What to do the summer before 1L?

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For those who are done with the LSAT and have gotten into law school, congratulations! At this point, you’re probably starting to think about how you should spend the summer before 1L, the dreaded first year of law school, begins. I had the same question three years ago. I talked to a lot of law students and lawyers about it, and I’m going to share their insights and my thoughts here.

Before I get into what I would recommend, I want to address one particular activity I would not recommend: 1L Prep courses. Prep courses are expensive and, in my opinion, not particularly helpful. I spent some time going over recorded lectures and doing exercises for one such course, and I can say with absolute certainty that it did not improve my 1L experience. With that said, I have spoken to people who really felt they benefited from the time their prep courses (of course, most of those people were individuals I would expect to excel at law school with or without the aid of a prep course). I don’t mean to discount the courses entirely, and I do think there is at least a placebo-benefit of making you feel as though you’re doing something to prepare. The courses are generally expensive, so I’m not sure that feeling is worth the expenditure of time and money, especially when the benefits are far from assured.

I would recommend three things to do before you start law school: relax, travel, and read. I am not going to sugarcoat it—1L is terrible. Overall, I would say I enjoyed law school. I made good friends, I enjoyed a lot of my classes, and the workload wasn’t too bad. But I hated the first year. I was constantly stressed, never sure if I was doing the work correctly, and terrified that I would end up in a lot of debt without a job. All of that is to say, even if you find law school to be a positive experience as a whole, the same can rarely be said of 1L. I think the best way to prepare yourself for a deep dive into the foundation courses is to take it easy, relax, and not stress too much about something you really can’t understand until you start doing it.

Second, I would try to travel. Once you get to school, you’re probably not going to leave the library, or your apartment, or your favorite coffee shop, for most of the year. Take the opportunity, if you can, to travel beforehand and make some new memories. It’ll be a nice change of pace before you get bogged down in the minutiae of real property and torts. I didn’t do anything too crazy—just a few road trips—but I am really glad I made the most of it before I went to school.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, I would try to read as much as you can before you go to school. There are a few books that’ll help you get a handle on what to expect when you get to law school. For example, the most universally recommended book is Getting to Maybe. I think that’ll help prepare you, in a general sense, just as much as any prep course. But beyond that, I always recommend that students just get used to reading a lot of anything. Whether you enjoy the news, magazines, or novels, just try to ramp up the amount you’re reading in advance of classes starting. In the gap year I took between undergrad and law school, I definitely got out of the habit of sitting down with books for hours on end, so it was helpful to start getting used to doing that again.

1L is hard enough that I wouldn’t stress too much about what you do this summer. If anything, stick to relaxing, traveling, and reading as much as possible. If you’re the type of person who’ll drive yourself crazy if you aren’t taking some sort of prep course—and you can afford it—then I’m sure you’ll benefit from it in some way. I just don’t think it is a prerequisite for, or a guarantee of, any type of success.

Good luck in your first year!

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