Tips for a Successful Second Semester
Published: Jan 10, 2023
It’s the start of the second semester. Whether you have just survived your first semester as a law student, or you are on your way out the door as a third year, here are some ways you can make the most of your second semester.
First Year Students
- Evaluate Grades and Performance
By now you should have received your first semester grades (and if not, don’t worry, they’re coming). If you did well, congratulations! Keep up the good work by doing the things that made you successful. Remember not to get complacent. If you did not do well, or if you feel you should have done some things differently, now is the time to reevaluate. If you haven’t already, schedule a meeting with your academic advisor and go over your first semester grades. Be open to advice on how to improve your academic standing. You can also schedule time with each professor to go over your exam answers. While this may be panic inducing for some, a detailed evaluation of your exam can open your eyes to what you did wrong. While self-evaluation can be an ego blow, cut yourself some slack. This was your first time taking a law school exam. There is a learning curve to being able to give the professor what they want. It is a professor’s job to teach you, so schedule time to have them show you what you did and didn’t do correctly. Once you have determined what went wrong, take time to formulate a plan that will increase your chances of better grades for this semester.
- Create Better Habits
Your first semester of law school can be overwhelming and hectic. It takes time to get into the ebb and flow of things. Now that you have a feel for what needs done to survive law school, evaluate and see if you can create better habits for yourself. If you were pulling all nighters to finish class prep, create a schedule that will foster better time management. If you spent too much time procrastinating or socializing, a detailed time-management schedule will keep you on track day to day. If you relied too much on pre-made study guides and outlines, try creating your own this semester. The effort you put into doing your own outlines can help you process and retain the information better than reading someone else's work. Another way to bolster your good habits is to join or switch study groups. If you studied alone first semester, think about partnering up with your classmates in a study group. When learning the law, it can be helpful to have others to discuss the material with. If you had a study group that didn’t work out, try partnering with a new group that is a better fit with your studying style.
- Job Search
One of the most important things to keep in mind second semester of your 1L year is what to do during the summer. If you don’t have a job lined up yet, which you probably don’t, start by getting your resume and cover letter in tip-top shape. Set up a meeting with career services to see what opportunities are available for a first year. Deadlines for public interest jobs and government internships are often January, February, and March, so don’t drag your feet if that’s the kind of position you’re looking for.[i] Smaller firms and local government jobs don’t have such immediate deadlines, so keep an eye on your school’s job board for posted positions. It’s important to find a legal job, paid or unpaid, for the summer after your first year, even if it’s not your dream position. This summer is where you will learn the practice of law, and whatever the position may be, it will help you on the path to becoming a lawyer.
- Courses for 2L
In addition to trying to find a legal job this semester, it’s also important to think about what classes you want to take your second year of law school. Since there are few required courses after your first year, creating the perfect schedule your second year can be daunting with all the choices. Try and formulate a plan on what courses you need (e.g., bar exam subjects) and what courses you find interesting. Don’t forget graduation requirements when you think about your future schedule. You want to balance the courseload during your second and third year and not get overwhelmed at the last minute because you need more hours to graduate!
- Law Review and Moot Court
If you are interested in either law review or moot court, now is the time to gather the information you need. Many moot court teams are formulated either as part of your curriculum or as a competition. Find out what you need to do to make the team from upper classmen or faculty. For law review and journals, there is likely a write-on competition towards the end of your 1L year.[ii] Find out what the requirements will be, and plan on how you will fit that into your already busy schedule.
Second Year Students
- Finding Summer Work
While the second year OCI period has ended, don’t let that stop you from finding a unique summer experience between your second and third year. Most 2Ls get passed over at OCI, so this semester is the time to buckle down and land a summer gig. In addition to checking with career services and job boards, make sure you schedule time to network.[iii] Don’t forget about clerkships, public interest, and in-house opportunities. The most important thing is to keep at it and not give up until you land a job for the summer.
- Focus on Groups—Law Review, Moot Court, and Student Organizations
If you are lucky/talented enough to be a part of law review and/or moot court teams, it’s important to factor in how much time these will take in addition to your coursework and studies. Have a game plan in place to manage this extra work. Ask other members what they do to be successful, or what they wish they would have known beforehand, and implement that into your plan. If you are part of a student organization, your second year is a great time to take on more responsibilities within the group. Seek out a leadership position or spend more time working with the group on events and projects. This is a great opportunity to engage yourself and to build up your resume.
- Practical Experiences
Your 2L year is a time when you’ll get to experience practical applications of the law through externships and clinics.[iv] Hopefully you have signed up for one of these opportunities this semester, but if not, plan which ones you’ll sign up for during 3L. If you do have a clinic or externship this semester, make the most of this time. Dive in and bring your best self to the experience. Be thoughtful, professional, and genuine. Clinics and externships not only let you experience actual practical work, but they are also great ways to make connections for future employment and references.
- Bar Exam, MPRE, etc.
