0L Law School unsolicited advice

5 Rules for Law School Orientation

July 24, 2009
Man on laptop at cafe by Tim Gouw via Unsplash.

By request, here are my 5 simple rules for law school orientation:

5. Dress appropriately.

How you present yourself1 during orientation will shape how people think of you for the rest of the semester.

The appropriate style? Business casual: Banana Republic, Zara, Express, etc.


And no, you don’t need to buy designer clothes โ€“ the point is that you can look put-together without wearing your church clothes, or looking like a Kinkoโ€™s manager (no high-water khakis please.)

My experience: There was a girl who wore the same thing throughout orientation: ass-cheek exposing shorts, a red tank top, an oversized hoodie, and her greasy hair in a sloppy bun. She was a super-smart girl, but she looked like she smelled, and was called uncharitable names (like slutty hobo) for the rest of the year.

When in doubt, women should check out their local Forever21 for a quick cheap but put-together look or Banana Republic for personal assistance on what is flattering your body type.

Edit: More specific fashion advice is here.

4. Check the hormones.

This isnโ€™t the first day of college.


Bedding your classmates will come back to haunt you. This is professional school, not Tinder.

3. Check the ego.

It takes people a while to understand that law school is actually a level playing field. Unless you ditched a full ride at Harvard for Nowhere University, you are probably not the smartest kid in your class. So be careful, because the section-mate you are bragging to just might be a PhD or getting a dual degree in Rocket Science.


Also, no one cares how much time you spent reading hornbooks during the summer, how prestigious your undergrad was, or how much money you made in your former job. You are in law school. Save yourself the ego-check and humble yourself before you get to school.

The grades are based on finals, so you donโ€™t get any points for intimidating your classmates during orientation.

My experience: During orientation, the entire 1L class was in an auditorium. Some prestigious lawyer gave us a lecture about his experience and this girl raised her hand, preceded to tell the speaker (and the entire 1L class) about a lengthy book she read on a completely different subject, and asked the lawyer for his thoughts on the book.
The presenterโ€™s mouth said: โ€œUh, I havenโ€™t read that one.โ€ His face added: โ€œYou crazy bitch.โ€

She was โ€œthat girlโ€ for the rest of the semester. (that post is here)

2: Donโ€™t overshare.

Your classmates will get to know you in time. Disclosing things too early will just earn you a reputation as a socially inept.


We donโ€™t need to know about your DUIs, roaring undergraduate drug habits, or thoughts about your weight.

We also donโ€™t need your blog address. Weโ€™ll stalk you when we add you on facebook.

1: Hold the hooch.

This happens at every school outside of Utah: after orientation, you will head to a local pub with your section-mates, someone will get crunk and embarrass themselves.

And in law school, no one bothers to stop a social train wreck.


Law students will just stand by and chuckle nervously as the disaster unfolds โ€“ and because no one ever says anything, this behavior is repeated throughout the year. Don’t be that guy.

And remember it is not too late to get the essential law school summer reading:

  1. First Impressions: What You Don’t Know About How Others See You by Ann Demarais and Valerie White
  2. So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love” by Cal Newport

1Some schools have formal orientation dress codes, most donโ€™t.


  • Reply
    July 25, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    Do you really think business casual is necessary for orientation? What about nice jeans?

    • Jansen
      July 25, 2009 at 7:10 pm

      The nice jeans would have to be dressed up…and many girls (At least in Minnesota) don’t know how to do that.

  • Reply
    July 25, 2009 at 5:04 pm

    Amen and Amen. Oh, my Orientation memories. Every single one of “those” guys and girls made an appearance. And it seriously sticks to you throughout the year. And the people in OTHER sections never get to really know you, all they see is your Orientation-Self. Be on your best behavior ๐Ÿ™‚ I will even add, if professors are socializing with you during Orientation, they will have impressions too…and they shouldn’t be up on the gossip of who drinks too much (but they sure do know if you put it out there!).

    @Valentina – I would say, yes. Business casual. As always, check in your orientation materials though…they will probably have a recommendation. For us, we started out BizCaz the first day or two, and by the final day people were wearing nice jeans and nice shirts. My philosophy is to dress your best, feel good about your outfit, and take your cue from everybody else.

    • Jansen
      July 25, 2009 at 7:11 pm

      I prefer to be slightly over dressed than underdressed.

  • Reply
    Five Law School Orientation Tips (Plus Five More) | Fearfully Optimistic
    July 25, 2009 at 7:43 pm

    […] has five good tips about law school orientations and how to avoid common pitfalls. Briefly, and with some commentary, they […]

  • Reply
    22 Days. « The Divine Details
    July 26, 2009 at 10:52 am

    […] before my very eyes. I now have 22 days left till Orientation. (Speaking of, Jansen has an awesome post about do’s and don’ts for Orientation…upon which Fearfully Optimistic expands.) I […]

  • Reply
    July 26, 2009 at 10:17 pm

    Oh geez, I thought I could check my work clothes at the door until summer interviewing begins. Oh well…thanks for the advanced warning!

  • Reply
    July 26, 2009 at 11:17 pm

    Fortunately, I have a pair of skinny dress pants just for such an occasion.

    Wait a second…

  • Reply
    July 27, 2009 at 2:25 am

    Good Post! I didn’t make any of those mistakes but there are many slutty hobo’s at my school.

  • Reply
    July 28, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    Great advice – I was thinking of wearing jeans to orientation too, but now I think I’ll go a little more formal to be on the safe side. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Jansen
      July 28, 2009 at 6:47 pm

      Jeans are fine as long as you dress them up with a nice top and/or heels.

  • Reply
    August 5, 2009 at 11:54 pm

    This is dumb. As long as you don’t look like a total idiot, for whatever reason, nobody will care by next day, week, month, or year. Seriously.

    • Reply
      August 5, 2009 at 11:55 pm

      Sorry for the typo. But seriously, you folks are overthinking this whole thing.

      • Jansen
        August 6, 2009 at 12:43 am

        Welcome to the party.

  • Reply
    August 28, 2009 at 8:47 pm

    Brilliant (and desperately needed) advice. Much appreciated.

  • Reply
    Advice for the summer before law school.
    March 24, 2016 at 8:44 pm

    […] you are going to UMN law school in the fall, just email me if you have questions. Plenty of your future classmatesย are already […]

Leave a Reply