You will hear a lot about all of the exciting opportunities that law school brings. You will also hear about how to hone your legal writing skills, how to make yourself marketable, and how to perfect your resume. I am here to tell you that the biggest favor you can do for yourself is to establish a support system. Make friends and find people with whom you can be vulnerable. Establishing personal relationships and taking care of your personal life is the basis of a good, solid, law school experience.
The stress of law school can be a burden, but this is just something that comes with preparation for a challenging career. If you (like me) moved to a new city to attend law school with few (or no) established personal connections, it can also be an isolating experience. The friends that you made in college have already moved on to careers or other educational endeavors and you may sense that there is something different about law school than other educational experiences you have had. If you let it, this can be a source of internal conflict and struggle.
As humans, we are social creatures which need to vent, be heard, and most of all, to feel as though someone else “gets us”. It may be hard to understand that coping in law school is a different kind of experience. In the past your parents and friends were there to love and support you. Now, they may be impressed with your being in such a prestigious program, but they are unaware of what you are actually experiencing. Some of your friends in medical school might understand how busy you are, but theirs is still a remote experience from yours. What you need to get through all of this is a solid friendship with a fellow law student (or two) experiencing the same things as you are day-to-day.
You need someone who can laugh with you at the surprisingly robust humor coming through the staggering amount of legal puns, mishaps, and minutiae. You need someone to vent to about the material, how frustrated you feel about a thorny legal issue, and how confusing some of the opinions can be. Someone who also asks: “Do we really have to read all seven pages of Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissent?” (Answer: Yes). In short, you need a friend who can relate to your experience.
My first month as a 1L is still a hazy blur from which few details emerge clearly. Fortunately, I met two close friends during that time. They have since been with me every step of the way. I am convinced that our friendship actually helped keep us sane. Of course, the College of Law is filled with wonderful people. I have an extended circle of friends that goes far beyond my two closest confidants, but these two individuals were there for every late night study session, all of the endless lunches, many heated debates, and long hours of confusing lectures. We had a lot of stress and even more work. Mostly, though, we had someone else to call when it felt like it was too much.