Preparing for 1L

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.

IMG_2593I 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.

Reading

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… 3871601353_1495b78cd8_ookay? 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

Get Dancy

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.

Blogs

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.

Making Contact

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 where16016363907_6cda69c4ce_o.jpg 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.

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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!

 

Making the Decision

Potential Law Students!

Welcome to my three-year series on everything law school! This is going to be a space dedicated to my musings relating to law school related things. Whether it be sharing my experiences relating to making a decision on what law school to attend; how I am preparing for the first days of law school; or organization and study tips that I have picked up along the way– this is where I will share it all! 6363597-9597585.jpg

Please feel free over the next three years to ask me questions in the comments section or you can contact me directly through the blog. This blog is not intended to be me purely rambling about what I think you all should know but is a collaborative space where we can arrive at some answers together.

A Little About Me

For those of you just beginning to follow my blog, my name is Ethan. I am a recent graduate of Portland State University where I received my Masters of Public Policy, which is focused on Democratization, Elections, and International Security. Prior to finishing my Master’s program, I worked as an English Teacher, a Director of Learning Skills at a community College, and Director of Retention at a university. I have dedicated a lot of time to figuring out my life and, hopefully, some of my experiences can help you along the way.

My undergraduate degree was in Political Science with a minor in Law and Legal Studies. Although I have had an extended path to get to law school, I have had a passion for the study of law since Fall Term of 2012 when I took my first law course. While in my undergraduate career, I was the President of my university’s Pre-Law Society and took a plethora of courses relating to constitutional law, international law, war and law, and national security law.

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Before my Master’s program, I took a year-and-a-half off of school, which was one of the best decisions of my life. I worked as a teacher in a high school that never desegregated. This allowed me to not just study injustices from a comfortable distance in a book but also to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges that our society continues to face.

The next step in my educational career is pursuing a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree. I am currently weighing my options between multiple law schools and have not yet made a decision. Below you can find what I did to help me narrow down my school options/make a decision on what school I wanted to attend.

Here Is What I Did:

Most importantly, the law school decision process is an intimate process that you and you alone can make. Treat this decision process with as much respect and thought that you would any other life-altering decision. What I share here is not a prescription on how you should approach your decision, but I do hope that it helps you think through the process a little bit.

Okay! Congratulations! You have completed your applications and you have received some admissions offers from different law schools! Where do you go from here? You have offers from schools that provided you funding but are not your top choice, your top choice law school accepted you but did not give you any money, or you only have schools that were your backup schools to decide from.

  1. Make A List
    • I was lucky enough to have multiple offers from the law schools that I applied to. Although I am still humbled for being admitted to multiple schools, the process to decide on what school to attend became a difficult one for me. If you find yourself in the same wonderful position (which is also a slight curse), I highly recommend making a physical list of what is important to you in the law school that you want to attend. I created a list using Excel but the same process could be done on paper. The list should be more of a matrix. The schools you are considering should be listed across the top and the side-bar should be a list of different criteria that are important to you in a law school. The criteria do not need to be exhaustive. Rather, the criteria should emphasize the major points that are necessary to you to be happy at a law school. If you want to get even more crazy with the list (and the reason why I used Excel) you can weight each criterium based on what is the most to least important to you. Some of the criteria that you may want to add:
      • Tuition Expense
      • Cost of Living (location)
      • Number of Full-Time Faculty
      • Clinics Offered
      • Externships Offered
      • Law Reviews
      • Location (Is where you want to be?)
      • Size of Classes
      • Ranking
      • Programs of Study/Concentration Areas
      • Certificate or Joint Degree Program (if you are interested)
      • Facilities
      • Library
      • Student Organizations
      • Career Placement (In your area of interest)
  2. Attend an Admitted Student Day
    • The majority of law schools have what they call admitted student days. These are great opportunities to tour the campus and the surrounding area, meet current faculty, staff, and students, learn about the “vibe” of the law school, and ultimately determine if the school is a place you would like to spend the next three years of your life.
    • If, like me, you are unable to attend admitted student days, make sure to get in contact with the admissions office at the law school. There may be other opportunities for you to learn about the law school. Some law schools have regional events that are hosted by the college’s staff and alumni in the area. These events often do not require you to travel as far and could also be helpful for you to learn more about the school.
    • If you are unable to attend either of the aforementioned opportunities, THAT IS OKAY! Contact the admissions office and inform them of your circumstances and ask them if they could have a few students or professors reach out to you. Prior to asking an admissions representative to do this for you, visit the law school’s website and determine what questions you still have about the law school. Is there a specific clinic you would like to learn more about? What about housing? How is living in the area? Is there a specific externship or study abroad program that you would like more information on? Once you have determined what questions you have, this will help the admissions staff determine what relevant faculty, staff, or student should contact.
  3. Don’t Force The Decision:
    • There is so much pressure on you to make a decision on a specific law school! Whether it be because you had a relative attend one of the schools you were admitted to or that you have read specific rankings that place one law school over another. You may have a timeframe to make a decision for a specific law school to hold your seat or you may just feel overwhelmed having options. It is incredibly important for you to feel comfortable with your decision on what law school you want to attend. This is your education and career. This is not some ranking website’s future. This is not your professor’s future who is an alma mater of one of the schools you applied to. This is about you.
    • It was really important to me to attend a law school that was competitive and inclusive. I thrive in competitive environments and enjoy working with others who are just as passionate as I am. I do not take it personally when everyone is working toward the same goal and has a competitive stance getting there. Further, inclusivity is something that is important to me. This is a two-part explanation: First, as a gay man, I did not want to feel like a token in a fairly homogenous school. I wanted to be in a space that I felt comfortable and respected. The glass door that I once hid behind is shattered and I have no intention of rebuilding it. Second, I gain a lot from being around others from different walks of life. Whether it be different races, ethnicities, sexual orientation, gender, country of origin, nationality, etc., learning from their frames-of-reference helps expand my own horizon. Look for a place that will challenge you and make you feel comfortable.
  4. Be Unapologetic
    • When you make a decision on where you are attending law school, be unapologetic in your decision. You need to celebrate where you are going– not feel like you need to justify it to someone. This is a big moment for you and you need to honor that.

 

Well, I am excited that you have decided to start following my blog! Let’s make the most of the next three years of law school!

-E