by Mike Bombace
I had a recent conversation with one of my carrel mates. She is a 1L and asked about my first-year experiences and how my second year was unfolding. As we talked, I mentioned that there were similarities and differences.
Most of the differences are pretty obvious. During the second year, for the first time, with the exception of two required courses,
you get to pick your classes. In addition, the classes get harder. It definitely feels like a step up from first year. Professors expect more from you. In class they will move faster, ask more (and sharper) questions and expect you to understand topics already covered during your first year. In the classes I’m taking, we are exploring more complicated questions that involve not just one area of the law but the intersection of several areas of law.
During the second year, you are also trying to balance your schoolwork with a number of extracurricular activities. Many students participate in one or more of the Moot Court competitions. Some students are on journals. Others are active in clubs and organizations. All of us are conducting busy and labor intensive job searches. In short, there is a lot you have to balance and all of this requires good time management and organizational skills. While I definitely feel like I am a better law student than I was a year ago, the challenging nature of the classes I’m taking combined with the high expectations of my professors and the sheer amount of, well, stuff, I have going on means that this year is in a lot of ways harder than last year.
However, while there are certainly differences between the first and second year, here at W&L, there is one great commonality:
community. I have certainly mentioned this before but the community here is one of the best things about this law school. I genuinely missed my classmates and Lexington over the summer. Over the course of my first year, I became very close with several classmates. These relationships were the product of late night study sessions, Waffle House runs well into the evening, and just the day-to-day experiences of law school. But the unique nature of this law school and our location also played a significant role in shaping these friendships.
From the close friendships I have with many of my classmates to the relationships I have formed with several of my professors, I have benefited (and continue to benefit) from this campus’ community in appreciable ways. When I was a 1L, I would often ask second- and third-year students for advice, and they were always happy to share their insights and perspectives with me. They would give me recommendations on everything from what classes to take to the pitfalls I should try to avoid. I have found their advice incredibly helpful as I navigate this very challenging and demanding year.
One of my favorite things about W&L Law is that I have been able to get to know several of my professors very well. Professors here are an integral and integrated part of this community, and they are great teachers who value contact with their students. The second year allows you to develop further a relationship with a professor who you had during your first year. It also allows you to take a class or two with that professor in an area in which that professor has a research interest.
For example, my Intellectual Property professor was also my Contracts professor. This professor is engaging and an expert in this field. He has a wealth of practical experience to bring to bear on the issues we discuss during class. In a class like this, getting to know the professor is almost a foregone conclusion. These sorts of relationships are invaluable, particularly as you delve more deeply into these areas and work to refine your potential professional interests. In a year in which so much is asked of you academically, it’s nice to feel supported and know that you can turn to your professor if you have a question about the reading, class, job stuff, whatever.
So there are important changes between the first and second year, and there are also a few important similarities, but perhaps more important than the differences or similarities, is that each year is progressive, and every experience builds on the last. The result is like a plan-your-own-adventure book because of the excellent faculty, diverse student body, and community that
helps foster opportunities and a sense of exploration. The last year was a time of considerable growth for me, but I feel like the biggest and most exciting challenges lie ahead.