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Last updated: October 2022
Dear 1L Me,
I was in your shoes, not too long ago.
Your excitement and curiosity, I remember it well. Your nerves and anticipation, I remember it too. With two years of law school now under our belt, it seems like just yesterday when we tuned into our first Zoom law lecture.
Looking back, I wonder what you might have wished to know on day one. Upon reflection, I hope the following three pieces of advice will guide you through an exciting and rewarding journey to come.
Tip 1: Trust your method
My first piece of advice is something your 1L professor will tell you and your peers in the first week of law school: “trust your method”.
Although you may not understand the meaning behind these words now, you will come to learn that trusting your method means to have faith in the way you approach things — faith in the way you study, the way you prepare for exams, the way you manage stress and the way you succeed.
Entering a new environment, especially one that is high pressure and competitive, you may find yourself wondering, “am I doing this right?” You may look around and think, “others seem to have law school figured out”, or that, because someone else is doing things differently, that their method must be the better way. The reality, of course, is that there are many different approaches to law school – the key being to do what works for you.
Whatever methods and routines work for you, follow them. You know yourself best and you know what you need to do to cross that finish line. Trust your method and trust that it works. As your 1L professor will say, “keep doing what you’re doing!”
Tip 2: Trust yourself
From trusting your method, the next piece of advice I have for you, by extension, is to trust yourself.
In law school, it can be easy for self-doubt and anxiety to find its way into your headspace. Believing in yourself can make a tangible difference. Whether trusting yourself means answering that cold-call question with confidence, signing up for that moot you were hesitant to attempt, or taking on that new leadership role within your student club, do what you are afraid to try, and believe in your ability to see it through.
In class, build up the courage to ask questions. Outside of class, attend your professors’ office hours. Do not be afraid to clarify what you do not understand and do not be afraid to make mistakes. There is no better time to feed your curiosity than now.
Lastly, trust that your contributions are valued and that your ideas are valid. Be authentic and genuine in who you are – not who you think you should be in law school. Trust yourself and that you have what it takes to succeed.
Tip 3: Take care of your well-being
The third and final piece of advice I have for you is to take care of your personal well-being.
Law school is a busy time with many demands. Learning how to manage those demands and budget time for personal self-care will be key to maintaining your well-being.
Eating well, exercising, and sleeping well are all part of a healthy routine. But so too is the need to recharge — the need to give yourself a moment of time back in the day to do things you enjoy and that make you feel whole.
Allocating moments for yourself is often easier said than done. So be intentional and conscious with the way you plan your days. At times, this might mean saying “no” when, by habit or default, you may be inclined to say “yes”.
As you will come to learn, saying “no” is okay. Because “no” does not mean, “no never”, but simply, “not right now”. Whether it is needing a moment for your personal hobbies, your mental well-being, or simply a couple of breaths in and out, be kind to yourself and the boundaries you set.
Law school is a place to discover, explore, and say “yes” to new opportunities. But it is also an opportunity to develop healthy routines and sustainable habits — a skill which I hope will serve you well into your third year and beyond.
_ _ _
You have what it takes to embark on this next chapter ahead and to make the most out of your personal journey.
Good luck. You can do this (and you will)!
Your 3L self
By Lillian Liu, J.D. Candidate, 2023, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto and Law Society of Alberta Summer Student