By Katie Vloet
As this year's 3Ls prepare to graduate, we asked them what advice they would offer the new class of 1Ls. They learned from their own experiences—as well as the things they didn't take time to experience and wish they had.
Take a clinic or a practicum, or both. Take classes that genuinely interest you, but also realize that you may end up enjoying a class you dreaded. Go to a concert, or the bar, or a restaurant now and then. Study, but also get involved in activities where you'll meet 2Ls and 3Ls.
"If my younger brother were starting law school, this is what I would tell him: Enjoy it," said 3L Phil Zeeck. "This is the first time in my life I have found a real community of interests. You should meet people, explore ideas, have fun. Yes, you should study, but don't spend every moment trying to get ahead."
Instead, Zeeck advised, follow your passion rather than check off a bunch of boxes on a things-you-should-do list. Once he started doing that, he said, he became a lot happier—and was a better student.
He also suggested that students remember not to confine their lives to a few square blocks. "Ann Arbor is a really wonderful, diverse town—there's so much going on beyond the Law Quad. Go see a show at The Ark. Make the long drive to the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes [in northwestern Michigan]," Zeeck said. "I have a classmate who used to be a chef, and he scouted out all the best places to eat in town," he said, including Tomukun, Frita Batidos, and Pizza Pino.
Lisa Haidostian, a 3L who was on the Law School Student Senate for her three years here, advised students to get involved. Don't try to do everything, though, she said. "Even just finding one activity to get absorbed in early on is a great break from classes and the best way to meet people outside your section, especially 2Ls and 3Ls." It's great for 1Ls to meet older students, and not just because you can get their outlines from their 1L classes, she said.
Haidostian took the Child Advocacy Law Clinic this year, and recommended that all students at least consider taking a clinic. "It's really helpful during interviews to be able to talk about actual cases that you've worked on," she said.
Like Zeeck, she said 1Ls shouldn't forget to have a social life. "In the first two-thirds of the semester your 1L year, go out a couple of times in the week. The horror stories about law school don't kick in until the month before exams. Before that, get your work done, but don't feel you have to study all the time."
What would she do differently? "I would go to professors' office hours. I never did, and I should have. I think it's so important to get to know your professors so you can get more out of the class, maybe get letters of recommendations down the road. You should definitely nurture those opportunities."
Another 3L, Mike Huff, said students should keep an open mind about classes, even those that they dread. "I took CrimPro [Criminal Procedure] with Eve Brensike Primus. It was the most intense exam experience I've ever had, and it was a really intense class. But she was phenomenal, and I ended up learning so much from her."
And that is Huff's key piece of advice: Find professors whose style challenges and interests you. "Good professors challenge you in the right way, and I think that's where the value of law school is."
Huff also recommends getting involved in clinics or a practicum, as well as other activities. For instance, this year he led the organization of "Going for the Gold," a symposium that featured top attorneys and academics who discussed Olympic law. "That was really the best academic experience I had here, in terms of what we learned setting up that event, and talking with panelists ahead of time. I learned how they lawyer, how they approach things; it was very valuable."
However the incoming students go about it, the 3Ls said, they should make the most of their time at Michigan Law.
"Here's what I want: I really want to be an excellent lawyer," Zeeck says. "And I feel really well prepared for that."
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