Entering your first year of law school can be extremely intimidating because it is completely different than any learning environment you were in before. During your 1L orientation you should expect to get a small taste of what it is like to function in a law school classroom. You will have professors teach a mock class during the week of orientation in which students will be able to understand how to read cases and find the applicable rule of law from those cases. Students will also be able to understand how the Socratic method works and can prepare for the types of questions they may be asked in their regular classes once the semester starts.
After orientation, classes will begin and the regular division students are typically split into two separate groups. Each group will travel to all classes together and will learn from the same professors. The evening division is typically a smaller group of students so there is no splitting into separate sections. During the Fall semester 1L students will take Contracts, Torts, Property, Legal Methods, and Civil Procedure. Most, but not all, of these courses will then continue into the Spring semester and the courses become Contracts II, Civil Procedure II, etc. For regular division students, classes will typically begin around 9:00am or 9:30am. There is usually a break in the 1L schedule which allows time for homework and lunch and classes resume in the afternoon at 2:00pm. For evening division students, classes could start as early as 6:00pm and end as late as 10:00pm. Most 1L classes last either an hour and 25 minutes, or 55 minutes depending on the number of credits a student will earn for the course.
The amount of homework a student can expect during their first year will change over time. At the start of the Fall semester, professors tend to assign less work as they are aware students are just starting to adjust to the rigor of law school and do not yet fully comprehend cases the first time they read them. As the Fall semester progresses 1L students can expect more pages of homework for each of their classes, but this increase usually goes unnoticed because students learn how to read and understand cases faster. The Spring semester of 1L will pick up in pace significantly because now 1L students have successfully completed one semester of law school and know how to manage their time to get all of their work done before class.
1L year can be overwhelming at times so it is important for students to take advantage of the many different support systems that Widener offers. For example, each 1L class will have what Widener refers to as an “Academic Success Fellow,” this is a 2L or 3L student who excelled and received a top grade in that class in a prior year. This student will hold weekly office hours and is there to answer any questions that 1L students may have about the material. The professors of all 1L courses also hold office hours and are always willing to answer any questions students may have. Widener also has a peer mentorship program that is run by the Student Bar Association which pairs a 2L or 3L student with any 1L who wants to have a mentor and that mentor is there to coach the 1L on anything from exam taking strategies to how to find a suitable internship or externship.
A student’s 1L year can feel stressful at times, but it is also a very rewarding experience, and it is one that will shape a student into the attorney that they will shortly become.