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Preparing for 1L


Patient0L

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This is an excellent thread with some excellent advice.

As the forum is still relatively new and as this topic comes up often, I'm pinning it. OP, you'll notice that I changed the title slightly. Please message me if you'd like you have any concerns with the title. 

 

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  • ZineZ changed the title to Preparing for 1L
bocuma
  • Law Student

I think one of the best things you can do is probably find a way to work on your writing. Write essays about things you find interesting, even if it's just on internet forums or something. Then, go back and edit those essays and make them as concise as possible. Try to form strong, convincing arguments about your topic. Try to make your sentences and paragraphs as short as possible, while still keeping the substance of your argument. Your ability to write well will make 1L dramatically less stressful when you have major writing assignments, and it's very hard to learn to write well during the term.

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capitalttruth
  • Articling Student

You can do none of these things and still do excellent in 1L. I know it's hard to digest, but there's really nothing you can do to adequately prepare for 1L, at least on a substantive/comprehension level. 

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Kimura
  • Lawyer

What you can do in advance of 1L is get all of the other shit in your life in order so that you don't have to spend time sorting that out while trying to figure out how to navigate 1L and the remainder of law school. Spend some time making a financial plan if you need to, enjoy time with family and friends and do stuff you enjoy.  

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capitalttruth
  • Articling Student

I take back what I said earlier. In my view, there is one way to adequately prepare for 1L. This summer, go get laid 🙂

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GGrievous
  • Law Student
2 minutes ago, capitalttruth said:

I take back what I said earlier. In my view, there is one way to adequately prepare for 1L. This summer, go get laid 🙂

I see why I ended up having a tough first semester 

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capitalttruth
  • Articling Student
4 minutes ago, Barry said:

I see why I ended up having a tough first semester 

 

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1 hour ago, ZineZ said:

This is an excellent thread with some excellent advice.

As the forum is still relatively new and as this topic comes up often, I'm pinning it. OP, you'll notice that I changed the title slightly. Please message me if you'd like you have any concerns with the title. 

 

Hey Zinez, it might be worth while adding this to the applicant thread rather than the current students/articling students thread. It might be seen more by students who are in the application cycle/gotten accepted but haven’t started law school yet. 

Just my two cents!

Edited by Mustang
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30 minutes ago, Mustang said:

Hey Zinez, it might be worth while adding this to the applicant thread rather than the current students/articling students thread. It might be seen more by students who are in the application cycle/gotten accepted but haven’t started law school yet. 

Just my two cents!

This is a great point. I'll cross-post it once I'm back on a computer. Thanks for the suggestion! 

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DonPablo
  • Law Student

I echo what LMP and most of the other users have said. While I am now in 1L, I had the same question when I was 0L and always thought there was something one can do to be prepared in advance. Looking back now, there is really nothing one can do to get a leg up on the material because, like LMP said, no one is there to tell you if you are doing it right. On the contrary, I believe it would be counterproductive. 

Nonetheless, like one user have said, I'd consider working on your writing. Concise writing, without losing the substance of your argument, is a difficult skill to develop, but an important one nonetheless. Some of my classes had a word-count for assignments and exams, so it was really important to know how to articulate your point as concisely as possible. Some of the books that I have found particularly helpful include (1) 'Guthrie's Guide to Better Legal Writing' by Neil Guthrie (this is a book on legal writing, but it is also a bit broader than that), (2) 'Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace' by Joseph Williams (though this is a book on academic writing) (3) 'The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century' by Steven Pinker, (4) and 'Eats, Shoots, & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation' by Lynne Truss (this is a great book on grammar and punctuation). 

I'll also say that while it is good to know if there are particular areas of law you are interested in, it is also not an issue if you are not quite sure yet.  Many people starting law school do not know what type of law they want to practice. And, some of those who do, their interests change while in school. But, I'd suggest working on your cover letter and resume. By doing so, like others have said, you'll save so much time and stress when it comes for applying for clinics or summer jobs. That is one thing that I definitely would do if I could go back in time because it really does become hectic when you are juggling readings, classes, firm tours, moot tryouts, and putting together summer job applications. 

