no one’s business, attends protests with homemade posters in hand, and makes a mean pasta sauce that tastes like home. I obviously have a bit of a girl crush on her, but seriously you would too if you met her because she essentially embodies what a law student should be – she’s like Erin Brockovich, fighting for all our rights. The takeaway from this is, if you’re on the fence about having a roommate, get off it and go find yourself one. Sure there’s the risk you’ll end up with someone you hate, though that risk is reduced if you spend some time talking beforehand, but there’s also the chance you’ll meet someone who comforts you, encourages you to be a better law student/person, and presents themselves as a role model and friend without trying.
Classes are what they are, you read for them, go to them, and then get tested on them. Granted, I took some great classes this year that left me with an absurd amount of information, but the true gem of law school classes are the professors. I was taught by arbitrators for the NFL, active international law scholars, and one Native American advocate. These respected professionals not only taught me, but took the time to get to know me. They helped point me in the right direction career wise, and sat with me when I struggled to understand a concept related, and unrelated to class. It’s truly an honor to study under some of these brilliant minds, and I think that’s applicable no matter what school you go to.
4) LEGAL WRITING
I thought I was a good writer before entering law school, and while I wasn’t wrong, my legal writing and research class transformed me into an even stronger writer. The course wasn’t perfect, but the skills it taught me are preventing me from having a panic attack as I prepare to enter the world of a legal intern. Plus, it was the first class that made me feel like a real lawyer since we did everything from open memo’s to oral advocacy in a real courthouse.
5) PERSONAL GROWTH
I’m still not a master of the US constitution but the amount I grew as a person, and academically is nonetheless outstanding. Law school is challenging, it pushes you down and forces you to fight for what you want. When you manage to come out on the other side of it (even if you have two years left) the amount of self-pride you feel is out of this world. I’ve always loved to argue but I had a tendency to get a tad too emotional when doing so (just ask my dad), this year I learned to buckle down in terms of oral advocacy. I also developed skills that allowed me to make concrete changes within areas of interest to me – for instance I wrote a legal memo that helped ban elephants in local circus’s. Finally, between cold-calls, pro bono projects, personal tragedies and the environment surrounding me, I gained confidence in my own ability to persevere.