For veteran Tulane Law students, the October fall break is a welcome time away from classes – but for 1Ls, it’s an important opportunity to reflect on the first weeks of their legal careers.
And to help first-year students transition into law school, new Assistant Dean of Students Abigail Gaunt is spearheading academic and wellness programs that encourage smart study habits and healthy lifestyles. Workshops open to all students focus on outlining skills and exam prep, while an in-depth academic support program for 1Ls provides tutoring from upper-level students who are in the top 15 percent of their classes.
But 1Ls are honing more than study skills. They’re also learning to stay balanced while juggling coursework and school activities.
“Mastering the skills to deal with stress in law school will help students manage the challenges they will face throughout their professional careers,” Gaunt said.
This semester, she’s organizing a health and stress management session during the Career Development Office’s 1L mini-course, while Professors Keith Werhan and Pam Metzger are leading a school-wide mindfulness course. Both programs dovetail with enhanced wellness initiatives across campus.
Looking back on her own law school experience, Gaunt advises first-year students to “trust the studying habits that work best for them; take time for themselves to do things outside school; and not compare themselves to their classmates.”
“Above all, try to keep perspective. Law school is incredibly important, but it’s not as important as your health and happiness,” Gaunt said.
Below, three first-year students with degrees and experiences from across the country share their distinct backgrounds, favorite New Orleans finds and experiences juggling their first semesters at Tulane Law.
Hometown: Mowata, Louisiana. I grew up on a crawfish and rice farm there, approximately 150 miles west of New Orleans.
College: LSU, Baton Rouge.
Before Tulane Law: I was the digital art director at SKDKnickerbocker, a political communications firm in New York, for four years.
Started law school because: I’d always wanted to go to law school, but wanted to take some time after undergrad to make sure I wasn’t blindly following a path I’d set out at an impressionable age. After working for a few years, I was sure this was what I wanted. Law seemed like more of a sure thing than art, which can be inconsistent and often subjective. Also, my LSAT score was expiring, so it was something of a now-or-never moment.
Best Tulane discovery: The best thing about Tulane is how kind and helpful everyone is. It sounds disingenuous to make such a blanket generalization, but it’s truly the most defining characteristic I’ve found. People are always offering advice or outlines or “anything you need” — it’s so far from the stereotypical law school experience. And if you put in the work, you can find free food somewhere in the building at least twice a week.
Best New Orleans discovery: Again, so much food, all the time. Also, people wave or say good morning or interact with you in some way when they pass you on the sidewalk.
Mid-semester thoughts on Tulane Law: I never expected to be surrounded by so many smart, interesting people whose ambition doesn’t keep them from treating others well. Plenty of people here are accomplished enough to be overly snobbish, but you’d never know it. There’s a ton of camaraderie for what’s an inevitably competitive environment, and I feel lucky to be a part of it.
Hometown: Chattanooga, Tennessee.
College: Washington and Lee University, Lexington, Virginia.
Before Tulane Law: I took three years off between undergrad and law school. During the first two years, I taught middle school English at a private school in North Carolina. I spent the last year working as the office manager and legal assistant at Williams Anderson Ryan & Carroll, a boutique law firm in Dallas.
Started law school because: I decided to go to law school after completing a winter internship with Federal Defender Services of Eastern Tennessee. I found this experience incredibly moving. It fueled my desire to attend law school, so I could guide people through our complex and often confusing legal system.
Best Tulane discovery: I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Tulane gets the most interesting people to speak at the school! Just in the first month, I have heard Bill Nye and Tig Nataro speak.
Best New Orleans discovery:
Audubon Park! I run there every day. The giant live oak trees make exercising a little bit more bearable.
Mid-semester thoughts on Tulane Law: Everyone who has attended law school elsewhere has horror stories of evil classmates and professors. However, at Tulane Law School, my classmates and professors are incredibly nice and supportive. It is such a wonderful community!
Fall break getaway: In between studying and outlining, I soaked up some sun in Seaside, Florida.
Hometown: New Orleans.
College: Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh.
Started law school because: I thought law would be a good career for me that suited my personality, and I thought it would help add to my public policy undergraduate degree. I’ve always been fairly solemn, quiet and a logical thinker. I rarely believe things at face value. Becoming a lawyer was something I originally considered as a kid but did not come back to until I was a sophomore in college. [I later realized] law fit my personality, because lawyers are often calm, cool and collected thinkers, able to argue positions from multiple sides without emotional bias and after considering all possibilities. I think these personality traits align with my own, and I think law will harness my need to analyze things.
Most interesting law discovery: My most interesting law discovery is learning about “heat of passion” defenses in criminal law. Before law school, I used to wonder whether there were exceptions to murder in situations such as self-defense or when a women is escaping an abusive relationship. I found it interesting that my notions were already ingrained into the law almost 100 years ago.
Mid-semester thoughts on Tulane Law: I’m definitely enjoying law school thus far. It’s not quite as time consuming as people lead me to believe coming into it. I’m happy to be up early every day and learning something new that’s directly applicable to real-life scenarios, since everything we learn is from actual cases. The only thing I would say that caught me off guard about law school thus far was the amount of time spent on legal research and writing.
Spent fall break: I outlined for class and used my free time to work out, catch up on sleep and see my friends who don’t go to law school. I also watched the Saints beat the Falcons at the Superdome, which was great to see!