For most of us, summer break is the longest break you’ll have from classes. At my school, they encouraged us to take up a summer job, internship, study abroad, or take classes towards our course load in the fall. My first summer, I had a judicial internship where I was actually taught the art of legal research and writing – something I had not really learned during my year long legal writing course. It was a nice to have a mix of work and relaxation. I started my second year mentally ready to tackle my classes, but with no real idea of what classes I had even signed up for, or why, and no clue how to get back into the swing of things.
My second summer led into an even more confused third year because I took the entire summer off. I mean, the whole summer. I finished second year and went right into vacation mode. I nannied two days a week and spent the rest of the time visiting family, traveling overseas, and watching Netflix. It was the best three months of my life, but when I restarted classes, I had no idea what I was in for. Below are the things I wish I had done that would have set me up for an easier transition back to school.
Brush Up on Legal Writing and Research and IRAC
I brushed up on legal research and writing during my first summer and wish I had done it during my second summer. Legal writing and research are the backbone of any legal career you strive for, and for any JD advantage position you go after. For instance, this year I am working as a compliance specialist and in-house counsel for a diagnostic laboratory, and I do more legal research and writing than I ever thought I would. Spending the summer brushing up on these skills will help you immensely going into second year.
Additionally, taking the time to really learn IRAC and how to outline an essay question would be a great way to spend your summer, even if you’re just doing it for a few hours a couple times a week. I didn’t know how to actually IRAC or outline until I took the bar the second time. I winged it the rest of law school and during the first bar exam. I got good grades, but I think I would have done better if I had had that format down pat.
Read Through Your Commercial Outlines
The first year and a half I was in school, my classes were chosen for me. First year courses are always the same, but second year I took whatever classes my friends were in with no regard for what I wanted or needed to learn. I wish I had spent some time during the summer going through the commercial outlines for these courses to get the lay of the land. Imagine how nice it would be to show up to Evidence knowing how hearsay fits into the whole court case, or why leading questions aren’t allowed. Furthermore, imagine showing up to the first day of classes knowing which ones you want to drop and pick up, and understanding your reasoning behind it. I didn’t understand the true art to picking classes until I’d been ostracized from my friend group and decided to switch out of most of the classes we were taking together.
Sign Up for CALI
Chances are your school has access to CALI (The Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Education), and you should take advantage of it. I didn’t understand the beauty and benefit of CALI until I started studying for bar. CALI is a computer program that teaches you law – basically a refresher or immersive introduction to different courses that are taught in school and on the bar. After each lesson, they offer quizzes to see what you’ve absorbed. It’s a great way to get extra practice answering questions from the different subjects you’re taught in law school.
Spending some of your summer refreshing on your first-year courses will only help you when it comes time to buckle down and study for the bar. Moreover, looking ahead to courses you’ll take later will help organize the material in your mind so that when you do sit down for class you know what’s coming next. Imagine how much easier contracts would have been if you’d already known how all the parts work together. And the best part? The CALI lessons don’t impact your grades. You can learn for you and apply the extra knowledge to your courses, boosting your grades.
The summer between law school years can taunt you, as it did me, as the perfect time to sit back, relax, and take a load off. But if you really want to get ahead and do well the following semester, spending some time reviewing is key. Your summer doesn’t have to be the same stressful, adrenal-fatigue-inducing race as the school year, but it should be sprinkled with review sessions and focusing on the goal for after graduation – passing the bar.
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