Dear My 1L Self- Find your Formula for Success

The GSU College of Law Library is excited to post this 5th installment of “Dear My 1L Self.” In this series, Librarians, Law Library GRAs, Law Students, and other interesting folks write actual letters to their 1L selves giving them advice and telling them what to expect from law school and the practice of law. We hope that some of this advice will be transferable to our readers, and show that even the most experienced of us have made a lot of mistakes. Today, we’ve got a dispatch from (and to) 3LP (and Law Library GRA) T.C. Deveau…

Dear My 1L Self,

Work smarter, not harder.

Your 3LP self recently read a twitter feed proffering advice to 1L’s and rising 1L’s that went something along the lines of “you should be working every minute you’re not in class, sleeping, or eating.”  This is terrible advice.

Do not put in work simply for the sake of putting in work.  This is especially true if you are a non-traditional student with other obligations outside of the classroom.  Just like sleeping with a book next to your head won’t help you learn, grinding for the sake of grinding won’t help you in the long run. Law School is a marathon, and you don’t want to burn out by sprinting from the starting line.

Every student is different and there is no “catch all” approach to being successful.  Everyone has their own formula for success.  Don’t forget to take a step back and figure out what is working for you and what isn’t.  Figure out your formula. 

Take those casebooks outdoors!

If you grasp a topic easily, think about why that might be – was it simple, or was there some way you learned or approached the material that aided your understanding?  Was there a teaching style the professor or course material used that helped you out?  When you run up against a weakness, how will you address it?  Should you read an additional 20 cases on the same topic with different fact patterns, or can you apply the approaches you took to subject matter you mastered to your weak spots and get there quicker?  Is there a resource at GSU that may aid your understanding without hitting your head against the wall too many times?

Don’t reinvent the wheel.  Take advantage of the resources GSU has to offer.  Professors and GRAs always make themselves available.  Campus organizations maintain wonderful outline banks for the benefit of younger students to supplement their own notes and outlines.  The Law Library maintains an extensive study aid collection that is freely available to existing GSU students (can be found here: https://libguides.law.gsu.edu/studyaidfinder).  Alumni are plentiful in the Atlanta law community and almost always willing and available to help mentor.  Finally, your peers are always there to help out, and the GSU COL student body is widely supportive of one another.  Study groups are your friend. 

You made it to law school.  You are driven.  You are bright.  You are insightful.  Use that insight and be introspective.  Take note of your strengths.  Take note of your weaknesses and come up with a plan to tackle them.  You will finish law school and pass the bar.  You got this.

-Todd (a.k.a. “T.C.”) Deveau, Ph.D.

GSU COL 3LP 

Dear My 1L Self- Enjoy Life!

The GSU College of Law Library is excited to post this 4th installment of “Dear My 1L Self.” In this series, Librarians, Law Library GRAs, Law Students, and other interesting folks write actual letters to their 1L selves giving them advice and telling them what to expect from law school and the practice of law. We hope that some of this advice will be transferable to our readers, and show that even the most experienced of us have made a lot of mistakes. Today, we’ve got a dispatch from (and to) 3L (and Law Library GRA) Ross Crowell…

Dear My 1L Self, 

This is going to sound crazy, but you do not have to be the last person at the Law Library every night. I know you have always been told by everyone your entire life that you can succeed by outworking everyone else, but here that ideology does not work. By mid-December, you will be completely burned out and your brain will barely be able to function. Work hard, but do not make law school the only thing in your life. 

While you are studying, do not worry about day-to-day issues. If you cannot figure out a case on a random Tuesday in October, odds are it will have no impact on your grade. If you get called on and are not sure of the answer, it is not the end of the world. Everyone else is in the same boat as you, just trying their best to get by. 

Once you start studying for exams, do not just focus on memorizing information, as that will not benefit you on the exam. Get your outlines completed during Thanksgiving break, then spend the next week before finals working on practice problems. Do not just read a problem and casually jot down your thoughts. You need to get in the habit of writing out full answers under a time limit. Once you practice writing out these answers several times, you will have a better feel for timing on the exam. 

