Dear First Gen,
Four years ago on this day--on May 20, 2012—I graduated from Hofstra University School of Law. It was the (second) best day of my life, since passing the Maryland Bar as a first-time taker was a huge triumph!
On graduation day, I reflected on a few struggles that seemed very big at the time, but were minor in hindsight. Law school taught me that nothing is guaranteed until the very moment it is to happen. My grandmother—then my last living grandparent—told me she would be attending my graduation. I was in disbelief because she had trouble getting on and off airplanes, and I did not want to put her through the trouble. As grandparents do, she said she would be there and I had no doubt about it. I was so glad I could make her proud!
I recall speaking to some of my classmates and hearing a few of their comments that I may have initially been admitted to the school based on meeting a certain criteria rather than based on my merit as a potential law student. It was disheartening, but it helped to know which students may not be the ones to interact with...ever! I did not pay attention to those comments and persevered through the toughest days and nights of my life.
Many graduates would say the life of a 1L (first year law school student), 2L (second year law school student) and 3L (third year law school student) are noticeably different, and to learn the differences as quickly as possible. DITTO!
1L - Scare You: Each class is new to you and many professors will teach using the Socratic method. This means calling on a student at random in the classroom and that student is expected to provide a thoughtful answer that demonstrates in-depth analysis of the assignment … EASY, right?! Not so much... a terrifying experience for a first gen.
2L - Work You: A good number of your courses as a 2L will have a skills component, which means the professor will be instructing you on how to draft a contract, prepare a witness's testimony, introduce or object to evidence, and select a jury. And that's just a start.
3L - Bore You: Register for more lecture classes because apprenticeship courses (i.e. clinic, practicum) are full. During this year, you have learned how to approach professors talking at you and thus you are not quite as intrigued.
The Biggest Takeaway: Remind yourself every month and every semester of the reason you enrolled to begin with. Make every attempt to gain the knowledge, develop the skills, and connect with the individuals that will get you closer to your goal.
I recall a statement that may serve you during your law school experience: “Each person in law school is different; some learn quicker than others and you should not compare yourself. Rather, you should track your progress, and that is how you measure your success.” My highs and lows of law school prepared me for the realities of practicing law. Believe me, there are no picnics here!
Tell me: What is your ultimate goal?
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