The 1L Experience


Many non-1Ls seem curious to know whether there is a more familial feeling within the 1L sections now that they are so much smaller than before. As a 1L, of course, I have little to compare the present system to, but certain new developments this year indicate that the answer is yes.

The administration made some mild attempts to promote friendly competition between the seven 1L sections (each of which has roughly 80 students). An outdoor competition between all the sections last Saturday, involving a tug-of-war and various other physical challenges, was poorly attended but seems to have been enjoyable for those who participated. Other than this, the extent of comparison drawn between sections seems to be through offhand remarks by professors, administrators or fellow students. For instance, Dean Clark made a point of joking at a reception for Sections III and IV (all of the sections had a reception with the Dean) that someone in Section IV told him that Section III would rather spend its time “over by the bar” than socializing with the Dean and others. I imagine the Dean made similar attempts to incite rivalry at other receptions. In my section (Section III, the BEST section) we acknowledge anyone’s birthday as a group, often by writing “Happy Birthday _____” on the blackboard or singing it to the person. There is an emerging sense of identification within my section at least, and even a “reputation” of sorts for some other sections. For example, Section VI is reported to be the most tightly knit group thus far as well as the “hottest” on average. But, all in all, as 1Ls our own sections are all that we really know about; and we have little to no clue about how life is for any other sections. Most of us, I think, would welcome more events to bring the various sections together. After all, one of the reasons that I’m sure many of us chose to come to HLS over other schools was the opportunity to network with more fellow students than most other schools can offer. We are beginning to wonder: Where are these opportunities?

If anything is going to bring us together more as sections, it will be our shared anxiety over two things: the prospect of exams and job applications. I have not yet seen these worries bloom on a noticeable scale within the 1L population, but the seeds are being sewn: Our sections had our first exam preparation group sessions this week, as well as “job search” advising lectures from OCS and OPIA. As far as some of the exam prep sessions, it was great to have 2Ls and 3Ls who had our same professors walking us through the kind of analysis that we’ll be expected to do for finals. Many of us feel more comfortable asking them the “stupid,” basic questions about what is expected of us. We feel relieved to have some more clue of what exams will be like than students before us did. But these sessions also seem to be raising as many questions as they answer, which makes us a little worried. For instance, most people I talk to are wondering if they’ve been taking notes the “right” way all semester, or if their notes will really help them at all, come exam time.

More so than a feeling of happy togetherness, people seem to be getting a little tired of the grind — the workload which seems to have gotten heavier, and the fact that, in most classes, 1Ls aren’t able quickly to figure out what the professor is looking for, even if they have done all the reading twice over. Most professors seem to have their own “song and dance” of sorts that we have to adapt our thinking and our answers in order to satisfy, and after a while, most of us are getting tired of dealing with unnecessary “quirks” of how they have to state things. Most of us have given up the idea that we will come out of class on any given day with any concrete answers to “what the law is” and have realized that our professors will rarely ask us questions that we can simply answer from looking at our notes. We’ve accepted that we’re going to be stumped much of the time and just plain in the dark some of the time.

One funny thing we can always come together around is that legal lingo has begun to infuse our everyday vocabulary. For example, pick-up basketball games at Hemenway gym may include such utterances as, “Come on, that’s hardly a formally realizable rule!” in arguments over fouls; friends at a bar tease each other with lines like “That’s battery!” while playing darts at a bar; to offhand remarks like, “I’ll call you tonight,” one might joke in reply, “Is that a promise??” Would our jokes seem cheesy and annoying to anyone not studying these concepts in depth? Probably.