Waiting for law school to start this fall and wondering what you should be doing to prepare? Here are my top 7 tips for using your pre-1L summer to prepare for law school success.
I encourage you to get physically fit and healthy, play, rest, challenge your brain, get organized, prepare others and prepare to win the law school mind game.
1. Get physically fit and healthy
Spend the next month or two getting in shape and eating well. Pick an activity that you can continue during law school. Do not pick something too time consuming (your time will be limited). Do not pick something too physically dangerous (imagine law school with a broken wrist or on crutches). Pick an activity that you find enjoyable and set reasonable goals. Commit to eating healthy now, and by the time law school starts it will be a habit. Begin thinking about how you can incorporate healthy eating into busy schedule.
Maintaining balance during law school will be hard, but it will be far easier if you are already settled into a fitness routine and healthy diet. The first couple months of law school are intense and even the most centered students will struggle to maintain healthy habits. Commit to your health now and steel yourself against 1L chaos. Students who start law school fit and healthy are less likely to get sick.
Play now. Play hard. And get it out of your system. When law school starts you’ll need to buckle down. You can (and should) have fun during law school, but odds are you won’t have nearly as much time for play as you do now. So play now and be prepared to dig in and work hard.
Catch up on your sleep. Figure out how much sleep you need each night to be fully rested, and make sleep a priority. Law school is exhausting, so plan to start law school without a sleep deficit.
4. Challenge your brain
Before I started law school, several attorneys and law students recommended that I spend my pre-1L summer reading fun and frivolous novels. In my experience, that was awful advice. From the moment you walk into your first class, you will be expected to read, synthesize and analyze complicated legal opinons and then engage in rigorous discussion and debate about those decisions with your professor and classmates. Doing that after three months of beach novels would be like running a marathon without training. Not easy, not wise.
Instead, I recommend that you find interesting, but challenging intellectual pursuits. All the better if they have some relationship to your impending legal studies. I recommend nonfiction books on U.S. history, economics, politics or law. In my view, books with a macro perspective will be the most useful. For example, a book that I recently read and thoroughly enjoyed is Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World by Niall Ferguson. Ascent of Money provides an historcal account of the evolution of money and details how financial history intersects, and often drives, politics and law.
Logic games and word puzzles, as well as many board games can also be good tools to sharper your analytical skills.
5. Get organized
If your space is disorganized, it can be harder to focus. I recommend spending the next several weeks getting organized. The recent post on Getting Things Done (“GTD”) contains great tips on organizational strategies. They are also time savers and can be tremendously useful during law school.
6. Prepare others
Most law students drop off the social, family, and civic radar for extended periods of time during law school. Prepare your network for this absence. The intensity of law school can strain even the best relationships, so be proactive and forthright with your friends and loved ones now. Let them know what law school is going to be like. Tell them that they can support you by giving you space or helping you with commitments unrelated to law school.
This tip is particularly important for those of you who are in a commited relationship with a non-lawyer. Your partner will not be able to relate to law school and it is therefore your responsibility to help them understand what the next few years will be like. I recommend setting expectations before law school starts. If you are particularly worried about how law school will impact your relationship, find a mentor who has been through it.
7. Prepare to win the law school mind game
This tip is significant enough that I have an entire post on it. Here are the highlights of that post:
One of the most important pieces of advice I received during law school was: “first, win the mind game.” To do this, remember what you know, prioritize something that has nothing to do with law school, make a plan and stick to it, and limit talk of law school and exams. Read the full post: Winning the law school mind game.