The GSU College of Law Library is excited to post another exciting installment of “Dear My 1L Self.” In this series, Librarians, Law Library GRAs, Law Students, and other interesting folks write actual, time-traveling 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 helpful for our readers. Today, we get to hear from Terrance Manion, our Discovery & Research Services Librarian and a GSU Law graduate…
Dear 1L Terrance,
I want to offer you a couple of words of encouragement and reassurance as you begin your law school career.
Law school is a challenge, yes, and attending the part-time evening program at Georgia State Law while working full time is a truly unique challenge. The program is a marathon that runs for four to five years, depending on whether you take your summers off. Pace yourself and do not count the hours until nearing the end (particularly after that second calendar year). Take comfort in the following:
First, Georgia State Law is dedicated to the part-time evening program being as academically rigorous and meaningful as its full-time day program. It is not a satellite program taught by adjuncts or a less ambitious program as some part-time law programs seem to be. It will be the same curriculum. All Georgia State Law faculty will teach in the evening program. All of the college’s educational opportunities (Law Review, Moot Court, experiential learning, study abroad, etc.) are accessible to evening students, albeit you may need to prioritize which opportunities are most important to you. Take confidence that you will be on equal footing at graduation with your full-time counterparts, if not better because you have actual life and work experience, right?
Second, in the part-time evening program, you will not find professional students but student professionals, each facing the same challenges you are facing. They are juggling jobs, classes, personal lives, and copious amounts of reading and outlining. Their days start when they get to their jobs in the morning and do not end until classes wrap up around 9 PM (and 10 PM when you take evidence). They commute home (sometimes making a stop at a bar) knowing they will do it all over again tomorrow. They have the same anxieties about managing their time and energy. They have the same questions about whether they still have the intellectual stamina and aptitude for learning. They, too, have been out of school for a couple of years, if not longer. Because of this shared starting point (and the fact they will be in all your classes for two years), there is an inherent camaraderie in the part-time evening program. You will learn soon enough that your fellow students are not your competition. They are your safety net. They are your foundation. You will look after each other. They will become some of your closest friends and remain a resource and support network for the rest of your career.
Third, you are incredibly fortunate, and I am not talking about having the most manageable commute from your office in the law library to the classroom. You have a mentor and boss in Nancy Johnson that also navigated the part-time evening program at Georgia State Law. At the very least, she will offer a little misery-loves-company, but you know she never does the very least. She will be your advisor, cheerleader, coach, sounding board, counselor, and yes, teacher. You will take her class, and you will not get the highest grade in that class. It will haunt you the rest of your days; however, knowing your study partner, good friend, and fellow part-time evening student got the highest grade makes it a little more bearable. She’ll have you teaching the class in the a year or so anyway.
Nancy will provide the space and support foundation for you to be successful, both in the part-time evening program and at your day job. While not all of our part-time evening students are fortunate enough to have a mentor of Nancy’s caliber, I’m nonetheless confident that the support of their friends, colleagues, teachers, and librarians will be a defining feature of their success.
In short, you are part of this community, you can do this, and you found the right place to do it.
P.S. While in law school keep a list of the books you want to read for your own enjoyment. You do not get much time to read recreationally in law school but when you graduate, you will go on a reading binge like at no other point in your life. Have the list ready.