Don’t be scared. Your week long orientation might have you thinking this is about to be the worst year of your life…and you’re right*. It might also be the greatest. You’re going to work harder than you’ve ever worked before and you’ll come out of this year a stronger person. This might be your first time getting a C or D in school. Maybe until now, you’ve never lived states apart from your family. This could be your first time being a student again in years and you haven’t turned in a paper since high school. You’re about to be very uncomfortable. Embrace it. If I’m being really honest here, you will probably have a bit of a breakdown every other month for the next nine months. That’s okay. You’ll get through this.
I am just one 2L with my own experience to reflect on, but I wanted to give you fresh-faced 1L’s some advice. Orientation is basically a week long lecture filled with advice anyways, so why not add my own. I just really like giving advice.
- Read for class as if you’re certainly getting cold-called the next day, even if you know you’re not.
- CASE BRIEF. You’ve been told how you should brief the cases you read, but everyone has their own way that work for them. In time, you’ll figure out what works best for you. If you keep it up throughout the semester, studying for finals will be more manageable.
- Speak up in class. Your professors want you to feel comfortable and they want you to participate. Lecture gets boring when only the professor is speaking (although that doesn’t stop some people).
- Smile and/or say hi to your classmates. It’s the easiest way to start a friendship. (Try winking at someone if you want more than friendship)
- READ FOR CLASS. Don’t be an idiot and think you don’t need to read for class.
- There will come a moment in one of your classes where you realize you were completely wrong about something you thought you knew. Fight it or accept it.
- Take care of yourself. You will hear about alcohol and substance abuse in the legal career a lot. Know yourself so you know when you might have a problem. There are resources for you.
- Everyone is pretending they understand what’s going on. Let me repeat this, EVERYONE is pretending they understand what’s going on. My first semester, I was fully convinced that I was the dumbest 1L in my class, nay in the history of Oregon Law. Oregon had made a huge mistake in letting me in because I didn’t know anything and would become the world’s worst lawyer! Then, slowly, my friends started confessing that they also had no clue what just happened in class and that they were on Buzzfeed the whole time. Everyone is a little lost all the time.
- As the beloved Professor Reynolds told me after going over my pitiful CivPro final, “You are smart. You got into law school. Don’t forget that.” Law school just makes you feel dumb sometimes. Really dumb
- Figure out your study methods now. I’m assuming you perfected your study habits in college but this is a new level of education and a new environment for you. Figure out what works and stick with it. I had one friend who always read his textbooks while listening to fratmusic.com while others solely listened to Korean Pop. Music is a fantastic study aid, but don’t use it as a distraction. I can only read to upbeat music I don’t know the words to, because if I do know the words, I end up singing along and not understanding the text.
- Friday and Saturday nights (and sometimes Thursday nights) are your solace. Do whatever you need to do to stay sane and balanced with how much work you put in the week before. Whether it’s drinking at McMenamins, dancing at Cowfish, or marathoning Netflix, have that fun in your life.
- On that note, have something you do that’s just “me time”. One of my friends goes fishing at least once a week. Another crafts for hours on end. Personally, painting my nails when I’m overwhelmed helps me feel a little bit more in control of my life. Even if I hadn’t started my LRW memo yet, at least my nails looked pretty. Exercise also helps immensely. It takes a lot for me to go running but I always felt better after. So if you do see me running, I probably had a very frustrating day.
- Have a support system. Your family and old friends will always be there for you but they can only help so much from outside Eugene. It’s extremely easy meeting your classmates and you’ll soon find the ones that make you happy. They are going to make your life in Eugene a lot less scary. One time two of my friends drove over to my apartment in Springfield and brought fresh-baked cookies because I was hating my life that night (albeit, a large reason for that was because of a guy and the smaller reasons were law school, but I’m only human).
The first year of law school is hard. You don’t get to pick your classes and you’re learning very broad theories of law that are very complicated. You’re away from everyone you know and are surrounded by strangers. Something great about University of Oregon though, is that the faculty and staff understand this and want you to feel comfortable. My last year here was the first time I’d spoken to a professor about more than what’s happening in class. In undergrad, I made it to maybe three office hours in four years. The professors, counselors, and deans here quickly become people that know you and want the best for you. Remember that.
Class of 2017, have a fantastic time and I’ll see you around.
*After actually speaking to some 1L’s, I was told that their orientation had a very “kumbaya feel” and the atmosphere was very supportive. I can only conclude that after Dean Espinola spoke to some 2L’s, she decided to go a less scary and intimidating route. That’s why she’s the best.