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Welcome to Law School, Part I

First of an occasional series of posts for the incoming, and beginning, law student:

You’re going to start law school in the Fall. That seems like a long way off, but for most students, the Fall semester starts in about eight weeks. It’s not too soon to start getting ready.

You may have just finished college. You may have concluded another graduate or professional program. You may be winding up a job, or even a career. You may be headed back to school after time off from the workforce. Wherever you’re coming from, you probably already suspect this: Law school is entirely unlike any experience — academic or otherwise — that you’ve had before.

Most people who wait until the first day of class to get their heads into the legal world find that it takes a good part of the first semester, and sometimes longer, to shake that “deer in the headlights” feeling about law school. I see it every year, since I teach Contracts to entering students and literally see the anxiety on students’ faces. There is no getting around the fact that law school can be profoundly disorienting.

The good news, I hope, is that there are steps that you can take to make the transition less stressful.

Today’s tip: If you are physically able to do so, get fit. Now. Walk, run, bike, swim, hike, climb — whatever works for you, get in the habit of getting out and getting sweaty. Eat and drink wisely. Among other things, law school is an endurance contest. There will be time for playing and partying, but the reading alone is grueling, and the outlining, researching, and writing only add to the burden. It’s a lot easier to put up with the sheer physical demands of law school if your body is up to par.

4 thoughts on “Welcome to Law School, Part I”

  1. I’ve been doing a lot of research online about what to expect in 1L, study tips and the like, but some of these are pretty contradictory. While some suggest doing a lot of pre-law reading before late August, others say to relax and enjoy yourself while you still can. Is it better to just go in as the “kick back” ignorant “expect the unexpected” type student or is there anything I should be doing now? I have looked up websites/law school tutorials on how to do case briefing. Should I attemt some on my own now? How much, or how little should I study and will it be worth it–or will I just end up being bored at the orientation where they end up telling you the things you really need to know?
    As for your “get fit now” advice…I will be starting this week so at least I can be in shape by August.

  2. How hard you work over the summer depends partly on what you were doing last year, and “do nothing” and “study like hell” are two ends of a continuum. How’s your comfort level with heavy analytic reading? If you were in school last year, and if you were reading and writing a lot, then your comfort level may be high. If you were working full-time last year, or if you weren’t reading or writing a lot, then your comfort level may be lower. Do some heavy reading over the next couple of weeks, to get used to it. Once law school begins, you may be doing up to four to five hours of reading per day/night, in addition to case briefing and attending class. How familiar are you with the legal system generally? Have you taken courses in college or graduate school that relied on judicial opinions? Do you remember your basic civics? If so, great; I don’t recommend mastering slack-dom over the next few weeks, but I don’t recommend reading the Restatement of Contracts or practicing your case briefing skills, either. Enjoy some free time. If not, then find a book of classic Supreme Court cases and skim through it, and learn a little bit about the structure of the American political and legal system.

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