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Patient0L
  • Law Student
6 hours ago, capitalttruth said:

I take back what I said earlier. In my view, there is one way to adequately prepare for 1L. This summer, go get laid 🙂

The last thing I need is another kid 🤦🏻‍♀️ 

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Patient0L
  • Law Student
15 hours ago, DonPablo said:

I echo what LMP and most of the other users have said. While I am now in 1L, I had the same question when I was 0L and always thought there was something one can do to be prepared in advance. Looking back now, there is really nothing one can do to get a leg up on the material because, like LMP said, no one is there to tell you if you are doing it right. On the contrary, I believe it would be counterproductive. 

Nonetheless, like one user have said, I'd consider working on your writing. Concise writing, without losing the substance of your argument, is a difficult skill to develop, but an important one nonetheless. Some of my classes had a word-count for assignments and exams, so it was really important to know how to articulate your point as concisely as possible. Some of the books that I have found particularly helpful include (1) 'Guthrie's Guide to Better Legal Writing' by Neil Guthrie (this is a book on legal writing, but it is also a bit broader than that), (2) 'Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace' by Joseph Williams (though this is a book on academic writing) (3) 'The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century' by Steven Pinker, (4) and 'Eats, Shoots, & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation' by Lynne Truss (this is a great book on grammar and punctuation). 

I'll also say that while it is good to know if there are particular areas of law you are interested in, it is also not an issue if you are not quite sure yet.  Many people starting law school do not know what type of law they want to practice. And, some of those who do, their interests change while in school. But, I'd suggest working on your cover letter and resume. By doing so, like others have said, you'll save so much time and stress when it comes for applying for clinics or summer jobs. That is one thing that I definitely would do if I could go back in time because it really does become hectic when you are juggling readings, classes, firm tours, moot tryouts, and putting together summer job applications. 

Eats, Shoots, & Leaves is already one of my faves! Maybe I'm more prepared than I think 🙃

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goodisgood
  • Law Student

I wish I signed up for this: https://www.dwpv.com/en/Careers/Davies-Mentorship-Program 

Would have been good to get professional feedback on course selection + learn more about the ins & outs of the profession from people who have gone through the process. I'm very fortunate to have a really great mentor, and I think having someone like that in your corner really changes the whole process. Having an additional opinion would add extra perspective!

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goodisgood
  • Law Student
2 minutes ago, Rashabon said:

I agree professional mentorship is great, but course selection? There isn't any before 1L.

From my understanding of the program, the mentee/mentor pair are together for the whole school year, so I was thinking getting some advice on matching up interests and courses in 2L and beyond might be useful. Now that I think about it though, it was pretty clear for me what I wanted to do. Maybe it'd be more useful for people who don't exactly know what they want to do? 

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  • 2 weeks later...
Theysaidwhat
  • Law Student

I'd suggest spending time with your non-law school friends and family now... you won't be seeing them much for the next few months until Christmas. 

You can also think about reaching out to upper years to see if they'll be willing to share some summaries with you. Not for use now, but you'll need them later on when you start and it makes more sense to have them ready (because we're all unnecessarily anxious type As) instead of looking for them later. It's probably too early for this now, but I'd start a bit before the school year starts. Hope that helps!

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honeydijon
  • Law Student

There’s some excellent advice in this thread. I’ll echo what many already said, which is that you really don’t need to do anything to prep for 1L and the best thing you can do right now is enjoy your time with family and friends. 
 

But, if you’re set on doing some pre-1L reading, then I strongly recommend reading How to Be Sort of Happy in Law School by Kathryne Young. I read it just before I started law school and found it very helpful because it made law school seem a little less daunting. 

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  • 1 year later...
atg95
  • Lawyer

I'll echo what has been said before as you can't do effective substantial law prep. Anything you can do to put yourself in a good place mentally and physically for starting law school is good.

If you can improve your reading speed and comprehension and writing skills that is a bonus, which can be hard to do at this point in your life. But there probably are slight things you can do over the summer or year before, even if it is just adding more reading generally and of lengthier texts (whatever they are, it could be fantasy books or science fiction, just get into the habit of reading again if you have only been reading short things during your undergraduate). Taking on specific exercises or online courses freely available may be able to improve these basic skills. We are not talking about an overhaul here but just minor improvements that can only help you in law school or any subsequent career that involves a lot of reading and writing. There are also resources that specifically target law students and are helpful (e.g. https://www.slaw.ca/2020/09/09/10-legal-writing-tips-for-law-students/)

This is not directly related to your question, but still something that may be relevant in terms of pre-law school preparation for some students: when I was in law school,  there were intellectual property jobs for 1st year summer that you could start applying for even in late August before the school year started and closing early in the 1st term. If you are in that narrow subset that is interested in IP (particularly if you have a science or engineering background) then this is something you can start looking into the summer. It may be that they have moved the deadlines later into the year in 1L, which would make more sense. I don't know what is the case now and it may vary by region. 

