Welcome 1Ls! As I’m sure the Dean and your professors have told you many times, congratulations and best wishes for a stimulating, challenging, and transformative year. With many apologies for the lecturing tone, here are three pieces of free advice (with all the caveats that such advice usually brings):
1. Get involved. There are sincere reasons to join a student organization or participate in an extracurricular activity: you believe in a cause, you find the subject matter interesting, or you’re interested in meeting people outside of your section. Then there are the cynical reasons: it looks good your resume, it gives you something to talk about during interviews, or it’s a good way to get outlines and course selection gossip from 2Ls and 3Ls. All these reasons are valid. What’s not valid is the feeling that you don’t have enough time. Trust me, you have time. Most of these activities take less time than you think (with exceptions!) and are more rewarding than the minimal time commitment would indicate. These commitments also tend to disappear around exams, so there’s no need to stress about damaging your grades. Get involved—you won’t regret it.
2. Be kind to your classmates. No one in your section, no matter how irritating they might be, is worth sacrificing your personal integrity over. Treating someone poorly, gossiping about them (know that it will get back to them and in the most embarrassing fashion), or withholding aid or information will inevitably backfire. My only regrets from 1L year involve those times when I was stingy when I should have been generous and when I contributed to unkindness by staying silent when I should have spoken up. Even if no one ever calls you to task, it’s a shame to sully the memories of this fantastic, once-in-a-lifetime year by acting anything less than your best.
3. Take risks. You’ll hear over and over that law students are in law school because they are risk-averse. Or that lawyers are risk averse as a profession. As if either of these generalizations justifies a conscious decision to avoid risk-taking. If the prevailing wisdom is that lawyers have this particular weakness, the solution is to overcome it, not embrace it. Let me point out that most of the appellate decisions you’ll read this year were advocated on both sides by brilliant lawyers—and one of these paragons of the profession lost. Spectacularly. Loserdom immortalized in case books forever. Many of you have always been successful and never contended with true failure. But you will make mistakes in your career, and it may be valuable to start learning how to deal with them now, in law school, when the stakes are minimal. So put yourself out there. It gets easier with time. Probably—I can’t really say, since I’m horrible at following my own advice.
So do as I say, not as I do, and if anyone wants to know which activities are exceptionally time-consuming, I’m happy to dish in private.
Geng Chen is a 2L. Her column runs every other Monday.
The views in opinion editorials, columns, and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of The Record.