10 tips for law school
So, you've finally finished college and are preparing to start law school. Congratulations! Law is a challenging and exciting field, and you'll enjoy studying it. But they don't tell you everything you need to know in orientation. Here are a few tips and inside secrets to get you off to the
right start at law school.
Prepare To Be Mystified:
When you first get to law school, professors will inundate you with dozens of new terms, concepts, and ideas. Part of what law school does is alter your view of the world to make you "think like a lawyer." So, it's likely you'll spend most of the first month or so a little confused, wondering if you're comprehending anything and whether you made the
right choice. Stick with it! After a few weeks things start to sink in and you won't have this problem anymore.
Learn the Lay of the Land:
Before your first day of classes, take a couple of hours and familiarize yourself with your new neighborhood. Locate the grocery stores, drugstores, parks, and other commercial and public facilities you'll want to use. Law school's enough of a challenge; don't make it even harder on yourself by trying to find the supermarket for the first time at 2:00 a.m. after you've been studying for six hours.
Similarly, take some time one day and learn the layout of the university. Don't just limit yourself to the law school building; find the campus's administration building, library, student union, and other key locations. After all, you may need a book from the undergrad library someday.
Prepare Your Spouse:
If you're married or have a "significant other," prepare him or her in advance for the law school experience. Not only are you likely to have less time to spend with him or her during the next three years, your personality will probably change, at least a little. You'll become more picky, more precise, more argumentative. If your loved one is ready for this, it will have a lot less impact.
Meet the Librarians:
The school's law librarians know the library and its resources better than you ever will. At the first opportunity, introduce yourself and get to know them; you'll find them a big help when it comes time to research your first legal briefs and position papers.
A Helping Hand:
Law school bookstores sell many different "summary of the law" products, study aids which boil down the essentials of each area of the law into an easy-to-study format. Law professors often discourage students
from buying these, but you should check them out and see if they're the sort of thing that might help you. Sometimes you'll find them easier to understand than the reams of material in your textbooks. Don't substitute them for the reading your professor assigns, but use them to supplement your primary reading.
Rules, rules, rules:
Almost all law students have to study something called "civil procedure" in their first year. This course introduces you to the rules for preparing and conducting trials in federal court (and, in many cases, state courts as well). Pay attention! Unless you plan never to enter a courtroom during your legal career, civ pro is one of the most vital courses you'll take in law school. You'll win or lose many trials not before the jury, but in the pretrial maneuvering and that's governed by the rules of civil procedure.
Use and Abuse of Computerized Research:
The two big legal research services, Westlaw and Lexis, offer their databases for free to most law school libraries. The intent here is to get you "hooked" on using them, so you'll turn to them in private practice when they charge you hundreds of dollars an hour for the privilege. Even the largest law firms don't use computerized research casually, because it's so expensive; small firms may never use it. So, before you learn the wonders of the computer, learn to do legal research the old-fashioned book way first. You'll thank yourself in years to come.
Lawyers say that, "In law school, the first year they scare you to death; the second year they work you to death; and the third year they bore
you to death." Don't think of law school as a Paper Chase-esque crushing
burden of terror-inducing academic work. Law school is tough, there's no
question of that, but it isn't that hard. Approach it as you would a job
apply yourself diligently, working at it eight to twelve hours every day,
with a little time off on the weekends, and you'll do fine. Panic and worry
will just impair your ability to do the work well.