Advice for Incoming First Year Law Students

When I was in your place a year ago, I spent time searching for tips on how to prepare for law school, how to excel in law school (honestly, I still regularly search for this one, hahaha), and how to manage time in law school while being a working student. Now that I am done with my freshman year, I just want to pay it forward: based on real experiences, I want to share with you what to expect, what to do, and what not to do. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  1. First of all, leave your ego behind. Your latin honors and the school you came from won’t matter that much anymore. What matters now is whether or not you can answer your professor’s questions during recitations (recits) and pass your exams.
  2. There will be a lot of readings. The cases I have read in my first year are more than what I have entirely read during college. No kidding! Save money for photocopies of cases, get a good internet connection for reading cases online, or buy a subscription of the collection of Supreme Court decisions since 1901.
  3. In relation to number 2, you have to prioritize to cover everything you need to study. I can’t emphasize this enough: being in law school would require you to sacrifice your time with family, friends, partner, and sometimes, with yourself. What do I mean “with yourself”? There will come a time that you will just want to sleep, cry, play your favorite game, or go to the mall, but you should not do that because time is precious. Instead of doing what you would rather do, the responsible side of you will set aside these feelings for the meantime and hit the books instead. I know, what a kill-joy, but you signed up for this. :p #DelayedGratification
  4. Having a full-time work and a full load in law school means sleeping very late or waking up very early to study. Coffee has become a regular thing for me everyday! Don’t go beyond three cups a day and make sure to get enough sleep when the reading assignments are not too heavy, otherwise, you will crash sooner than later.
  5. You might want to make a new Facebook account exclusively for your academic groups only. It’s an effective way to prevent yourself from mindlessly scrolling through Facebook. He he he.
  6. It is nearly impossible to read all the cases in the original assigned per subject, but read them in the original as much as you can because it will save you time later on. Cases contain the application of our laws. Understanding the fundamental concepts behind the law or the way that the Supreme Court decided a case (called jurisprudence) during your first year will greatly help you in your future subjects. You may have read or heard that preparation for the bar starts at your first day in law school, so when you feel lazy, remember that your first year in law school is your foundation. It pays off to make it stable.
  7. In relation to number 5, it’s also wise to have a digest pool in your class. That means that the cases will be equally distributed among the class members. Each class member will summarize (digest) the cases assigned to him/her and then share to the class through Dropbox or Google Drive. If your section doesn’t want a digest pool, find classmates who are willing to have one and just share the digest among yourselves.
  8. You will have blockmates. It’s better to share than to keep to yourself those reviewers, class notes by previous sections especially tailored for the professor, and sample exams (samplex for short). A good class will help and impress the professor. In that way, there’s less chance that your block will get dissolved. For future beadles (the liaison between the professor and the class), be transparent and always ask the class first before making a decision (such as in the schedule of a make-up class or ceasefire/no recit day). In law school, team effort is as important as individual effort. Law school is already difficult, so to lighten up your stay there, take care of your block and love your blockmates like family. A friendly competition is fine, but bear in mind that you have roughly have the same goal to be a lawyer, so help each other instead of constantly one-upping one another.
  9. When reciting, show courtesy to the professor who may be a lawyer, judge, or justice. Never ever invoke your personal opinion unless asked. Always refer to what the Supreme Court said when applying the law.
  10. You will get nervous every class, but that’s normal. Breathe in, breathe out. I think law school is 60% luck, 40% effort. You will not finish the coverage most of the time, so you will just hope that you don’t get called in the topic or case you haven’t studied. If you get a bad recit, you might sulk a little, but don’t let it consume you. Learn from it and move on immediately so you can study for the next class. The next time your heart breaks, hopefully it would be easier for you as you have already mastered the art of letting go and moving on through your recits. :))
  11. Be organized in your notes as early as first year so you can use these during your review for the bar. It’s important to note the doctrines, landmark cases, and related provisions. Make a table for related provisions, concepts, and cases for easier comparison.
  12. Buy books if you can, but if your finances don’t permit, you may just borrow from the library. Make sure your ID is validated so you can borrow! Upper classmen will surely suggest ways how you can buy a book with a cheaper cost. Hehehe. Don’t be afraid to ask them for tips on subjects and professors, too.
  13. Refer to previous bar exams to be familiar with favorite topics. Practice answering them so you can get a feel of what your mid-term or final exam would be like.
  14. Our Constitutional Law 1 professor, Atty. Jose Angelo David, taught us to use the S-L-A-C format when answering exams: short answer, legal basis, application, and conclusion. Practice presenting your answers in a concise and logical manner as early as now. Mind your grammar, too, and make sure that your handwriting is legible (make them big whether you’re writing in print or in cursive). Observe proper margins. These are important because in the future, considering the thousands of exam booklets that the bar examiner checks, he/she might get discouraged in checking an exam booklet with unpleasant handwriting or answers riddled with bad grammar and confusing presentation.
  15. Rest when you need to. There’s no point pushing yourself to absorb what you’re reading if you can’t understand it anymore, like when you are dozing off or when your head aches. The important thing here is that you need to draw the line between just feeling lazy and I-really-need-to-rest-now. ๐Ÿ˜‰ In addition, drink vitamins, preferrably multi-vitamins.
  16. When in doubt or when feeling unmotivated, always think about your purpose of entering law school. ๐Ÿ™‚ (If you’re like me who loves motivational quotes, posting sticky-notes with motivational quotes near my desk helps!)

