You got accepted to Law School! Congratulations! Now, I want you to take a deep breath and buckle up for an information dump, because that is what the 1L Orientation is. Once you get through that, you will go straight into trying to figure out what a case brief is and how you can possibly get through all your reading assignments. You will likely feel as though you cannot focus on anything else because if you do, for even a second, you will forget everything you just learned in class and will fall desperately behind in your reading. So, I want to take a moment to point out some things I missed in my first semester.
Everyone’s first semester is the same to some extent. None of us have ever encountered anything like law school–and we will likely never encounter anything like it again. But law school is not only about learning the law; it’s about networking and building connections, finding out more about yourself, and discovering the type of law you want to practice after law school. I didn’t realize there were opportunities to advance these facets of my life running in the background during my first semester.
To start, let’s talk about an acronym that you will see in early emails that may make no sense to you (Was that just me? Oh well, I’m going to tell you anyway.) “CDO” stands for “Career Development Office” and it was my number one missed opportunity; not that it’s too late–I am still a 1L after all–but I wish I had understood what it represented, not just what the letters stood for, earlier. I cannot stress enough how useful their website is. I highly recommend starting here: Create Your Career Plan. From there you can find awesome timelines to assess what you can do for your career during each year of law school.
At the link you can also find self-assessments, which I found wildly illuminating. I am a first-generation law student. Most of the law school experience has been overwhelming for me, but I doubt I am alone in this. Even people coming from long lines of lawyers will find benefit in the self-assessments. They help you identify who you are as a person, which in turn helps guide you to a better understanding of where you want to work, in what kind of law, and for what type of practice. Efficiency is key in life & law and this puts you on the fast track to managing your future and finding focus.
Personally, I discovered that corporate practice will likely not be a great fit for me because I am motivated by and value highly self-expression (which is a bummer because who doesn’t want to make those big bucks!) But recognizing this before I apply for post-grad jobs–or even more imminently, internships and externships–puts the focus on jobs that suit me personally and will enhance my overall happiness and fulfillment. The self-assessments will help you focus on exactly why you are in law school, what you want out of your law school experience, and exactly how you want to practice after school.
Next vocab tip: “MCO” stands for “McGeorgeCareersOnline”. Even if you are in the part-time program with a job already, MCO provides you with access to so much more than just jobs. At the risk of sounding like an infomercial here, it will make your life better. I recommend starting here: Job Search Resources and not just jumping straight into the MCO site. It will give you a general explanation of what MCO is and a couple other career related services. You can also find instructions for MCO, which I wish I had discovered before signing up for the service.
On the MCO website you can find jobs, upload resumes and cover letters for ease-of-sending, check out MCO events, schedule On-Campus Interviews (OCI) and counseling appointments, and connect with a mentor through the Alumni Advisor Network. All of which are aimed to help get you plugged into the expansive and practical network at McGeorge. You can never make connections too soon and in the times when you feel lost in law school, having a mentor can be a great way to keep you motivated to push through to life after law school.
One last thing I want to stress: the CDO is there to help. When you get an email from them early in your first semester (and you will), don’t assume they are just piling on to your already hectic schedule. They are trying to help you see the big picture: life after law school. And while it is crucial to focus on your classes, it is nice to pull your focus out occasionally to recall why you came to law school in the first place. If you do not have a concrete ‘why,’ like me, I suggest doing the work to find it (see self-assessments above) and speaking with the counselors through the MCO. You can also get in touch with a CDO advisor by simply emailing them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Best of luck as you continue through school. And remember: don’t miss the big picture.