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The 1L Experience: A Recap of the First Semester of Law School

Holly Spurrell and Taylor Maxston (1Ls)

December 16, 2017, marked an important day for first year law students at the University of Alberta, as it signalled the completion of the fall semester and the halfway point of the school year. With 2018 upon us, it’s important to not only look forward at the promising future to come, but also to reflect on our experiences getting to this point. Bearing that in mind, here are a few snapshots of the 1L experience for the University of Alberta law class of 2020!

It seems like forever ago that us 1Ls were attending orientation activities to help prepare for the long road ahead. Around four months ago, we entered the law faculty looking forward to a new, but challenging grind to becoming legal professionals. The process included touring the law centre to familiarize ourselves with where we would be spending the next few years, the infamous Foundations of Law course, and enough pizza to make even the most avid fans question their cravings. On the inspirational words of former Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin and plenty of other speakers, we entered into first year with a heightened willingness to work hard and graduate together.

One of the primary gateways to getting involved with the ongoings at the Faculty of Law was the Club’s Fair, which showed off plenty of opportunities to meet new people and enhance the 1L experience. Many students chose to get involved with Student Legal Services, providing an immersion in legal problem-solving and the nervousness of standing in a real courtroom as counsel. Others were drawn to participating in the faculty’s theatrical production in the Law Show, embracing their inner actor, singer, or other dramatic counterpart. For the incoming 1L class, there was certainly enough to go around for there to be something available for students of all backgrounds.

A balanced life is critical to success in law school and plenty of sporting activities helped to provide a break from the heavy legal workload. From the storied Bearristers rugby teams participating in the Western Law Rugby Tournament to the bevy of intramural sports on weekdays, many law students were able to find an extracurricular activity to relax while getting to know the people around them in the faculty.

There was also a multitude of social events during which the class of 2020 bonded with each other and with upper year students. The social year for 1Ls began with, ‘First Friday Back’ and ‘El Hacko.’ The First Friday Back marked the first of what were to be many awesome outings with fellow students, and ‘El Hacko’ provided a venue for everyone to showcase their golf skills (or lack thereof) in hilarious attire. The costumes continued later on into the semester at ‘Hal-law-ween’ and the annual ugly sweater party. After all of these and many other social events, two things are clear: the class of 2020 knows how to have a great time and fears no costume party.

All of the newfound friendships that were born out of the first semester of law school – in volunteering, social events, and classes – proved to be the silver lining of midterm season. While everyone was frantically trying to colour-code and coil-bind their CANS, if you looked closer, you could also see friends explaining concepts, sharing notes, and helping each other. In hindsight, spending late nights at the library during that period of midterm misery evoked a strong sense of community, because we were all enduring it together.

Adjusting to the law life has obviously been different for everyone. All of the advice from wise upper years and professors was overwhelming at first, but once we had finished foundations and began our regular classes, a routine started forming. Soon people were making friends around the classroom and greeting each other every morning. People from other cohorts caught up and compared their classes in The Gavel after getting a coffee from Steve. While law school may have seemed intimidating and overwhelming at first, it has taken on a sense of comfort, because of the familiar faces that you can always expect to find here.