Establishing Friendships With Fellow Law Students Will Help You Make It Through

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.

 Clara Vickers, 3L

Law School Presents Many Challenges, But Also Many Great Opportunities

One of the biggest things facing an incoming 1L student is adjusting to law school life and all of the associated challenges. The educational experience is very new and different. While it sometimes seemed like a chore to go to class as an undergraduate, I have never felt the same way about my law school classes. You may already have heard about some of the challenges you will face, but you may not have heard about some of the exciting opportunities you have to look forward to while in law school. With that in mind I thought it may be helpful share some of my experiences.

Challenges

Time commitment: The amount of time you will have to dedicate to your studies cannot be understated. You will find that you will have to dedicate more time in this area than you did as an undergraduate. Good time management is the key to success in this area.

Reading load: The reading load is tremendous compared to what you had as an undergraduate. Professors do their best not to completely overload you with the number of pages assigned, but it is still a lot. You may have three or four classes in a day, each with their own cases and briefs to read. You have to keep up with your readings because of the next challenge.

Cold calls: Professors randomly call on students in class to explain a case or to answer questions. It does take a while to understand how to read cases so that you can be prepared if you are called on in class. Once you have mastered this it will seem like you have learned a second language and only you and your fellow law school friends will understand.

Finals: Final examinations in law school are as tough as anybody has ever told you they are. Finals week is an extremely stressful time and will be very different from what you experienced as an undergraduate.

Opportunities 

Law student community: Being part of the student community at Florida State University College of Law is the most positive thing I have experienced since arriving as a 1L. Students are so nice to each other and everyone tries their best to help each other. You are also now among some of the best students in the country who all have the same goal that you do.

Legal community: Law school students, past and present, have all been in your shoes and know what you are going through. It is almost like a secret society, providing for an instant connection, whenever you are talking with another law student or attorney, and they all know and understand exactly what you are talking about!

Supportive faculty: The faculty is a tremendous help, both inside and outside of class. We are fortunate to have professors who are not only great teachers and expert researchers, but who also make themselves available to students. Take advantage of this!

Activities: Do not expect to just be sitting around studying all the time because you will have some free time and there are many ways to use it. You will have opportunities to gain work experience through externships and clinics and there are so many student organizations that you can join. Some of these activities provide for an opportunity to travel, including overseas opportunities. There are also concerts, sporting events, and other activities in Tallahassee and at Florida State that you will be able participate in. We are also only a short drive to some of Florida’s most beautiful beaches.

The best piece of advice I can give any incoming 1L is to work and play hard. It may seem like you are never going to make it through, but it does get better with time and practice. You will definitely be fine as long as you work hard, do what is asked of you, and always keep a positive attitude.

College of Law student ambassadors. Trey Howell, 3L