Tuesday, June 23, 2020

How to Prepare for Law School

Hey everyone! I'm in the heat of bar prep, so I apologize I haven't been posting as much. I wanted to talk about what kinds of things you can do the summer before starting law school to get yourself prepared for the fall. These tips are mostly geared towards 0Ls, but rising 2Ls and 3Ls may be able to find something useful as well!


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1. Relax
This tip is probably what you'll hear the most, and for a good reason! Law school is super stressful, so take some time to enjoy whatever makes you happy! Let yourself sleep in, binge watch something on Netflix, take a bubble bath, and hangout with friends. Everyone will be brand new to the law school experience in the fall (no matter how prepared they may seem), so there's no need to worry you're falling behind if you can't name every tort from day 1. The summer after your 1L year will probably start with the journal write-on competition, fill itself with OCI and job applications, and all the while you'll be working an internship full-time. Your 2L summer you'll also be working full-time and trying to lock down a post-grad job. Use the time before your law school journey begins to get yourself into a good state of mental health so you're energized and ready in the fall.

2. Read for Fun
If you're already an avid reader, this tip probably merged with the previous one. However, I wanted to emphasize the importance of getting into a habit of reading. In undergrad, I read here and there, but I didn't make as much time for it as I did growing up, despite loving to read. Getting used to sitting down with a book and carving out a few hours to read is a great habit to prepare you for law school. While case books aren't always the most exciting things to read, you'll have to do it every night. Making reading a routine will be a major benefit once law school starts. If you're looking for some recommendations, check out my reviews on An American Marriage, Little Fires Everywhere, The Queen of Hearts, and Where The Crawdads Sing.

3. Get Into A Healthy Routine
Speaking of helpful routines, the summer before law school is a great time to start making healthy choices. There's a myth that it takes 21 days to form a habit, but research has actually shown that habit formation varies pretty widely between people, and it takes an average of 66 days to form a new habit (here's the study if you're interested). The summer before law school gives you a pretty wide stretch of time to try to form your own new habits. Do you prefer a morning workout or an evening workout? What kinds of healthy lunches can you try? Do you prefer to write out your whole week in a planner or are you more inclined to write out a daily to-do list on a post-it note? I lived on campus all 4 years of undergrad and then went straight to law school. I had always just eaten in the dining hall, so getting used to making my own meals was something I knew I'd need to adapt to once I started law school. I learned how to cook a bunch of different foods, figured out proper portion sizes, and by the end of the summer I had a list of meal ideas for the year. I also got into the habit of doing yoga as a way to exercise and relax. Finally, forcing myself to wake up and go to sleep at set times also helped me get used to my law school schedule. Having a healthy routine in place can make your transition into law school a lot easier.

4. Finalize Living Arrangements
One major source of stress can be apartment hunting, especially if you're going to school out-of-state (or unable to tour apartments due to the pandemic). Then once you have a place to stay, there's the issues of insurance, getting the power set up, picking out a cable/ wifi package, and figuring out where the nearest stores are. Getting all of this handled before you move in will save a lot of headaches. When I moved in to my new apartment, nothing was ready, and I had to deal with all of it by myself since my roommates weren't moving in for a few days. Fortunately, I had a few weeks until school started, so by the time I needed to focus on orientation and classes, everything was under control. I also was able to do a few practice runs to see how long it would take to walk to the shuttle and get to school. Getting yourself settled in before school starts will allow you to focus on law school and spend time on what matters.

5. Clean Up Your Social Media
You've probably heard this since you started using social media, but it's worth mentioning. Anyone can see what you post on the internet, and that includes judges, attorneys, and future employers. Go through each of your social media accounts and posts to make sure your privacy settings are adjusted so your personal information isn't on display. None of your pubic posts, images, or profiles should have anything you wouldn't want a future judge, lawyer, or employer to see. Also consider that you'll be adding your future classmates on social media, and this may be their first impression of you. If you don't already have a LinkedIn profile, now is also a great time to set that up. Make sure to use a professional-looking profile picture since it's a professional networking site. Another good idea is to do a google search of your name and see what pops up. If there are links or images that you don't want on the internet, you can request that they be removed at https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/removals. This may not be a big issue if you have a common last name, but if you're like me and have a distinctive one, the search results may be ALL about you. By clearing up your google results, you can ensure that future employers will get a more professional impression of you. 

6. Buy A Suit and Professional Attire
Now is a great time to buy a suit. During your orientation you'll likely have a day that you're expected to wear a suit for a professional headshot as well as your swearing in. You'll also want to have a suit on hand for interviews, networking, and oral arguments. Buying a suit ahead of time ensures you'll have a well-fitting and put-together outfit and won't have to hope that something off the rack is your size at the last minute. Your best bet is to get a suit in grey, navy, and/ or black. While I don't know much about men's suits, I'd recommend ladies get a suit jacket and the coordinating pants and skirt. By getting all 3 pieces from the same designer, you ensure that the fabric colors match. Having the option of a skirt or pants also helps to dress around the weather. Personally, I really like Calvin Klein suits because they're well-made, true to size, and have lots of size and color options. If you're not crazy about going out shopping yet, you can check out Amazon for options on blazers, pants, and skirts. Also make sure you have a few neutral-colored tops for under the blazer and professional-looking shoes. I'd also recommend a faux pearl earring and necklace set to complete your outfit.

7. Figure Out A Study System
The basic overview of a law school class is: read the assigned reading before class, go to class, discuss the cases and legal concepts the reading addresses, work through a few hypothetical situations with differing facts, repeat. Your goal is to maximize your retention of 1) your reading and 2) your class lecture. First, think about how you will be able to best understand and retain what you read. This could be a highlighter system, summarizing paragraphs or pages as you read them, writing out notes by hand, typing up case briefs, or any other system. Preparing a highlighter color code system or having designated class notebooks ahead of time will allow you to dive right in to your assignments when they come rather than worrying how to approach them. After you have a plan for reading, think about how you'll get the most out of class. Some people (like me!) can't keep up with taking hand-written notes, so typing your notes is essential. Other people swear by the pen and paper method. If you do plan on typing lecture notes, try out note-taking programs like OneNote or EverNote to see what works for you. I personally used OneNote, and it helped me to stay organized from class to class. By having your files set up before classes even start, you'll be ready to go from the very beginning! 

8. Read to Prepare
Okay, take this last point with a grain of salt. I'm going to state right now that you do not need to start studying before classes even start. You'll learn the law the way that your professors teach it to you, and you will figure out how to write exam answers without trying to master it before your first day. However, if you're like I was before I started law school and want to get a jump on your studies or to feel more confident going in, there are a handful of resources I recommend. Getting to Maybe was a book I read that I felt helped me understand how to approach legal analyses as well as how to structure my exam essays. Some of it WILL go over your head because it's designed to be read by students who have already experienced a semester of law school classes and their first round of exams, but it's digestible enough that it is definitely helpful. If you want to get into some substantive information, I would recommend the Short and Happy series. These books go over legal subjects you'll learn in your first year (such as civil procedure, torts, contracts, property, and criminal law) and get you thinking about how to apply the law to different cases. Figure out what classes you'll be taking your first semester and check out the corresponding book! If you really want to get started on learning, getting prepared will be a great use of your time!

Ultimately, the summer before law school is yours to do whatever you want before you delve into the legal world. Getting into a routine, preparing, or simply having fun are all great ways to spend your time. Feel free to reach out if you want advice about getting ready for law school or just to chat! What are some other suggestions for the summer before law school? Let me know in the comments!

Make today the best page yet,
Paige

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