Advice from a (Basically Functional) 2L

Katherine Mann (she/her/hers) '19
Columns Editor

Let me make it very clear that I was recruited by my (wise and talented) editor-in-chief to write this column, and while I’m not sure anyone with sense should follow my advice, I’m willing to interrupt my two weeks of callbacks, pool trips, novel-reading, eclipse-watching, and coffee on the back porch to shed some light on what’s coming for you. Your PAs are great and they’re going to tell you everything you need to know as this year progresses. I’m going to try to shed some light on the small things I found out during the year that I wish I’d known earlier. You’ll realize by the end of this column that I pretty much fumble through life, and it’s a miracle I got into UVa Law at all. 

There’s a lot of stuff you really need to worry about during your first few weeks, beyond classes and reading. You will be overwhelmed and feel crazed. There are tons of meetings during the first few weeks for affinity groups, career services, and financial aid. Be selective (but when the email says mandatory, they mean it). Get on some listservs for groups you’re interested in, but feel free to go to only the meetings for groups or issues you really care about. Seek out meetings with free food, especially if you’re still figuring out how to grocery shop and pack a lunch. As someone staring down forty with a third-grader, I’ve gotten pretty good at this, but I gather people in their twenties don’t always have this down. One of the benefits of joining the Law Weekly is free pizza on Monday nights while we edit, so I was glad to have found this group early last year.

There’s free coffee on the second floor of the library in MyLab, and it took me a long time to figure this out, because, early on, I stayed in my apartment to study. It turns out I’m much more focused in the library, and less tempted to binge-watch Bob’s Burgers or Suits. Also, since I hate disposable coffee cups, I’ll mention that you can in fact bring your own mug to the upstairs Keurigs, and the bottom of each lifts up so that your mug, likely taller than a ten-ounce paper cup, can fit. I only learned this by watching someone else do it while my phone was charging in MyLab, and it was spring. You’re welcome.

The law library's wasteful but free coffee option. Photo courtesy

The law library's wasteful but free coffee option. Photo courtesy

Unfortunately, free coffee is generally the worst kind, and I find Keurig to be only a mild exception, and still wasteful. It’ll do in a pinch, but I’m snobby enough about coffee that I usually go to ScoCo. I drink it black, so it’s not too much of an expense, and chatting with Mandy at the checkout counter is always a highlight of my day. If I’m feeling fancy and I have a lull in the day, I’ll walk over to Shark Mountain and indulge in a Dirty Chai. I suppose everyone has to develop their own coffee hierarchy independently, but mine’s a good start. And if you don’t drink coffee I have nothing to say to you, except good luck with finals.

The law school's hipster coffee option. Photo courtesy

The law school's hipster coffee option. Photo courtesy

Small things add up in terms of staying sane. Get a locker and keep emergency items in it. Advil, a phone charger, tampons, granola bars for after five when student affairs is closed, whatever you might think you’ll need. Once I figured out that there was an electric kettle, refrigerators, and microwaves in ScoCo – again, rather late in the year – it opened vast horizons in terms of the food I brought with me each day. I keep green tea and Cup o’ Noodles-type soups in my locker, and they’ve gotten me through many a late night. 

Learn how to book study rooms through the library website for getting groups together during finals. It helps to talk about practice exam questions with other human beings. There’s a bin of earplugs next to the circulation desk in the library on the lower floor for those of you, who, like me, don’t have noise-cancelling headphones. Trust me, the library is louder than you think. And not that this is critical information, but if you walk all the way back through the first floor of the library, you can get back to the main hallway of Withers-Brown through that exit. I seriously figured that out this summer. 

And here’s the lightning round: Listen to your PAs. Ask lots of questions, especially of upper-level students. Read all emails from career services. Visit your professors during office hours. Don’t get so drunk at Bar Review that you stumble in to your 8:30 Friday class with a hangover. Don’t skip classes. Try to meet people outside of your section. Don’t forgo human contact to binge-study. Take care of your body. Above all, have fun. Make friends; explore Charlottesville. You’re in the last three years of school that you’ll likely ever experience, so take some time to enjoy it.