The Briefcase Diaries

Preparing for the 1L Spring Semester

Happy Spring Semester!  Here are some tips to have the best second semester of law school:

SELF-REFLECTION

Hopefully the winter break gave you some time to rest and reflect on your first semester of law school.  Since you probably received your first semester grades fairly recently, it is crucial to evaluate what went well and what you could improve on.

First, how did you prepare for class?  How did your case briefs and book notes help you?  Adjust your case briefs and book notes this semester if you felt that they were too long or too short.

Second, were you actively engaged in class?  Is using a laptop helping or hurting you?  Did you participate enough?  Assess whether your note taking system is working for you, and don’t hesitate to ask your fellow colleagues about their note taking systems.

Third, did you review your notes after class?  How did you organize your case briefs and your class notes?

Fourth, how effective were your outlines?  Did you use flash cards or flow charts?  Decide what method worked best for you.

Fifth, did your exam prep schedule work for you?  Did you take practice exams?  Did you study with a group?  If so, did it help?

After answering all the above questions, make goals for yourself in each category.  What are you class preparation and participation goals?  What are your outlining goals?  Write these goals down in your planner or somewhere you can see frequently to stay motivated throughout the semester.

Next, put your first semester grades in perspective.  If you’re not happy with your grades, understand that this is not necessarily indicative of your future success as an attorney.  But you do need to use your first semester grades as motivation to improve.  On the other hand, if you are happy with your grades, you must still try to improve.  That is the only way you’ll continue to succeed.  No two semesters are alike, and the only way to ensure your success is to stay motivated and make efforts to improve.

Most importantly, get feedback from your first semester final exams.  Each of your final exams accounted for the majority of your grade for each course.   So, reach out to your professors from last semester and see your final exam.  Seeing your final exam will likely provide insight on your outlining process and exam taking techniques.

WHAT TO EXPECT

Once you have reflected on your first semester, it’s time to understand what to expect in the 1L spring semester.

First, the expectations are higher.  You finished your first semester of law school, and by now, most students know what they need to do to succeed.  Professors understand this, and thus, strive to push their students to the next level.  If you continue to do your best and keep up with the work load, your essential “lawyering” skills—researching, writing, issue-spotting, analytical reasoning—will drastically improve.

Secondly, there will be multiple commitments to handle.  In addition to school work, the second semester is often filled with interviews for summer internships, career fairs, and try outs for various trial and moot court teams at your school.  There are also many upcoming deadlines for fellowships, scholarships, and writing competitions.  Mark all the dates in your calendar as soon as possible.  Don’t let any opportunity slip!

Lastly, you will be so proud of yourself at the end of your first year of law school!  So, hang in there, and do your very best.  Have a great spring semester!