Law school can be draining. Whether you are a stressed out 1L or a worn out 3L, you may have forgotten that part of you that hungered for the challenge of law school and your genuine fascination with the law. As you start your new year and new semester, carve out some time to enjoy stretching your legal mind in some new ways just for the fun of it. Try out one or two of these six ways to challenge yourself in 2023.
1. Listen to Oral Arguments
Not many of us will argue before the United States Supreme Court or in your state’s high court, but we can all enjoy the impressive display of legal jousting from the sidelines. Listening to smart jurists pepper first-class advocates is interesting no matter how esoteric the topic. You can choose an oral argument behind a Supreme Court case that you recognize from the headlines, or—my preference—you can pick one at random. If you choose randomly, you can avoid carrying baggage into the exercise and just try to catch up to the arguments on a distinct legal issue you know little about. The Justices or other appellate judges are great at forcing your mind open by asking the hard questions to both sides. After both sides are done and the case is submitted, see if you have made up your mind!
2. Read Local Bar Journal/Newsletter
Try regularly reading through your local bar journal or newsletter. You can read interesting legal analysis across a variety of practice areas, track rule changes or proposed changes, and learn more about the programs and benefits offered by your jurisdiction’s bar association. Bar journals typically provide local and practical material that is relevant to the practicing lawyer. Reading such articles as a law student is a great way to challenge you to think about the actual practice of law and the real issues facing lawyers rather than the high-minded legal theories that you face in class.
3. Follow a Popular Trial
At any given time a particular trial usually has captured the attention of the country. Whether it is a high-profile prosecution or a case that in some way involves a movie star, challenge yourself to go beyond the general news coverage. Particularly if it is in your local jurisdiction, dive in deep and apply those legal analysis skills. Go find the actual filings if possible or watch the live stream of the trial itself. You’ll be amazed by the corners the media may cut in the general coverage or the intricacies of the legal proceeding that may be glossed over. Try to pick one case and follow it from pretrial, to trial, and through appeal. It will challenge you to apply your new skills, and you can be the legal expert on this popular case that your friends and family will expect you to be!
4. Develop a Legal Podcast Habit
Find a legal podcast to listen to when commuting, doing laundry, or putting kids to sleep. Podcasts are a great option for the multitasker trying to challenge their legal mind while taking care of the business of life. If you need help selecting your new podcast to challenge you this year, check out Justine Huang’s Podcasts to Keep Up With News and Careers in the Law. And, of course, tune into the Law School Toolbox Podcast for great, timely talk on law school, the bar exam, legal careers, and life.
5. Sign Up for a Conference
With the full year ahead of you, find a law conference in 2023 that interests you and sign up. You may think that is only for the professionals, but you will be an attorney soon and most conferences are glad to have law students attend. Many even have great discounts for law students. If not, ask about the availability scholarships. Whether it is a practice area you want to enter or an area of the law that you have a new interest in, attending a professional conference is a great way to expand your comprehension on a topic and rub shoulders with the practitioners themselves.
6. Pick a Challenging Read
Being a law student means you are already reading a good deal of dense material. But challenge yourself this year to pick one book or even a law review article you will focus on outside of any class or assigned research project. Legal philosophy? Judicial interpretation? Issue-focused academic text? Talk to a favorite professor or law librarian and pick something that will challenge you to think beyond your typical class reading assignment. (Preparing for your 1L year? Read Jennifer Warren’s What You Should Be Reading to Prepare for Your 1L Year.) If it seems like a daunting read, break it up into pieces and set specific deadlines to keep yourself moving through it. There may be no professor pushing you, but challenge yourself to conquer it before the calendar reads 2024.
Law school is a time to stretch your comprehension and develop your legal mind. Embrace that this year. Pick one or even two of the above and get to challenging your legal mind in 2023 – comment below on which challenge you choose!
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