second year of law schoolHow Your Second Year of Law School Differs From Your First

Every year of law school is a unique experience.  Now that you’ve conquered your first, you might be wondering what to expect in your second year of law school.  A lot will be changing, and it’s best to go into this year with your eyes wide open!  In this post, we give you 5 ways in which your second year of law school will differ from your first!

How Your Second Year of Law School Differs From Your First

1. You become an individual.

Your first year of law school is highly structured.  The curriculum is determined for you in its entirety.  You spend all of your time with the same group of people, since everyone has the exact same schedule.  There isn’t a whole lot of room to pursue your individual interests.  This all changes in your second year of law school (at most schools).  This year, you are free to create your own schedule, choosing what courses you want to take.  No longer will you be a part of one large group of students following each other around.  2L year is when you get to start pursuing your own interests and forging your own path.  This is when law school truly becomes what you make of it.

Another impact of this is that your professors will also interact with you more as an individual.  Many of the upper-level courses have much smaller class sizes, meaning that it is much easier for your professors to get to know you.  It’s likely you will get called on more in these small classes, and your professors will learn how to challenge you.  In your second year of law school, you will no longer be able to hide amongst all of the other scared 1Ls.  Your professors will have higher expectations and will be more interactive.  While this might keep you on your toes, it also allows you to build valuable personal relationships with faculty who might be able to help you out down the line!

2. The addition of extracurriculars.

In your second year of law school, a lot of new opportunities open up to you outside of classes as well.  You can join a variety of clubs and societies that match your interests, helping you build connections with people that can be of benefit to you in a career.  You can also build your resume by taking on leadership positions.  Further, you will have the ability to join programs such as your school’s mock trial team, moot court, law review, journal, transactional team, etc.  These programs give you invaluable training in the practical skills necessary for the practice of law beyond just a knowledge of the black letter law.  Potential employers will be expecting to see participation in groups or clubs on your resume as this indicates an additional level of experience.

If you join an extracurricular, this will mean even an additional increase in work beyond just your basic homework assignments.  Your course load may be heavy, but the second year of law school presents an increased level of commitment beyond just your reading.  Your second year of law school brings a whole new meaning to time management!

3. The material gets tougher.

Most of what is covered in your 1L year is what we would consider the basic building blocks of the law.  The concepts form the foundation of a lot of other subjects.  In your second year of law school, you start to move into more advanced topics, building on what you learned the previous years.  The law becomes more nuanced and complex.  Some of the classes you might take, such as Evidence, require the understanding, memorization, and application of seemingly dozens of rules.

You may choose to pursue classes that are more theoretical in nature, teaching you about the origins of law and requiring a more philosophical outlook.  You might have homework that goes beyond just reading some cases before each class.  There could be papers and research projects.  Your skills will be challenged in new ways, and you will have to work hard.  But what you will learn will take you places. You can finally start to explore what part of the legal profession you belong in.

4. You feel the pressure of the looming real world.

It may seem early since you still have two years of school plus the bar exam, but your second year of law school is when you really start planning and searching for a post-education job.  Before 2L year even starts you may participate in On-Campus Interviews with firms looking to hire for the following summer.  Your second summer internships can be critical for securing your first job as an attorney.  If you’re interested in clerking in a courthouse, many judges will be hiring for the time period after you graduate even during your second year.  Thus, on top of school, you will be starting to think about jobs and what sort of career you’d like to pursue.

5. But this time you know what you are doing.

All of the above might sound overwhelming.  And it’s true, your second year of law school is considered to be very difficult.  But you have one huge advantage going into this year: with a year of law school under your belt, you already know what you are doing.  Law school is no longer that new, crazy experience that you have no idea how to handle.

You’re not that scared little 1L any more, entering a new world. You know what to expect.  For example, you know how to approach studying for law school classes.  You know how to outline, and how to effectively read cases.  Importantly, you know how to take a law school final exam.  None of this will be new to you!  So you’re already way ahead of where you were at this time last year.  While there may be unique challenges that you have to learn how to deal with, you are so much more prepared at this stage of your law career.  You can do this!

LAURA SIGLER, WHO GRADUATED MAGNA CUM LAUDE FROM WAYNE STATE UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL, IS A JD ADVISING LEGAL RESEARCHER AND ESSAY GRADER.

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