If you’re just beginning your first semester of law school, you might find that the process is already confusing … and expensive! With that in mind, here are some resources to help you find your way that won’t cost you a cent!
Law School Blog Posts
We at the Law School Toolbox are always trying to find new ways to make the law school experience less scary and mystifying. Chances are, if you have a question about starting law school, we’ve blogged about it. If you’re already one of our tutoring students, you can also log into our website and access a wealth of information online. Even if you’re not one of our students, you can find lots of free information about how to read cases, brief, outline, practice for exams, and more! If you run a simple google search for Law School Toolbox plus any topic you want to learn more about, you’ll likely be able to pull up some of our quick advice on anything from procrastinating, to making attack plans (and why they’re important!), and of course, how to take notes in class.
Our Latest Podcast
The Law School Toolbox co-founders, Alison Monahan and Lee Burgess, have been getting great reviews on their new podcast about how to handle being a law student. The podcasts feel like an informal conversation between mentors about what makes law school tough, how to have the right mindset, and many other interesting topics. Plus, since these two experienced attorneys and educators are experts in the field and have been in your shoes before, you’ll be getting great advice! Best of all, the podcasts are short (about a half hour), so you can conveniently listen to them while commuting, taking a walk, working out, or cleaning the house.
The Bookstore at Your School
Okay, this one isn’t totally free if you actually want to purchase the books, but, you can do a lot of browsing to figure out which books work for you before actually committing and laying down the cash (or finding the same books cheaper online!).
I always encourage students, especially 1Ls, to scout out the different kinds of supplements and commercial outlines that are available. For example, take a topic you’re learning about in class, say personal jurisdiction in Civil Procedure. Then, go on a trial run. Look up “purposeful availment” (a personal jurisdiction topic) in a few different types of supplements and see what you find. Which one makes the most sense to you, personally (everyone is different)? If you had to boil the concept down and explain it to a fourth grader, which book would you use to help you do that? There might be a style or format that works best for you, and that is always great to know before you commit to one book (or, conversely, buy a bunch that never end up getting used). The same publisher or format might work well for one class but not another, so feel free to try them all out and explore your options.
Your Law Library
As you know, the library at your school has all kinds of legal treatises and statutory code books. What you might not know, though, that most law libraries also stock books on how to be a good law student. Ask the librarians for their recommendations.
Additionally, if you didn’t want to buy supplements, you could always see what the reserve shelf at your library has in stock. For most people, once they decide they like a particular supplement, it makes sense to just buy it since you will probably want to use it a lot and write in the margins. However, if for some reason you don’t, you can always find many titles on reserve and borrow them for free.
There will always be those old-school professors who tell you that hornbooks are a waste of time or that they don’t want to see any supplements anywhere near their classrooms. When this happens, I suggest that you listen politely and then do whatever makes the readings easier for you. Oftentimes, if you go to your professor and express your genuine interest in the subject matter and ask for their advice on a supplement they think makes the most sense to highlight the material they’re teaching, they will have great suggestions. Sometimes, your professor might even make a supplement mandatory or optional items on the text book list. If that happens, chances are you should just buy it and start using it early. Check it out first, though, to make sure it’s actually going to offer you new insight or explain the material more than what you’re getting in lecture already. And, don’t feel like you have to buy every supplement at the beginning of the semester. You can always wait until you need them.
Academic Support Programs at Your School
Most law school campuses have some kind of office that is tasked with helping students perform at their best. Chances are, you won’t even hear about these offices unless you decide as a 2L or 3L to work as a tutor, or if you are put on academic probation after your first year grades and need remedial help. They’re out there, though, and they can help 1Ls too! If you’re confused, don’t wait to get bad grades before seeking help. The academic support program at your school might be able to recommend supplements, supply tutoring services, or help you set goals, figure out how law school works, or help you organize your schedule. And don’t be afraid to ask! There’s no such thing as a silly question, and they’ve heard them all before.
Mental Health Counseling
It probably won’t come as much of a shock to you that many, many law students struggle with mental health issues. Things like anxiety, depression, insomnia and lots of stress can run rampant on law school campuses. This is why most law schools offer free counseling services. If you think you might need to talk to someone to manage what’s going on in your life, don’t be afraid to reach out! Chances are, it’s already covered as part of the tuition you’re paying anyway.
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And if you’re starting law school, check out our course for incoming 1Ls: Start Law School Right. You’ll get the feedback and support you need to succeed in law school, from day one!
Other helpful pre-1L posts:
- The Secrets That 1L’s Need To Know
- The People You Will Meet in Law School
- All The Supplies You Need to Start Law School Right
- How to Think Like a Successful Law Student
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