Everyone will tell you something different about how to prepare for law school over the summer. There is one camp of people that think the best pre-law advice is “Don’t spend one second studying your summer before law school. Instead, relax, travel, spend time on your hobbies and goof off…because you won’t be able to at all during law school!” (This is an over-exaggeration by the way, I took one full day off every week and still graduated as the number one student out of over 200 students in my class…It is all about finding the right balance!) There is another camp of people that spends their entire summer reading every law-related book they get their hands on in hopes to get a head start on preparing for law school.
Neither of these approaches are wrong but they are not necessarily right for everyone either. On the one hand, it is probably not the best idea to become completely mentally lazy or law school may be too big of an intellectual shock for you. On the other hand, however, you also don’t want to work so hard that you burn out before you even begin school.
The best approach that we recommend is a middle-ground approach: Do some preparation before law school but do not dedicate your entire summer to it. Relax, have fun, travel if possible…but also put in some hours preparing. Why? It will ease some of your law school anxiety, help you feel prepared and confident, and it can even have a positive effect on your final grades.
What is the best way to get ready? There is no one-size-fits-all approach to law school preparation (which is why pre-law advice varies depending on who you talk to!) I recommend you pick and choose a few things to start with on the list below. If you are not in the mood to dive right into law school material, prepare by doing things that are less law-school-y and maybe add in a few things that are more law-related closer to when your semester begins:
Our Pre-Law Advice:
- Read a lot. Read intellectually stimulating books on history, economics, or political science. Read anything that will challenge you, expose you to different worldviews, and help you to think critically. This will help you get used to the workload in law school as well as the classroom discussion, which will strongly emphasize critical thinking.
- Get a head start on Legal Writing and Research. Chances are, you have a required Legal Writing and Research course to take your first year of law school. That means that you are going to have to learn how to write all kinds of case citations, become very familiar with the “bluebook” and have a good handle on legal lingo. It can be daunting to start learning all of this in law school (when you have 10,000 other things to do) but if you pre-order your legal writing books you can save yourself a headache by getting a jump-start before law school begins. I started learning a few basic things about legal writing maybe a week or two before my law school semester started but I remember being very grateful for the head start. If you are nervous about the legal writing and research aspect of law school and would like a one-on-one three-session course, please see our pre-law legal research and writing tutoring options.
- Learn the Law. The best way to learn the law is to buy a supplement that covers a topic that you will learn your first year of law school. My favorite series was the Examples and Explanations series (but there are many options: Glannon Guides, Siegel’s.) I didn’t discover these until I went to law school but I knew students who were well-versed in Contracts, Torts, Civil Procedure and other subjects because they had read a few of these books the summer before law school. If you read a supplement or two, not only will you know the law for that subject well, but you will have an idea of how law school classes are structured. Teaching yourself a law school course is pretty time-consuming so I only recommend this to serious students who are willing and able to dedicate the time required for such a task.
- Learn the skills you need to succeed: Of all ways to prepare, this might be the most useful. Law school is very different from undergrad and requires a new set of skills. You need to learn how to read and brief cases, outline, memorize your outlines, answer questions “on call”, and take law school exams. Before I went to the law school, I spent many hours learning the skills I needed to succeed in law school and I can say it made the difference between being average and graduating as the number one law student. (I now teach all of these skills in a Law School Preparatory Course).
- Develop good habits: Sleep. Exercise. Learn to prepare healthy meals. Good habits are underrated in law school and you will be surrounded by classmates who put physical health on the backburner. Physical health is important, in part, because it is intimately related to mental health. If you are looking to increase your concentration, focus, and recall – and ultimately do well in class and on law school final exams – maintaining a healthy lifestyle is something you should make a priority.
- Relax. The “first camp” of advisors have a good reason for telling students to relax before law school. You will have a lot of work to do in law school. Making time to relax, spend time with family and friends, and rest your brain should be something you take full advantage of while you do not have deadlines and exams weighing on you. Relaxing will rejuvenate you and help you feel ready to dive into the work that awaits you when you begin your semester.
Is it impossible to do well in law school if you do not prepare for law school over the summer? No. However, some pre-law school preparation will certainly help ease anxiety and prepare you ahead of time for the challenging task that lies ahead of you.
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