Do you have plans to attend law school? You’re certainly not alone! Over 37K+ first-year law students began their J.D. studies in 2023, with law school applications expected to increase in 2024.

western state first year student empoweredWhile there is a lot of anticipation and excitement around starting law school, we know it can also be overwhelming. The first year sets a precedent for the rest of your law school experience, including scholarships and internship opportunities. To help prepare and empower aspiring law school students, we asked four of our recent Western State College of Law (WSCL) alumni from the class of 2018 to share their advice for first-year law students.

  • Steve Alvarado is a prosecutor with the Torrance City Attorney’s Office.
  • Melissa Padilla was hired at the Orange County Public Defender’s Office and has been practicing as a criminal defense attorney for two years. She is currently assigned to juvenile delinquency.
  • Summer DeVore is an associate attorney at Stream Kim Hicks Wrage & Alfaro, P.C., focusing on complex business, real estate and municipal litigation.
  • Jack Rafter is a research attorney working with law schools and large firms for LexisNexis, the legal database.

Following are five tips for first-year law students from Western alumni:

1. Put yourself out there.

western state first year student present yourself“On day one, it is important to be vocal and sell yourself to professors, peers and anyone you encounter. Future externships and job opportunities often hinge on how you present yourself. People remember who participated and were articulate, so start right away!” – Steve

“Put yourself out there and compete. It is a lot of work, but you are going to law school to get a job in the end. The more you can add to your resume and set yourself apart, the better.” – Melissa

2. Get involved.

western state first year student get involved“Join different clubs. I joined the Latina Student Organization and the Black Law Student Organization, which opened doors for many networking opportunities. I also participated in negotiation competitions, where we took first place one year. This allowed me to meet students from other schools and helped me become more rooted in my school while being a great resume booster.” – Melissa

“Find a study group or partner. This is important for networking and branching out. You aren’t going to a lecture hall of 500 because it’s a smaller school with smaller classes. The resources and friends you make now will become your network. They can help you secure internships and build connections, and you don’t know who they will be in five to 10 years. My classmates from law school are now my colleagues, and you never know what opportunities they can open up for you.” -Steve

3. Build your network.

“Before starting, I had always been told how competitive and cutthroat law school was and how people would do just about anything to be at the top of the class. Imagine my surprise when I learned that this wasn’t true at every law school. As a part time evening student at Western State, I was placed in classes with the same cohort for at least the first two years of law school. These strangers became some of my closest friends. We all supported each other in and out of law school. We formed study groups, were available for questions, threw events for special occasions such as a baby shower, took the time to talk out a midterm or final exam and shared notes if someone missed class. Unlike the stories I had heard about law school, everyone I met at Western State was willing to help me succeed right along with them. Having been in practice for a few years, I have realized just how important the connections I made during law school are. Most of my cohort went into various practice areas, including public sector, family, criminal law and personal injury. I went into civil business litigation. These friendships have evolved into a referral source and have also made it easy to pick up the phone and call a colleague when I have a question in a particular area of law. I truly appreciated the camaraderie fostered at Western State and the friendships that were formed that have transcended beyond law school.” – Summer

4. Find your balance.

western state first year student find balance“It’s a marathon, not a sprint. You need to pace yourself. Law school is going to be overwhelming, life-consuming and extremely tough. You need to make time for yourself and learn what works best for you. If that means blocking out some time each day or one night a week for yourself or taking an hour each night to catch up on your shows – you should do it. You don’t just need to survive law school, but you need to thrive after, so it’s important to remember to block out time to care for yourself.” – John

“Balancing work, school, family, friends and finding time to study and prepare for classes was not an easy task. That said, I always tried to schedule some ‘off’ time from law school. I tried to spend one night a week with family and friends or get caught up on forgotten tasks around the house, such as laundry. This allowed me to carve out time for myself, which helped prevent burnout.” – Summer

5. Embrace your journey.

“Take every piece of advice with a grain of salt. People will tell you how hard it is, how much you will have to read, how you can’t sleep or have a life, the right way to brief a case, approach a professor, etc., but law school is the time to find what is right for you. There isn’t only one way to be successful. Take the melting pot of advice and mold it into what will work for you.” – Steve

“Do whatever works best for you. It’s your law school career, and you know yourself better than anyone else knows you.” – John

We hope that you find these first-year law school tips helpful. To access other important legal education advice and information on topics including the application process, tuition, part-time programs and more, visit our blog or contact us today!.