Advice for the Summer Before Law School

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Ah summer, so full of warm weather and relative freedom. (Unless you’re taking an LSAT course… then it’s so full of warm weather and THE BEST TEST EVER!) However, this week’s post is not as much for the current LSAT takers, as it is for my friends who will be joining me as 1Ls at law schools across the nation within the next sixty-five days. As my legal ducklings gear up for the July 4th weekend, and hopefully a month+ of idleness to follow, I thought they might want some input into how that time could be best spent to prepare for their upcoming 1L adventure. I mean, it’s still a little early to buy your trapper keeper (the good back to school sales never start until mid-August) so what’s a future law student to do in the meantime?

Well what follows are my humble suggestions. Or at least the suggestions I feel comfortable publishing online. As for the ones I don’t… well, you can use your imagination.

Read for Pleasure.

This is number one on the list. Even if you don’t even like reading. (Of course, if you don’t like reading, you might want to rethink law school.) But believe me, in a few months you are going to so sick and tired of reading for your classes you’ll barely want to skim new e-mails, let alone sit down with the latest Mary Higgins Clark novel. (Of course, if you read Mary Higgins Clark for pleasure you also might want to rethink law school, but only because my mom could use a new best friend.)

You are still going to be able to find time to hang out with your friends and watch crappy reality TV during 1L; I guarantee it. Maybe not quite as often as you’d like, but your life will not be completely devoid of such pleasures. When it comes to reading for pleasure, though, you’re likely looking at a nine-month dry spell. So pick up that Glenn Beck novel while it’s hot, enjoy some of those old classics you’ve been meaning to check out, play find the fallacy with the Atlantic. Whatever it is that sends you into a literary swoon, go find and savor it. It’s going to be a while until you’ll want to do it again.

Brush up on some American History.

Although this isn’t the most important thing in the world it’s a good fallback if you get bored this summer and want a head start in a few of your classes. It can also be combined pretty easily with the “read for pleasure” advice. So that’s nice. Or, if you’d rather, catch some history channel documentaries. Download a podcast or two. Go to the children’s section of the library and browse a few picture books. (Bonus: libraries are usually air-conditioned. Negative: nobody really likes the creepster who hangs out in the children’s section of the library.)

Of course, don’t knock yourself out cramming or anything. Law is a pretty self-contained field; for most of your classes you won’t need knowledge of anything other than the English language. However, especially in classes like Constitutional Law and Property, some background can be pretty helpful to understanding the overarching themes and doctrinal evolutions. Plus, gunners start early. That’s a bright-line rule.

Make those major life changes you’ve been putting off.

Hate your boyfriend? Dump him. Want an apartment that you don’t have to share with feline sized cockroaches? Move. Despise your part time job? Quit. This is a great time to take care of those things that have been bothering you for a while, but you’ve been too afraid of the consequences to make any real changes. In two months you are going to be surrounded by entirely new people, possibly in a brand new city, and have plenty of distractions to keep you busy. Take care of it now so that you can get everything mostly in line by the time classes start, and enjoy the lack of baggage when fall rolls around.

DON’T make major life changes if you don’t want to.

Although law school can be a great excuse if you’ve been thinking about a change for a while, I do not recommend burning bridges and cutting ties simply because of law school. Many people I know started this past year in a relationship and remain with their special someone. I adored the apartment I was living in and my roommates from my pre-law school life, so I spent last year commuting and have no regrets. The job issue is a little trickier, and you might want to talk to your boss about taking some time off until you know what your workload is going to be like, but there are definitely people who work a part time job for all three years. So if you enjoy it, you don’t have to lose it. (Note: Do keep in mind though, there are ABA regulations that limit the amount you are permitted to work, at least during your first year.)

Above all else, I want to stress that law school does not have to change your life all that much. Sure, it takes up some time, but unless you’ve spent the last few years sitting in your parent’s basement staring at the wall, so did your previous endeavors. So if there is something in your life that you really enjoy, and don’t want to lose, you don’t have to. Be it a person, taking yoga classes, cooking gourmet meals, writing the next great American novel or spending quality time with your dog, you can make time for it. I promise.

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