Told y'all I have lots of amazing guest posts planned coming up! Today I'm super excited to collaborate with a fellow law school blogger on how we're preparing for a new year of law school.
PS -- Find more from Heather and other law school bloggers in our group Pinterest board!
A little about today's writer Heather from Justifiably Blonde...
School: Syracuse University College of Law
Minor: Political Science
Minor: Political Science
As a 1L, everything is fresh! It’s a clean slate when it comes to academics but that doesn’t mean that you can just glide through 1L year. It’s actually the complete opposite. It’s time to buckle down and give it your all, all the time. One thing to keep in mind is that law school – studying, class prep, note taking, outlining, reading, briefing, etc. – is entirely subjective. You have to do what works for you & keep in mind that what may be successful for your peer – say studying with a flash cards – may not be what successful for you – you do better with outlines. In this post, the authors of Brazen and Brunette (BB) & Justifiably Blonde (JB) have teamed up to give our readers advice, from a 1L & 2L perspective, on how to prepare for the years to come.
What does a typical schedule look like?
JB: Here is my class schedule for the fall semester:
I’m someone that needs a set schedule for everything, so once my schedule was released, I started to plan out how I wanted the week to look. For example, MWF are great days for me to get all my work done since my class load is light. But one thing that really stuck with me from orientation was making sure that I take time for myself- ex: A stress reliever for me is the gym, MWF will be good days to not only get work done, but also take time to do that. Another thing that my mentor suggested was taking a day completely off from law school. I like this idea and I want to fit it into my schedule to help me wind down at the end of the week.
Syllabi – More than just a piece of paper with the class policy.
JB: First and foremost - PRINT THEM OUT. The first thing I did when my syllabi were released was print them out and then actually read them. It seems like a no brainer, but at first I was just skimming through my Torts syllabus but I realized my professor included useful information that I never found in my undergrad syllabi. For example, he talked about how if I am ever unprepared for class email him before hand to let him know. He won’t hold it against me and won’t call on me for the day. If I fail to let him know, and I come unprepared, that’s when it can be considered unprepared and a loss of participation points. Little things like that are extremely useful and unless you read through the syllabus you’d never know.
BB: The first thing I do once I get the email saying that my professors have been uploading documents is go straight for the syllabus and then get OCD with it. I’ll pick a color for each class and try to make them match (like purple for property) and use this to color code everything. Not all professors make their syllabi the same way so I like to copy the dates over onto a plain Word document and add the color-coded class name at the top so that they all look the same. I’ll use this same color-coding for when I’m writing down my reading assignments in my planner.
You have the syllabus, now how far ahead should you plan?
BB: As a 2L I strongly suggest that you don’t plan out too much reading in advance. If a professor gets just 2-3 pages behind every day for several weeks, then your planner could be up to 20 pages off by the end of the month. I usually spend a little time every Sunday updating my planner with that week’s readings.
JB: I’ve been planning a little differently, I write things down in two places – my desk calendar and my planner. Once I got the syllabi for each class I made sure to write down whatever important dates were available; mid-terms, assignment due dates, final exam, in both places. I haven’t really color coded my classes when it comes to my planner rather I’ve done it with other things like designating blue to torts so my notebook, folder and the tabs I use for readings are blue and so on for other classes.
I made sure not to get too far ahead with readings because like Nikki said, not everything goes as planned. So I think I’ll be going about a week at a time with what reading is due that way I don’t get too far ahead and forget what’s going on.
Where did you get your books and how much did they cost?
BB: I actually just recently purchased my books this past week because I somehow forgot that those were a thing with all of the excitement of transferring. One down side to transferring is that you never know how many hours of a class a school requires, and unfortunately that means I’ll be taking another LRW class and a Negotiation class to catch up.
I’m being optimistic and assuming that these will be my lighter reading classes so I saved money and rented them used. In fact the only book that I felt like I actually had to buy was my Wills and Trusts book, since it was the only casebook required. In case you’re wondering, here’s the price breakdown of all the books I’ve had to get so far:
LRW: $110 (saved $35 because I still have the Blue Book I bought last year)
Commercial Law: $46
Wills and Trusts: $254
I’m just throwing this out there that if we can have a “tax free weekend” to buy school clothes and supplies, then books should count too because I paid like $50 just in tax!
JB: So unlike Nikki, I didn’t have the chance to purchase my books beforehand. My class schedule wasn’t finalized until the first day of Orientation so I had no idea what books I needed. I opted to do the pre-pack through my school for the first semester because I was nervous that I wouldn’t have my books in time for classes on Monday. It was one less thing I had to worry about but the downside to this- it’s expensive. I made sure to get used books but I am regretting that decision for my torts book because someone went ham with a highlighter and now I’m having to go over it - It’s a bit distracting. Here's the breakdown:
Civil Procedure Torts LCR Contracts
Casebook: $174.75 Casebook: $180.00 Casebook: $230.00 4 books: $138.44
Supplemental: $49.00 Supplemental: $ 21.00 Supplemental: $47.00
Total: a whopping $840.19 – aka I’m broke.
Wait… There’s homework for the first day of class?
BB: If you think the first day will just be a professor going over the syllabus and that’s it, you’re in for a fun surprise lol. Go ahead and assume that your professors have posted reading assignments for the first week already and get started on that. If you can’t find these, it might be safer just to double check with your professor before showing up without reading.
JB: I couldn't agree more. DO YOUR READINGS. But that alone isn't enough. You need to engage with the text - Highlight, make notes in the margins, write out briefs, take notes on what your reading, ask questions as you go. Be prepared to read things more than once, I haven’t even started classes yet and I already have noticed that I need to read things two or three times to even attempt to understand what in the world is going on in cases.
How will you take notes?
JB: This completely subjective but keep in mind that if you take notes on laptop – like I do – not all of your professors will allow the use of laptops. MAKE SURE YOU READ THE SYLLABUS TO FIND OUT & PLAN FOR THIS. So for me, using a laptop to take notes is easier because I can type faster than I write so I find that I get more out of my class notes. The downside – your laptop can be such a distraction. But if my classes are anything like my Orange Edge class, there isn’t enough time to do internet searching while actively paying attention and taking notes.
Is there anything else you think is important?
BB: Budget - With every new semester I like to create a new budget. I look at what I stayed on budget last year and what I went over most often, and use that to create a new budget and spending goals. Last Fall I somehow forgot that I would need to make my 9-month school budget stretch a full year through the summer. This meant that during Spring I had to cut spending a lot to cover those costs, so just keep that in mind this semester. The very last thing you want is to have to take out another loan midway through a semester because you blew through all your money too fast
Update Resume - Law school doesn’t kid around, and pretty soon you’re going to be preparing to apply for summer internships. While you’re too young to participate in the fall on campus interviews (2Ls and 3Ls only), you still need to be getting your résumé updated. If you had a job over this summer you can add that, and if not you can at least add that you’ve graduated and are now going to law school. The American Bar Association actually doesn’t let full time 1L’s work their first semester, but if you’re feeling confident next spring you might could look around for an easy part-time job on campus so you might as well do that now while you’re getting everything together.