What to expect in your first semester in law school

The school year is underway. A few weeks into classes, and you still are trying to figure out this law school thing. You have made some friends, but you may also feel the pressure to outperform them. Professors have called on you and subjected you to the draconian Socratic method. Briefing eludes you. Orientation? That feels like years ago. 

If you are still trying to adjust to your new life in law school, don’t worry — you are not the first law student to feel this way. We wrote about what you can expect in your first semester in the National Jurist Back to School 2017 issue. Here is what you need to know:


Your first few weeks of law school will be a blur, said Andrew McClurg, author of “1L of a Ride: A well-traveled Professor’s Roadmap to Success in the First Year of Law School.” 

Make sure you go to all your classes, and get there on time. Be prepared to feel overwhelmed. 

“The flow of a law school class is that we’re more strict at the beginning, then professors get more easygoing as the semester goes on,” McClurg said. “It’s impossible to go the other way. You can’t start off nice, then turn into a badass.”


Your classwork is probably starting to speed up by now, with harder material being covered faster than before.

Your legal writing assignments are also going to consume a lot more time than you expected. Don’t procrastinate.

Between seven and 10 weeks, you'll likely hit a wall. McClurg says you’ll feel as if you’ve been run over by a steamroller. Professors don’t give you much feedback, and if they do, it’s not all positive. It’s important to fight through this.

“Remember, this too shall pass,” he said. “Take it day by day. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”


Consistency in your schoolwork will help set you apart from your classmates as the end of the semester nears. Keep reading, briefing and outlining.

Don’t be pressured to participate in a lot of extra activities. Stay focused on studies, because first-year grades are disproportionately important. Activities will still be there in your second and third years.

Now is the time to start thinking about your future. Meet with a career counselor to plan out your summer and beyond, and develop a legal resume.


You can start applying for summer legal jobs, but first concentrate on exams. Since doing well in your classes is of the utmost importance, you may consider waiting until after finals to begin your job search, recommends the National Association for Law Placement.



For more helpful tips, be sure to read the digital version of the National Jurist Back to School 2017 issue.