Starting law school is both scary and exciting. Your schedule will no doubt be full and, quite possibly, more full than it’s ever been before. The summer before you start classes is the best time to prepare. Focusing on certain tasks will definitely make your life a bit easier when the first semester starts.
Choose Where You’ll Live
Unless you’re fortunate enough to be attending law school where you grew up or in the same city as your undergraduate institution, you’ll need to think about where you’ll be living during law school. You’ll also want to consider whether or not to live on campus or whether to find an apartment and roommates. If you take the roommate route, think about whether you want to live with other law students. As you think about where you’ll live, consider things like the cost of living and commute time. As a 1L, you won’t have time to work. So, doing things to keep your costs as low as possible will help reduce your stress.
Learn Your Neighborhood
Once you’ve decided where you’ll live, take the time to learn the neighborhood. Find the grocery store you want to use. Locate the best or closest place to have your dress clothes dry cleaned and pressed. Find the coffeehouse you’ll stop by on your way to class every morning. Determine the restaurants that will deliver food to your house. Getting to know all of these things now will pay off later when you need something but don’t have a lot of time to track it down.
Find Ways to Reduce Chores and Errands
Look for ways to save time on the things you have to do outside of school. For instance, try using grocery delivery services or grocery pickup services so you don’t have to spend time in the store. If you can afford it, hire a housekeeping service to come in once a month to cut down on the cleaning you need to do or come up with a feasible list of cleaning tasks for everyone who will be sharing your home. Set up automatic orders on the things you need often. Set up automatic payments for your bills. Look into Taskrabbit for outsourcing some of the tasks you’d usually do yourself but find yourself crunched for time to do now that you’re law school bound. Sort through your clothing and see if you can come up with a couple weeks’ worth of outfits without having to do laundry. The less time you spend on laundry, the more you can spend studying or relaxing when you get overwhelmed.
Invest in a quality planner and develop a system that works for you. Outline all your coursework with a color-coded system for each class. Use another color for personal appointments like doctor’s appointments, study groups, and so on. Carry the planner with you so you have it whenever you need it. If it helps, keep a duplicate system on your phone’s calendar, and set reminders.
Buy Supplemental Course Materials
Taking notes in class and doing case briefs will take a lot of your time. Using study aids and other tools can help you make more efficient use of your time. Options include the following:
- 1L by BarMax – on-demand lectures by legendary law professors, black-letter law outlines, practice essay questions, practice multiple-choice questions, the entire 1L Law in a Flash series (see below) and Casenote Legal Briefs.
- Law in a Flash Flashcards
- Emanuel Law Outlines
- Nutshell Series
- Gilbert Law Summaries
While these tools are great to have, do not let them replace your own note-taking and study habits. They are meant to use in addition to what you gather in class and not to replace it.
Beyond the basic commercial supplemental course materials, there are a few reference materials you can buy that will help you throughout your entire law school career. These include the following:
- Strunk & White Elements of Style - This manual provides guidance on basic English to help you when writing your legal assignments and essays.
- Black’s Law Dictionary - As a “bible” for lawyers, this book defines and provides pronunciation for legal terms. This way, you can sound like you know what you’re talking about in class.
Look at Course Outlines Before Classes Start
Chances are, your instructors will have some material ready for you to look over before the first official day of class. If this is the case, look over those materials and start outlining things to get ahead. Even if you don’t do anything but read through the syllabi, it can help you get an idea of how you’ll set up your study guides as you go along.
Start Reading About 1L and Law
Read anything related to law school you can get your hands on. Read about issues that surround law school, such as the law school experience, how law school works, the fundamentals of our legal system, and more. The more you know going into law school, the better you’ll feel about getting yourself ready for the entire experience. You’ll likely ease your anxiety about being a 1L. Here are a few recommendations to get you started:
- Law 101: Everything You Need to Know About the American Legal System
- 24 Hours with 24 Lawyers
- Law School Confidential: A Complete Guide to the Law School Experience: By Students, for Students
It’s also a good idea to read a book or two about the city where you’ll be going to law school. It’ll help you get a sense of your environment, living conditions, and expenses in advance.
Plan Ahead for 1L - Don’t Stress
All this preparation ahead of time will put you in a great position when classes start. You’ll have a lot going on: tons of new information to take in every day, new friends, and more. It’ll be easy to get stressed, but that’s where all your prep will pay off. When you need a quick dinner delivered at the end of a hard day, you’ll know exactly where to go.