Along with the excitement of a new school year, it’s natural to feel a bit anxious. But don’t worry, there are fellow students who want to help with the transition.
LAWgwarts, the University of Toronto Faculty of Law’s orientation team, has posted a series of entries from students on its blog with advice on issues ranging from commuting to identifying as LGBTQ in law school.
Jennifer Bates, LAWgwarts co-chairwoman and second-year JD/MBA student, says there’s a lot of tension when you’re first starting law school so the blog is meant to help put students at ease.
“There’s a lot of stress at the beginning of school so we wanted to emphasize that as much as law school is hard work and can be stressful, there’s a community here, there’s camaraderie, and we have fun,” she tells 4Students.
Ben Iscoe, a 2L and member of LAWgwarts’ external events team, knows what it’s like for incoming students as he too was searching message boards a year ago for advice on how to prepare for law school.
“I was, presumptively like many of you, terrified that knowing nothing about the law would make me the lone kid in the U of T Law Remedial Class,” he wrote in his July 16 blog post. “No one is expected to know anything about the law. Legal courses in undergrad are a rarity . . . they are reserved for law school.”
LAWgwarts’ fundraising team member and 2L Ashvin Singh stressed the importance of participating in orientation events in his Aug. 14 blog post.
“Law school activities, study groups, and the narrow corridors of Flavelle House create ample — even unavoidable — opportunities to meet other 1Ls,” he wrote.
“This week of events presents a unique window when everyone is equally busy learning names, exchanging awkward handshakes, and trading anecdotes. Often a single night at Orientation Week will allow you to foster more first connections than a month of classes and late night encounters at the library. Lower your guard and introduce yourself to your new colleagues.”
Second-year law student Katherine Georgious gave her advice on commuting after she lived in downtown Toronto for a bit last year before deciding to move back in with her parents in suburban Mississauga, Ont.
In her Aug. 19 blog post, she admitted that commuting didn’t save her a lot of money, but ultimately it was the better choice for her. For those who also choose public transit as their main method of transportation, she offered these tips to get the most out of the experience:
“• If you can, study on the bus.
• If you can’t study on the bus, make your commute fun.
• Make Tupperware your best friend.
• Don’t be afraid of napping in public.
• Never let the commute stop you from doing something you want to do.”
U of T Out in Law’s co-president and 2L Lauren Binhammer reflected on her experience with coming out in law school in her Aug. 21 blog post.
“I’d heard that U of T was a more conservative school, and I didn’t know what that would mean in terms of support for LGBTQ issues,” she wrote.
“I found an amazing group of friends, some LGBTQ, and all supportive. During my O-Week, I signed up for Out in Law’s mailing list, and already felt that there was a great community on campus. I was slow to come out, but it’s an ongoing process — one person at a time.”
Also good to know, 2L Jason Chin gave a run-down of places to eat around campus in his Aug. 31 blog post.
Although it’s brought up fairly often, the importance of a healthy work-life balance — yes, even in law school — can’t be stressed enough. Second-year law student Bhuvana Sankar listed some key points to consider in her recent post:
• Set reasonable expectations and don’t take on too much.
• And then ignore everyone else.
• Think of the big picture.
• tl;dr: Don’t panic.”
And with those expensive tuition fees, most law students are on a budget. 2L Esther Lexchin shared some pointers on putting money in your piggybank in her Sept. 3 offering, including: buy used books, get rid of your cell phone, bring your own lunch, and bring your own tea/coffee/hot chocolate.
Organization is also a key element of success. Osgoode Hall Law School student and Obiter Dicta staff writer Cass Da Re offered a few noteworthy organizational tips in a recent article.
As a final piece of advice, Bates reassures students that it is possible to survive law school. “Relax. There will be stressful moments, there’s no question, and it can be hard work. But I’ve never actually been in a community with such a sense of camaraderie, and everyone is willing to help each other,” she says.