I hope you will enjoy your first year in law school like I did! It’s a year of adjustments, so don’t be too hard on yourself. I hope the thought that you’re not alone in “suffering” comforts you. Hahaha.

These are just tips that I can think of right now. I hope these helped you. I’m not an expert, but if you have questions, I’ll answer them as much as I can. :)) If in case a law student/graduate/practitioner is reading this and wants to help, just leave a comment for tips, too! ๐Ÿ™‚

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Cut negative people away from your life. Do not feel sorry for doing so, even if they are relatives, close friends, officemates, org mates, etc. The feelings that the people around us exude are powerful because they can affect our mental and well-being. Do yourself a favor.

1 Sem Down!

Hello! My first semester in law school is done! Well, my final exams are done, but I still have to write case digests for our Consti 1, but YESSS, ONE SEMESTER IN LAW SCHOOL DOWN! ๐Ÿ˜€ I know it may not be much of an achievement for others, especially for those who are already law graduates, but I don’t want to deprive myself of this milestone because law school and staying in it even for just one semester is not like any other challenge. It matters to me because the past semester taught me how serious and diligent I can be in studying. Like, wow, I did not know I can have study habits like THAT. As usual, there are rooms for improvement, but my experience last sem made me confident that “self, you got this, you can fight for this!”

I have already shared previously my life adjustments since I started this journey to becoming the next lawyer in our family. Hehe. For the record, I constantly adjust because, of course, as what Christina Perri sang, “I’m only humaaaan, and I crash and I breakdown.” Hahaha. After our midterms, I was not able to wake up early again as early as 4 a.m. I think it’s partly because I stay up later. Consequently, I am always late or absent at work. It is always a walk of shame. Haha. My work is another story; let me just focus on my acads in this post. Haha.

I have a lot to thank for my boyfriend who’s always willing to meet me halfway or go to Manila for us to study together. Maybe it’s just me, but studying with him feels so much better because I’m a little more pressured to study when I see him studying, and I have someone to talk to when I’m already getting sleepy. Haha. It’s impractical most of the time to meet him, but I’m more productive when I’m studying with him so I don’t mind. ๐Ÿ™‚ I hope he feels the same, too! Hahaha. ๐Ÿ™‚

MOST DIFFICULT SUBJECT

Perhaps the most difficult subject for me was Criminal Law 1 because we cover a lot of topics in one meeting consisting of cases and concepts. Our prof also loves to ask us tricky hypothetical questions. There were four meetings when we had to follow a “clean desk policy” where we’re not allowed to have any notes at all in our two-hour class. With a bit of luck, I fortunately did not have any bad recitations then. To be honest, I fared well in our Crim 1, but I was not satisfied with my post-midterm performance even if I passed in all of my recits. I could have done better… because I have studied, but sometimes the elves in my brain panick and create chaos in the memory station. Haha. At the end of the day, I always remind myself that it’s better to learn from mistakes, that progress is more important than perfection. I just hope now that I passed our final exam in Crim 1 because I felt depressed after taking it. I think that was the first time I cried over something law school-related. Hahaha.

