Hey There, Future Lawyers!
Now that I have decided on what law school to attend this coming Fall, I am waiting anxiously for the school year to begin. Don’t get me wrong, I have absolutely enjoyed sleeping in each day since the completion of my Master’s program, but I would be amiss to say that I have not been doing a copious amount research and dedicating time to preparing for law school. Well, I received quite a few questions regarding how I am preparing and here is a short list of some of the things that I am doing. Let me know if this is helpful or if you have other questions to guide my next topic!
Take Time For Yourself
Most importantly, in the short amount of time that you have prior to starting law school, you need to schedule time for self-care. Your time in these coming months is precious and should be treated as much. Your first year of law school will be spent making friends with the stacks in the library and getting comfortable in that one study spot that you swear you have to read at or you cannot study at all. In short, schedule some time to be you and relax. Go into your first semester of law school rejuvenated and relaxed. Now, this looks a lot different for everyone. You may be an untraditional student and worried about your family; a young student who doesn’t exactly know where they are going in their career; or somewhere in between. There are definitely a few things that we can all focus on though.
Pick Up Those Feet
Since graduating, I realized how absolutely out of shape I became since my Masters and am fully dedicated to having a better routine while in law school. Near the end of my graduate career, I was definitely feeling the effects of my extended sedentary lifestyle. I used the weather as an excuse (I live in one of the rainiest cities in the United States) and my study schedule to not dedicate 30-minutes to an hour to exercise. I am now completely committed to not allowing that to happen again.
I love running. I love just putting on some music and running down the waterfront in downtown or finding a nice forest trail to progress through. I have dedicated the last few months to getting back into running. The beginning of my routine was awful. My body was sore, my sleeping became awful because my legs were agitated, and the voice in my head was begging me not to get up and run again. Well, now I am a few months in and back to loving each run. I am running about four days a week and preparing for a half-marathon coming up this June.
Running has really helped me focus better. I have been studying for law school by taking a few online courses and reviewing undergraduate work. I find myself much more invested and able to dedicate much more time than I was at the end of my Master’s. Now, I am not telling you to get up and start running three miles a day, but a slight difference in your routine could make a huge difference. If you have some free weights at home, go dust them off and start using them. Maybe you can use your bike to go the store a few times a week. Or maybe just find a nice walking place to add to your weekly steps and miles. Now is the time to start something new, not when you are in the middle of a semester and drowning in coursework.
This section is a two-pronged section. First and foremost, you need to run to a bookstore and buy a few books that you have been telling yourself that you would read when you had more time in your schedule. This is the perfect time to do so because once your courses start for the Fall Semester, you are going to have very little time on your hands for anything more than pouring over your casebooks.
I personally love reading. I have a small library in my apartment and it continues to grow due to my book buying problem. Yes, I have a problem. Books are my friends… okay? In short, go and crack open that mystery/thriller or escape to some beautiful fantasy land with elves and wizards. Whatever your reading fancy is, get it on.
Secondly, most law schools have a recommended summer list. Depending on the law school, the list could be quite extensive. My suggestion is to pick a few that you find interesting or that you think would be the most helpful to you prior to starting law school. Now, be my guest, if you want to read every book on the list– go for it. Below is my reading list for the summer, which includes both books for pleasure and ones related to law:
- Just Mercy- Bryan Stenson***
- The New Jim Crow- Michelle Alexander***
- Getting to Maybe- Richard M. Fischl and Jeremy Paul (Recommended by almost every law school list)
- Coming to Law School: How to Prepare Yourself for the Next Three Years- Ian Gallacher (Written by one of my potential professors)
- The Unsteady March: The Rise and Decline of Racial Equality in America- Klinkner and Smith
- The Abolition of White Democracy- Joel Olson***
- The Federalist Papers
- The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court- Jeffrey Toobin (Reread)
- The Oath- Jeffrey Toobin (Reread)
- The Wildwood Chronicles- Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis
- The Harry Potter Series- J.K. Rowling (reread)
- All The Light We Cannot See- Anthony Doerr (reread)
- Hard Choices- Hillary Clinton
- The Invention of Wings- Sue Monk Kidd
- The School of Essential Ingredients- Erica Bauermeister
- The House of Velvet and Glass- Katherine Howe
- My Beloved World- Sonia Sotomayor
- Kill or Capture- Daniel Klaidman (Reread)
- Forcing the Spring- Jo Becke (reread)
- Uncertain Justice- Laurence Tribe and Joshua Matz
- Dirty Wars- Jeremy Scahill
- A Problem From Hell- Susan Power
Okay, for the next three years you are going to eat, breath, and sleep law school and law school affiliated tasks. Whether it be an externship during your 1L summer, networking with alumni from your institution, or researching with a professor– one thing is for certain: you will not have a lot of time to let loose and just have fun with friends. Go out with your friends! Dance club? Yes! Camping? Yes! Day trip to the coast? Yes! Make it happen. This is even more important for those of you (like me) that will be moving away from your friends and family to start law school.
