Students often feel unprepared before their first year at law school. If that sounds like you, it’s totally normal. You might feel like you need to read as many legal cases as you can or get a head start on your coursework. As a former law student in Canada, I’m here to give you some good news – you don’t need to know the law before starting law school, at all. I’m sharing the things I wish I had known before law school, so you can learn from my experience.
1. Don’t compare yourself to others
Law school can feel like a competitive place. From listening to your peers compare grades, to receiving your class rank at the end of the year, to the pressure of getting a job during the 2L OCI recruit, it’s easy to end up comparing yourself with others. Here’s my big piece of advice: don’t do it. The honest truth is, people (even the ones you wouldn’t expect) who sound like they’ve got it all figured out, often inflate and exaggerate things to make themselves feel better. Just do your best in school and ignore the mumblings of others around you. It will make your experience at law school a lot less stressful and a lot more enjoyable.
2. Connect with upper-years (we’re nice!)
Don’t let my previous piece of advice scare you. Yes, the competitive vibe is real but at the same time there’s also the feeling that we’re all in this together. Upper-year law students are usually very helpful because they’ve been in your shoes and know how stressful 1L can feel at times. It’s also likely that they received help from upper-years when they first started law school and want to continue paying it forward. Branch out from your classmates and get to know the upper-years, some of them will probably even become great friends.
3. There’s more than one way to study
You’ll receive tons of great advice and study tips from upper-year law students and/or former law students. Always take advice with a grain of salt. What works for one student, may not work for you and vice versa. There are many ways to study and many ways to be successful in law school. If you’re not studying the same way as someone else, don’t worry.
4. Use summaries
Again, study in a way that works best for you. I do recommend the use of summaries to supplement your reading materials. Depending on your law school, they might be called summaries, CANs, mind maps, etc., it varies depending on the law school you go to. Summaries help cut down on the amount of reading (it’s a lot) and can help you better understand the material if it’s complex.
5. Get involved in extracurriculars
Take initiative to seek out extracurriculars at your law school. There are tons of opportunities like Pro Bono Students Canada, your local legal aid office, volunteer organizations, student clubs, and moots. Sure they help build your resume, but they also allow you to go beyond the classroom to encounter some real-world legal scenarios, build skills and make a difference in your local community.
6. You can’t do it all
Say no to FOMO, sometimes. By all means have fun and make the most of your three years at law school but don’t stretch yourself too thin. Law school is a lot of work and you’re going to have to put in a lot of time into classes, reading and studying to do well. You’re going to miss out on many bar nights, birthdays and time with friends, and that’s okay. It’s important to stay organized and manage your time well, but know that it’s just not possible to do it all, all of the time.
7. Your peers are your future colleagues
You might think that your peers are just classmates, but in a few years they’re going to be your colleagues and important professional connections. You might not be best friends with everyone, but don’t burn any bridges either. Plus, law school is hard on everyone, we could all use a little extra kindness.
Whether you’re starting to think about going to law school in Canada, are in the midst of applying or have already been accepted, if you have any questions about law school, leave them in the comments below!