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GoBigOrGoHome
  • Law Student

Here's some advice: 

Career

  • create a resume structure following online resources for law student resumes. You will not have it finished, but you will thank me later when you are too overwhelmed or busy to do it, but you want to participate in the 1L recruit. It is an easy thing to do but when you are drowning in school work, these easy things feel like the hardest things. 

Personal

  • Go deal with all of your medical/dental/etc. appts now. 
  • If you have a disability, contact the school you have accepted, get them all the documentation, etc., and work out your accommodations. Even if you get accepted elsewhere, it will be the same documentation, and you can also share what the other school put in place for you. Getting documentation is very time-consuming. If you have BC student loans and a disability, get Appendix 8 in ASAP and schedule a meeting with ATBC ASAP. They will have a considerable waitlist. 
  • Visit everyone you care about because you will not see them for a while. 
  • Learn how to cook and meal plan fast, healthy things. Perfect it now because nourishing yourself is essential, and cooking takes up much of your time. If you can master this with things you like eating, you will save time and money.
  • Find a counsellor. You will be going through a lot, and most schools have benefits. Find someone now that you feel comfortable with (hopefully, you have some benefits) that can be available when you need them. Your school might also have counsellors, but you may not connect well with them. 
  • Create a financial plan and apply to external scholarships 
  • Do a spring clean and purge everything you don't need in your life. You won't have time to do this during school 
  • Get dress pants/skirt, some tops and comfortable shoes. You will need these in your first week. You will need a suit, but if you are the type who gains/loses weight while in school, wait a month or two (get it in November). People might tell you that you don't need a suit, but there were so many events that people would want to wear suits. 

School 

  • Read Alex Schimel's How to Get Good Law School Grades before school and then before your midterms. Maybe again before finals. 
  • I wish I had reviewed CANs templates before starting law school, not for their content but for their formatting. I didn't have enough time to start from scratch, and I have a disability that makes reading certain font styles and formats harder. I wasted a lot of time trying to find the right format that was easy on my eyes to start with. I found one now, but I wish I had it for last semester. 
  • Do some research about the clubs and whatnot that the school you are going to has and think about what you are interested in. Once you are in the vacuum that is law school, there is a lot of pressure to get involved with everything and attend all events. You won't be able to find out about everything in advance. Still, if you have some idea about what you want, you will feel less overwhelmed by the choice and pressure (this doesn't exist at all schools, but those in large metro areas have a lot of firm events in addition to the clubs you want to join. It will quickly become a lot, and you will get burnt out if you don't apply some self-restraint to not participate in absolutely everything). 
  • Do some reading about the structure of the Canadian legal system and the different branches of government (this will depend on your school, but this past year my professors started teaching in a way that assumed everyone knew what they were talking about. A lot of people didn't know and didn't speak up. Some schools review this during orientation but assume that they don't). 
  • Make a point to try to attend whatever summer icebreakers are held (even if virtual). Knowing some people before orientation week was nice, and I felt more connected because of this. 
  • Find out what supports exist at your law school (you may need to meet with your student services for fulsome information because some schools do a poor job of publishing everything available). You want to know what you can access before being in a crisis (e.g. counselling, financial, indigenous-specific, food, etc.). Learn about the school itself. So much is available throughout your wider school, and google + Reddit are your friends. 
  • If you are starting school with an older computer, copy all of your files to a flash drive or hard drive (good idea to even consider iCloud or OneDrive), wipe your computer clean, and put your files back. My computer worked so much better after I did this - but it took a long time, and I wasted many hours sitting around. 

