1L Law School: Preparations and What to Expect


Once you have put in the hard work to excel on the LSAT and secure admission to law school, you may be curious about what lies ahead. Your first year of law school holds immense significance, as your performance during 1L will heavily influence your class ranking, potential honors, and the range of job prospects available to you. Considering this, what should you anticipate during your 1L law school?

1L Law School Students talking while walking inside the school campus

What Is the First Year of Law School Like?

Law School Teaching Method

As you start your journey as a law school freshman, the first year, often referred to as the 1L year, offers a unique and rigorous educational experience. This year is primarily focused on learning the law through what’s known as the case method approach. This means your study materials will consist of various judicial opinions, presented without any explanations or summaries. It becomes your task to meticulously brief each case, which helps you understand the intricate details and legal principles involved.

During class, time is dedicated to dissecting these cases, fostering discussions, and drawing connections between them and other legal precedents. A key part of this learning process involves the Socratic method, a distinctive teaching strategy law professors employ. This method involves a series of quick, probing questions to challenge your reasoning and gradually lead you to a more refined understanding of the legal concepts.

While the Socratic method can initially seem daunting to first-year law students, many grow to value it for the critical thinking skills it cultivates, which are essential for legal practice.

Exam Structure

Another notable aspect of the 1L year of law school is the examination structure. For most courses, your entire grade may hinge on a single exam at the end of the semester. To prepare for these crucial assessments, law school students commonly invest time in crafting detailed law school outlines. These outlines are comprehensive course content summaries and serve as a vital study tool. 

The exception in your 1L law school curriculum will likely be the legal writing course, where you’ll engage in more frequent, graded assignments like drafting motions and briefs. This varied approach in assessment aims to equip you with analytical acumen and practical legal writing skills, crucial for a successful law career.

Outside the Classroom Experience

What to expect in the first year of law school? As a law school newbie, especially during the 1L in law school, there’s a whole other aspect of learning that happens outside the classroom. This part of your law school journey is as much about building relationships as it is about studying.

The first year at law school often turns into a period where students form close connections with each other. These bonds often stem from having similar backgrounds, interests, and aspirations. However, a significant part of this camaraderie develops through facing and overcoming the same challenges. As you and your peers navigate the demands of law school, there’s a sense of solidarity that emerges, much like comrades facing tough situations together.

While it’s relatively easy and quick to make friends in this environment, you may soon notice that the atmosphere is more competitive than what you experienced in high school or college. This heightened sense of competition is a common aspect of law school, but it’s also part of what makes the experience unique and ultimately rewarding.

How Hard is 1L Law School?

A common question among aspiring law students is, “Is law school hard?” The answer, particularly for the first year in law school, is a definitive yes. The 1L year is acknowledged as a challenging period, both intellectually and in terms of workload. One key aspect that adds to this difficulty is the grading system. Unlike in undergraduate programs, law school grades are often distributed on a strict curve. This means that high grades, like A’s, are awarded sparingly.

The rigorous nature of 1L law school demands significant hard work and dedication. For full-time students, this often translates to having very limited free time for other activities or interests. Law school is tough because of the difficult curriculum and the need to understand and use complex legal ideas. 

However, the second and third years are usually easier. Students can pick their classes, and the grading is less strict. Additionally, the teaching methods often shift; many professors move away from the Socratic Method and adopt more traditional lecturing styles or encourage class discussions with voluntary participation. This change in pace and teaching approach can provide a welcome contrast to the demanding 1L year, especially for those balancing law school part-time with other commitments.

What Classes are in the First Year of Law School?

During your law school 1L, the curriculum is typically fixed, as most institutions mandate that students complete fundamental courses. These classes are essential for laying a strong groundwork in law and encompass crucial subjects.

Civil Procedure

This class explores how legal cases are handled in the United States. It covers different topics about motions, pleadings, pretrial procedures, and ways to resolve disputes outside of court. It also examines the process of handling appeals, providing a comprehensive overview of the progression of civil cases within the legal system.

Constitutional Law

This course provides an overview of the United States. Constitution and focuses on significant U.S. Supreme Court decisions. It discusses how the Constitution is studied, particularly the role of the court in evaluating government activities, the separation of powers, and federalism-based constraints on Congress and state governments. Individual constitutional rights are also discussed.


This class discusses contract formation, breach, and remedies. It discusses the necessary factors for forming a legally binding contract, what constitutes a breach, and the types of damages that might result from such breaches.

