I am a 2L at Roger Williams University School of Law, and a recent graduate of Stonehill College, Class of 2008. I received my BA in Political Science, with a minor in Business Administration. I have served in the Mass. Army National Guard from 2000- Present, formerly as an Intelligence Analyst...
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Off to a Running Start!
Orientation seems like it’s a million years away!
In just a few short weeks, we’ve begun classes, made friends, and gotten waist deep in law school! While professors remind us that we are in the “walk” phase, I’m a little out of breath! Work in law school is very different than work in undergraduate courses: it requires much more careful reading, thinking beyond the text, and asking the tough questions, like “what if” and “what does this mean?” Most of what we are doing is reading and briefing cases, and trying to come up with what the courts say the rule is when dealing with certain issues.
Something I figured out pretty quickly is that a law student’s work is never done. Even when you’ve read the case, briefed the case, and re-read the case, there is more you could do: build it into your course outline, read the supplementary materials on the topic, read the notes after the cases, answer practice problems, try a sample exam question… you are never really “done” in the sense that you can put the book away and feel like you’ve mastered it. And there is really no time to get to everything you want to do, because you’re doing this for 4 or 5 classes.
Our legal writing class is also a lot of work, but a different type of work. Unlike in other courses, Legal Methods requires you to work alone; you can’t bounce ideas off of your classmates, or critique each other’s work. You can’t compare case notes or even see if the cases you’ve researched are the same as your neighbor’s. Legal writing is an individual sport, with individual research and writing like you’ve never done before.
The first year curriculum consists of Criminal Law, Civil Procedure, Torts, Legal Methods, Contracts, and Property (second semester). The professors so far have been terrific. They are not as intimidating or scary as I expected; they are actually very approachable, and always available to answer questions after class, or in their offices. They are happy to discuss any problems or issues you might be having with the material, or in general! They are very understanding, and they realize that everyone is coming from different backgrounds and knowledge levels when it comes to law. What’s great is that if you don’t get it the first time you read it, you are not alone! And if you do, you are a huge asset to others around you. Study groups are a terrific idea, and it’s good to start one early. When it comes to understanding the material, it really helps to talk about it with a group to see if you are all on the same page.
As much as it seems like law school is all work, there is still time for play! One of the great things about RWU Law is the community and social atmosphere. Prior to law school, Id’ always heard from people how competitive people can get, and how hard it can be to make good friends. That has not at all been my experience here. Very quickly I have made some great friends, and everyone in my section seems terrific. It’s amazing how many different backgrounds, professional careers, and degrees are represented in our pool of students, and I definitely benefit from the diversity of opinions and experiences.
My favorite part of the day is coming in in the morning, setting up shop at a table at the bistro for coffee, catch up, and case chat before class. Bring a reusable mug, and coffee refills are a dollar! Get to school early and start off the day right. There are few things better than a good cup of coffee and some good conversation to wake up your mind before the day begins. If you’re not a morning person, don’t fret! There are plenty of opportunities to get to know everyone outside of class, and plenty of social activities on and off campus.
After just a few weeks, I feel like I have been here much longer, that I have known everyone much longer than I have. The volume of work we’ve covered in a short time is incredible, and the level of friendships I’ve developed in these few weeks is amazing. While I am still working on the balance between work and play, the only thing I can recommend is that you carve out some time for yourself and the things you love. Work can easily and quickly take over, so make sure that you have a plan for balancing your life with your work!