Congratulations on making the decision to start law school this fall. You have an exciting and busy year in front of you. There are many practical things you want to take into consideration when getting ready for your first day of classes — like what supplies are necessary to be a well-prepared law student.
Don’t worry — we have your technology shopping list covered.
We at the Law School Toolbox love technology (Alison and Lee spend an enormous amount of time on our laptops, iPads and iPhones). You definitely want to make sure you have the right technology to support you in law school. But you may not need to go out and spend thousands of dollars on technology right now to have what you need to get started.
Computer: You will need a computer or laptop in law school. But if you have a laptop or computer that is in good working shape, there is no need to replace it when you start your classes. Why not save that money to invest in something else? Although you want your computer to be reliable, you can always replace it mid-way through law school, if necessary. And, more importantly, you want to make sure your laptop is in tip-top shape for the bar exam (which you typically take on a laptop). So waiting a few years to invest in a new machine may make a lot of sense.
Tablets: If you like to read electronically, (or want to carry a lighter backpack load) you may want to invest in a an e-reader like an iPad. Some students use e-readers to read cases and supplements. An iPad is definitely more portable than a big old casebook! But some folks don’t like to read on e-readers. Think about whether or not reading a casebook electronically makes the most sense for you (note, you won’t be able to “book brief” if you have an electronic case book).
Some students also take iPads with keyboards to class instead of a laptop. This can also lighten your load! Until you start classes, though, you won’t be sure what kind of technology will fit your situation best (who knows, you may end up handwriting your class notes after taking our course).
Printer: Where are you going to print written briefs and legal writing assignments? Decide if you are going to purchase a printer to have at home or if you are going to use printers available at school. If you purchase a printer, make sure you have plenty of extra ink at home because you are the most likely to run out of ink at 2am while working on a legal writing assignment.
Note-Taking Software: You definitely don’t need to purchase special software, but some students like using something such as Microsoft OneNote or Evernote (which is free) to keep track of class notes. Again, see if you can check out your options before spending much money. Law school is expensive and it makes sense to put off purchases until you know you will need them for sure.
Tools to Back-Up Your Work: No matter what kind of technology solutions you decide to incorporate into your law school life, you want to make sure that you have a plan to back-up any data that you are going to create. The last thing you need is to lose case notes, outlines or (knock-on-wood) an assignment due in the next few hours (seriously, this happens). Although we don’t like to think about it, computers crash and data is lost. Therefore, make sure you use something like Dropbox, Google Docs and an external hard drive to secure all of your files during law school.
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