As I finish studying for my last final which is to take place on Monday morning (Torts), I have become reflective about 1L and decided to pass some advice to the incoming class:
1. Leave past experience at the door. No matter if you are coming straight from undergrad or have worked as a paralegal for 10 years, you are still a 1L who knows absolutley nothing about being a lawyer. Don't pretend like you are your professors collegue because you have been working at a firm. Don't look down at your fellow students because you received a 170 on the LSAT. It doesn't matter what your stats are, what schools accepted you, or what experiences you have had. You are at the bottom of the food chain, get used to it.
2. Don't fall into a clique. If you have low self esteem and need other like minded individuals around you to make you feel better about yourself, don't come to law school. Friends are fine to acquire, but if you feel yourself being drawn into "a crew", have some independance and leave that behind. Cliques are a crutch for weak minded people. All a crutch will do is leave you lagging behind the people running on their own two feet.
3. Brief cases only until you have a grasp on what the professor wants you to get out of a case. They take way too much to prepare and still don't prepare you for the questions that the prof will fire at you.
4. Volunteer in class. You will learn more through active participation than from copiously writing notes based on what other students say. Plus, when you volunteer, you are usually prepared and confident about the material. One note, though, if you volunteer to answer a question that another student doesn't know the answer to, be prepared for the professor to focus on you for the rest of the class. In addition, don't volunteer just to make yourself seem or feel smarter. Stick to the topic at hand, don't go off on a tangent about a prior experience you had, and be mindful that your 20 minute diatribe about the service of process procedures at your company could cause the professor to skim over a topic that otherwise would have been covered in depth.
5. Do your own outlines. The process is what helps you study, not the end product. Commercial outlines are ok to supplement your notes in case you missed class or the professor was ambiguous about a topic. I do my outlines the week before a final. By the time I am finished writing my outline, I understand the material completley. I only review it afterwards to remind myself about the finer points.
6. Attend as many exam writing seminars as possible and complete multiple practic exams. For most of first semester, professors hammer the CRAC or IRAC method down your throat for writing memos. Exam answers are not the same. Practice, practice, practice.
7. When you finish a memo, brief, or final exam, let it go. You have done all you can do at this point, its our of your hands. Focus on the next task or if it syour last one, enjoy the break. Also, don't talk with anyone about the final right after you take. You are bound to have analyzed something differently or missed something someone else covered completley. All comparing exam answers will do is make you super anxious. That anxiety will last for the 1-2 months it takes to get your results back. Just avoid the tension all together and just go home.
8. Don't be discouraged by your first semester grades. In law school, there is a curve. A certain amount of people must get C's and D's. If you fall into this catergory and have never received such a grade ever, don't worry. It means that you have had a harded time adjusting than the other students. Stick with it, come back after break, and talk with your professors about what you did wrong. Then improve. The only class ranking that matters is the one at the end of the year.
9. Manage your time wisely.
10. Whenever possible, on breaks or what have you, visit some friends and family. They'll keep you grounded. When you finally begin to grasp law school concepts, you will start to think that your *&^% doesn't stink. If you have a talk with your mom, she will most definitley tell you different.
Good Luck to everyone.