If you’ve been admitted to law school, congratulations! You survived the admissions process, made your seat deposit and you lit…
If you’ve been admitted to law school, congratulations!
You survived the admissions process, made your seat deposit and you lit a beautiful Memorial Day bonfire of your LSAT prep books. Now what?
The first year of law school is as important as it is intimidating. One thing that eases this gauntlet is the camaraderie of a close-knit campus. Study groups, campus activities and chance encounters may germinate lifelong friendships, romances and shared interests.
[Read: How to Weigh Competing Law School Acceptances.]
The first year of law school is not a trial run, and the grades you earn will matter. This is especially true if you plan to transfer, but those grades also play a key role in securing summer internships and ultimately job offers.
Since most first-year grades are based on blindly graded final exams, it’s important to stay on top of the work. Unlike in college, it’s hard to ensure good grades and hard to gauge your academic performance until your grades come back.
Thus, it’s worth using the summer before law school to hit the ground running in four key areas:
— Make a plan.
— Consider a prep course.
— Set goals.
Legal education is changing rapidly. The advice of an old family friend who went to law school ages ago or portrayals of law school in old books or movies won’t prepare you for law school in the 21stst century.
Instead, ask current law students or recent alumni for advice. If you don’t know any, try to identify current students through campus activities that interest you, or ask your admissions office to put you in touch with someone who shares your interests. They may prove helpful and encouraging if approached with respect, courtesy and focused questions.
Make a Plan
Law classes are manageable with diligent daily work. Reflect on what conditions have brought out your best performance as a student and worker. What time of day do you feel most focused? Where do you like to get work done? What keeps you motivated? What distractions are your kryptonite?
Your first year will involve more reading than you have likely ever encountered. If that concerns you, consider learning speed-reading techniques and practicing how to digest dense information.
If you are considering any extra challenges, like a job or voluntary commitment, wait until the classes are underway and you have a sense of the workload.
Consider a Prep Course
The Socratic method commonly used in 1L lectures has its merits, but it can leave you more confused than informed, as many of Socrates’ ancient Athenian sparring partners lamented. Rather than proceeding through the civil trial process the way a biology class might cover the stages of cell mitosis, a law school civil procedure class typically uses real and hypothetical cases to apply a rule to ambiguous situations.
As a law student, it will be up to you to stitch the threads together by making outlines based on your notes and readings, including explanatory materials such as commercial outlines and summaries.
While many law schools have orientation sessions to help law students adjust, a guidebook or online prep course can give you a head start.
Examples of courses include 1L Mastery by Barbri, the Zero-L prep course by Harvard Law School and Law School Unmasked, which is available through the Law School Admission Council’s LawHub. Law professors developed these courses to teach foundational skills such as how to take efficient notes on classroom discussions, “brief” a case and answer law school exam questions.
Many law students come from liberal arts colleges and research universities that encourage broad curiosity. In contrast, law school is a professional school. Whether or not you ultimately practice law, law school is meant to advance your career path.
Defining career goals ahead of time can help you make the most of these three years. And when the going gets rough, having a concrete career goal can keep you motivated and help you avoid burnout.
In the meantime, leave some time to relax this summer. Considering the challenges ahead, it is important to enter law school rested and prepared.
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How to Prep for Law School Over the Summer originally appeared on usnews.com
Update 06/05/23: This story was previously published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.