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The Essential Law School Shopping Guide

Another law school year is almost upon us. Whether strolling into law school for the first time still filled with wide-eyed optimism or returning from a summer job to kill more time and rack up more debt, every student must resupply for the impending school year. Sure, for returning students, you’ve made it through at least one year of school so some of this is old hat. That said, you undoubtedly did something wrong and you’re now flush with cash from your summer job so it’s time to go shopping.

Meanwhile, for 1Ls, obviously if you’ve made it this far in life you have at least some clue. Or think you do. There are essentials from high school and college that will serve a law student just as well. But law school is riddled with its own unique quirks that require a different set of tools.

What’s the appropriate gear for law school? Well, you’re lucky Skippy because ATL has you covered. Here’s a rundown of exactly what you need to buy for law school….

Before we begin, a quick policy statement: ATL is not being paid to promote any of these products, but when available from Amazon, the products are featured with affiliate links, meaning that ATL receives a small commission from Amazon if you buy something through that site. So there you go.

Let’s break this thing down. As we see it, there are 6 categories of supplies you need for law school laid out here in our handy:

Table of Contents

* Studying Supplies: The pens and highlighters and such.
* Classroom Supplies: Everything you need for whiling away the hours waiting to get cold called.
* Career Supplies: It’s a professional school and you’re going to need gear to get that job.
* Technology: Fun gadgets may be a little more expensive, but they are awesome.
* Books: You can certainly use more than just textbooks.
* Lifestyle Supplies: Because no matter what you’re hearing you’ll have plenty of downtime.

Each of these categories is hyperlinked so you can jump directly to the section that interests you.

Studying Supplies

If you’re looking to get through this process as quickly and as no-frills as possible, your answer is this all-in-one pen and highlighter set. That’s 32 pens, highlighters, erasers, and sharpies, in one fell swoop.

If you’re still here, you’re more discerning than an all-in-one pack. Now people are gonna tell you that you need a double rainbow’s worth of highlighters. Honestly, I never used more than one. But there are smart people who swear by highlighting different aspects of cases with different colors. The biggest philosophical question you have to answer for yourself is whether you’re a skinny highlighter person (and if so consider these so you can’t lose the cap) or a fat highlighter person. Or maybe you prefer your highlighters in syringe form. Because your mom really wanted you to go to medical school.

When it comes to pens, a lot of digital ink has been spilled on what you should look for in your go-to writing utensil. Basically you need to make a decision about whether you want a ballpoint, rollerball, or gel pen (or if you want the class to know you’re a douchebag there’s always a fountain pen). A gathering of experts recently picked the Uni-ball Jetstream as the best pen going.

But if you just want a solid budget option — and importantly an option in many colors — the Pilot G2 is hard to beat.

You’re going to want flags. Because when you’re trying to leap to key cases for an open-book test, you can’t beat flags.

Keep reading or click to return to the Table of Contents…

Classroom Supplies

What are you going to need to get through those interminable hours under the Sword of Cold Call Damocles? Most importantly, you need to get to class, and that requires a bag — one sufficiently big to hold your books and whatever you’re taking notes on. For most of you, that means a computer bag. We’ll talk about computers elsewhere, but suffice it to say (a) law books are f**king huge so remember that you need something that does more than snugly fit your computer; and (b) computer screens make a huge difference, so if you have (or are thinking about) a 17-inch laptop, remember to get a 17-inch laptop bag.

Laptop bags come in many forms. Some folks are still into the backpack thing, while others want a dedicated, professional computer bag. I really like this handsome leather satchel. Very classy.

For many bags, but especially a satchel without any internal dividers, you’ll need some way to keep the bag from becoming a black hole. Like this organizer for all your stuff. Or these reusable twist ties.

Personally, I didn’t bring my computer to class. I took handwritten notes because they make you smarter. And if that’s your fancy, a bound notebook can keep your class notes straight. Everyone has an opinion on the best notebook. Whatever brand you select, think through whether you want a notebook that’s large or small, ruled or unruled.

