Conquering the Beginning of Law School
School is going to start soon! For so many reasons, I still distinctly remember starting my first day of law school. Probably it’s a mixture of disbelief that this was actually happening and also coming out of a really horrible summer that very literally could have cost me being able to attend law school at all. So, I remember how excited I was to start, but also how ill-prepared I was for what was about to happen. Story of my life. But I want you to be super-prepared. I want you to go in so confident about what’s going to happen that all you have to worry about is your reading and getting called on.
These things that I’m about to suggest may seem a little extreme (like do you really need to know when you’re having dinner?!), but I promise organizing these things now will make a big difference.
Things you need to know/do before law school starts:
One. Decide which textbooks to buy. Books are expensive, duh. Like stupid-expensive. I’m still salty I had to buy a “book” a professor self-published that was literally a fucking binder of cases he had compiled together. UGH. Whatever. Anyway, if you’re like a lot of people and waiting for that loan money to come through then you may be a little tight on finances. You may not be able to get everything so plan ahead now. If things are tight, I would definitely skip the supplementals and if things are bad, I would skip the statutes. Like, I literally went until October before I bought my civ pro statute book, which I don’t recommend but also at the same time statutes are almost all available online, for free (which wasn’t the case in 2007 when nothing good existed online!). Choose wisely, get what you can, but don’t risk not being able to pay rent for things you can put off. That is, unfortunately, the balancing game one has to play when we’re not swimming in cash.
Two. Decide how you’re going to study. Of course, you should study how you study, but beyond deciding if you’re going to take handwritten notes or on your laptop; you also need to know where you’re going to study. At the library or home? Is your space at home conducive to studying? Is your idea of studying at a café realistic? Figure it out now so that you’re not wasting precious time once the semester has started. This also means you should organize other things that are important. Obviously, I don’t have to tell parents that they have to plan ahead for childcare or dog-walking, but day-to-day tasks that we don’t think about should be coordinated. Yes, I’m talking about dinner and lunch.
I know that seems random, but first, I gained so much weight in law school because I failed to plan for my nutrition and that sucks. So don’t do that. One of the reasons I failed so miserably at this is because I hadn’t decided how I was going to study. I lived far(ish) from campus so lugging my huge books home every day via train was too much. So I stayed at the library until it closed. Ok great, except no one eats dinner at 10 (the time I would get home), and I couldn’t afford to buy lunch and dinner every day (financially or health-wise). All of this could have been easily solved if I had made some decisions before the start of a new semester.
Three. Try to have some fun money available. Law school is expensive y’all. That’s like number one thing. But law school can have some fun times and the people I became friends with are the best part of that experience. I’m not saying that if you don’t go out drinking you’re not going to make friends. And I’m not saying make bad financial decisions just so you can go out every night. Obviously that’s not the case, but those first few weeks is a great time to forge friendships. Friendships can (and do) change throughout your time in school, but it’s so much easier to find your “group” as soon as you can and in law school, that usually means events that require spending some money upfront.
Does it sound crazy that I’m encouraging you to save money on text books, but also saying it’s ok to spend money at a bar? I know it may sound a little off, and you’ll do what’s best for you, but making connections and creating friendships is important to your mental health and you shouldn’t feel guilty for working on building a support system.