Halfway through my first term of 1L I feel like I am just starting to get a hang of things. All of the fears and concerns I had coming into school have mostly evaporated, and the ones that remain seem much more manageable. Coming into 1L I had heard all of the rumours that everyone wears suits to class, has an incredibly type-A personality, and that nobody shares notes. Not true. (Mostly.) Really, it seems to be much more like undergrad than I expected. Almost everybody wears jeans to class, nobody seems hyper competitive (yet), and everybody shares notes. Several times I’ve had people I don’t even know walk up to me in the halls and ask me to email them my notes- that just seems to be the culture around here.
Another misconception is that everybody works incredibly hard once they get to law school. It is true that the workload is as crushing as everyone says it is, but as a general rule it seems like everyone has just kept the same study habits they had in undergrad (however long ago that may have been.) Lots of my friends have gotten caught out because they vowed to start better study habits once they hit law school and then just fell back into their old ways. I don’t know that I can offer any advice there except not to let yourself get bogged down by all the reading. People say it’s impossible to keep up with all the readings, so why bother trying. That is definitely not true. It is possible. It’s just really hard. Still, it seems much easier to do all the readings as you go and be able to keep up with the lectures then trying to cram in weeks of backlogged reading at exam time.
That’s really all I have so far- things are busy and hectic, but nowhere near as bad as people imagine them to be. The main problem that I’m running into now is that it’s getting hard to see the forest for the trees. We read so many cases that it’s hard to see how they all fit together to form a general idea of tort law or contract law. Upper years have suggested reading treatises and old exams, but one of the difficulties in keeping up with readings is that it doesn’t leave a lot of time for reading other non-essential things. I’m hoping that it all comes together sometime before exams in December…
I have just completed the second day of class as a 1L. Tuesday was Orientation at U of T so there were no classes and the day was full of information. All day we were told about the various clubs, journals, and clinics that the school has to offer its students. Even though I have only been a law student for approximately a blink of an eye, I am confident that there is an extracurricular activity at this school that could interest just about anyone’s interest. I have tried to make an agreement with myself to take it slow on joining many extracurriculars before I actually understand what the workload will be like. However, it seems extremely difficult to ease in when many of the activities have their orientation days coming up within the next week. I’ve decided on a journal and a clinic that I have a lot of interest in, and I am also considering a human rights working group which I hope will aid my legal research skills. At UofT, your legal research requirement is not until the upper years and although many professors have stressed that we will have a good exposure to legal research, I would like to matters into my own hands.
Wednesday we began classes. At this point it is hard for me to give any concrete ideas of what the classes will be like, however, each of my professors has been welcoming, excited to be teaching first years and very interactive with the students. My favourite class (undoubtedly) will be my small group. U of T, being a relatively small program already, splits the first year class in half so for each course there are 2 classes of about 65-70 students and 3 small group classes of about 15-20. This small group can be in any of your subjects; for myself, the class content is not why I know I will enjoy the class the most, but the idea of the intimate setting and low professor to student ratio. It is a very safe space for a nervous first year and class to test the waters of legal reasoning.
Today I only had one class so I decided to try a method of studying an upper year had used. I went to the library at 9am and stayed there (minus lunch and a coffee break) reading and taking notes. I have three days that are not packed full of class and I like the idea of a 9-5 schedule. We’ll have to see if that ends up being a enough hours to cover all of the work. The library is a step up from my previous institution’s; large windows, natural light and extremely quiet. Imagine that…a quiet library.
Anyways, the students are all friendly, the Dean is very personable, the professors all brilliant. Most importantly they have not stopped feeding us since we walked onto the grounds Tuesday morning. Two out of the standard three meals a day have been covered. I am certain I have produce that is going bad in my fridge. But as Dean Mayo Moran said, “…if there’s one thing we do right at U of T law, it’s feed you.” The woman does not lie.