What to Expect in Your First Year of Law School: A Guide for New Students

If you're about to start your first year of law school, congrats! You're embarking on a challenging but rewarding journey. But what can you expect in your first year of law school? How can you best prepare? In this guide, we'll walk you through what to anticipate in your first year, and give you tips on how to succeed.


The Curriculum

The first year of law school is typically focused on foundational classes. These classes aim to develop your legal reasoning skills, teach you the basics of legal writing and research, and introduce you to key legal concepts. You can expect to take courses like:


This class covers the legal framework of agreements between parties. You'll learn about the essential elements of a contract, as well as how to interpret and enforce them.

Civil Procedure

In this class, you'll explore how courts operate and how legal disputes get resolved. You'll learn about the rules of evidence and litigation, and how to prepare a case for trial.

Criminal Law

This course covers the basics of criminal law, including different types of crimes, the elements of a criminal offense, and how the criminal justice system operates.

Property Law

In this class, you'll study the principles that govern property ownership, including personal and real property. You'll also learn about how property rights are transferred and how they can be protected.

The Work Load

Law school is known for its rigorous workload, and your first year will be no exception. You can expect to have a lot of reading to do, as well as assignments and projects to complete. It's not uncommon for law students to spend long hours in the library or in study groups.

Reading Assignments

Each class will likely have multiple reading assignments per week, ranging from cases to legal articles. You'll be expected to read and analyze the material before class, as professors often use the readings as a basis for discussion.

Classroom Participation

Law professors value class participation, so be prepared to speak up and contribute to discussions. Your grade may depend on it, so make sure you're ready to engage in thoughtful debates.

Out-of-Class Assignments

In addition to reading assignments, you can expect to have writing assignments, research projects, and even moot court competitions. These will require significant time and effort, so be prepared to balance your workload and prioritize your tasks.

The Grading System

Law school grading is typically based on a curve system, where your grade is determined in relation to your classmates' grades. This can be stressful, as law school is full of smart and competitive individuals. Here is a breakdown of the common grading scale:


An exceptional performance, typically reserved for only a few individuals in each class.


A solid performance that meets expectations, but may not stand out.


A passing grade, but with room for improvement.


A less-than-ideal grade, indicating serious deficiencies in understanding the material.


A failing grade, denoting a lack of grasp of the basics of the subject matter.

How to Succeed in Your First Year

With so many books to read, assignments to complete, and grades to worry about, it's understandable to feel overwhelmed. Here are some tips to help you succeed in your first year of law school:

Be Organized

Use a planner or digital calendar to keep track of your assignments and deadlines. This will help you prioritize your tasks and avoid procrastination.

Take Good Notes

In class, take detailed notes that capture key discussions and concepts. This will help you review the material later and prepare for exams.

Join Study Groups

Joining a study group can be a great resource for reviewing and clarifying material, as well as for obtaining different perspectives on legal issues.

Stay Focused

Law school can be overwhelming, so it's important to stay focused on your goals. Remember why you decided to pursue a law degree and keep your eye on the prize.


The first year of law school can be challenging, but it can also be a rewarding experience. With a solid understanding of what to expect, and some habits of success, you can set yourself up for a fulfilling career in the legal profession. Good luck!

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