Insider's Tips for New Students
by Danielle Padula
I survived to write this – which means I did learn how to drive in Los Angeles! First, I suggest buying a Thomas Guide for Los Angeles County and keeping it handy in your car. You can find them at any bookstore. I also strongly recommend mapping out your driving route before you get on the road. It is pretty hard to look at a map when you are expected to "keep up with the flow of traffic."
If you use a website to automatically map out driving directions, make sure to print out and look at a map as well, and take it with you. Sometimes the computer- generated routes don't always take you the best or easiest way.
Since L.A. is a large city, it usually means coping with the traffic, crowds, and other hassles that are common in such a bustling place. Consider always adding extra time to any outing, which can help when it comes to traffic or parking. Also, have change with you (mostly quarters), because you might have to pay for parking, whether it's at a meter on the street or in a lot. And, don't forget to take your parking slip with you, because the stores may validate it. You will also find valet parking at many nightclubs and restaurants, which can help if parking is a hassle. Generally it costs $2-5, plus whatever you want to tip.
It is also extremely important that you read all posted signs before you leave your car. The parking patrol is watchful and even leaving your car in a restricted zone for 10 minutes could result in a ticket.
Southwestern (located in the Wilshire Center district of Los Angeles) is conveniently located across the street from the Red Line of the Metro subway system. Discounted Metro/MTA tokens are available in the Office of Administrative Services (W100) for Southwestern students. The Red Line will connect you to Union Station in about 10 minutes, which is a direct link to downtown Los Angeles and the other lines, as well as a great way to see that area.
If you take the Red Line (toward Union Station) and get off at the Civic Center stop, you can easily walk to the Criminal Courts Building, the L.A. County Courthouse, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, the Music Center and Disney Hall, Pershing Square, and many nice places to have lunch.
At most of the courthouses you can watch a trial. The first time I went, I was able to watch the death penalty phase of a criminal trial. It is definitely worth taking an afternoon to see. On another note, if you have an Externship at one of the courthouses, public transportation is a convenient way to get to and from your externship between classes.
If you want to have lunch and do some shopping, take the Red Line (toward Union Station) and get off at the 7th and Metro stop. Right outside the station is Macy's, Robinsons May, and California Pizza Kitchen, among other places to shop and eat.
You can also take the Red Line straight to Hollywood or connect to one of the other lines, to travel to such places as the San Fernando Valley and Pasadena.
We all need some type of support system, especially at law school. The sooner you start making contacts the better – especially since learning how to network goes hand-in-hand with the law school experience. At Southwestern, there are ample opportunities to meet new people on campus. Some of the easiest and quickest ways are outlined here.
- Classmates in your section: These students don't just happen to be sitting next to you. They are your friends and future study-mates, not your enemies!
- Student Organizations: Meet people with similar interests or attend the meetings just to get a free lunch. Either way, you win!
- Student Mentor Program: The SBA offers a great opportunity to learn from someone else's success or misfortune and gain networking opportunities within the Southwestern community.
- Reception for Students New to L.A during Orientation: This is a great opportunity to meet other classmates new to the area, as well as faculty, staff and upper division students who came from out of town. Additional information will be provided to help you become more familiar with the city.
Once you have progressed to making friends in the area, L.A. has an array of activities to do in your somewhat limited spare time. Here is everything I did during my first year (notice the list is not long):
- ABA sponsored Martini night
- Clubbing in Santa Monica
- Hollywood Bowl
- And, sadly enough, Rock n' Bowl
A last word on friends ...
Make them, because law school is something you cannot succeed at alone. And, one day, most of you will be practicing attorneys in Los Angeles and you'll really appreciate the network!