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Mooreeffoc

1L Rant

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I'm completely lost in every single one of my courses, with the possible exception of Contracts. I have NO CLUE what is going on in Public, its like my prof is speaking in gibberish. I find the material in every course incredibly boring, and while I do my readings, attend class and take notes, I feel completely unmotivated. I hate law school, and I know that I'm going to do horribly on my exams but I don't really care. It's nearly impossible for me to concentrate on Zoom, and whenever I sit down in front of my laptop to do work it takes me forever to get started and I'm really unproductive. I've always been a good student and have never had an experience like this before. I've spent the past few days over reading week outlining, and have been using a combination of class notes, lecture slides, case briefs and outlines shared by upper year students. I feel like my outlines are horrible, and I doubt they'll help me when I'm in an exam situation. This has been one of the worst experiences of my life.  

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Have you spoken to your professors or school counsellor? I think you should reach out to those people. From my experiences, most do care and want you to do well.

It's common to feel overwhelmed by all these new concepts, especially when you don't have any feedback until your first midterm. From the fact that you have not done exams yet, I would hazard a guess that your courses are year-long and your midterms are coming up this December. Are they fail-safe (ie. if you do better on the final, then your midterm grades do not count)? If so, take the opportunity to apply what you've learned in class to the fact pattern in your exams with relatively little at stake. You can start doing this by reviewing past exams and working with your classmates to see how you would formulate an answer.

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Honestly, it sounds like you're working really hard. Your feelings of frustration and lack of motivation are normal: you're just starting to learn the law during a global pandemic. That is a lot! Be kind to yourself and give yourself a chance here. It sounds like you're really working at it, and not understanding can sometimes be a sign that you're seeing the complexities of the law! People who act like it's easy and nbd are not necessarily the ones who do well (or even average).

I felt the same way in law school. I literally had a meltdown the night before 1L midterms because I felt so lost and overwhelmed. I started planning backup careers because I was so sure I was gonna fail. After finals, I cried because I thought I failed. I didn't. Fast forward 5 years - I was fine, and so were all of my classmates in the end. This is a new experience for everyone, so just remember you're not alone in this and everyone feels lost and confused at some point (or many) during this journey. 

It might help to talk with a friend, family, counsellor, or someone at your school. They may provide you with strategies for studying or managing a lack of focus.

Also, remember that you have not even received your results yet so please try not to be so discouraged (I know, way easier said than done). :) Whatever happens, you'll be okay. Now, if you find that you really don't enjoy the subject matter at all, you have a number of options. One is to finish your first year and try to see if you can take electives next year that match your interests. Perhaps public isn't for you, but you'll love family law! It's still so early. Just hold on.

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Lots of people have similar feelings in 1L, or at some other point in law school. Most of them end up as relatively happy lawyers down the line. 

In 1L specifically, a huge amount of students feel completely lost through exams... and then most of them just end up with mostly Bs. 

Try to separate yourself from your thoughts and feelings. Practice some mindfulness or reflection and see if you can avoid any negative behavioural feedbacks. Step away from law school stuff and partake in some hobbies or physical activity. Why did you decide to go to law school?

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To echo what everyone else has said, I found the first semester of law school to be the most overwhelming and hated almost every moment of it. I felt so confused and insecure and I was pretty confident I was going to fail. I felt like I was trying so hard but nothing was coming together. I didn’t appreciate that I was slowly learning and laying the groundwork for a deeper understanding of the concepts.  

Rest assured that many people feel the same way. Keep working at it. eventually something will click and these murky concepts will make sense. Don’t panic if it’s not all coming together neatly at first. It will eventually because it always does. 

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@Mooreeffoc Why do you think this is? Is it that it's online rather than in person? What kind of subjects did you find interesting in undergrad? Is it just that law material is boring for you?

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I'm sorry to hear you're having such a tough time. I don't doubt that doing classes full-time online is not a fun experience at all. 1L in general is a steep learning curve so some of what you're feeling many of us felt too. 

It sounds like you're already doing a lot so I don't necessarily want to add to your plate. What I would suggest is: 

  • Take breaks and do things you love. Don't stay glued to your computer the whole day. Sometimes taking breaks is the most productive thing you can do 
  • Talk to classmates or professors. Don't do this alone. And you'll probably find a sense of calm when you realize lots of other 1Ls are in a similar position to you. 
  • Recall why you went to law school in the first place. Everything now, especially during 1L when you don't really get to choose your courses, is a stepping stone to where you ultimately want to go. Keep your end-goal in mind! 

Keep it up! You can get through 1L! 

