August 18, 2017

What's in My Law School Backpack

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I officially start my last day of school on Monday 😱 but that hasn't stopped me from getting all packed and ready now (I'm that person who is completely packed 3 days before the flight). As I was running around my apartment trying to find all of my supplies and pack them just right, I just was so giddy I figured I should write a post about it!

The big things

Every single morning, I make sure to throw my laptop in my bag. I've had my MacBook Air since college and it's my whole world. It has my notes on Evernote and my case briefs on Quimbee. I love how light and thin it is so it doesn't take up much room in my backpack.

The next important thing that every law student always needs is your books! I seriously can't stress this enough because I know in undergrad I rarely took my book to class, but in law school if you don't have your book then you might get kicked out of class. To save my back, I only keep the books for my next one or two classes. My 1L year I kept my spare books in my car and made a quick trip between classes, and my 2L year I kept the extra books in my study carrel.

I personally prefer to take notes on my laptop, but I've come to find out that it's common for law professors to ban all electronics for their classes. If I get more of my notes information from class than my book, I'll bring a Cornell Method notebook and usually I'll write down the black letter law on the small side and the rest of the class notes on the big side. If I get more of my notes information from my book than my class, I'll just bring my padfolio because it's just enough paper for me to keep my quick notes and has slots for handouts.

And of course I always have my planner in my backpack. Law school has seriously turned me into a planner addict and I'm always finding new ways to use it to keep my life organized. TBH, sometimes when a fellow student is going on a long-winded rant, I'll get out it out and start writing down to-do's that I need to get done after class!

Related: Law School Planner Reviews Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 (was not kidding about the planner addict part)

The little things

One thing that I use the most in every single class is my pencil bag. I always keep a set of pens in there, a few pencils with a giant eraser and extra lead, a small set of highlighters, page markers, a flash drive and of course an EOS egg. Truly I think this is all you need and I definitely use all of these at least once a week.

Because I always end up referencing my book in class, I'm extra and keep this bookstand in my backpack at all times. It actually frees up a lot of space on your desk and really helps your neck. The one I use folds up completely flat and takes up practically no room in my backpack.

I also keep a GridIt full of chargers for my laptop, iPad, and phone, and a pair of earbuds. This is sooo handy to keep everything from falling to the bottom of my bag and I've noticed that a few of my classmates have gotten some mid-semester after they notice mine.

I always bring a water bottle to class because True Life: I'm Addicted to Water. It's not uncommon for me to go through 24 ounces in one class, so I have to have a reusable water bottle that's big enough to keep me from having to leave class to refill it. My favorites are Tervis, S'well, and CamelBak.

I have a keychain wallet that is on me constantly that keeps my car, apartment, and carrel keys, student ID, driver's license, and debit card all together in one place. Since I have my whole life in one place, it'd be absolutely terrible if I lost this so I make sure that there's a Tile on there.

I used to keep a little makeup bag in my backpack, but once I got a carrel it just made sense to keep it in there since I usually don't touch up my makeup mid-class. I have this makeup bag that I keep full of ColourPop lip stain, Better Than Sex travel mascara, a few hair ties, a travel hairbrush, travel lotion, a Tide to-go pen, and Advil. I also keep a minimergency kit in my carrel just in case I need something quick.

The backpack

One thing I learned my 1L year is that you will need more room in your backpack than in college. I actually had to buy a bigger backpack in the middle of my first year because my undergrad one could only fit one or two books and that just wasn't cutting it for me. I don't worry about having a "professional" backpack because the only people who see my backpack are other law students and idc about impressing them. I've seen some people use a small backpack for their notebooks/laptops and a tote bag for their books, but I just can't do this because putting the weight of 5 books on one shoulder kills me. Another big plus for my backpack is that it's waterproof. Literally the worst thing that could possibly happen to you as a law student would be that your books and laptop get water damaged. I can't stress this enough to consider rain when getting a backpack. 

August 16, 2017

Using iPads in Law School

Laptop vs. iPad for law school: can you use an iPad for law school? Here's why I think you can use an iPad for law school and the iPad accessories for law school! Plus, how to get $300 off an iPad Pro AND get a pair of Beats Free! I also weigh in on iPad Pro vs. Microsoft Surface, and whether you can use a Microsoft Surface for law school. |

As a reiteration from last week— I love emails from y'all! Bare minimum they make me feel better about myself because even if I didn't get around to doing the dishes and I still have some readings to do, I can be like yeah well at least I helped a reader today and then I can count that as a productive day! Today's post is another answer to a reader's question about my thoughts on using iPads in law school.

iPad Pros and Cons

That's an iPad Pro pun, in case you didn't get that haha. Anyways, it's becoming a thing for people to use an iPad Pro in place of a laptop. In fact, my 1L year I remember a girl got started using one when we came back after Christmas break, and there was a guy in my family law class who did this too last year. 