Two days after your last final you’ll be much happier with your family in Rome.

Additionally, over Thanksgiving break (and the rest of the semester), do not spend a disproportionate amount of your time on Lawyering Foundations. While the class is important, do not waste your entire Thanksgiving break reading over your final memo 100 times. Make time for your other classes as well. Further, do not worry about the abundance of negative feedback you get on your papers; your bosses the next two summers will let you know that your writing is just fine. 

Finally, it is important to remember to enjoy life. Watch Sunday Night Football instead of stressing over the case you just read but do not understand. Go for runs and bike rides during the week. Play Xbox and let your brain turn off for an hour or two. Also, eat some salads and do not just heat up frozen pasta dishes when you get home at 8:00 every night; your brain and body will feel much better. I know this goes against everything you have heard in life up to this point, but working harder and longer than everyone does not guarantee you success. Work hard, but do not make school the only focus in your life. It might sound crazy now, but your brain will be fresh and ready to go in December for Finals. 

Best of luck, 

Future Ross Crowell

Dear My 1L Self- Get some fresh air

The GSU College of Law Library is excited to post this 3rd installment of our all new Blackacre Times Series – “Dear My 1L Self.” Check out the first two here and here. In this series, Librarians, Law Library GRAs, Students, and other interesting folks write actual letters to their 1L selves giving them advice and telling them what to expect from law school and the practice of law. We hope that some of this advice will be transferable to our readers, and show that even the most experienced of us have made a lot of mistakes. So, without further ado, here’s 3L/Reference GRA Luke Smith…

Dear My 1L Self,

This may sound shocking, but the world is more than just those 6 floors on the corner of Park Place NE and John Wesley Dobbs Ave.  Don’t get me wrong the College of Law is an important and fascinating place, but if you take some time to go outside the walls of the building, it can do wonders for your mental health.

As great as the professors and your fellow students are here at GSU COL, you’ll still feel stressed if you spend all your time here. You may believe that another half hour on your Lawyering Foundations memo will make it perfect, but it won’t, and you’ve already spent too much time on it. If you want to avoid burning out and feeling trapped and hopeless, you need to get out, explore, and find something you enjoy doing outside of Law School.

If you don’t know where to begin start by getting some fresh air. Go up to the 6th floor patio, sit on the balcony, and just breathe (editor’s note: unfortunately, the balcony is currently closed for repairs). You’d be surprised what 5 minutes not thinking about personal jurisdiction or restitution damages will do for you. The next step is to get moving. Go out the doors on the first floor and just start walking and don’t stop. You don’t have to go anywhere just explore and feel the sun on your face.

The hard part is over now. The law school is behind you and you can feel its grasp loosening on you. The next part is up to you now. Find something you enjoy and do it. I don’t mean binge watch The Office so you can turn your brain off between study sessions.

Me, happy once I finally decided to get out of the law school and explore the beltline with my girlfriend.

Instead, find something that rejuvenates you outside of Law School. You know that student activity fee you see in your bill every semester? Well that helps pay for all the student organizations that the main university hosts and you can try finding one you might enjoy on the Panther Involvement Network. My personal favorite is the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Club. It’s a great way to stay active, relieve some stress, it’s hosted just a few blocks away at the Student Recreation Center, and best of all its free to students.  

Or maybe you’re thinking to yourself “I really liked that part about going outside and just walking,” well there’s lots of great public parks in and around Atlanta to explore. The Beltline is a series of walking paths around Atlanta and their Website also has a bunch of great information about things to do around Atlanta and how to get there via public transportation. If you’re still thinking to yourself that by just being in Atlanta you can still feel the stress of the law school creeping up behind you, then take the red or gold Marta line South bound to the airport and leave. There’s no rule against taking a backpacking weekend to Bozeman or a romantic weekend getaway to Salt Lake City. Law School can be stressful and leave you feeling utterly defeated at times, but you can do things to help. Take some time to go outside, find a hobby, and explore the world outside of the Law School.

Yours truly,

Luke Smith

Dear My 1L Self – Breathe.

