Five Important but Non-Obvious Things to do When You Start Law School

Five Important but Non-Obvious Things to do When You Start Law School

There's a ton of (virtual) ink being spilled these days over what to do as a new law student. Everything from "buy all your books and read ahead" to "hire a tutor to explain the Rule Against Perpetuities." (I only wish I was making that last one up. For the record, don't do it.)

Since I don't like to be boring, here are a few less obvious things you can do, to make your life easier and better later on. Trust me, I learned most of these the hard way!

Set up automated backups on your laptop. Seriously, if you only do one thing before law school starts, do this. Have you ever lost years of work in a hard drive crash? It's a nightmare. Imagine you're a week from exams, and your computer dies, taking EVERYTHING you worked on all semester with it. DO NOT let this happen to you. Go to Dropbox right now, and sign up for the free version. Make a folder called "Law School" and add it to your Dropbox. Save every file you create in law school there. Presto, problem solved. You can thank me later. (I don't care if you use Dropbox, but it is really easy. Use whatever you like, but do something. I'm paranoid enough now that I back up to Dropbox and to an external hard drive, but that's probably overkill.)

Compile contact details for every job you've ever had and every place you've lived as an adult. Chances are good you'll need this info when you submit your bar application. Yeah, really. Every address since you were 18. And every job you've ever had. Some states require actual contact info for your old bosses, so go ahead and compile this stuff now. It's going to be even harder in three years! (If you can't remember all your old addresses, download a copy of your credit report. They have everything.) While you're at it, you may as well see what you need to do to register for the bar exam in the states where you want to be licensed. Some of them give a discount if you do things your 1L year!

Sign up for a PE class. You've no doubt heard that law school is like high school. Here's one more way to make it so! Find a local gym, and sign up for a weekly (or bi-weekly) class or sports league. If you don't have your law school schedule yet, at least get the gym class schedule and think about what you might want to sign up for. Why a class? Because you're more likely to go if you've committed to a specific time and place! And, seriously, you need to get some exercise. Sitting around all the time is really bad for you, mentally and physically. And you'll get some social interaction, which is never a bad thing!

Find three places to study that are NOT the law library. There will come a time when you can't stand to enter the law library. (For me, that day arrived about two weeks into the semester, but your mileage may vary.) Go ahead and scout out at least three alternative locations where you can study. Maybe it's a coffee shop, maybe it's a different campus library, maybe it's your kitchen table. Whatever, just find some nice places, and make a mental note of them. Then, when you can't stand to be around your classmates for another second, you'll know where to go.

Do not sign up for a bar course. This might cause some controversy, but I'd encourage you to resist the pressure to immediately commit to a bar course. The bar exam is three years away. You haven't even started law school. How can you possibly know what kind of class is going going be most suitable for you? You can't. There's new stuff popping up all the time - maybe by the end of your law school career someone will have come up with a way to just implant all the knowledge you need! Do you want to miss out on that? I think not. Save your money now, and decide later what you need.

So, there you have it! If you only remember one thing from this list, back up your files! You don't want to be like this guy.

Alison Monahan is the founder of The Girl's Guide to Law School and a co-founder of the Law School Toolbox. A 2006 graduate of Columbia Law School, she was a member of the Columbia Law Review, a Civ Pro Teaching Assistant, a Kent Scholar, and a Stone Scholar. After law school, she clerked in the District of Massachusetts and was a BigLaw patent litigator for two years. Now she helps other aspiring lawyers get into law school, get through, and stay true to themselves in the process. 

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