ROOMS FOR IMPROVEMENT

Listing here where I need to improve on:

  • study strategies
  • timing my caffeine intake
  • organization of notes
  • one-line summaries
  • outlines
  • “uhms”
  • listening to my body clock
  • scheduling review sessions for exams

MOST MEMORABLE 1ST SEMESTER HAPPENING

I think the most memorable happening in my first semester in law school was our retreat. Aside from it being my first retreat, it was also the first time I have been with my blockmates for two nights and three days in one place. There were a lot of laughing and sharing. When we got back to school, there was a mass and our families were surprisingly there. ๐Ÿ™‚

My first bar operations was also a memorable one. Four years from now, I claim that I will be one of the barristers that our school will give BarOps to.

HOPES

I hope that no matter the struggle, frustrations, sacrifices, I will be able to fight for this dream and conquer it. I hope I won’t fail any subject so I’d be able to graduate on time on 2020 and take the bar on the same year. I hope to attract friends in law school who help lift each other up. I hope I pass the bar with one take. I hope to make my future alma matter proud.

Rest well, Tita Baby

Some plans don’t go accordingly, but there’s always something else to experience.

A few weeks ago, I already plotted what I will do on the last two daysย of November to prepare for December. However, sadly, a relative passed away last Saturday. I let go of my plans and decided to go to the wake as soon as possible.

My boyfriend and I went to the province on Sunday. I saw again familiar faces from my childhood. I have not seen some of my relatives there for a very long time; I can’t even remember some of their names.ย I was happy to see them, but my heart ached when I sawย my grandfather’s sister lifeless. The last time I saw her was October. She was frail and thin, but she was still able to walk, talk, and joke around.

I used to spend my summer vacation with her family when I was still in pre-school until second grade. She practiced me on reading and gave me a lot of advice and words of wisdom. She had a crispy laugh. She was strict, but only because she was protective. Her children and husband loved her very much. I loved her, too. She was one of the people who molded my family and education values. Oh, she was a grade school public teacher.

We got home quarter to nine in the evening. I was supposed to go with my boyfriend to their post-Bar Exams party; they organized it. I was so sleepy then, and I had to wake up early the next day because I will meet my parents and brother before they go to the wake, so I did not go with him anymore.

I woke up at 6am the next day and left the house at 7am. I got home at 7pm. My dirty laundry was piling up so I went to the dry cleaner, but the person at the counter said that there were still a lot lining up for the washing machines and my laundry wouldn’t make the cut anymore. What a bummer. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ I only had a few home clothes left, so I borrowed shirts and shorts from my boyfriend.

On Tuesday, I made a commissioned project during my lunch time, which is why I ate my lunch at 4pm already. I finished it until 2AM.

I slept for three hours only because I had to wake up early for my grandfather’s sister’s burial in the province. My boyfriend went with me. I worried that we might not make it on time because of the early morning traffic, but fortunately, we still arrived a little before her remains were transferred to the church nearby.

The sad atmosphere can be felt as soon as I stepped down from the tricycle. I was still at the gate when I heard sobbing. The scene was depressing and I could not hold back my tears anymore.

On focusing on your goals:

It does not matter what other people say or think. Focus on your goal, continue to believe in what you are capable of. You do not need to purposely show everyone how intelligent or talented you are. Remember, you are not here to please and convince the people around you. ๐Ÿ™‚

For the record:

I am neither fulfilled nor happy with my job.

The first step in making a solution is to acknowledge the problem. There you go.

Now, what is the root cause?

Can it still be addressed?

If not, what are the alternatives?

(I am now thinking about the last question.)

I heard it again

Masanay ka na lang.”

I hate hearing this.

When I hear this, I think, “So that’s it? I should just get used to it?” Why would I want to get used to something that needs improvement? Why would I settle? What do they mean by “masanay ka na lang?” Do they mean shut up and just do the work because this is how things are here?

On the other hand, I also think that this is a challenge to adapt to the present circumstances. I have no qualms about this, but I still think that before we adapt to the way things are, we should examine first what can be done to be more efficient and effective.

If we are already contented with getting used to the old ways, creativity and critical thinking get rusty, innovation stops, and complacency rules.