The 1L Experience


As a 1L in my first month of law school, I had two big concerns. First, that “thinking like a lawyer” would come to pervade all aspects of my life, even those I don’t want it to. An overwhelming barrage of cases, people and law school-connected events could fill my time to the detriment of figuring out what my own perspective is on what we’re learning. Second, that my classmates would be stiffs — relatively cold and asocial, argumentative and dismissive — and that I would be a stiff, too.

So far I’ve found that these are not serious concerns. I’ve had plenty of free time, people have been warm and friendly and no one seems like a real “stiff” or “geek” to me. This has been reassuring, though I’m curious to know: Will people’s geeky sides come out as I really get to know them better?

The surreal feeling of actually being here hasn’t worn off. This feeling was in some ways compounded by the tragic bombings of September 11, after only a week of class, which made all of us feel at least a little displaced. I think it also brought us closer together than we otherwise would have been as a class. Our “colleges” grew especially closer, seeing many of our classmates visibly upset and consoling each other, and having our professors spend class sessions allowing us talk about our feelings as a group. It made me feel a lot better about being here.

It continues to strike me that most people seem extremely driven and on top of things — even every day things. It’s intimidating. You can feel it in the air, walking through the Hark in the morning, the way people walk, the looks on their faces. I know I’m not the only one who has wondered if I really belong here. But this perception has been tempered through actual interactions, seeing the unusual amiability and humility of my classmates, both in and out of class. Does the daunted feeling I get have more to do with my own preconceived notions of “life at Harvard Law” than with how people actually behave?

My dorm hallway — Shaw 1, home of the (in)famous “Shaw Hall Crawl” — is social and friendly, although in a “freshman year” sort of way: traveling in packs to Lincoln’s Inn, parties, dinner and bars; people drinking more than they really want to; gossiping about “crushes” within the hall; and spending much of the time that we interact making superficial jokes and teasing each other. Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad people are getting to know each other — and it’s certainly better than barren hallways with people cooped up in their rooms. But sometimes I wonder, are some people trying to relive — or take a second crack at truly enjoying — their freshman year now that they’ve “made it” into HLS?

Finally, it is a little strange, I think, that we’re cooped up on this separate campus from the rest of the social-sciences and have to make a conscious effort to meet GSAS people. While the GSAS folks in all fields socialize frequently through Dudley House and live intermixed in and around Harvard Yard, we live in all-law student dorms, on a separate campus, with few or no social events that would bring us into contact with GSAS people. Do law students have less to gain from interdisciplinary perspectives?

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