The GSU College of Law Library is excited to post this 2nd installment of our all new Blackacre Times Series – “Dear My 1L Self.”  In this series, Librarians, Law Library GRAs, Students, and maybe even alumni will write letters to their 1L selves giving them advice and telling them what to expect from law school and the practice of law.  We hope that some of this advice will be transferable to our readers, and show that even the most experienced of us have made a lot of mistakes. So, without further ado, here’s 3LP (& Reference GRA) Meri Elkin…

Dear My 1L Self,

Take a breath. Maybe take a few breaths. Are we consistently breathing yet? Great! Now, go to office hours. Show up to talk to the GRA that aced this class before you. Swing by the Professor’s office that teaches the class. Do not wait until we get our first Lawyering Foundations memo back to ask questions. Do not wait until after our first cold call in Civil Procedure to admit we could possibly be confused. Go now. Ask the questions!

A pic of Meri Elkins

As it turns out, we do not know all of the things. If I am being honest, we don’t even know what we don’t know. We are going to spend a lot of time reading, listening, and trying to formulate coherent responses. Real talk: we do not always formulate coherent responses. We do not always have the right answer. Just remember, it does not do to dwell on missed cold calls. Let it go. Thank me later.

Look around, and find friends who will keep a smile on our face when we are sleep deprived and studying for finals. We will have some truly great days at GSU COL! Though, and this is not to scare you, 1L Self, we will also have some less than great days. All days are better with friends. True story.

Are we doing okay? Breathe! Law school is not a sprint. Fast forward, and it is 3LP year. We still don’t know what we don’t know. We still don’t always have the right answer. Some days are still less than great, but we learned to embrace the journey and get outside of our comfort zone. We built a network of friends, classmates, mentors, and faculty to turn to when we stumble. It may take a minute to find our footing, but take a breath and know that we will hit our stride. Trust me.

Still breathing,

3LP Meri

Dear My 1L Self – DO NOT ‘Fake it Till You Make IT’

The GSU College of Law Library is excited to announce an all new Blackacre Times Series – “Dear My 1L Self.”  In this series, Librarians, Law Library GRAs, Students, and maybe even alumni will write letters to their 1L selves giving them advice and telling them what to expect from law school and the practice of law.  We hope that some of this advice will be transferable to our readers, and show that even the most experienced of us have made a lot of mistakes. So, without further ado… 

Dear 1L Patrick, 

DO NOT fake it till you make it.  You are starting law school and are so much less prepared than you actually think.  The things that made you good at high school and college, mainly being really good at remembering lots of information,  are NO LONGER USEFUL. I mean, they’ll always be useful, but if you don’t strip down your intellectual process and rework your approach from the ground up you’re not going to do very well.  Read books about how to succeed in law school and do a ton of practice problems.  Having a really well put together outline will not matter if you don’t spend some time learning how to take law school exams.  In fact, you’ll end up getting a C+ in contracts, the class you basically explained to everyone all semester, because you didn’t really get what the professor wanted in the exam.   

This “clever slacker” persona that you’ve whole heartedly accepted for yourself will no longer work.  You’ll need to learn to ask for help, and give things enough time so asking for help is an option.  Remember when you were an undergrad and took symbolic logic and were terrified you’d fail, so you went to every office hour and ended up getting the best grade in the class?  You need to be that engaged for every. single. class.  I know you are very confident about your ability to do this.  That’s great, but it’s basically unfounded.  Innate ability alone is not going to be enough to do well.  You have a lot of work to do, and it’s better that this gut check comes from me (us?) now than after a whole semester of very inefficient work.  Go see your professors now.  Be engaged in class. Stop asking other 1L’s for advice – they’re more clueless than you.  Instead, bite the bullet and utilize your professors and academic success department.  Do things the right way.  This is the only way you’re going to do as well as you want.   

Also, stop going to chicken wing night every Tuesday at the William Penn Tavern.  If you can’t stay in, at least go late and leave early.  You can watch the Pittsburgh Penguins by yourself at home. 

Warmest regards, 

Future Patrick 

1L Patrick in the wild