Law School Centric Tasks
Okay, you have to move 2000-miles away from home in just a few months, you have no idea what the hell you are doing, and you are on the verge of a breakdown thinking about preparing for law school. Well (lucky for you), you have me and many other bloggers out there prepared to give you our tips on how we are preparing for law school.
The first blog that I want to point you to is The Legal Dutchess. The blog is absolutely packed with organization tips, first-year law tips, and how Brandy (the blog host) has got through some of the most stressful parts of law school. She also provides wonderful tips on what supplies to purchase in preparation for law school. Second, Brazen and Burnett has similar qualities to The Legal Dutchess Blog and has a robust presence on Pinterest with ideas on how to be organized for law school. Although Dennis Jansen’s blog is a bit older, it does have some good tips and stories for both the 2L and 3L years.
Pinterest is literally a land of miracles for law school organization tips and supply ideas. I would highly recommend spending some time going through the work that others have done and are providing to you for free. Try not to recreate the wheel here, as you will have enough to stress about as it is.
One of the most vital parts to my preparation has been touching base with faculty in the areas of law that I am interested in pursuing and/or who are involved in clinics/institutes that I would like to engage with. I have sent e-mails, had skype meetings, and phone calls with many of my potential professors and colleagues. Do not be shy in reaching out. The worst that can happen is that they do not respond, which is rarely the case. Just make sure that you have pre-drafted questions and explore their online resources before contacting them. You really should only be asking questions on things that you cannot get the answer from online.
Second, try to touch base with some current students who share some of your interests or background. Whether it be a student interested in the same area of law or also had to make a significant move to attend the law school, they will have tips and stories that will help you figure out what you need to do. They may have tips on different neighborhoods in the area you going to be renting in, share some information on some of your potential professors, or simply be a good person to know once you arrive on campus.
Finally, be in contact with the admissions and financial aid office early and often. Your school probably has an online system to complete specific tasks. Make sure this is done early and check-in with the appropriate office to confirm estimated process times. By doing this, you can ensure that all of your paperwork (there will be a lot) is processed on time and correctly to ensure that nothing goes awry. You do not want to start the term and not have financial aid to purchase your books.
Discover Your New Location
The likelihood is that you will be moving some distance from your home. Whether you live an hour from where you will be going to law school or across the country, I would suggest researching your soon-to-be new home. Find out what their local newspaper is and start getting acquainted with what is occurring locally. Look up the local attractions (parks, hiking, the
aters, festivals, etc.). You may want to do a google search to see if there are any articles featuring the specific city or region you are moving to and what they recommend tourists to do when they arrive. You will find that will end up finding out a lot of information after just a little bit of research.
You may also want to use the local police website and/or FBI website to determine the crime statistics for the city and specific neighborhoods. This can help you determine where you would like to live while also maintaining an understanding of the risk you may be assuming.
Find out if there are any specific traditions that your city hosts. Maybe it is widely known for Halloween festivals, some crazy snow marathon, or is known for its southern food competitions. Whatever it is, these are all easy ways to get involved and feel part of your new community.
Let me know what your questions or tips for preparing for law school are! Make sure to subcribe to my blog so you can continue to receive updates!