What to focus on as a 1L — part one

LegalJob was recently asked what a 1L should be doing (to plan for their future career) at this point in their law school career (three months in).  This post will be the first of two that covers this topic.

Two things to focus on:

  1. Getting the best grades possible.
  2. Getting to a comfort level where you can informally/internally pick a major.

This item is obvious but it is so important that it deserves mention.  Grades should be one’s first, second, and third priority because earning excellent grades will open up lots of opportunities for legal jobs, particularly at the big firms.  It will be much easier to sell yourself to a future employer by showing him or her your transcript with straight As and not having to explain why your transcript should be looked at in the context of all your experience and grades in classes that are relevant to your practice area.  Thus, keep outside activities (whatever the opportunity, generally) to a minimum as a 1L because they will likely interfere with studying or other time you may need for yourself to perform your best.

Picking a major
A great way to differentiate oneself from his or her law school classmates (in addition to earning excellent grades) is to put oneself in a position to pick a major.  That is to decide (as early as realistically possible after performing the necessary due diligence) what area of law you may want to practice.  There is no formal declaration of a major in law school but you can do so internally by taking more than one or two classes in that area (or an area that is relevant) and obtain work experience in that area.

How does one pick a major without knowing what lawyers in different practice areas actually do?  The answer is that every opportunity (attending school/career type events, talking with family friends, performing your own networking efforts, etc.) you make it a point to find out how someone ended up in the legal field for which they are practicing.  The answer to this question may help you in your search for a legal career path.  It does not matter if a person ended up in a legal area for which you are not interested.  It is the thought/action process of how they ended up in that area that may help you as you begin to evaluate different possibilities.  More to follow on this thought in the second post.