From my experience as a 1L at Columbia, I learned that there are so many different ways to be successful in law school. There are tons of have different ways to approach 1L year, so I found it most helpful to reach out to my peer mentors and other upperclassmen to ask what worked for them, what didn’t work for them, and what they would have done differently looking back on their 1L experience. Once I learned what worked best for other successful students, I took the tips that I thought would work best for me and began to implement them. The good thing about law school is that although the teaching style is different than an undergraduate experience, the approach you take doesn’t have to be that much different. I decided to stick with what worked best for me in undergrad, which made for a smooth transition.
The best advice I have regarding classes is to do your best to adapt to each of your professors’ teaching styles and understand that sometimes you may have to approach some classes differently than others. For example, in some classes you might want to volunteer more if you see that it’s encouraged, whereas other professors may prefer the traditional Socratic method. Also, it might be best to hand write your notes in one class, while typing may be best in another class. Many things vary, so it’s always great to pick up on cues from your classmates, TAs, and upperclassmen that can give you additional information.
Something that was important to me as a 1L was to brief each case I read before class so that I wouldn’t feel as nervous if I were to get cold called. I also found the TA sessions extremely helpful and attended those on a weekly basis as a way to review material with my classmates and get different perspectives on cases we’d already covered in class. Going to my professors office hours a few times throughout the semester was also something that I enjoyed as a way to get to know more about what would be expected of me on the final exam and so that my professors got to know more than just my last name. As finals approached I also found working in small groups to review exams was very helpful. Exchanging ideas with my classmates gave me confidence going into final exams and it made that experience less stressful knowing that we were all going through it together.
At the end of the day, it’s important to come into your 1L year with the right mindset and understand that law school is hard work, but that its manageable and there are lots of resources to help you along the way. For me personally, it was also important to realize that sometimes you have to be proactive and ambitious about the types of experiences you want out of law school. At Columbia I have found that there is something for everyone, and if for whatever reason there isn’t, you have the ability to create something new to add to the community, which is something I’ve already witnessed for myself in my two semesters here!
Ashley Lhérisson is a 1L from Albany, NY.
Ashley Lhérisson, 1L