Stepping into a classroom for the first time as a law student can come with a mix of excitement and some anxiety. It can feel like uncharted waters with its combination of unfamiliar legal jargon and complex concepts. The Academic Success Fellows program at UW Law attempts to ease the transition into law school for 1L students by hosting weekly workshops and office hours that coincide with material presented in doctrinal classes.

After an application process during spring quarter, six 2L and 3L students were selected as fellows — Robert Colton, 2L; Julia De La Fuente, 2L; Debbie Lee, 2L; Mayel Tapia-Fregoso, 2L; Mia Qu, 3L; and Jessica Yin, 2L. Each fellow covers one professor’s class per quarter, highlighting important content to review and offering a space for 1L students to work through practice questions. Throughout the academic year, the fellows support 1Ls in civil procedure, constitution law, contracts, criminal law, property law and torts.

Through the lens of two current Academic Success Fellows, discover how the program is one way UW Law supports its newest students.

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Mia Qu: I remember when I was a 1L, when I was a first-year law student, that I really didn't know a lot of legalese, didn't really know a lot of legal language.

Robert Colton: You know, I'm a first-generation law student myself. And when I came into law school there was a lot of terminology and just kind of general atmosphere that I wasn't familiar with as someone that didn't grow up around the legal profession.

Carrie Sanford: We want all students to feel that they belong, and that they have the support that they need to be successful.

There are six Academic Success fellows and they are really an integral part of the mission that we have here in Academic Success, which is to make sure that we are supporting all of our students here.

MQ: On a weekly basis, I host academic workshops.

CS: The workshops follow what the professors are already teaching.

MQ: And they mainly focus on doctrinal classes. So, for example, this quarter, I did workshops on civil procedure. And mainly we would do a quick review as to the important concepts in civil procedure. So basic rules, like service rules or jurisdiction rules, and then we would do a couple of practice questions.

RC: It helps to have someone put it in terms that we can all understand and demystify it a little bit.

CS: There's no stakes involved. It's a friendly environment, a cooperative environment where students work together in small groups.

RC: And then secondly, we hold office hours. So, either by appointment or just like a two-hour block. Students come and no stupid questions, just ask what's on your mind. We can talk about anything, about law school. We can talk about the specific content matter, we can talk about job prospects, whatever.

MQ: I think having individual office hours is a really valuable use of time for both the students who wants to set up the appointment and me myself as well.

RC: They're not competing against us so they can come and talk to us more candidly.

MQ: The Academic Success Program generally provides another opportunity for the 1Ls to connect with each other because you're all coming to the same workshops.

RC: You know, the first week or so, everyone's just kind of trickling in by themselves. But now you see folks leaving in groups, coming in groups.

CS: We want to make sure that we are building community for our students, and we want to make sure that we are providing the support.

RC: We're all trying to get through this law school experience together. It's all about building community and the best way to do that is by lifting up others.