First Week of School

  • Download your law school calendar into your calendar system. You can probably download a file from your student portal. Make sure to add professor office hours to it, so you have them available when needed (but mark them as free and turn notifications off for them)
  • Put your course outline into your CANs template. Popular advice says don't bother doing this so early, but if you have ADHD, want some peace of mind, have demands for your time outside of law school, etc., you will be grateful you did 
  • Share your accommodation letters with your professors (if applicable)
  • Now that you have medical benefits through your school plan to use them. Book your appts for the school year (you will be more likely to get weekend appts for dentists, etc., the earlier you book)
  • Have fun and get to know your classmates - and over time, find one person to be an accountability buddy. This does not mean you will be in a study group with them, but someone you can silently study with or check in with. External pressure can be a great motivator. 
  • Look for your textbooks online before buying. You might be able to find a free PDF, it might be accessible for free online through your school's library, or it is cheaper on Amazon or some other website. 
  • Create a semester reading list so you don't have to go back to your course outline every class to figure it out. This will take you a few hours to do but so worth it.  
  • Download your class materials to your computer and organize them (but be open to changing the organization approach). For classes that have just the textbooks, I keep all of the PowerPoints in a single folder with a naming convention. For classes with articles and cases I have to download, I create a folder within the classes' parent folder for each date. It is very organized and helpful.
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Pecan Boy
  • Articling Student
53 minutes ago, GoBigOrGoHome said:

Visit everyone you care about because you will not see them for a while. 

OP, just FYI, this is not true or normal. Law school is like any other school. You'll have plenty of time to have a life

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BlockedQuebecois
  • Lawyer
1 hour ago, Pecan Boy said:

Law school is like any other school.

Often markedly easier, because instead of having to learn something moderately difficult like qualitative molecular orbital theory or Liapunov's direct method, in law school you only have to learn that intentionally leaving your car parked on a police officer’s foot is illegal. 

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FlyingFish
  • Articling Student
On 3/5/2023 at 6:12 PM, Pecan Boy said:

OP, just FYI, this is not true or normal. Law school is like any other school. You'll have plenty of time to have a life

Agreed, I found the academic component of law school to be less of a time commitment than that of my undergraduate degree. 

Also, I will chip in two things I wish I did differently which might have allowed for better grades in my first year (I went from a 3.0ish average in my first year to a 3.7 in my second year and a 3.8 in my first semester of third year). 

1. Law school is graded on a curve and many people will tell you that law school is difficult and that all of your classmates are smart. For me, this created a self-expectation that law school would be hard and that I would have to fight to achieve average grades. Therefore, law school in my first year was a challenge and I fought hard for Bs. I would simply warn you against placing self-imposed limits or expectations on yourself before you start; you are surely an intelligent person and there is no reason why you shouldn't get the top marks over any other person in your class.

2. Be careful of overcommitting yourself to extra-curriculars. I actually found the first two months or so of law school, which was online for my year, to be quite boring and under stimulating. Therefore, I signed up for every extracurricular under the sun and this somewhat caught up to me during exam season. However, even if I could redo my first year I am not sure if I would have committed less time to extra-curriculars as I found what I learned and the friendships I made to be more valuable than anything I could be taught about first year law over zoom. 

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  • 2 weeks later...
backtomac
  • Applicant

Love this thread — is it really the end of the world if I read cases before 1L? I just find them interesting and I want to practice. Not interpreting cases legally, just reading them.

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Whist
  • Law Student
3 hours ago, backtomac said:

Love this thread — is it really the end of the world if I read cases before 1L? I just find them interesting and I want to practice. Not interpreting cases legally, just reading them.

The issue is for people who read it and are in some manner trying to interpret the legal tests without guidance. You’ll be spending the rest of your life looking at case law on some level, but if you want to start early just to pass time with it as reading material, go ham.

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LMP
  • Articling Student
5 hours ago, backtomac said:

Love this thread — is it really the end of the world if I read cases before 1L? I just find them interesting and I want to practice. Not interpreting cases legally, just reading them.

Read whatever you want! I don't think anyone is saying you have to shield your eyes from case law and remain in some judicial-virgnal state. 

Rather, what I think most users are trying to get across is that when you read you'll inevitably develop an understanding of the matieral. Not a correct one, but your own personal understanding. And it'll likely be wrong in several significant ways. 

Which is fine! But the trouble is that many people struggle to replace solidified ideas with new ones. Which is what'll you be asked to do when you actually read that same case in school. 

Now it might be no problem for you to do that. You might be able to read case law more lightly. Or you might be easily able to change your perspective on stuff. 

But lots of people are bad at those things, which I think is why so much advice is given against pre-reading. 

That, and it is frankly a waste of time. If it's done for enjoyment that's one thing, but trying to do it to get a leg up is kind of a waste.

 

 

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