First Year Orientation: good, bad or horrid

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First year orientation: when it’s good, it’s very very good, and when it’s bad, it’s horrid

First year orientation planners.

First year orientation is planned by people who want you to have a good time and to learn a lot about being a law student and a little bit about being a lawyer. No one wants you to walk away from orientation either terrified or in tears. If you find yourself in either state, see your Dean of Students as soon as you can. Fear and terror are not part of the ABA-approved curriculum

First year orientation usually features:

  • Lofty thoughts from judges, deans, and famous alumni (speeches; panels; networking events);
  • Opportunities (not to be missed) to connect with other 1Ls;
  • Mock classes conducted (usually) by very gifted teachers;
  • Meetings with your new professors;
  • Professionalism presentations (pay close attention to these);
  • A quick word from Career Services (you will hear more from them in late October);
  • Reminders to keep your law school application up to date (including the felonies that you forgot to list. Oh. Yes. This is serious.);
  • Campus or city tours;
  • A trip to the bookstore (bring money);
  • Introduction to student groups and activities (Pick a group and connect. A disconnected student is often a desperately unhappy student. There is no reason to hide.);
  • Really good food, if you’re lucky; and
  • Opportunities to drink yourself silly with your new classmates (not a terrific idea)

A few things that are often NOT on the orientation agenda:

On your first trip into the Law Library, you will exclaim “All of these books look alike!” You may be stressed because:

  • they do, indeed, look alike,
  • you haven’t been inside a library in a long time, or
  • you haven’t held a book in your hand in five years and believe that everything you will ever need to know you can find on-line. (Oh, how wrong you are.)

When you sit down to brief your first case:

  • You will have no idea what you are doing;
  • You will then be astonished when someone in class nails the professor’s question about the case that you didn’t understand. (Fret not. That student has probably worked as a paralegal for the past five years.)

When you sit down in your first class:

  • You will believe that everyone in the room is smarter than you. (It’s not true. Get over that as quickly as you can.)
  • You will believe that the “right” answer is just out of reach. (Not true. If you have a truly gifted Socratic method teacher, you will never get the right answer, but you will enjoy the journey of trying to find it. If your professor is not so gifted, standing up to be grilled can be an alarming and painful experience.) All of this is in service of getting you to “think like a lawyer.” Have someone explain that to you, and keep asking until you get a satisfactory explanation.
  • If you imagined that you could get by with a quick and not-so-thoughtful run through the reading without trying to understand what you read because that worked for you as an undergrad, you are delusional. (You will find this out soon enough.)

About susangainen

Whimsical Wildlife Documentarian. Abstract Painter. Writer. Teacher. Explorer.
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