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  • Writer's pictureThe Moot Times UCalgary Law

Advice for 1Ls

By Ashley Hamza

Welcome to your first year of law school! This time last year, I remember sweating through my brand new blazer while waiting in line to pick up my orientation materials. I was excited and terrified. I had no idea what to expect. I imagine you can relate right now. I promise you will find your classes, make new friends, and switch into t-shirts and jeans in no time. In the meantime, we at The Moot Times reached out to our friends and classmates to compile a list of advice we wish we had on our first day of 1L.

On self-care

Have your non-negotiables ready when you start law school. For instance, mine were to always get a good night’s sleep (8 hours to be exact) and a weekend day off to myself. A lot of people told me, prior to law school, that it would consume my life, I’d be pulling all-nighters and should say goodbye to my social life. While law school is challenging, I can say now as a 3L (I’m not sure what third-year holds) that my non-negotiables played a huge role in a good law school experience. So, whatever is important to you, whether that’s eating ice-cream on a Sunday morning or watching a Netflix series you enjoy, prioritize it! You’ll quickly realize that law school is a marathon, not a sprint. You can take breaks in a marathon, so take them! It’s more efficient in the long run.

  • Ifrah Mukhtar, 3L

I wish more people had told me that law school does not need to take over your entire life. Use your time in law school to create healthy habits. It isn’t good for your mental or physical health to stop doing things you love (e.g., hanging out with friends and family or going to the gym). Set boundaries in law school the same way you would with a pushy friend. Your grades will thank you for it.

  • Anna Gagnon, 2L

Try to establish a support system. Whether that means friends, family, or a therapist, find someone willing to listen to you vent or offer advice when you seek it.

  • Nana Asante, 2L

Note: Lawyer ASSIST provides free crisis counseling and counselling sessions to UCalgary Law students (1-877-498-6898). Try to reach out when you start to feel overwhelmed, don’t wait.

  • Ashley Hamza, 2L

On learning

Make friends and form study groups as early as you can. A lot of my learning happened outside of the classroom, thanks to my remarkably intelligent, patient, and creative friends!

If a decision in a casebook isn’t making sense and you need the “bigger picture,” find and read the entire decision on CanLII/Westlaw/LexisNexis.

  • Reem Saraya, 2L

Try not to stress too much about your pass/fail classes.

Start your CANs (condensed annotated notes) on cases early and try to keep up with them over the semester. Make sure to make note of the ratio for each case.

  • Anonymous, 2L

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Every professor I had was approachable and happy to help. Use office hours, ask questions in class (or after, if there’s time), or email your professor if you don’t understand a concept.

Forming a study group with classmates helped expand my thinking by learning different perspectives on cases. Upper-year friends can also be a great source of information.

Find ways to explore areas of law that interest you outside of the classroom. While the 1L curriculum covers a lot, it doesn’t cover everything. For other areas of interest try:

  • Joining a PBSC Calgary (Pro Bono Students Canada University of Calgary Chapter) project or SLA (Student Legal Assistance)

  • Joining a club

  • Signing up for the CBA (Canadian Bar Association) mentorship program

  • Reaching out to lawyers or students-at-law who practice in areas that interest you to meet for coffee and ask questions

  • Ashley Hamza, 2L

On your future career (if you’re not already thinking about it, you will be soon!)

Remember why you wanted to come to law school to the first place, but be flexible with your long-term goals. Don’t just do things because everyone else is or because they’re “prestigious.” Do them because you want to.

  • Reem Saraya, 2L

If you plan on doing the 1L Recruit, try to get your resume and a template cover letter ready early. Application deadlines sneak up quickly in the winter, so getting application materials ready ahead of time helps.

  • Anonymous, 2L

Note: The CPDO (Career and Development Office) usually provides resume and cover letter templates in their online Career Guide. Watch out for their email updates.

  • Ashley Hamza, 2L

Take a deep breath and try to let the excitement win over the nervousness. You already made it here, and you will get through it. Someone told me this in my first year, and I wasn’t sure I believed them. Now, here I am entering my second year of law school. Before you know it, you will be too!

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