As a kid, I loved back-to-school shopping. I loved finding fun pens, picking out a new backpack, or being able to personalize new folders. Even as an adult, I get giddy seeing the back-to-school supplies stocked in stores. Just for fun, I still buy a new pack of pens every August when the school supplies are set aside.
But, the cost of school and office supplies can really add up. Law school tuition is expensive enough without having to worry about how to afford all the extra supplies to write briefs, read all of your assignments, and fulfill your assignments.
There are ways to minimize the cost of your school supplies, however, while still providing the resources you need to excel in law school.
Prioritize Your Needs
First and foremost, the supplies you need most will depend on your personal study preferences.
That being said, the main supplies needed will likely be true no matter if you can’t fathom studying without your laptop or if you can’t stand the idea of organizing your thoughts on the computer. Either way, there are a few supplies that will be universally needed.
I can absolutely say with conviction that I was unprepared for the amount of highlighters I would need when I went to law school.
My first year of law school, I learned a trick for highlighting cases and briefs that helped me enormously. If you haven’t yet briefed a case, the first thing you should know is a brief is essentially a short summary of a particular case.
That summary will include the title and citation of the case, the facts of the case, the procedural history of the case (how the case got to the court that’s hearing it), the issues argued in the case, the arguments presented in the case, the court’s decision, the court’s reasoning, and a summary of any separate opinions like a dissent or concurring opinion where a justice agrees with the final majority decision but not based on the same legal analysis.
Typical law school classes will consist of a professor calling on a student to present a brief of an entire case, squeezing every detail out of the case possible.
It can be difficult to recall the details of a case with so many classmates and a professor staring at you, especially when the case is several pages long or convoluted.
One of the best tips I ever learned in law school is to assign a different color for each part of a brief. I have been out of law school for more than ten years, but I still remember that green was the color I used to highlight the court’s reasoning, orange highlighted the procedural history, pink represented the issues in the case, and blue represented the facts of the case.
In the heat of the moment of breaking down a case in class, being able to quickly see the sections of the case in my book or notes based on color allowed me to more confidently and efficiently answer my professors.
Do not underestimate how many highlighters you will need to brief dozens and dozens of cases your first year of law school, especially if you’re using multiple colors to represent the various areas of the case.
As discussed above, choosing to take notes via laptop or notebook is a personal choice based on your learning style. However, whether you focus primarily on your computer or notepads, you will still need both.
It may be best to write out your briefs by hand, but you might want to outline your class by typing up the main points of the class for midterm and final exams.
One piece of advice on choosing notebooks is to choose ones that have a spiral edge rather than legal pads. You will likely take a significant amount of notes, and you will be better able to keep them all organized if you are able to write on the back or put them into a binder or keep them contained in one notepad.
Another great piece of study advice I received was to use index cards to break down an outline.
To prepare for midterm and final exams, I first outlined the course material. Then, I broke out the major sections of the law relevant to the class and wrote them on index cards. I wrote each case discussed in the class on other index cards. On the back of the cards, I wrote a mini-brief highlighting just the main reason for the case, holding, and impact on the law.
I organized the cards on a large, blank wall in my apartment. With this method, I was able to see the entire course outline in one place. I could go to the wall and see the major topics and the cases that pertain to those topics.
This method of studying and outlining also helped me successfully pass two bar exams.
Prepare For Success
There are many supplies you could buy to help improve your law school experience. Folders, white out, fancy pens, computer software, all kinds of things that will help you study. But, the only three supplies you really need are highlighters, a quality laptop/notepad paper, and index cards to organize your outline for exams.
Stock up on these and be prepared for a successful first year!
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