Criminal Law and Procedure

The class examines the legal principles and policies for implementing punishments against individuals accused of crimes. It also looks at the rights of people accused of crimes, laying the framework for comprehending criminal justice systems.

Legal Writing

Critical for any legal professional, this course teaches students how to research legal issues and write effective legal memoranda. It involves practical training in writing and analysis, which is essential for legal practice.

Property Law

This class examines the legal relationships between individuals and property, including land, buildings, natural resources, and personal objects. It addresses issues like ownership rights, transfers of property, and legal property disputes.


Torts class focuses on the legal mechanisms for compensating harm to a person, property, relations, and economic interests. Students learn about tort claims, defenses, and the policies behind allocating losses in such cases.

Each of these classes is key to understanding the basics of law and preparing you for the more advanced topics you’ll encounter later in your law school journey, especially if you’re considering majors for law school. They lay the groundwork for everything else you’ll learn in your first year of law school.

A woman reading a book inside the library

How to Prepare for 1L Law School?

Getting ready for your first year in law school means laying a strong groundwork for the tough but fulfilling road ahead. Here’s a detailed guide to help you gear up for this new academic challenge:

Understand the Workload

The transition from undergraduate studies to law school can be quite stark, especially regarding the workload. In your 1L year, expect a significant increase in reading, analysis, and case briefing. Law school demands more active involvement than typical undergraduate courses. It involves grasping complex legal concepts and learning how to use them. Getting ready mentally for this shift and forming effective study habits from the start can have a significant impact.

Brush Up on Legal Terms

Before you start law school, learn basic legal terms and concepts. This will help you understand your first lectures and readings better. Having a fundamental grasp can help you get ahead and boost your confidence.

Develop a Study Plan

To do well in law school, you need a good study plan. First, work out how much time you need for lectures, reading, making outlines, and reviewing notes. Regular and organized studying will help you keep a good law school GPA. Studying for law school exams regularly is preferable because they assess your understanding of the subject over the full semester.

Connect with Current Students or Alumni

Engage in conversations with present students or graduates to glean firsthand insights into the initial year of law school. They can offer valuable guidance on handling assignments, preparing for exams, and coping with pressure. Establishing connections with more experienced peers could also assist you in finding study partners, mentors, and internship opportunities.

Take Care of Your Well-Being

The demands of law school can have a substantial impact on your physical and mental health. It’s important to balance your personal life and school responsibilities well. Making time for exercise, hobbies, and spending time with family and friends is key to staying healthy.

Excel on the LSAT with Comprehensive LSAT Prep

Scoring high on the LSAT is not just about meeting the law school requirements. It shows that you’re ready for legal studies and can greatly affect your chances of getting into law school. This score is often seen as an indicator of how you’ll handle the intense environment of your first year, the 1l law school.

Odyssey Test Prep understands how crucial the LSAT is on your path to becoming a law student. That’s why our focus is on helping you nail the LSAT, a key element in your law school admission. Our services are tailored to support you at every step of your law school application process.

LSAT Prep Course

Prepare for your 1L journey with our comprehensive LSAT Prep Course, unlocking the key to success in law school admissions. We provide a structured study curriculum and practice materials to prepare for the law school admission exam. Students work through standardized lessons, take practice tests, and receive general feedback from expert instructors. These courses offer a more affordable way to review core test content and strategies, though the approach is less tailored than individualized options.

LSAT Tutoring

Private tutoring involves one-on-one guidance from our expert LSAT tutors. These private sessions allow for practice focused on specific problem areas and the development of customized test-taking strategies and approaches based on the individual student’s needs and goals. Ace the LSAT and conquer your 1L dreams with personalized LSAT tutoring tailored to your strengths and weaknesses.

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Our Law School Admissions Consulting services provide tailored guidance to help you stand out and secure your spot in the law school of your dreams. We help strengthen an overall candidate’s testing abilities, applications, essays, recommendations, and strategic approach. Our seasoned admission consultants utilize their expertise in the application process to provide targeted context and advice on how applicants can stand out. 


The first year of law school is a defining period for every law student. It stands as a pivotal year that answers the big question for many: “Is law school worth it?” It’s difficult, with its extensive reading and tough courses, but it’s also the year when your ambitions to become a lawyer begin to take shape.

For those who have a real drive for the legal field, despite the hard work and long hours, 1L is where your passion for law is truly ignited, solidifying your decision to pursue this challenging yet rewarding career.

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