Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Tips to incoming students....

These past several weeks have been so interesting to me because I have met several admitted students. I have had time to think about what I wished I would have known or things I was glad to have known. Here they are.

1. I am so glad I had knowledge of the basic set up of our government system and how it worked. I watched fellow students who had no background, but degrees in psychology or math, struggle with not only learning "law" speak; but learning basic government structure. I was a poli sci major and the first couple of weeks for me where a breeze. LESSON: Read up this summer on the structure of the US government if you have no background in that area.

2. I wish I would have had a student mentor. Willamette has this program, but I did not utilize it. 2 and 3L's are a source of knowledge like no other. They have slogged through the trenches and most are willing to help you out. LESSON LEARNED: Get a mentor or befriend upper classmen. This way you do not waste valuable time or resources.

3. I wish I would have invested more in study aids. Law school really is about learning on your own. Study aids are a great tool in doing this. I wish that I would have borrowed, bought, or checked out more study aids. Unfortunately, I paid no attention to these nifty little aids until finals my second semester. LESSON LEARNED: Crunchtime is your friend.

4. I wish I would have stayed in touch with my friends. My biggest regret is distancing myself from my friends. During law school, you need as much support as you can get and friends are a valuable source of encouragement, strength and peace of mind. LESSON: Lean on your friends. They won't understand everything that happens to you; but they will understand you.

5. I wish I would have taken hand notes, rather than used my laptop in class. Why? Two reasons. 1) Because if you handwrite, then you transpose on to the computer which translates to repetition and helps in memory. 2) Computer = temptation to surf the internet. Sometimes, especially if the subject matter is boring, the temptation is too much to bare. LESSON LEARNED: Computer good, handwriting better, Internet = bad.

6. I wished I would have talked to more law students before entering law school. I can not tell you how many times I was surprised, shocked, or did not understand how it was really going to go until AFTER attending school. I never understood the significance of the mandatory curve, or what Moot Court was, or about First Year Appellate arguements. I did not know what the first year classes was really like, or what the Socratic method was. I did not understand how scary and intimidating that professors could be (or how nice, or how pontificating). LESSON LEARNED: Research is important; forewarned is forearmed.

7. I wish that I would have taken Legal Research and Writing more seriously. I did not see the importance of this class until it was almost too late. In addition, because at Willamette this is a pass/fail class, you do what you have to just to pass. And in doing so, you cheat yourself of VERY valuable skills, maybe the most important you will gain in law school. LESSON: Even if the class seems worthless, it is not.

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