Student Guidebook Helps Demystify Law School

James Moffitt

A year ago, when James Moffitt was a first-year law student, he noticed a "rite of passage" that many of his classmates endured during their first semester, before they had found their place at law school. Feelings of isolation and a sense of being overwhelmed were common as the students adapted to a new way of learning.

As a way of giving back to the 1Ls who will come along behind him, last spring Moffitt and a dozen of his classmates began an effort to demystify law school for incoming students. He invited his classmates to contribute advice for 1Ls to help them survive their first few months of law school. The result of their efforts was a 48-page red-covered Student Guidebook that was included in this fall's orientation packet for entering law students.

A number of UNM law students wrote chapters in the guidebook, led by Kristina Fisher's "Seven Tips for Surviving Law School." About one-half of the guidebook is dedicated to student organizations, with many providing a summary of the group and contact information.

"We really wanted to provide a way to let the 1Ls know who they can talk to, that they aren't alone in feeling stressed out," says Moffitt, who was a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy before enrolling in law school. "Most of the comments we have received is that 2Ls and 3Ls wish they had something like this when they were 1Ls."

Moffitt hopes the guidebook will always be a work in progress and that future classes will build on it. To complement the guidebook, Moffitt and his contributors plan to sponsor "Comfortable Conversations" this fall for first-year students, where they will be encouraged to talk about themselves and who they are outside of law school.