The first year of law school is filled to the brim with new coursework, classmates, and expectations. It can be an overwhelming experience, but there’s a lot that incoming students can do to ensure they bring their best selves to their 1L year.
We asked a few of Albany Law School’s student ambassadors for their tips and tricks on how to make the most of the summer before law school and what to expect for the fall semester.
Prepare for What’s Coming
Taking some time to sharpen work and study habits will pay off once courses and extracurriculars ramp up. The first year of law school brings lots of reading, writing, and analyzing. Working to find the best techniques for productivity, focus, and stress management can help make things less daunting.
“It’s really important to get into a schedule. Whether you’re coming from undergrad or any other walk of life, summer becomes kind of a mental cool down,” said Jenna DiBenedetto ’22. “[That] worked for me because I said, I’m going to treat law school like my job, I’ll be working nine to five and getting my school work done during that time. Of course, that doesn’t always happen, but creating that schedule and that regimented routine was really important.”
The law school experience is a massive shift from undergraduate studies. Luckily, every other 1L will also be experiencing that change. Looking ahead at the law school’s offerings for student groups and resources can help open doors to build a support system.
“Sometimes you can feel alone and feel a lot of pressure, so finding people who align with you, your beliefs, and your background can help you feel more at home,” said Shellee Daniel ’21.
Connecting with people already on campus can help ease the transition, too. Albany Law School’s student ambassadors, faculty, and admissions staff can help answer questions before the semester starts.
“One thing I did was reach out to friends who had already completed their first year to kind of get the inside scoop,” Daniel said. “I do wish I had reached out to some of the current students. I would [suggest incoming 1Ls] do that—there are so many people here to help out.”
Keep an Open Mind
In addition to finding those you identify with, staying open to all people and groups can open up unexpected opportunities.
Matt Walsh ’22 came to Albany Law School without knowing anyone. Keeping an open mind led him to join the men’s rugby team—a sport he never played before law school—and it’s become a great way to de-stress with new friends.
“It doesn’t have to be something like law review, or the top-tier stuff. Join a sports team. There’s soccer and rugby. Do something to get your feet wet a little bit,” he said. “A lot of the things I’ve done I didn’t see myself doing. Be open. Be willing to try new things, especially if you don’t know the area or know many people.”
Check Out a Best Seller
Professors will expect you to come to class prepared and ready to answer questions on the assigned reading at a moment’s notice. Yes, the “cold call” is real. Preparing for this will leave little time for reading the latest mystery thriller or interior-design magazine.
While leisure reading has value, too—it’s relaxing, inspiring, and fun—there may not be much free time for it in the first year. So make some time before the semester begins.
“Being exposed to good writing makes you a better writer,” said Rosemary Queenan, Associate Dean for Student Affairs at Albany Law School. “Getting in the habit of reading is important, and incoming students should continue to take time to read things they enjoy.”
If you want to connect with the Albany Law School community through reading, consider the Albany Law Literary Circle. The group is open to faculty, staff, alumni, current and incoming students. It’s new for this summer—and incoming students are welcome. Check out how to join here.
Any Work—or Networking—Will Work
A summer job can be important, though it doesn’t need to be in the legal field. And with stay-at-home orders that could last into the summer, the focus may have to be on networking instead.
A lot can be learned through observation of lawyers at work or informal conversations with professionals in the field. Any job, any outreach, presents a learning experience—and there’s plenty that you can do remotely.
“Once you’re in law school, you’ll want to be making professional connections on your school breaks,” DiBenedetto said. “If you can take an opportunity to expand your mindset and your view before you step into a classroom, that only makes you all the better. Things I’ve learned through work or life apply to class and give me an understanding of how to gauge the room.”
Take Care of Yourself
Prioritizing your health and wellbeing—both mental and physical—can help set a good foundation for handling the stressors of adjusting to a rigorous law school semester.
“If you’re someone who needs an outlet, get it in place. If you’re a runner, keep running,” Dean Queenan said.
If you are relocating or setting up a new apartment or living space, allow a few days to get settled before classes start, she added.
For Daniel, her passion is all things music—listening, writing, playing—and she hopes to turn that into an entertainment law career. But don’t worry if your outlet isn’t necessarily educational or part of your future plans.
“Law school is stressful, so find an outlet, whether it’s working out, talking to a friend or family member, or watching a show,” Daniel said. “It’s important to try and get good grades and things like that, but your mental health matters most. Find something that takes your mind off things and lets you be a person.”