Surprise, not everything I did in law school was a mess LOL. Though I often share all my mistakes and upsets in law school, I did, in fact, manage to graduate on dean’s list after 1L year and snagged some cool experiences that helped me land employment post-graduation. But I rarely share that mostly because the overwhelming stress and chaos of law school seems to reign supreme.
But as many are about to start another semester, I figured it was a good time to share some things that I did right when I was in school. And by “right” I mean that despite the internal doubt and external barriers, I pushed myself to do these things in order to reach my goal (that pretty JD).
One. Sought out diverse opportunities via internships. My first summer was a fluke (though a totally amazing experience) but it led to another immigration externship. Afterwards, I sought out opportunities where immigration and criminal defense intersected to expand my experiences and network. I won’t say I was super strategic here, but thankfully, the internships I sough out gave me a really rounded experience.
Two. Quickly got a handle of my study habits. My first semester grades were very much so-so…maybe I got one A? Maybe. Lol And I could have let the sort of turbulent/financial situation get to me. But instead, I took on extra loans so I could ditch my part-time job at express and dedicate that time to studying. I re-assessed how I was studying, stopped using my laptop in class (yes, I handwrote my notes!), and kept refining my approach. It’s hard to get out of the deficit of a bad first semester, so I was never going the top of my class, but I made dean’s list 2L and 3L, which is a nice way to show progress and improvement after a rough semester.
Three. I took substantive courses. This is really going against the grain because most people advise that you not take bar courses since you’ll learn what you need for the bar during your bar prep, which is correct. But each semester I took at least one substantive course that could be on the Bar. I did it not to help with Bar necessarily but I felt that going through the experience of a traditional law school course each semester would keep the skills of essay writing (necessary for the Bar) fresh. It would help me become better at issue-spotting, and well, it doesn’t hurt knowing the basics of foundational legal issues. This may be over the top but I’m glad I did it.
Four. Took advantage of my language skills. Knowing Spanish continues to be such an incredible asset that I didn’t know would be as important as it is. Yes, there are lots of hurdles to overcome when employers try to take advantage of language skills, but on the flip side, being able to cultivate my language skills, better connect with clients, etc has made me a better attorney. I’m really glad I started flexing those skills in law school.
Ok none of these things were rocket science but I can point to these areas as some of the ways I excelled in law school that resulted in a better experience semester after semester that also put me in surer footing to not only pass the bar, but find post-grad employment. So think about big and little changes you can make, how you approach the courses you take or internships you seek and see if that makes a difference.
Good luck as you start a new semester!