Law School

Using Your PreLaw Summer Wisely: What Every 0L Lawtina Needs to Know

We’ve spoken about using the summer before law school strategically but I thought this was a good time for an update especially as the idea of remote learning next semester is still a possibility for many people. First, while it’s smart to use this time to prepare for this next phase in your life, it’s also important to enjoy your last summer before law school. It may sound silly to tell you to enjoy time at home, when that’s all we’ve been doing! But once you start law school a good portion of your time and your focus will not be as free as it is now. So no matter how much you prepare, please do take some time to enjoy your “last” summer because in a few short years, you’ll be an attorney and things will never be quite the same!

So, with that in mind, what can you do to get ready for 1L life?

One. Prepare but don’t overdo it. Don’t overdo it, not just because you should have fun, but because you don’t want to freak yourself out about what’s to come. If you feel like it would be helpful, read some books about the law school experience but also recognize that some quintessential books are a bit outdated (for example, 1L by Scott Turow is old af but a classic). Instead, what I would take some time, a few times a week, to research what law school is like: what does briefing a case mean; what is the socratic method; how do I outline, etc. There are real life bootcamps (though status unknown at the moment thanks to covid); there are tons of materials online as well (free). Take some time to delve into the ins and outs of law school to get a general sense of what’s to come. But be ok knowing you won’t know everything and law school will be a mind trip.

Two. Budget! I am still so shaken by my summer before law school and how close I was to missing it because of a couple hundred dollars for my law school deposit. I share this story often because it was scary! It was literally a fluke that I found the last $250 right at the last minute. But that means I had no money for books until the loan money came through. It was a really rough way to start law school. You’re likely paying your deposit or know that it’s coming by now. But also consider saving up for your books and incidentals you’ll need to pay for before you have access to loan/grants. Invest in a nice (doesn’t need to be expensive) suit so you can wear it to networking events as well (again, tbd post-covid, but better to be safe). If you can, it’s good to have a little nest egg saved up for when it’s needed–I guess that’s good advice all the time, but it was just really jarring for me, as a 1L, to suddenly be in the midst of people with money. Yes, college has the same issues of people with and without means, but usually you all still live in basic dorms together, and you eat a the union, and go to the same nasty frat houses to party—it’s different when you’re mingling in a room with judges and legal experts because the divide can be feel so obvious. I’m not saying a suit will fix those feelings, but having a suit (literally also something I didn’t have when I started law school), will at least be an easy solution to making you feel less like you don’t belong.

Three. Get your mind right. As mentioned, law school is a mind trip. It feels jarring and disconnected-not just you disconnected from family but like you’ll never have anything in common with people in this profession. It can feel intimidating–your classmates accomplishments will be highlighted by the school and it will feel like you barely deserve to be there because you have such accomplished classmates. It can feel scary that you’re trudging along day by day, perhaps tripping up in class during a cold call, and fear that your entire grade will depend on one anonymous final. And like all higher Ed, it can feel lonely. You won’t be able to explain to family exactly what’s going on; you may not feel like you can’t connect with professors; and maybe you’ll be in a town that has none of the comforts of home. Any of those things is a lot, but together it can become too much.

But right now you have the gift of awareness–you now know that 1L year may bring all those anxious feelings once the excitement subsides. So what you should do to prepare is to think of the coping tools you use to address these anxious thoughts and have them ready at hand. This will be helpful for when it’s October and you are freaking out about a networking event with nothing but old white men or it’s December and you feel certain you haven’t learned anything all semester. Whatever tools you use for your mental health have it ready (envision a literal or figurative self care kit that is “break in case of emergency” accessible) and straight up if the best tool for you to manage the bad feelings is professional care, then make sure you are aware of your school’s mental health services.

I don’t mean to scare anyone because yes, law school, especially 1L year, is DIFFICULT. But it is also exciting! You’re going to discover talents you didn’t know you had; gain amazing skills and a passion in the law that will literally change your life. And because of your grit, your intelligence, and talents you’ll be able to bear even the crummy parts of law school. You’ll just bear it so much better if you prepare 🙂

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