Some critics of legal education assert that the third year of law school is unnecessary and should be eliminated. Reducing law school to two years would curtail student debt and add an additional year to career earnings, with potentially little effect on career readiness, they argue. But for now, law school remains a three-year program. Whether you’re approaching your third year with enthusiasm or, more likely, ennui, you’ve got to get through it. Here are some tips for making the most of it.
Find a job.
If you’ve landed a post-graduation employment offer, congratulations! If your summer was disappointing – perhaps you didn’t have a legal internship, or you didn’t get a post-grad offer, or you hated your summer job – the single most important thing you can accomplish during your third year is to find a job. This topic is beyond the scope of this post, but you can find helpful resources elsewhere on this blog, and additional resources here.
Get a jump on the bar exam.
Graduation marks the end of the school year, but instead of a relaxing summer, you’ll be facing the stressful, high-stakes process of studying for and taking the bar exam. If your law school offers a bar prep course, you should strongly consider taking it, especially if your GPA puts you at risk of failing the bar. Turn the doldrums of third year to your advantage by reviewing bar subjects, learning bar exam strategies, and getting feedback on practice exams. In addition, you should ascertain the admission requirements for the bar exam, and assemble necessary paperwork.
Depending on your law school’s requirements, you may not have had the opportunity to take many elective classes. Now is your chance! Electives fall into several categories:
- Bar subjects. Check the subject matter coverage for the bar exam you’re planning to take and consider filling gaps by taking subjects that will be tested but were not required.
- Specialized classes. If you plan to go into a particular practice area, gain deeper knowledge through related electives. For example, I was interested in labor and employment law, so I took a seminar in labor arbitration and a catchall employment law course that covered topics outside of labor law and employment discrimination.
- Useful to know. Are there areas of law you should know about simply to be a well-rounded lawyer? What about subjects that touch virtually everyone – including you and your family? If your law school doesn’t require courses like Federal Income Tax or Wills & Trusts, consider taking them anyway.
- Just for fun. Law and literature, anyone? Look for interesting seminars and topics you’d like to learn more about. Recapture the simple joy of learning something new, even if it’s not purely practical.
It’s not too late to get involved in an extracurricular activity. Maybe you’ve been holding back on joining an organization so you can focus on academics. Maybe you’d like to take on a leadership role in a journal or club you’re already a member of. Share your knowledge and experience by being a TA or a “big sibling” to a 1L. Shock your classmates with your musical talent by participating in Law Revue.
Explore experiential learning.
Get out of the classroom and gain some practical experience. Sign up for a clinic or externship. Line up an internship or part-time job (but comply with the ABA rule that full-time law students work not more than 20 hours per week). Use your education in the real world, gain practical skills, and contribute to the public good. If you don’t already have a job secured, this sort of experience can enhance your resume and perhaps even lead to a post-graduation offer.
Connect with classmates.
You’ve probably made some good friends in law school. But you likely have classmates you barely know. Don’t miss the chance to meet some interesting people – and to build your professional network. At a recent social event I was seated next to a law school classmate I’d never met before, although I’d admired his classroom aplomb from afar. We had a great conversation and found we had a lot in common. Why hadn’t we been friends in law school? “I was working too hard to socialize much,” he said. I had a small circle of close friends in law school and didn’t reach beyond it. I wish I had.
Have more fun.
If you have a job lined up, you can afford to relax a bit and enjoy yourself – as long as you continue to maintain your GPA. Spend time with family and friends, especially those who may scatter to different cities after graduation. If you’re planning to move after graduation, enjoy your law school’s location: visit the local museums, historic sites, sports venues, and weekend getaway spots while they’re easily accessible.
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And check out these helpful posts:
- Parenting In Law School: Surviving Your 1L Year While Raising a Family
- How to Organize Your To-Do List in Law School
- Do You Need a Sponsor to Stay Productive in Law School
- Dealing With Law School Time Regret
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