Colleague Corner: What tips/advice would you have for a 1L who’s just getting started this fall?

Gabriel Ramirez Hernandez


GABRIEL RAMIREZ-HERNANDEZ, an attorney in Maslon’s litigation group, focuses on assisting clients in intellectual property disputes, insurance, construction, and general business litigation. 

I would encourage any 1L to be actively curious in and out of the classroom. It might seem easiest to just sit at the back of the class, but participating by asking and answering questions will be so much more rewarding by confirming that your understanding of the lessons is correct—or by showing you where you might need more work. And it is just as important to be actively curious outside the classroom, because as daunting as three years of law school may seem, they go by quickly. To make sure that you are in a position to have all of the externships and internships that you need to decide on your career path, you will want to start by learning as much as you can about the type of practice you may want to have. Even if you have your mind set on a particular area, it never hurts to know what other practices are out there. This can be as simple as sending a cold email to an attorney where your only connection is you read their website bio and you want to learn more. Lawyers tend to be busy, so do not ever take it personally if someone does not get back you (to the lawyers reading this message: Please do not let this be you). I am not sure that I would have imagined my current career if I had not taken the risk of being curious and open to new possibilities.

One last piece of advice: Do not forget to take care of yourself. Law school is tough and you might find yourself feeling isolated, targeted by comments in class, or disturbed by certain realities of our legal system. Try to keep in mind that everyone is doing their best—even when their perspectives seem incompatible with your experiences. The legal profession has been historically (and continues to be) exclusive of many realities. If you are feeling that the law or your classmates’ perspectives do not address certain realities, it is probably because we are here to change that. It can be tiring and unfair, but just know that you are not alone. Reach out to someone and you may be surprised to find genuine and kind people who just also happen to be lawyers, judges, faculty, and staff. I have always considered myself lucky to have the mentors that I do; yours are out there too!


Sarah Jewell

SARAH JEWELL, a graduate of Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul, practices at River Valley Law in Waite Park. 

My advice is to connect with your peers, as they are your help in times of trouble—especially during finals. One tip I learned from my peers is a brain association game to memorize elements of a legal claim. For example, in torts class you will learn the basic elements of a claim of negligence. 

To help remember the elements on an exam, it helps to associate the first letter of each element into a phrase you can remember more easily. 

So if the elements of negligence are: 1) Existence of a legal Duty; 2) Defendant’s Breach of that duty; 3) Plaintiff’s sufferance of an injury or Damages; 4) Causal connection between defendant’s breach and plaintiff’s damages – create a word association using the letters “DBDCD”—or, “Did Bob Do [something] to Cause Damages?” While it seems strange, it works. I also recommend meeting with your profs in person. They are much less intimidating when you take time to meet them out of class.



Kenneth Kyuhan Oh

KENNETH KYUHAN OH is a senior corporate counsel at U.S. Bank in Minneapolis, Minnesota. 

If I could talk to my (much) younger self starting his first semester of law school, I would advise him to have an open mind and relax. Often, 1Ls place pressure on themselves to figure out the type of law they will ultimately dedicate their professional lives to practicing. Although I admire the focus and confidence some students have in knowing exactly what they want to do with their careers from day one, I think it is equally important to be patient and get exposed to a variety of subject matters before making such a big decision. 

Finally, I would advise all law students to remember to have fun and enjoy being a student. For many of us, law school will be the last time we spend our days being a full-time student. It is a special time in our lives that we don’t fully appreciate until it is no longer an option. 


Hetal Dalal

HETAL DALAL, assistant professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, teaches legal analysis and writing, contracts, and critical theory. Prior to teaching, she served as in-house counsel at the Center for Popular Democracy. She serves on the board of directors of Gender Justice and is chair of the board for Gender Justice Action. 

Close, active reading of the assigned materials unlocks so many answers to questions and serves as an independent source of learning in law school. Lawyers read and write professionally, and law students are developing that capacity as well as their subject matter knowledge. When it comes to reading, be wary of shortcuts. In your first couple of weeks of law school, some of the harder cases may seem like gibberish. Commercial briefs and outlines tempt law students. Yet reading and learning how to decode the inscrutable texts builds those reading and analytical muscles. The professor’s explanations and discussions in class add to that. After class discussion, review the case, your brief, and other notes, and notice whether you understand sections of a case you could not make sense of before. 

Taking the time for a post-class review of the lecture notes and reading notes will cement your understanding. One strategy I love for the really hard subjects (all of 1L year, other hard classes later on) is to handwrite reading notes and lecture notes, and then type up a synthesized set of notes for the class. Those notes, plus a case brief, can function as a personalized casebook for the class. Another notetaking strategy: Draw a line in the middle of the page/screen. Take the reading notes on one side of a page, and then class notes on that case on the other side. The physical proximity invites comparison and synthesis of what you thought the case meant while you were reading, and what insights and information the class provided. 

One final tip: Track the time you spend reading. Students often do far less deep work than they think they are doing. Scribble the start and stop times on your first page of notes and notice how the perception that you read cases half the night changes to 85 minutes for one class, and 35 for another. Plus you can enjoy seeing how much faster you get as the semester progresses, and perhaps gird yourself against digital distractions. 

For myself, I divide types of reading between reading with a pen (and a notebook) and reading with a cat. Spend energy actively engaging with your law school reading, and your understanding of the cases and underlying doctrine will repay the investment.