Coming to law school directly from undergrad can be daunting. You often hear about full-time work experience being an unsaid requirement for success in professional school, or necessary to determine exactly what kind of law you want to pursue.
No matter your reason for coming straight through — or being “KJD,” as it is colloquially called (Kindergarten to JD) — I wanted to offer some insight into how to make the most of your time at HLS.
1. Do not doubt your reason for being here
Being among the youngest in your class can engender imposter syndrome. I remember looking around during orientation, making small talk with my peers during the breaks, and being truly awestruck by the amount of knowledge and experience that was already in the room. While this can be inspiring for some, it can also be intimidating. Moreover, because the first year of law school is not set up to provide detailed individual feedback, it’s easy to wonder how you got into such a competitive school, why you were chosen, and what makes you different. This kind of thought process is counterproductive to your success. Each person has something unique to offer, even if you don’t feel it every day. Law school is about learning how to think like a lawyer, not coming without questions. You belong here, and you deserve to seize every opportunity at your disposal.
2. Learn from your peers
HLS students come from all walks of life and corners of the world, with varying levels of experience, cultural backgrounds, and academic interests. My section alone had a Navy Seal, a Fulbright Scholar, early college graduates, union organizers, musicians, and much more. As such, your peers bring a wealth of knowledge to the classroom that is invaluable to personal development. A single conversation with your desk mate can lead you down a rabbit hole of research on the meaning of “salts” or discussing their career on nighttime television for an hour. Unsurprisingly, my favorite part of 1L was when the professor would open the floor for discussion and a classmate would offer an opinion or comment that I never considered. Learning from your peers is, thus, a key component of enriching your experience.
3. Have hobbies outside of being a student
For many KJDs, the academic lifestyle is all we know. Days are consumed by group project meetings, long library sessions, and nighttime studying. With the workload of the first year, it’s very easy to let law school encroach on all your time. Therefore, it is even more important to intentionally take time for activities that foster your unique interests and are completely unrelated to your being a student. Personally, prioritizing these outlets has immensely improved my mental wellness and has allowed for better focus when I do return to the books. During my first semester of law school, I found myself in the trap of spending more and more time studying while letting my personal relationships and hobbies fall by the wayside. The following semester, however, in observing Ramadan and prioritizing time with friends, I loved my time as a student, and my grades reflected that!
4. Make use of on-campus opportunities to interact with potential employers
Professional practice is crucial to being successful as a KJD. Although most students have participated in formal job and school interviews, long-form professional conversation is a skill often refined on the job, making it more important to gain exposure before the first day at work. Whether you are pursuing public interest or private practice, interacting with employers at networking events, lunch talks, and other in-person receptions allows you to practice professional engagement and frame your experiences in an employer-friendly way. HLS has a host of such events throughout the year.
5. Do not be afraid to go to office hours
I learned best in a small group of students and with the professor during office hours. This time is specially designed for students to ask particular questions or tease out complex issues, and I would encourage every KJD student to carve out time to attend. Of course, interacting with HLS professors, who are often leading scholars in their area of the law, can seem intimidating. You might wonder if you have the perfect, open-ended question to showcase your understanding. However, I have found that most professors are more than happy to answer even small questions, or simply have some students listen while others lead the conversation. The opportunity to engage more deeply with a professor who teaches your favorite subject, for example, is not something to miss out on.
–Hurya Ahmed ’25