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Ms. JD’s Pre-Law Prep Guide: How to Prepare For Your First Year of Law School

You did it! Congratulations! You are officially going to law school. Now that all the hard decisions of choosing a law school are done, now what?! One of the questions you are probably asking yourself is what should I do this summer?  Here are some tips for all you soon to be law students to put your best foot forward!

Avoid the rush

This may sound silly at first, but there is no better feeling than being ahead of the game. When you enter into law school, you want to feel prepared and you want your head in the game.  The best way to do this is to be proactive and find out what you are going to need to do to make your transition into law school as smooth as possible.  This is not the time for excuses!  Use your summer to make a list of what you need to do.  If you’re moving, make sure you’ve secured housing, figured out your roommate situation, or made your moving plans (i.e. when, how, with what, etc.).  Does your law school require that you have a laptop? Make sure you have one.

What about your first assignment? You don’t want to be left scrambling your first week trying to purchase books and getting your reading done! Take a look at what books you’ll need to buy or if there are any helpful supplements you can use.  Sometimes you can purchase books early either online used, new, or rented. Regardless, take care of this early. If you really want to proactive, don’t be afraid to send an intro email to your professors and asking what they recommend you do to prepare. Even if they just tell you to relax (see below), at least you’ve managed to put yourself on your professors radar, which will come in handy when classes kick off! And the final way for you to avoid the rush--buy a suit! Small as it sounds, a suit is an attorney’s best friend.  Although your first semester should be spent focusing on your academics, there are still events that will come up that will require professional dress, and it is important you don’t get left out because you didn’t come prepared. 

Acclimate yourself to the area

A lot of you will be attending law school in an unfamiliar area, whether it be a new state or a new area within your state, it may be completely out of your comfort zone. Since law school is such a transition in itself, it’s important to move to your new area early, probably a minimum of two weeks in advance. This will give you enough time to move in, get settled, and do a little exploring of your new town and school. It’s important to give yourself enough time to adjust. The last thing you want to be doing is moving in the same week you start law school. It’s too much of a culture shock to adjust to law school itself, let alone in addition to law school, moving into a new area!

If you aren’t sure where to live or where to even look, make sure to reach out to your new law school. Some Admissions Offices will have resources and tools for newly admitted students who are new to the area such as a housing guide, roommate matching services, a Facebook page to connect with other admits, and/or the ability to ask current students questions about the area. Moving to a new place is scary, especially when you are starting a whole new chapter in your life. Make sure to utilize the resources available to you so you are fully prepared.

Read

Law school consists of a lot of reading, but we’re sure you already knew that! It’s important to prepare yourself for this amount of reading. This doesn’t mean you need to be reading example and explanation books or hornbooks for Contracts and Crim Law starting in June. We simply mean begin acclimating yourself to lots of reading, even reading books you enjoy, especially since you won’t have enough time to read books you enjoy during school! (More to come soon on books to read and movies to watch before law school!)

Prepare Yourself

Law school is going to a challenge, physically, mentally, and emotionally. It’s important to begin preparing yourself for it now. Since law school is such an experience, ensure now before you start that you have a strong support system in place for those days when you are stressed. Knowing that you have people to go to when you are having a rough day will be essential to your success.

While it’s important to have that support group in place, it is also essential to remove any distractions from your life. If you have had the itch to travel or study abroad, use the time over the summer to take a trip! If you know that you will be in a long-distance relationship, explain to your partner early on that you will be devoting a lot of time and energy into law school and your success. Whatever is on your mind or you are concerned about now, be sure to address it early on so there will be no concerns except schoolwork when you start your law school career, especially since the challenge of law school will begin before your first day.

Sadly, unlike college, there is no glorified syllabus week. Be prepared and aware that you will have an assignment due the first day of classes. This means a couple weeks in advance getting all of your books and start mapping your study schedule out early so you can be fully prepared for that nerve-wracking first day! Since you will already be in the area because you took our sage advice of moving in early to get accustomed to the area, explore the law school itself. Most law schools will give you your course schedule and assignments a few weeks before orientation. Take a walk through of where your classrooms are at so there will be no first day jitters about getting lost.

Relax

Last, but certainly not least, relax! You have worked extremely hard to get where you are today, and you deserve to kick your feet up and have some fun! Many students believe that they should spend the first summer getting experience at a law firm, government agency, or other job in the legal field. This is not necessary. For those of you who have a legal job already, that’s great - keep up the good work! But for those of you who don’t have a legal job lined up for the summer before law school, don’t feel like you will be harmed in any way by not working over the summer.

Now you are ready to start your law school career with confidence!

 

Bridget Sheehan and Courtney Gabbara are both Assistant Directors of Admission at Michigan State University College of Law and recent graduates of the Law College. Having met in law school through Moot Court, both women have found a long lasting friendship based on their future career interests, laughter, and love of nachos. Bridget graduated from Saint Xavier University with a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice and has actively pursued her interests in family and criminal law. She is originally from Chicago, Illinois and enjoys college football, specifically Notre Dame (Go Irish!), reading, and country music.  Courtney earned her Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Michigan State University and has been a Ms. JD Board Member since April of 2011.  Her hobbies include scrapbooking, running Warrior Dash, and cooking.

1 Comments

tuhaybey

There is a great list of books you should read before law school here- http://lawbooklist.com/0L-books-to-get-before-law-school.php

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