Starting law school is an exciting milestone in your life, and you should take a moment to celebrate all your achievements thus far. You may have already gotten a wide range of advice on how to spend the summer before law school, from relaxing as much as possible to doing some prep work so you don’t go into the year completely on summer mode. Looking back on my summer before 1L year, I think finding a balance between these goals is key.
For many, your first year of law school will feel like sprinting a marathon. So truly let yourself go over the summer — spend time with friends and family, read the books you’ve had on your list for too long, and do the things that bring you joy. You have already done all the preparation work for law school, and there isn’t much you can do beforehand. I took this advice a little to the extreme, getting stressed when I was just sitting at home because I felt like I wasn’t having enough fun and making the most of my “last free summer ever.” But there will be plenty more opportunities to travel and do fun things! You will probably have some weeks off over the summer between your internship and the next school year, and many students take a bar trip between the bar exam and their full-time job. Even during 1L year you will need to take study breaks, and there are all the breaks that come with the academic year. So don’t feel like you have to check off your entire life bucket list this summer either!
Personally, I didn’t do a prep course. Every professor teaches the material in a unique way for their exam, so taking a prep course in each topic ahead of time seemed less useful than it might seem to me. It’s a lot of information that you will likely promptly forget anyways and have no context to learn about. But, if you’re someone where a prep course might be more helpful, BARBRI has a scholarship to their Law Preview course, which includes lectures about every basic course you’ll take your first year of law school, or Harvard has a free Zero-L course, which provides a more general overview of the legal system that serves as helpful context for your law courses. There’s also a really in-depth course offered by Law School Toolbox, Start Law School Right.
I would highly recommend any pre-orientation programs your school offers. My school’s program helped me considerably with the transition to law school, especially coming out of the pandemic. We got a helpful introduction to case briefing, outlining, and the IRAC structure of law school exams, plus a head start getting to know some of our classmates before the rest of the class arrived. I also participated in a reading group led by a professor, which was a great way to engage in an interesting legal topic as well as meet the professor and other students before the craziness of law school started.
Another small tip: Get in the habit of saving all your files on a cloud storage service (Google drive, OneDrive, Dropbox) and backing them up. You don’t want to be that person whose computer crashes the night before an assignment is due!
And something that you are probably already doing: read The Girl’s Guide to Law School and the Law School Toolbox, which are helpful resources for aspiring and current law students. I only discovered it a few weeks before 1L year but totally wish I had discovered it sooner!
You can start reaching out to 2Ls and 3Ls at your school over the summer, especially if they’re pursuing areas of the law that you might be interested in. Upperclassmen are your best resources for helpful, relevant advice on everything from applying to summer internships and honors programs to which classes to take; after all, they’ve just gone through what you’re about to go through!
Update your resume and cover letter. Depending on your goals, recruiting for the summer can start as soon as a couple months into the fall semester, so save some time on the back end by making sure your application materials are up to date. Ask upperclassmen for sample resumes and cover letters, as applying for legal externships might require you to re-structure your application materials.
If you have time, apply for scholarships. This can be time-consuming, but it just might pay off for you, especially if you can find obscure scholarships that aren’t as well-advertised.
Getting in the Mindset of Law School
Everyone goes to law school for different reasons, and it’s important that you keep your core reasons and motivations in mind. Write a letter to yourself on why you wanted to go to law school. It could be a more raw, informal version of your personal statement, but write it only to yourself —no one else ever has to read it. You will be glad you wrote it when things get hard, and you wonder why you ever decided to go to law school. Also, set some goals for what you want to achieve during law school. This could include making a list of orgs you want to get involved in, classes that look interesting to you, or clinics/externships you want to be a part of. You’ll find that different influences (such as prestige) may push you in other directions and pressure you to want to do certain things, so returning to this list later on will help you remember what you want to prioritize in law school.
While starting law school can be nerve-wracking, rest assured that whatever you do the summer before law school won’t make or break your law school experience; you will do just fine either way. But these tips will help you to enjoy your well-deserved summer and go into law school in the best position for success!
For more, check out these recommendations on books to read before law school, things to consider about logistics, especially if you’re moving to a new city, and this podcast on what to do the summer before law school!
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