Seven things I wish I knew before law school

Photo by Ashley Golledge

As a first–generation law student, my only knowledge on law school stemmed from movies and my favorite show, How to Get Away With Murder. I was hit with a strikingly different experience as soon as I walked into Green Hall. Law school is an unfamiliar and intimidating experience, especially when you don’t come from a family of lawyers. Here are seven things that I wish I knew before law school.

1. Network!

I never had a professional job before law school and didn’t know any lawyers. Once I started law school, everyone told me to build my network. I went to happy hours with firms, career fairs, professionalism meetings, and mock interviews – all of which were organized by KU and the Career Services Office. These events helped me build my network. I also learned that my classmates and professors would be my colleagues throughout and after law school. That being said, keep a good relationship with your peers and professors. These people will work with you in the future, refer clients to you, and maybe even help you get a job.

2. You will make friends.

You will find your people in law school. Your classmates will be the only people who truly understand what you are going through and the friendship you form will be essential to maintaining sanity in law school. KU has small sections, which means that I had all of my 1L classes with a group of 22 students. You’ll inevitably become close friends with people from your section. If you ever miss class or need help with anything, ask peers from your section.

3. It is okay to be confused.

There are numerous moments where you feel lost in law school. Moments where going into office hours makes you even more confused on a topic that you were already so lost on. I wish I knew that that was a totally normal and common experience during my 1L year. There were many moments where my imposter syndrome kicked in, and I felt like I was alone in my confusion. I came to realize that most of us were confused on the same topics.

4. Television shows are inaccurate.

This one seems obvious, but so many of my non–law school friends think my everyday life is like the shows and movies they watch. Law school is so different from glamorized television shows. Although the competition and personality depictions aren’t too far off from reality, law school in reality is a lot involves less cute outfits, less courtroom drama, and less students involved in covering up murder, haha.

5. Don’t compare yourself to others.

It is intuitive to compare yourself to classmates. I advise that you not compare yourself to any anyone. We come from different places, have different goals and have different personal lives. We have our own study habits, routines and things we know that work for us. It is essential to remind yourself that nobody knows you better than yourself. Focus on your goals and remind yourself that you know best how to succeed.

6. You will write a lot.

I didn’t expect to spend so much time writing in law school. I also didn’t expect to struggle with legal writing during my first semester. I was good at writing most of my life, but the transition to legal writing was tough. The CRAC / IRAC structure is something that is hard at first, but once you figure it out, it’s not too bad. Be patient and spend time improving your legal writing skills. One thing I hear from attorneys is that the best lawyers are ones that write exceptionally well.

7. Take time for yourself.

I remember feeling guilty for taking time off from school during my first semester of law school. This guilt kept me up at night, and I only dreamt about school–related things. I wish I spent more time on myself and away from school during my first year. It is important to stay focused and spend time on school, but it is just as important to spend time with your family and friends and to take mental breaks from school.

— By Sim Johal, a 2L from Springfield, Missouri and a KU Law Student Ambassador.