So you are getting ready to start law school! You might be thinking: Do I need to prepare? If so, how should I prepare?
I believe that there is no correct answer. There are a number of possible approaches, and the best one depends on your goals and needs. Below, I review some of the common ways to get ready for your 1L year, especially during the summer before you start law school. You can select one, or mix and match the approaches to your liking.
1. Relax and recharge
Law school presents a new and challenging environment for any student. You will be learning a flood of legal doctrine, including topics that are convoluted, adapting to different professors’ teaching styles, and understanding how to study for a single final exam. Many students find that the 1L schedule is busy, with little time to socialize, relax, and have fun.
Thus, one approach before law school is to take a break and let loose. Make travel plans. Listen to the latest music and binge TV shows. Read for fun—there will be a lot of reading in law school, but little room for “fun” materials. Catch up with family and friends. Do whatever makes you happy.
Obviously, you should not stop relaxing and having fun once you start law school – in fact, I advocate for being very intentional about creating down time for yourself. Nevertheless, getting a period of time to recharge will help you feel refreshed and ready to tackle your next adventure.
2. Take a prep course or self-study
Now for a more work-intensive approach: if you would like to get a preview of the law school experience and prepare for the academic rigor, you may want to enroll in law school preparation course or obtain some books or online resources that give you a sense of the standard 1L curriculum, which generally includes Criminal Law, Property, Contracts, Constitutional Law, and Torts. If you are not so keen on learning substantive law, you can focus on exploring some of the tips and strategies that law students use to prepare for class, do well on cold calls, and ace their exams.
There are also many commercial “how to succeed in law school” books, such as Getting to Maybe and Open Book. Written by law professors or practitioners, they give you a sense of law school classes, activities, and exams. You can consider getting one of these books and reading them as a primer for what is to come.
3. Chat with current law students
Another way to do some research is to find current law students who have been through 1L year. Ask them about how their experience was, what they enjoyed and what they would have done differently. A student at your future law school will be able to share helpful tips about the law school facilities, professors, culture, and other aspects that may help you avoid common mistakes and navigate 1L as best as you can.
4. Get some legal work experience
Some people are eager to gain exposure to the real-life practice of law. If you are not already working in the legal industry, interning or volunteering at a legal office or non-profit are good ways to see the law in action and pick the brains of practicing attorneys. Your experiences may help you understand how the theory of law is applied in reality, or even give you fodder for networking and interviewing with employers.
There are also fellowship opportunities like the SEO Law Fellowship Program, which offers underrepresented law school students the chance to work at a top law firm during the summer for 10 weeks. Saving up some money before law school through paid work is definitely a smart move as well.
5. Apply for scholarships
I am a staunch advocate for taking advantage of the many scholarship opportunities available to law students. Look out for scholarship opportunities at your future law school and apply if you are eligible. There is also a wealth of external scholarships provided by law firms, professional associations, nonprofits, and other organizations. Check out this post for how to go about finding and applying for outside law school scholarships.
This approach is much less labor-intensive than you might think, as the application process tends to be similar across scholarships and you can recycle your essays. The payoff can be very large, with some awards in the thousands of dollars. Responding to the scholarship essay prompts may even encourage you to reflect on what you want to achieve during law school, as well as explore specific legal areas and topics.
One size does not fit all when it comes to preparing for law school. A general principle is to do whatever will put you in the best mental and physical state to succeed. Whether you decide to take it easier, give yourself some homework, work full time, or somewhere in between, I am rooting for you and wish you the best!
For other ideas on preparing for 1L year, take a look at this article.
Looking for some help to do your best in law school? Find out about our law school tutoring options.