If you want to bridge the gap between computers and paper, there’s always Livescribe technology:

Here’s a clever product: some super note-taking flags. Flag the holding of the case and then use the note space to write out your answers to expected questions.

Keep reading or click to return to the Table of Contents…

Career Supplies

You’re going to be looking for a job. It’s kind of the whole reason to go to law school. While many job opportunities will involve sending your résumé around digitally, you’re still going to have to print it out and mail it from time to time. So don’t be the kid who prints out résumés on plain white computer paper. Get something weightier and if possible something with a subtle coloring. Like some 24-pound ivory paper. And whatever you do, get matching envelopes.

You’re also going to need a nice Padfolio. At least one corporate sponsor will give you a branded one — don’t use that one. I guess you can always use one branded with your law school as long as you don’t go to Cooley.

If you’ve bought a presentable computer bag (see above), you can use that as your interview bag. Otherwise, you may need a smaller, more professional-looking bag to carry your padfolio. Women interviewees may want a dedicated interview tote.

Keep reading or click to return to the Table of Contents…


Get a computer. Whether it’s new or old, make sure it has all the technical specs required to be compatible with your law school’s test-taking software (whether it’s Exam4 or ExamSoft). If you really must have a link, get this Alienware Gaming Laptop because it’s powerful enough to handle everything from Palsgraf to GTA V.

Staci made an excellent point to me just now: get a screen guard for your computer. This one protects for glare and privacy, so you can keep playing Candy Crush Saga (or reading Above the Law) while in class with no one the wiser.

Get a nice, distinctive flash drive so no one ever absconds with your data after mistaking it for their own generic drive. MIMOBOT Flash Drives are good options. I use an Admiral Ackbar flash drive. When it plugs into the computer it says, “It’s a Trap!!!” (though I can turn off that feature in quiet settings).

Keep reading or click to return to the Table of Contents…


Professor Nancy Rapoport and Jeff Van Niel wrote the very thorough Law School Survival Manual, which takes students through the entire law school process from application to bar exam. Or check out Keith Lee’s The Marble and the Sculptor.
Or for a quicker read, check out Michael Seringhaus and Brian Savage’s Law School Done Right: 60 Proven Tips for Success from Recent Grads Who Killed It.

Whether you’re gunning for law review or not, it’s worth picking up Professor Eugene Volokh’s Academic Legal Writing, the comprehensive student writing guide. And if you are trying to get on law review, it’s an invaluable resource.

Now for one of the more controversial calls for a new law student: do you need a copy of Black’s Law Dictionary as a law student? Probably not. Most terms in there are never going to come up in law school and most that will are easily searched by checking out the library’s copy. That said, should you have a copy of Black’s Law Dictionary? Yes. It’s an awesome book to have, especially if the history of law is of any interest. Plus you can read all about the words that were coined by Above the Law.

Speaking of Above the Law, if you feel like reading some legal fiction, you can pre-order Lat’s forthcoming novel, Supreme Ambitions.

Oh, and get some book weights to keep your books open while you work.

Keep reading or click to return to the Table of Contents…

Living Supplies

In my experience, law schools have some pretty bad lighting. That’s what makes this Full Spectrum lamp an essential.

What’s your preference when it comes to water bottles? The Clean Bottle The Square is designed to be stupidly easy to clean. This 321 Water Bottle has a built-in filter so you never have to put your faith in the law school water fountain.

If you’re going to want your morning coffee, here’s a French Press Travel mug made of plastic and another in metal.

Or replace that coffee with a tub o’ caffeinated mints so you can approach law school like you just came in from the freeway truck stop.

My God… screw coffee and caffeinated mints, they now make Gummi Bears out of energy drink now. That’s your all-nighter fuel right there.

Keep reading or click to return to the Table of Contents…

And that’s it. Good luck at school everybody. Let us know if anything goes horribly wrong.

(hidden for your protection)

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