One of the prelaw students that worked with me this summer has one and he let me play around on it so I could write this post. His was super helpful at work and I'm sure it's just as handy in class. I have an iPad Air and a lot of times will just bring that to class, so you don't necessarily need the big 12.9 inches. But either iPad is still cheaper than a MacBook. iPads are great because they're super light and compact, which is what you need because the last thing you want is anything adding any more weight in your backpack. And they can do a split screen just like a laptop so you can easily have a copy of your professors' slides pulled up on one side with your notes pulled up on the other. And if you get the Apple Pencil, then you can also draw any diagrams that your professor has used and have that in your notes. Another big plus is that if your school's wifi is every super slow, you can always just switch it over to LTE so you're not waiting. 

I will give you one big warning that you need to consider before buying an iPad for school. As far as I know, every law school uses Exam Soft for tests. Yeah that's right, in law school you can write your essays in a standard blue book or you can type them. Exam Soft is a program where you can download your test and only can enter the test during the time of your final, it shuts down everything else on your computer so you can't leave the app, and it will email your essays to your professor at the end. I personally prefer this method because I type faster than I write and I'm always running out of time for finals. But you need to know that Exam Soft is not available for an iPad. Ok, well technically iPads are compatible with Exam Soft, but your school would have to make an iPad-compatible test for that and I've never seen one do that so it's functionally not available. That means you'll either need to keep your old laptop and use that just for tests or borrow one from the library or hand write. Before you make the decision to get an iPad for law school, make sure you've got your back up plan set!

A note on eBooks

I've never used them for casebooks (which are basically textbooks). 1. I highly doubt you'll find them. 2. Most law professors don't allow any electronics in their classroom. 3. Sometimes they're actually more than a hard copy because you're paying the charge for them to digitalize it and rarely are ebooks available to be rented so you have to buy the full new price and can't later sell it. So I would only get a casebook on my iPad 1st if I had my syllabus and knew that my professor would allow this, and then 2nd weigh the literal costs and benefits of carrying a book versus having an eBook. 

But if in the end you decide it makes the most sense to get an eBook, I think it'd be perfectly fine. You should still be able to highlight and add notes on an eBook. 

But some books that I have gotten on my iPad were little books that I was required for class. This summer I took a nanotechnology law class and we had to read a fictional book that had to do with nanotechnology and then we had to represent a character from the book in a lawsuit. That book I did get on my iPad just because it was easier. I liked being able to search the whole book for a word I was looking for when I couldn't remember what page it was on and having all of my notes in one place. For another class we had to read this like 150 page book by a lawyer and that was another one that I just got on my iPad because we didn't have to bring it to class, we just had to know about it for when we took quizzes on it. 

How to make an iPad work for class 

If I were you, I'd get some accessories for your iPad. In college, I could get by with taking notes using the little keyboard on the screen because I had the app Swift Key. But in law school, that just won't cut it because professors go over a lot more material a lot faster so you need a real keyboard to keep up. I would for sure say that you'll want to get the Apple Smart Keyboard for your iPad so you have enough room to type (but off brands work too). 

Another thing you'll need is the Apple Pencil or a stylus. A lot of professors draw diagrams or illustrations on the board so that you can understand the concept better and it'll help if you'll be able to copy these down into your notes. Another great use for if is if you're a visual learner, you can draw out spider maps or flowcharts in your notes.

Probably the most important this is to always make sure that your iPad has power! One time in undergrad my iPad died mid class so I got out my phone to continue taking my notes on Evernote and my professor called me out for texting in class and I'm pretty sure he wasn't satisfied with my explanation on what I was doing. For sure always bring an iPad charger with you! But one thing that I've learned over the past two years is that the outlets that are built in to the desks don't always work. So if all of the outlets around you don't work, your iPad will definitely die if you don't bring a battery pack. I got this battery pack for study abroad because it holds a really long charge and is powerful enough to handle recharging an iPad.

Also, I would really download Evernote if I were you. This way, you can switch between taking your notes on your iPad and laptop and they'll sync automatically. 

What about Microsoft Surface?

I am an Apple fan because their shit lasts. I got my first MacBook my junior year in high school and it worked perfectly until I asked for the MacBook Air before my junior year of college because I wanted something lighter. I got my first iPad my freshman year of college and I kept it until my senior year of college when I got the iPad Air because again I just wanted something lighter. I gave my original iPad to my dad and he still uses it! Here's a great post about why another law school blogger switched from a PC to a Mac for law school

But to be honest, you totally can use a Surface just as well as an iPad for law school. My best friend has a surface and I actually wrote this post on it because my laptop died and I didn't have a charger. Keep in mind, though, that you need to make sure it's compatible with Exam Soft's PC requirements. If you were looking at a Surface solely for price, I hear ya, but just FYI as a student you qualify for Apple Education Pricing so they have iPads for up to $300 off plus they come with a free pair of Beats so maybe for law school it's worth the investment.