No matter what type of school you’re attending, you’ll likely reach a point where you begin to struggle with the course workload or the way material is presented. In law school, this typically happens in the first year — something referred to as the “1L Wall.”
As a beginning law student, you’re coming in with the drive and desire to succeed, but may not have the knowledge needed to scale that wall and make it to the other side – years 2L through 4L in a part time program like St. Francis’ online JD program. .
Getting past the 1L Wall will require determination and grit, but with the right tools and tips up your sleeve, it can be done. The more you know, the less difficult it will be for you as you continue with your law school education. Learn more about the 1L Wall, how to get over it, and who you can rely on during this time.
What Is 1L Really Like?
Your 1L year will be challenging, but making it through could end up being a very rewarding experience. To stay on top of things, you will need to manage your workload early on. Plus, the courses you’ll take during this first year of law school will provide you with the foundation you need to get through the rest of school, the bar exam, and your career. So it’s vital to stay focused and on track during that first year. Information you’ll study during your first year will include all aspects of three large subjects:
- Criminal law
In these courses, you’ll not only learn about these important subjects, you’ll also have the chance to apply your knowledge and skills in various ways like drafting agreements, conducting negotiations for settlement in a personal injury case, arguing a sentencing hearing in a criminal case, and more. In order to apply your knowledge, you’ll need to demonstrate that you have a thorough understanding of the law, and that means you need to study often and likely work with others in your year to help each other get the material organized by outlining. You’ll also be taking final exams, so you’ll have to study for those, too.
Why Is 1L the Hardest Year?
After earning a bachelor’s degree, you may think that your 1L won’t be too terrible. However, this first year of law study is rigorous and unyielding, often weeding out some who aspired to be lawyers. Around 7% of people will drop out during or after their first year, according to the American Bar Association Journal.
One reason that some may drop out is something called optimism bias, where law school candidates see the long list of tasks before them and feel optimistic and overconfident about their ability to complete them. Instead, try to come in with as much knowledge about your 1L year as possible so that you can effectively manage your workload.
It can also be tough to adjust to the schedule that a 1L year demands. Those who work may go in with unrealistic expectations, thinking that they can get everything done without studying on nights and weekends. Along with that, financial expectations can be difficult to balance, too. The 1L year can present the most difficulty because of the academic rigor, misplaced expectations of schedule, and money issues.
4 Tips for Succeeding in 1L
While the prospect of a 1L year may seem daunting, it is possible to succeed and go on to the next year and eventually take the bar exam. To do this, you’ll need to sit down well before the year starts and create a sort of roadmap to how you plan to handle all of the challenges that may come your way during the year. Here are a few tips to help you as you work toward succeeding in your 1L year.
1. Find supportive faculty and staff to help you.
Luckily, most law schools like St. Francis will have faculty and staff there to be resources for you and help you along the way. They want to ensure you have the support you need so that you’re not flying blind.
“It certainly takes grit to be successful, as well as good time management and study skills, but those are all things we can work on and develop together,” said St. Francis Dean Gregory Brandes. “We tend to organize the material for you pretty well. There’s a nice rhythm to it that you can get into if you manage your schedule and make sure you’ve got the time it takes and use that time effectively. We spend a good amount of time helping you learn how to do that.”
2. Set a schedule and stick to it.
During your first year of law school, you will have to develop some strategies to pace yourself and to keep yourself motivated, said 2021 St. Francis graduate Frederick Chernoff.
“It’s gonna be discipline that can take you through a journey like this – a journey this long,” Chernoff said. “You can be motivated all you like going into it, but you must discipline yourself, and that was a message I gave myself every morning. Motivation comes and goes, but discipline remains consistent.”
Use that discipline and create a schedule that you stick to, and make sure your friends and family know about the schedule so that they can respect your time while you go through the 1L year. Tell them it is a temporary situation and that you appreciate their support.
“You really need to set good routines, and not just law school routines, but life routines – because it’s very challenging,” Chernoff said.
3. Determine your best study strategies before classes even start.
Remember, the format of law school courses will be different from what you experienced in your undergraduate program. Many courses will have a Socratic format, where you’ll have to apply logic to answer questions posed to you, both inside and outside of class.
Dean Brandes actually advises pre-1L students to read a book on logic before class, as it will help them to understand how arguments are put together, especially if they’ve never had exposure to that sort of subject matter before.
You can take that preparation and work on determining some study strategies that can help you out before classes even start. But once those classes do start, you’ll want to hone your strategies even more.
“You’ll want to learn a really efficient way of keeping track of what’s going on in class, then afterwards, use a little time to tighten up your notes and review key topics. Research suggests a timely review after class can increase both comprehension and recollection. Both are and then that prep beforehand, during class, and after class process is essential to success in the law school world,” said Brandes.
4. Stay motivated, engaged, and always be prepared.
It can be difficult to always feel motivated, but try to keep that feeling going if you can. That motivation is what can help to get you over the 1L wall and into your next years of law school.
“I think motivation is important to success in law school in that you need to keep in mind what your long-term goal is–why you have sought to enter the practice of law. Be persistent in meeting those goals in all of your classes,” said St. Francis professor Karen Travis.
Along with that motivation, you also need to stay engaged in class. Not only will that help you as you learn and grow as a law student, but it can also help you make connections with students and teachers who can assist you along the way. That means involving yourself in discussions, proactively asking questions, and taking initiative on any assignments that come your way. You’ll need to rely on your motivation to keep your engagement rate high, so make sure you always have your motivation at the forefront of your mind.
Staying engaged can also help you be prepared for class. Without that preparation, it will be harder to be engaged in any class discussions. Professor Travis notes that she believes students who are successful are the ones who are always prepared and consistently engaged.
“Successful students put in the time before class, interact during class, and then really solidify what they learn after class,” Travis said. “You must be prepared to be able to engage in classroom discussions about legal principles, about cases that you’ve reviewed, and to ask questions, and answer questions posed by other classmates and by your professors.”
St. Francis Provides the Tools You Need to Get Past the 1L Wall.
If you’re considering law school, it’s best to be informed about how important it is to be prepared for the difficulty of the 1L year. The good news is that at St. Francis School of Law, you’ll have all the tools and resources needed to help you get past the wall. Our academic support team will be here to help you through the 1L year and beyond.
Learning more about our law school program is easy. Give us a call today so we can walk you through everything you need to know about working on your JD degree.