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1L is the worst. Everyone is confused and lost - even if they dont say it. I did well in classes I was the most lost in and did the worst on classes I thought I had the best grasp in.  Its tempting to compare yourself to others around you but stick to a routine and system that makes you feel comfortable and see how the exams go.

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I agree with everything everyone above has said and I will add this: I loathed public in 1L, as did most of my friends. In my experience, feeling lost in Public is a bit of a 1L tradition. I remember going to my tutor after finishing my public classes every week in 1L and having him re-explain everything that we went through that week.

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I also agree with all above. 1L was the literal worst. I was at the admin offices to drop out three times, thankfully I had wonderful friends who talked me down off the proverbial ledge. I still don't know anything about contracts, so you're already ahead of me. :) What got me through was past exams. I if I could go back to my 1L self and give advice, it would be to spend my time reading summaries and upper year maps, and doing past exams. Seeing how others who did well answered the questions teaches you how to apply what you're learning, and what parts matter. I would also highly recommend finding a tutor, if your school offers them. They can go through the exam answers with you and help you figure out what the heck they're talking about. Mastering law school exams is less about understanding the material perfectly and more about knowing how to apply the bits you do understand, IMHO.

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You just described my experience to a tee!! Literally wtf is going on in public law?! My prof is soooo confusing she defs speaks another language. What school are you at? Msg me, I really wanna hear more about your experience bc it's mimicking mine perfectly.

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Public may as well be in another language (and I’m not Bilingual). I feel good about everything aside from Public. I’m now 2 weeks behind in public readings but barely understand any of it. The prof just rushes though the information way too quickly. We’ll all get through this! I’m banking on the curve. 

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Public law at my school is basically Political Science/Government 101. It served as a spillover class for stuff that couldn't fit into Constitutional Law. I don't think many profs wanted to teach it. My prof decided to make it "interesting" by overcomplicating the content and further confusing/aggravating my cohort. I'm not even sure it's still a standalone class anymore.

No one liked Public at my school. We all just got it over with. If, like my school, it's worth fewer credits than the standard 1L courses, don't allocate too much time to it.

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12 minutes ago, Psychometronic said:

Public law at my school is basically Political Science/Government 101. It served as a spillover class for stuff that couldn't fit into Constitutional Law. I don't think many profs wanted to teach it. My prof decided to make it "interesting" by overcomplicating the content and further confusing/aggravating my cohort. I'm not even sure it's still a standalone class anymore.

No one liked Public at my school. We all just got it over with. If, like my school, it's worth fewer credits than the standard 1L courses, don't allocate too much time to it.

We're in the same class, I already was confident we had met, and now based on your description I wonder if we were even in the same small group (either that or more than one prof did that, which is certainly possible).

In any event, you're correct that they have revamped things since we were taught it--there is now a 1L "Public Law and Charter" class, Aboriginal law has been separated into 1L "Indigenous Settler Legal Relations"  and "Aboriginal and Treaty Rights" classes, and "Federalism" is now a mandatory upper year course separated from Con law as well.

I think that the admin realized there wasn't enough going on in public law to justify a distinct class and that it was being padded out and overcomplicated as you say to compensate.

Edited by CleanHands

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2 hours ago, CleanHands said:

In any event, you're correct that they have revamped things since we were taught it--there is now a 1L "Public Law and Charter" class, Aboriginal law has been separated into 1L "Indigenous Settler Legal Relations"  and "Aboriginal and Treaty Rights" classes, and "Federalism" is now a mandatory upper year course separated from Con law as well.

ISLR seems to be public law's spiritual successor given how almost everyone dislikes it right now. 

On the topic of 1L rants, ISLR in theory could have been a great class.  However, the way it is taught turns people away from the content rather than engaging them, which I think defeats the purpose of having students respectfully engage with Indigenous issues in a legal context.

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2 minutes ago, meandtheboys said:

ISLR seems to be public law's spiritual successor given how almost everyone dislikes it right now. 

On the topic of 1L rants, ISLR in theory could have been a great class.  However, the way it is taught turns people away from the content rather than engaging them, which I think defeats the purpose of having students respectfully engage with Indigenous issues in a legal context.

Does the teaching of the Charter in 1L and then federalism in upper years make any sense from your and your classmates' perspectives?

This was a contentious issue among the admin and faculty, with the justification for the change being that federalism from the outset confused the hell out of 1Ls with no foundational understanding of law to work with, but some professors being (IMO justifiably) strongly opposed to the change since federalism predated the Charter and thus Charter litigation arose from the context provided by previous constitutional jurisprudence.

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17 minutes ago, meandtheboys said:

ISLR seems to be public law's spiritual successor given how almost everyone dislikes it right now. 

