Today, we’re happy to welcome Alison Monahan, founder of The Girl’s Guide to Law School and co-founder of the Law School Toolbox, Bar Exam Toolbox, and Trebuchet Legal, to the blog. She’s here to share some tips on starting off on the right foot in law school.
In these last few weeks before law school orientation, what – if anything – can you be doing to set yourself up for success as a law student? Reading the Constitution? Brushing up on the Federalist Papers? Yeah, probably not so helpful.
Here are a few things that might help!
• Take care of your creature comforts. Once classes start, you’re not going to have much extra time to worry about things like healthy eating or shopping for furniture. So, sort these creature comforts out now. Do you know where you’re going to live? Do you have a comfortable bed (not your crappy college futon) and an adequate setup for working at home? Have you thought about what you’re going to eat to stay healthy? (Relying on your school’s food options is rarely a great idea, so think about preparing food at home and bringing it to school with you.) Depending on where you’re going to school, you could have an array of options, from Taskrabbit to Munchery, to help you keep yourself comfortable and healthy. Spending some time planning out your creature comforts now will pay dividends later, when everyone else ends up sleep-deprived and sick, and you’re well-rested and healthy!
• Think about your goals. Law school can become an incredibly conformist place, with everyone shooting for the same limited universe of options. Before you start, think about what you really want. Why are you going to law school? What does success look like for you? Keeping your eye on your goals, even if everyone else is clamoring for something else, can help ensure you have a law school experience that works for you – and that takes you to a place you want to end up!
• Be sure you understand the finances. If you’re starting law school, there’s a high likelihood you’re taking out student loans. Be sure you understand what you’re getting into! It’s easy to simply sign on the dotted line and assume everything will work out, but this is foolhardy. Use a student loan repayment calculator to understand (roughly) what your repayment options might look like. Take a very careful look at your school’s job statistics to get a realistic idea about how much money you’re likely to make upon graduation. If these two factors don’t align, think very carefully about whether law school is a good financial decision.
• Be ready to work strategically when classes start. The reality is that law school pedagogy is very different from what most students have experienced in their prior education. Gone are the days of reading, going to a lecture, doing a series of assignments, regurgitating some information on an exam, and calling it a day. In law school, you’re not spoon-fed information and expected to parrot it back to the professor. Instead, you’re responsible for making sense of tiny chunks of law on your own, putting this law together into a coherent framework, and using that framework to analyze a new, real-life problem. It’s a different world, and it’s important to understand what’s going on, from the early days of class. You can sign up for a law school prep course (I happen to run one called Start Law School Right), you can read books, you can read blogs, you can talk to lawyers you know…whatever. But do something to ensure you’re ready to handle the workload in a strategic and effective manner, so you’ll be prepared for your exams when your entire grade is riding on them!
Best of luck on your law school journey. Always remember that being a good law student is a learned skill. Law school isn’t impossible (even if can sometimes seem that way). You can do it!
If you’re starting law school soon, check out the Start Law School Right course for the support and feedback you need to start law school strong, from day one!