The question is often presented to us about what to do in the summer before your 1L year. Some future law students are working full time. Some are taking a break after graduating from undergrad. The burning question is—what should you do to help you be best prepared for your 1L year.
First, a personal story. I didn’t do anything to get ready for my 1L year. I was working full time prior to the start of law school and I left my job just a week or so before orientation. I think I went shopping and bought some new jeans because I wouldn’t have to dress up every day anymore. I know, great planning. Do I regret the decision to do nothing related to law school prep? Not really, in the sense that I needed to work and save money to help pay for law school. And I was able to catch on to law school well enough. But my first semester grades (to be perfectly honest) were not the best grades of my legal career. My grades went up during law school, as I continued to master the law school skill set. I have to wonder what would have happened if I had invested some time during the summer before law school getting up to speed on what law school exams looked like. I will never know, but in hindsight it might not have been a bad idea, something to consider at least.
But now having the start to my law school career well into my rearview mirror, here are five things you should do to get ready for your 1L year.
1. Consider taking a law school prep course. This isn’t the right answer for everyone, but some folks will appreciate getting a primer on law school before the first days of orientation. These programs range from in person to online programs. They also range greatly in price (I know that cost is always a consideration). If you are curious about them though, learn more! What have you got to lose? (Shameless promotion time! We are offering a Start Law School Right Course all summer. Get more information here.)
2. Have some fun. I think that having fun is critical before you start law school! You should take a vacation if possible, even if it is just a quick road trip out of town. You are about to embark on a challenging (yet rewarding) journey, so enjoy a little break between whatever you have been doing before school and what you will be doing once it starts. I took a trip to Costa Rica with my best friend the summer before law school. It was a blast and a great send-off from my pre-law school life (and pre-law school paycheck).
3. Read some good books. If you don’t know this yet, you read a lot in law school. So until winter break, most law students don’t have much time to read for fun. So make sure you enjoy a few good books this summer! (Alison is tracking what she is reading on The Girl’s Guide to Law School if you want some suggestions. I just finished reading Sonia Sotomayor’s book, which was really good, as well as Defending Jacob, an entertaining legal thriller.)
4. Get your life in order and take care of yourself. Many people think that returning to the life of a student means all-night study sessions and take-out food. But these can make you tired, unproductive, and full of anxiety. Turns out if we don’t eat well and exercise, we don’t perform as well academically, who knew! And although some of these tactics may have worked for us when we were undergrads, we all get older and may not be able to pull the same stunts with the same results. It is important to get into some good healthy habits before school starts. Also, take some time to get your life in order. If you need to move during the summer, do so before school starts. If you need to figure out some financial issues, do so before school starts. Once school starts, you will not have a ton of free time. So get as much life stuff as possible in order—before you dive into orientation.
5. Spend time with friends and family. Friends and family (and significant others) can feel a bit neglected when law school becomes your focus. So make sure you spend some quality time with friends and family during the months leading up to the start of school. This way, when you are busy and focused on school, they will remember what it is like to spend time with you.
If you are starting law school in the fall, sit down now and make a list of what you want to get done before school starts! It will make your summer more enjoyable and it will also set you up for success from day one.
Lee Burgess, Esq. is the co-founder of the Law School Toolbox, a resource for law students that demystifies the law school experience, the Bar Exam Toolbox, a resource for students getting ready for the bar exam, and Trebuchet, a legal career resource. Lee is the founder of Amicus Tutoring, LLC, where she tutors students privately for the California bar exam. Lee has also been adjunct faculty at two bay area law schools where she has taught classes on law school and bar exam preparation. You can find Lee on Twitter at @amicustutoring, @lawschooltools, @barexamtools & @trebuchetlegal.