On the topic of 1L rants, ISLR in theory could have been a great class.  However, the way it is taught turns people away from the content rather than engaging them, which I think defeats the purpose of having students respectfully engage with Indigenous issues in a legal context.

I had such high hopes for ISLR but it’s been very... dry (though this could be instructor specific. Mine is very nice, just not the most engaging). It feels a bit disjointed as well, very out of line with other courses. Kind of a history/poli-sci/Phil/law mishmash. I presume a lot of it is growing pains. Perhaps it will be more exciting for future 1L’s. For us, well... new semester starts soon...

Edited by PlatoandSocrates
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9 minutes ago, CleanHands said:

Does the teaching of the Charter in 1L and then federalism in upper years make any sense from your and your classmates' perspectives?

This was a contentious issue among the admin and faculty, with the justification for the change being that federalism from the outset confused the hell out of 1Ls with no foundational understanding of law to work with, but some professors being (IMO justifiably) strongly opposed to the change since federalism predated the Charter and thus Charter litigation arose from the context provided by previous constitutional jurisprudence.

There hasn't been much discussion about the Charter/federalism from what I've noticed in my year (everyone is focused on ISLR), but your (and the profs') explanation definitely makes logical sense to me.

 

1 minute ago, PlatoandSocrates said:

I had such high hopes for ISLR but it’s been very... dry. It feels a bit disjointed as well, very out of line with other courses. Kind of a history/poli-sci/Phil/law mishmash. I presume a lot of it is growing pains. Perhaps it will be more exciting for future 1L’s. For us, well... new semester starts soon...

Same here, especially since I worked in Aboriginal law during my undergrad.  The content feels very disconnected from the work our office did.  The impression I get from friends both in and outside my small group is that this feels like a pseudo-law/undergrad Indigenous studies course rather than a substantive law class, which matches what you said about it being disjointed. 

I also hope it improves over time.  In my opinion, the administration (or at least my prof) should find a better way to teach students how to treat Indigenous issues with the necessary amount respect and sensitivity.  Right now the current method seems to be the prof grandstanding and implying that everyone except the Indigenous students should feel bad for being settlers (even if you're an immigrant, because that makes you a racialized settler).  

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1 hour ago, meandtheboys said:Same here, especially since I worked in Aboriginal law during my undergrad.  The content feels very disconnected from the work our office did.  The impression I get from friends both in and outside my small group is that this feels like a pseudo-law/undergrad Indigenous studies course rather than a substantive law class, which matches what you said about it being disjointed. 

I also hope it improves over time.  In my opinion, the administration (or at least my prof) should find a better way to teach students how to treat Indigenous issues with the necessary amount respect and sensitivity.  Right now the current method seems to be the prof grandstanding and implying that everyone except the Indigenous students should feel bad for being settlers (even if you're an immigrant, because that makes you a racialized settler).  

You’ve hit the nail on the head, it feels just like an undergraduate survey course. Which would probably be fine if I hadn’t just rounded out 5 years of those. 
 

I haven’t had to much in the way of grandstanding (though maybe I just zoned out through it), but I see what you mean. I’m sure you got much more out of working in the area prior, sounds like a great experience!

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17 hours ago, Queensugrad2019 said:

Public may as well be in another language (and I’m not Bilingual). I feel good about everything aside from Public. I’m now 2 weeks behind in public readings but barely understand any of it. The prof just rushes though the information way too quickly. We’ll all get through this! I’m banking on the curve. 

Public Law was by far the most-curved class I took in law school. To start, in contrast to every other class in 1L,  it's incredibly "airy" and full of lengthy, context-specific discussion and the professor expects students to be up to speed with the history of the civil rights movement, pre- and -post Charter debates, as well as the emerging body of indigenous jurisprudence. It's tough for anyone to track obiter dialogue between multiple 100+ page decisions in 1L, let alone those who do it for a living. Compare this to what's expected of you in 1L Contracts, Torts, or Criminal law classes where you're working with the "basics" and building your ability to read caselaw from the ground up. 

I'm reminded of that Einstein quote, that if you can't explain it simply you don't understand well enough. My public law professor was a brilliant person, but they were incapable of making the material accessible to students. When it came time to write the exam, no one left the room feeling they knew what the hell they wrote and when marks were released a few weeks later, a 40 percent landed you a B. 

Should you worry about and make every attempt to understand public law? Absolutely; you're going to need these skills when your client's 'technical' case is otherwise shot but the public policy implications are significant. Should you consider yourself a poor student (or an idiot) for not grasping the complexity and weight of the material in the first year of law school? Not at all. If you can, form study groups to review the materials and take some solace in knowing that if you're struggling to "get it", so's the rest of your class. 

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