The difference between the 1L and 2L law school year.  You probably have heard the saying, “The first year they scare you to death, the second year they work you to death, and the third year they bore you to death.”  Many would say the saying is not far off from the truth. 

Have you been wondering what to expect in law school?  Is law school similar to undergraduate school?  Below will answer these common questions posed by prospective law school students. 

The First Year

The first year of law school, also known as 1L year, is a scary time in law school.  What makes the first year the scariest?  

Well, you walk into class on the first day knowing that you are up against other students who, like yourself, likely placed at the top of their undergraduate class.  You are likely with people who received straight A’s in undergrad and are driven to succeed.  

Additionally, you will likely have second-career individuals in your class who are driven to become attorneys after wanting a change in career.  These individuals are often in law school to get into a career that will help support their family.  Unlike many of us, they have more pressure to do well which increases the competition level for all other students. 

Determining Your Future as a 1L

One of the main reasons your first year is the scariest (and most important) is because it may determine what your first job is out of law school.  Based on your 1L year grades, you will begin applying for 2L summer associate positions that will potentially lead to a full-time job upon graduation.  Additionally, your 1L GPA will determine whether you can receive a judicial externship and participate in other activities. 

The Dreadful 1L Curve

In addition to having tough competition, there is also a curve in law school that scares many students, rightfully so.  In your first year of law school, you are graded on a curve that is lower than the curve of your 2L and 3L year.  Different schools have different grading scales and curves, but most schools, if not all, use a curve similar to the one below.

As you can see, the average score that will be awarded is around a C/B-.  This means that the majority of people in a 1L class will receive a letter grade of C or B-.  Likewise, there will only be one person (or very few) that will receive an A letter grade.  Many students get concerned when they receive a C letter grade on an exam.  After all, many students in undergraduate school never saw a C letter grade on their transcripts.  

Just remember, the majority of people in the class likely received a C or B-.  Many students have the goal of placing average in their class.  This is not a bad goal because being average in your law school class is not necessarily a bad thing!  After all, only a few students will receive the letter grade of an A.  If you want to try and get that A, check out “How to Write a Good Law School Exam Answer.”

The 2L Law School Curve – A Change!

Once you make it through your 1L year, the curve will change for your 2L and 3L year.  Basically, the bell curve above remains, but think of it as though the letters shift to the left, like so.

Now it’s not so scary, right?!  The average grade is approximately a B letter grade, which many law school students would be happy to see on their transcripts.  

The 2L Cruise

During your 2L law school year, it can be similar to a cruise: 2L year can be exciting, fun, but also bumpy, long, and sickening.  During your 2L law school year, depending on how you did during your 1L year, you will have the opportunity to participate in honor societies, such as a law review, journal, or moot court.  Additionally, you will have an increased workload, which is the not so fun part.  The second year of law school is a lot of work, no doubt.  However, the most reassuring aspect of your 2L year is that you know what to expect.  Sure, you may have more reading to do, but you know how to brief a case and prepare for class.  

While your 1L year poses many scary challenges, keep pushing forward and don’t lose hope!  Your 2L law school year will be over before you know it, and then 3L year will fly by!