You may think you don’t need to start worrying about bar exam requirements until you’re a 3L, but you would be wrong. By thinking ahead now, you can avoid any pitfalls or emergencies when you absolutely do not have time for them. Bar applications take time—a lot of it. Things like traffic tickets, addresses, jobs, and references are not always easy to track down and compile. Know what the deadlines are for the bar exam you will take, and take those deadlines seriously.[v] In addition to the bar application process, you also have to schedule, prepare for, and take the MPRE. The MPRE is offered three times a year in August, November, and March.[vi] There is nothing stopping you from taking it early as a 2L. Consider if you want to attempt it in March or August so you will have time to pass it before the bar exam. Both the bar and MPRE cost money, so now is the time to start saving for the fees associated with the tests.
Third Year Students
- Keep Networking
While you should have been networking your entire law school career, your third year is no time to slack! Whether you have a job lined up after graduation or not, you want to keep networking so your pool of resources is as large and wide as possible. You never know when you will need those associations to help you in your career, whether you need to switch jobs or need to start building business. Try to check in periodically with your network and keep the connections fresh. Attend events at your school, the local bar association, and anywhere else you can. If you don’t have a job lined up, your network can help you get started once you have passed the bar and landed on your feet.
- Write For Yourself
Your last year of law school may seem like the perfect time to take it easy before hitting the real world, but try not to fall into that trap. Take this time to get better at research and writing. You will spend a lot of time as a new lawyer on these two tasks, and the better you get at it now, the more it will benefit you in the future. You don’t have to be on law review to write, either. Start a legal blog, submit your own case note, or team up with a professor to assist them with a publication. There are plenty of ways to write and publish during law school.[vii] Not only does it develop your skills, but it also looks great on your resume.
- MPRE and Bar Exam
Hopefully you haven’t waited until now to get ready for the MPRE and bar examination. If you started early, you should hit your deadlines and fees with ease. If you have procrastinated, it is time to make a plan and go full steam ahead. Research which bar preparation courses you want to utilize. Ask recent grads to see which ones they used. Check with your state to see what deadlines and requirements are in place. Make sure you add in those deadlines to your calendar to create a roadmap. Line up references for your character and fitness application. Prepare now for what needs done to make sure you have everything in place well in advance of the tests.
- Stick to the Plan
It may seem like now that you are in your last semester of law school, it’s OK to coast your way to graduation. Don’t. Now is the time to plan and finish strong. Keep up with your coursework and the study habits that got you this far. Have a plan in place for after graduation. How will you study for the bar exam? Where will you live? Where will you work? How will you pay for everything? There is still a lot to do to make it out of law school successfully. If you are feeling burnt out, plan a break that not only will give you time to rest, but also will reinvigorate you! You’ll want to finish law school with the best possible GPA, and you know you have the tools to accomplish that goal at this point. Keep that motivation strong and stick to the plan.
- Rest and Reset
It’s important after each semester to take the time to rest and reset. You’ve been “on” for four months straight. Take a few days (or a week) to recharge those batteries for the next semester. Unlike college, there is little time for frivolity in law school. Once you have some much needed “me” time, you’ll likely have to dive right back into the deep end.
- Scheduling Matters
From your first year of law school until that last semester as a 3L, it’s vital that you think ahead with scheduling. You want to map out a plan for how each semester of law school will look for you. And don’t forget to have a back up plan if the course you want isn’t offered or you get shut out. You want each semester to be as balanced as possible, so you can manage all the work that comes with it. You also need to include in your schedule time for interviewing and job hunting, bar admissions, and networking events to name a few. Having a clear schedule will help you throughout your time in law school.
- Prioritize Mental and Physical Health
Law school is stressful, so eating right and exercising should be a part of your overall plan. It can get easy to eat fast food and not make time for yourself due to all the demands school places on you. Don’t let your personal health fall by the wayside. This includes your physical and mental health. Utilize your school resources to manage, whether it be the school fitness center or on-campus mental health professionals. A food subscription service can eliminate the need to meal prep from scratch. Join a club sports team or find some friends to help you stay accountable. Everyone knows that lawyers do not have the best mental health, but if you start early in law school, you can carry over those healthy habits into your legal career.
Whether you are starting your second semester as a 1L or finishing out your law school career as a 3L, there are lots of things you can do right now to make the rest of this school year a success.
[i] Pre-law – What is the Timetable for Legal Recruitment? https://www.nalp.org/pre-law_timetable/
[ii] Macaulay, D. (2020, January 7). Law School Lingo: What is Law Review? https://lawpreview.barbri.com/what-is-law-review/
[iii] Gotham, M. (2019, August 12). Not Just a Job Search: Developing Your Future Network. https://firsthand.co/blogs/vaults-law-blog-legal-careers-and-industry-news/not-just-a-job-search-developing-your-future-network
[iv] Wang, A. (2022, March 22). Law School Solved: How to Make An Experiential Learning Plan That Will Get You Hired. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/law-school-solved-how-make-experiential-learning-plan-allison-wang/?trk=articles_directory
[v] Bar Admissions Guide. https://www.ncbex.org/publications/bar-admissions-guide/
[vii] Russell, K. (2019, March 25). Writing to Get Published. https://lawschooltoolbox.com/writing-to-get-published/