Everyone who has ever gone through law school will have a story or anecdote about the work or preparation they did in advance of the beginning of 1L year. The problem is, they are always looking at those experiences through the lens of a law school graduate. This article is an attempt to provide a few practical tips to a soon-to-be law student and help her get the most out of the summer before law school. Almost immediately after I got accepted into my law program, I began reading, researching, and learning about the journey upon which I was about to embark. This preparation filled me with excitement, pride, and (of course) anxiety.
Start Reading Now!
My first step was to read as much as I could about the law school experience. I read books, watched movies, and read blogs. It was at this time that I discovered Law School Toolbox and the Girl’s Guide to Law School. There are so many great resources out there that will give you an accurate view of law school. The challenge is to find the resource that describes the experience from your perspective. Some are written by law professors who want to tell you what they are expecting from new law students. Others are written by lawyers or admissions people who tend to provide a much higher-level view. I found the resources that were most helpful were written by students. Blogs are great for this, so you have come to the right place.
Get a Sneak Peak
Next, I visited my law school campus for an informal tour. This is a low-pressure way to get your bearings before the first week of classes. Get familiar with the computer labs, library, scout out great study spaces, and of course, figure out where the food will be served. In addition, take a look at the walls of the law school. This is a great way to get an idea about what competition teams and student organizations are operating at your school. While I was on my tour, I had arranged to sit in on a relatively small summer class. It was my first introduction to the man who would become my favorite law professor. I got to see the Socratic method in action, but also to see and feel the flow and rhythm of a law school class, without the fear of being called on to recite the facts of a case.
Talk to the People in the Trenches
The next thing that I did was discuss the law school experience with current law students. If you don’t know any current law students, ask your admissions staff to put you in touch with a few students you could meet for coffee or chart with over the phone. I guarantee that they have certain students earmarked for just this purpose, and more importantly, law students rarely tire of telling people about how hard law school is. They aren’t wrong, of course.
Become Familiar With a Few Essential Skills
Although it’s not necessary to learn how to be a student before you get there, it can be useful to demystify a few key skills before you begin. It is a good idea to read about and learn outlining and case briefing before you arrive on day one. Having a basic understanding of the purpose, structure, and common conventions will make the first few weeks a lot easier. Related to these skills, it is also a good idea to read a few “big” cases before you get to school so that you can understand the structure and format of written court opinions.
What Do You Mean I Already Have Homework?
At my law school, there were “assignments” due during orientation and the first week of classes. These were pretty light compared to what I received after classes began; however, we had to read a book and fill out a few worksheets. The book was really interesting, and references to it were made in various classes throughout the next three years of law school. Your law school’s website should have any information you might need about assignments due during the first week.
Talk to Your Support Network – Put Them on Notice
Don’t forget that you are not on this journey alone. Before you get to law school, it is critical that you discuss the future with friends, family, and significant others. The reality is that your time will not be your own very soon. Even summers when you are not taking classes, you are likely going to be working (for free sometimes) at some internship or externship. Make sure everyone that is important to you understands that you are about to willingly expose yourself to one of the most challenging experiences of your life, and you will need their continued support and understanding. My wife and I survived law school together. It was not always easy, but we made it. We were successful because we talked about the experience before it began. You should do the same.
Enjoy Your Free Time While You Still Have Some
Finally, do something fun, find some time to relax, and enjoy your pre-law school life. Watch Legally Blonde and The Paper Chase for a less-realistic view of law school. Take a trip with your family, friends, and/or significant other. Law school is an amazing experience, but it will knock you down…a lot. A little preparation on the front end will make the transition easier.
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