It's the beginning of August and everyone is heading back to school. Can you believe it?! Some people are returning to schools that they have already begun studying at. Others are arriving at new institutions of higher learning. This brief blog post is for all of the new law students who are eagerly awaiting their 1L (or 1E) year, but it may also be helpful for upperclassmen.
If you are as excited to begin law school as I was, then you have probably already read about ten other blog posts about how to succeed in law school before you stumbled upon my humble little post. Most of the popular posts about how to survive law school recite the same tips; therefore, I'm going to try to share some knowledge with you that I didn't discover until I actually went through my first year of law school. Let's dive right in...
1. Make a Fixed Weekly Schedule
Law school becomes very hectic very fast. Assignments from professors are posted at least a week before classes even begin. To help you keep track of everything, it is best to create a weekly schedule that includes all of your fixed weekly commitments. Your fixed weekly schedule will be things that you have committed to doing on a weekly basis throughout the school year. This includes work, classes, study hours, exercise, club meetings or community service. These things will be your priorities, and everything else you do can be filled accordingly. I used an Excel template to create my weekly schedule (leave a comment if you would like for me to share my template). You can color-code your schedule to help visually separate everything you have to do each week.
2. Find Your Lexis Nexis School Representative(s)
Lexis Nexis is a legal research tool that you cannot avoid using throughout law school. [Disclaimer: I am the Lexis Nexis student representative at my law school and I absolutely love Lexis Nexis.] Other people prefer Westlaw, but I truly think that Lexis Nexis is better because it is easier to navigate and has more useful tools. The Lexis Nexis representative at your school will be able to give you tips on how to better utilize this research tool. Law students also receive Lexis Nexis Reward Points, which turns into easy money or gifts. You can earn Lexis Nexis Reward Points by attending research trainings, logging in on a daily basis, and becoming certified (all of the things you should be doing anyway). Employers love knowing that you are able to use Lexis Nexis, or Westlaw, so make sure you become very familiar with it before you start interviewing for positions at law offices. Remember, Lexis Nexis representatives are not on campus to sell you anything, so don't be afraid to stop by and talk to them if they have a table at your law school. Go get your free research tips!
3. Buy Your Books on Online
You probably already knew this as an undergraduate student, so let this just serve as a reminder. The books at your school's bookstore are very expensive, so shopping online is a good option. I personally like to use Amazon or Barnes and Noble because they are trustworthy. It also never hurts to email your professor a few weeks before class starts to see if you can use an older version of the textbook for the course. That could end up saving you a couple hundred dollars per book. Lastly, there are most likely going to be some upperclassmen at your school who are trying to get rid of their books from last year. Ask around or look for a Facebook page where students from your school post the books they are selling.
4. Become Friends with the Financial Aid Office
When I first began applying to law schools, I went directly to the Financial Aid offices at the schools at the top of my list. When I met with the people in these offices, I figured out what GPA and LSAT score I would need to get the scholarship amount that I desired. I soon became friends with the Director of Financial Aid at the school that I currently attend, and they have played an instrumental part in increasing my financial literacy and improving my financial health during my first year of law school. The financial aid office is also a wonderful source for finding outside scholarships or scholarships that are endowed by the school.
5. Participate in 1L Competitions
Every school is different, but most schools should have competitions specifically designed for 1Ls. My school had a 1L Moot Court Competition and a 1L Mock Trial Competition. Both of them took place during inconvenient times (one was around the time of finals and the other was during winter break). I ended up participating in both competitions, and I am so grateful for the experience. I wasn't particularly interested in joining my school's Mock Trial team, but I did the competition so that I could practice my public speaking skills. I did, however, want to earn a spot on my school's Moot Court squad, so participating in the 1L competition was basically my prerequisite for joining the team. A lot of 1L's did not want to participate in the Moot Court Competition because it was during winter break, and a lot of them later expressed to me that they regret not doing it. Trust me, these are opportunities you do not want to pass up on. Your grades are important, but so is getting experience and extracurriculars on your resume.
6. Ask for Outlines
You can look at commercial outlines or outlines from upperclassmen. As you begin to meet 2Ls and 3Ls, do not be afraid to ask for a copy of their old outlines. I personally preferred looking at outlines from upperclassmen, as opposed to the commercial outlines, because the upperclassmen have already been through the class with the professor you will have. The commercial outlines, however, are tailored to accommodate law students at schools across the country. It is important to remember that any outline that you receive should not serve as a replacement to the one that you create. You need to create your own. Looking at other outlines can help you decide how you want to structure your outline, but the entire process of creating an outline is what helps you do well on law school exams.
7. Ask for Old Final Exams
Most law professors will provide copies of previous midterm and final exams so that students can use them as practice. These old exams can typically be found through the school's library. Some exam questions will come with sample answers; however, most will not. I found that it was helpful to look for students who got high grades in the course during previous years, and ask for a copy of their old exam answers. Some students will happily let you review their old answers, but don't be offended if they say no. If you do not get a copy of a sample answer, it is still wonderful practice to complete the old exams under timed exam conditions. If your professor has office hours, they may be willing to read over your exam answers and let you know whether you are on the right track.
8. Don't Join Too Many Clubs
As an incoming 1L, you are probably eager to join a bunch of clubs. Do not do this. I repeat, do not do this. Why? Because clubs require commitment and commitment requires time. You will quickly learn that time is a precious and valuable commodity in law school. Instead of joining a bunch of clubs, I recommend joining 2-3 clubs that you are particularly interested in. Your goal in joining a club should be to explore your interests and be a member who is able to make contributions. If you become active in more than 3 clubs, you will become overwhelmed and unable to properly complete your school work.
9. Make Time for Community Service
As I mentioned above, your time in law school is a precious and valuable commodity. However, every once in a while you should try to block out time to serve your community. Some people choose to do community service because it is a requirement for some public legal service grants, or because they want to receive a public service award at their graduation ceremony. If you do decide to do community service, try to look at it as an opportunity to get to know the people around you, not just as a requirement. During the second semester of my first year, I was a weekly volunteer at Reading Partners, which was a wonderful experience. Sure, it helped round out my resume, but it also helped remind me that the world did not pause just because I started law school. If you choose the right type of community service, the time you spend serving others can also be a time of self-care for yourself.
10. Practice Self-Care
This is probably the post important tip. I feel like communities across America are having a "self-care" revolution. I don't know who started this revolution, but over the past few of years, I have heard a plethora of people from various industries express the importance of "taking time to indulge in self-care." The law firm that I worked at this summer repeatedly told the employees to practice self-care. Self-care can be anything, from going on a daily walk to going on a week-long vacation. The purpose of self-care is to allow you to detox from the stresses and responsibilities of everyday life, so that you can return to school or work with a rejuvenated mind and soul. As a law student, this is particularly important. Many law students choose to go to the gym for self-care. Other's watch Netflix during their self-care time. Whatever you decide to do for self-care, just make sure that you are making time to do it. Your first year of law school is going to be tough, and you need to maintain your mental stamina. Remember, law school is a marathon, not a race, so create healthy habits to maintain your endurance.
This blog post was much longer than I anticipated it to be, but I hope that you pulled at least one thing from this list that you were not privy to before clicking on my blog. I want to congratulate all of the 1Ls for making it to law school, and I wish all the best on your journey. If you would like for me to post a blog on a specific law school topic, please comment below. Oh, and please don't forget to subscribe! :)