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What's the Best Way to Start Law School?

For new students in the University of Baltimore School of Law, the start of their first semester is, in many ways, the start of a whole new life. Whether they're fresh out of their undergraduate years or returning to school after a career that may not have even touched the legal profession, these students have one important thing in common: They face change.

Get Comfortable—and Get Started

Here are just a few of the items that we share with our students to help them get off to a good start at UB:

  • Understand that your first-year curriculum is set. Students do not pick their law courses during their first year. Why? The UB School of Law, like all law schools, requires a specific base of first-year courses designed to provide a broad range of legal knowledge. Students then build on this foundation by choosing from a wide range of elective classes that interest them in their subsequent years.
  • Students do a lot of writing and legal research in their first semester of law school. It's not all about oral advocacy. Improving students' writing and research ability is an integral part of the law school experience. As a first step, a Writing for Success seminar and workshop is offered the summer before students arrive. They participate in a grammar diagnostic session and learn about some fundamentals of legal writing by reading and distilling commonalities of good writing. They read some famous pieces, including a legal case involving ghosts and a poltergeist, as well as the Gettysburg Address, Aesop's fables and poems.
  • Law students read casebooks—not textbooks. These books contain decisions made by appellate courts. Instead of explaining legal rules and concepts, case books are a jumping off point for a student's journey in understanding legal concepts. During orientation, students attend a mock class where they learn about the art of "case briefing," i.e., distilling the facts and legal concepts from a particular case.
  • Students learn rules, rules and more rules. Legal concepts are typically expressed as legal rules, and each rule may have many constituent parts, called elements. Sometimes, each element may be viewed as its own single rule.
  • Most importantly, UB offers many resources to its students throughout the school year, including small-group and one-on-one tutoring sessions for study skills, workshops on exam taking, and advising with faculty and academic advisers. (For more information about these resources, contact Claudia Diamond, director of the Office of Academic Support.)

Change is something we all must manage. Some lucky few come by that ability naturally, but most of us need advice and counsel, a friendly helping hand, a like-minded soul. At UB, our law students—not just new ones, the second- and third-year veterans, too—have opportunities to learn how to handle the changes brought on by the start of their legal education. Even before they begin classes, UB students can participate in a workshop on how to refine their writing skills—a critical part of academic success. They can (and do) stop by and meet their professors and their fellow students, and they can also get to know the friendly staff members who will support them throughout their journey to the J.D. Depending on their interests, some students explore the various organizations that host activities and produce legal scholarship; some meet our clinical law staff and educators in hopes of starting to practice as soon as possible.

All of our students know about the hurdles they face that first semester: a lot of studying, even more writing, and a new way of looking at human relations. Every year, more of them choose to get an early start—and we make sure that their start is a good one.

"After all these years, I still remember what it was like to be a new law student. It's exciting, but also wildly disorienting," said UB School of Law Dean Ronald Weich. "Some schools throw you into the deep end of the pool and maybe you learn how to swim. But UB works hard to prepare students for those confusing first days. We offer opportunities for our 1Ls to become accustomed to the pace of law school, and to understand what's expected of them. Look, that first year, especially the first semester, is a stressful time for any law student. But we help our new students get started right—if they succeed, then we've succeeded too."

Classes in the School of Law begin on Monday, Aug. 20. Orientation, which is mandatory for all law students, begins the week of Aug. 13.

If you’re thinking about going to law school, contact our Office of Admissions.

Welcome to the University of Baltimore School of Law.