Dear Class of 2019,
Welcome to Harvard Law School! As you embark on this new academic adventure, we wanted to share a few tidbits of advice. Take a deep breath and get excited for a challenging and rewarding year.
- Remember that you know yourself best.
Keep your own study habits and figure out what works best for you. Like study groups? Join one. Prefer to work in your house by yourself? Do it. Don’t let other people’s approach to the first year of law school affect you. There is no right or wrong way to read cases and digest material. What you’ve done to get here will likely serve you best.
- Maintain your mental and physical health.
Find time to exercise and make sure you get the chance to do the things you love outside of class. Set aside an afternoon or day each week to stay in touch with friends and family, catch up on Netflix, read for fun, or just take a walk. Law school can be as much of an exercise in mental and physical stamina as it is an intellectual challenge. Above all, take care of yourself!
- Talk to the people around you.
Your classmates are fascinating, gifted people with diverse backgrounds. They’re also your short-term colleagues, your lifelong friends and your professional network for the years to come. Helping to create an atmosphere of openness and trust within your section and getting involved on campus can also go a long way to getting to know other people in the first year.
- Get involved on campus.
All the opportunities available at the law school can seem overwhelming, but they are also great ways to explore areas of law, gain leadership experiences, and meet different people outside your section, including 2Ls and 3Ls. Again, you know yourself best. Take advantage of opportunities that interest you, but know that you should never feel pressure to sign up for a club simply for the sake of signing up.
- Know that grades are important but not everything.
As a Harvard student, your professional career opportunities will be vast and varied. You can clerk, land a fellowship, work for a non-profit, work for a law firm, and more. Don’t feel the need to tailor your experience only to grades, as they’re only one indicator of performance. Keep in mind that grades are often based on just one final exam at the end of the semester. Many employers care about different experiences, such as practical and clinical work, journal exposure, and leadership roles on campus.
- Go to office hours.
Professors are happy to talk to you and interested in your thoughts and experiences. One way to start up a conversation with a professor is to ask a question or clarification about something in the reading or something that happened in class. Nervous to go alone? Sign up with a friend.
- Find mentors on campus.
BSAs, teaching assistants, professors, and advisers are wonderful resources. You can also sign up for a mentor through the Women’s Law Association’s Big Sister Little Sister program at http://tiny.cc/wlamentor2016. Don’t be afraid to reach out to upperclassmen; they’ve been through 1L and are often willing to share their wisdom.
- Remind yourself that you deserve to be here.
Last but not least, you are at Harvard Law for a reason. If you ever feel out of place confused, or experience “imposter syndrome,” remember that you are not alone. The first year of law school is tough, but so are you.
We are so excited to get to know you on campus this year. Please reach out to the Women’s Law Association on campus if you ever have questions!
Natalie Vernon is a 3L. She is the president of the Women’s Law Association. Paavani Garg and Amanda Lee are 2Ls. They are the co-vice presidents of the Women’s Law Association.
This piece was a part of the 2016 orientation issue. To read more, click here.
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