3 Tips for the Seasoned 3L

By Neetal Parekh on August 26, 2009 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Ah, 3L.  For the past two years you have seen the upperclassmen (and women) rule the law school roost with confidence and ease, and now they've passed the baton on to you.  By now you may have much more focused idea of what you want out of the field of law.  Or, you may honestly still have no idea.  We're not judging. 

But you will have to make some big decisions this year.  Namely, about taking the Bar exam.  And in which state(s).  In the midst of major life decisions at least you also have planning that post-Bar trip to distract you a little...

In some ways, 3L is the calm before the storm. 

Before you have to study for the Bar, take it, wait for months to get the results, and start paying back your law school loans...you get this time to exhale.  Step back and see yourself not just as a law student, but as a graduate student.  What was that popular law school idiom again, "don't miss the trees for the forest" or was it "don't miss the forest for the trees"...you know the one, follow its advice.

And here are some candid thoughts to making the most of 3L.

1. Now you know where you stand, so own it.

In order for there to be a top 10% of your class, there must be a bottom 1/3rd.  And after two years of grades you have a pretty good idea where you stand.  So, whether you share or hide your class rank with your classmates, own it for yourself. 

If you find yourself in the upper crust, avoid the temptation to get complacent.  Start identifying which opportunities you will doggedly pursue.  Your standing gives you full reign of nearly everything out there, and this year is a great opportunity to build your interview skills, network, and pursue even the most selective clerkship, associate position, or LLM program.  You have the whole world in your hands, make the most of it. 

And for those of you who find yourselves staring somewhere closer to the bottom of the class barrel, there is no diminished opportunity for success.  Only for you, you will have to innovate it for yourself.  Even with less-than-stellar grades, you have to remember that you will be leaving law school with the same degree as the #1 law student from the highest ranked school in the nation.  Think outside the four corners of your transcript to pursue your passion, or whatever compelled you to stick out the last 2 years.  It is time to build your "experience GPA" with engaging activities, job experience, publications, entrepreneurial ventures, and other notable distinctions.  The only limit is the one you set.

2. Go to Bar Review.  Both of them.

Bar Review has a few definitions in law school.  Popularly, it refers to the review course you will be dedicating yourself to in the months before the Bar exam.  There are more than a few options ranging in cost, length, and services. Talk to your classmates, graduates, and those who passed and didn't pass the exam.  And once you narrow the field, check out an info session to see if it is a good fit.  You may have options of being an on-site school representative for the course to defray the costs a little.

Bar review can also refer to social gatherings or happy hours with fellow classmates, recent grads, and even faculty members.  If you haven't been part of this scene over the past couple of years of law school, it may be time to put your social shades on.  It is a great way to meet people, relax, and network.  And you may notice you can make lasting connections with your classmates even in this sunset period of law school. 

So when we say go to Bar review.  We mean both.

3. If something you want doesn't exist, create it.

By now you know the lay of your law school's land.  Before your brief tenure is up, take a look around and see if there is anything that can be changed or made better at your law school.  While an on-site cash bar might be tempting to pursue, you may want to consider starting an organization that doesn't exist or working with professors to create a new law clinic or course.  You may not be in the position to donate for an endowment in your name yet, but you can create direct change in your law school from within.  From your vantage point of experience and seniority, strike a change for the better...if you don't do it, it's likely no one else will.

In sum, we have endeavored to offer up useful fodder to consider as Bright-eyed 1L, Curious 2L, and Seasoned 3L...good luck with making the most of each.

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