Advice for Rising 2L’s
There is currently a large amount of advice in the blogosphere for incoming 1L’s. For example:
However, I am aware of very little advice on the blogosphere that is directed towards rising 2L’s. In retrospect, with 20/20 hindsight (now that law school and the bar exam are over), I wish I had realized a few things at the beginning of my 2L year.
Here is my own advice for 2L’s:
The most important thing you can do at this moment is reconsider your schedule. Right now you still have a window of time in which you can add or drop classes. Although there are waiting lists, it is often possible to add a class that you couldn’t when you originally scheduled. So right now you need to plan ahead and consider your schedule for the next two years. Don’t just think about your 2L year, but consider a strategy for your 2L and 3L years. You are not bound by such a strategy, and can always make necessary changes, but you need to have a foundation that you can work from. In particular, this means balancing your credit load between your second and third years, and choosing the right classes (which will depend on your own goals and interests).
I strongly suggest, if at all possible, that you take more credits your second year, and fewer credits your third year. This advice will seem obvious to some, but many students prefer to have fewer credits their second year so they have more time and energy to focus on their studies after an overwhelming first year. I deliberately took a lighter load my second year for several reasons, which at the time seemed necessary. But in retrospect I wish I had added at least 1 or 2 credits each semester of my second year, so that my time would have been more flexible my third year.
Make your third year the year that you have a lower credit load, so that you are prepared for opportunities (whether work-related or school-related) that come up. For example, I received an unexpected job offer for the first semester of my 3L year (unexpected because I was applying for a summer job at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and instead they offered me a Fall semester job, which I accepted). That first semester was an overwhelming amount of work, including a part-time job, a heavy credit load with very difficult classes, the writing of a Recent Development for journal, and family responsibilities. It would have been better for me to have taken one of those classes (or an equivalent) my 2L year.
I recommend that you add a credit here and there when possible. For example, if your school offers 1-credit classes during your Fall and Spring breaks (which are often pass/fail), take advantage of them. It may not seem like much at the time, but the credits will add up and you will alleviate the burden on your third year.
Taking more credits your second year will enable you to have more flexibility your third year. You will have greater freedom to take courses that interest you, because with fewer credits there will be fewer schedule conflicts. You will have more time for a clinic, an independent study project (such as 3L Epiphany), and/or a more substantial job. The value of having more time and greater flexibility in your third year cannot be overemphasized.
If you are able to add a class, then do so by making a careful assessment of your 1L experience. Are there any patterns that emerge? Did you do better in exam courses, or courses with written assignments? Did you do better on essay exams or multiple choice? Take all of this into consideration. If there is a professor that you “clicked” with, stick with him or her. Take courses that you know you will like because of the content, or because of the professor, and that are more likely to improve your GPA. I realize this advice might seem outdated since you have already scheduled your classes, but I offer it as a suggestion for 2L’s who have planned on taking a lighter credit load this coming year.
Just because you did not do so well in a general class does not preclude you from taking (and doing well) in a specialty class within that general topic. That is, if you didn’t do well in Property, but you think you would enjoy Eminent Domain, don’t talk yourself out of it. Other examples might be Torts and Products Liability, or Constitutional Law and 14th Amendment, etc. Take what interests you, and don’t assume you will not do as well based on your experience in one first year class.
Bar review after graduation will teach you what you need to know for the bar exam. Be careful of taking a course just because it’s on the bar, especially if there’s a good chance it will lower your GPA. BarBri does a more-than-adequate job of preparing you for the exam if you follow their schedule (I can’t vouch for other bar review courses). You only go through law school once, and it’s over before you know it, so be sure to enroll in classes that you really want to take. This obviously doesn’t mean you should avoid each and every bar course, but just make sure you are taking a well-rounded schedule that includes some classes you enjoy. (If you come back to this post in late October and the paragraph you are now reading has disappeared, you will know why.)
Don’t expect that a course on the schedule this year will be there next year. That is, if a course is offered in your second year, don’t assume that you can take it your third year instead. For this you should talk to the registrar, or the professor offering the course. I neglected to sign-up for a course my second year because it was a particular professor’s specialty, and I assumed he would be there my 3L year. Unfortunately the professor accepted a position at another law school, and I never got to take what would have been an excellent class.
One more piece of advice: This is an election year. If you are a political news junkie, schedule a specific time for paying attention to political news, and don’t let that time be open-ended. Watch the news or read political commentary for perhaps a ½ hour or an hour a day, and then don’t look at it again. If you come across an article that is a must-read and that takes you over the allotted time, table it for the next day. Don’t become preoccupied with current events, because they are simply too distracting. If you want to pay attention to politics, do so in a way that earns you credit (i.e. taking Election Law) or adds something to your resume.
Any readers who wish to leave more advice, or to agree/disagree with mine, should feel free in the comments.