Take 5 Steps Over the Summer to Prepare for Law School

US News

You mastered the LSAT, perfected your applications and will start your first year of law school this fall. Congratulations! But the real work has just begun.

Your first year, or 1L, grades are critically important because law firms and public interest organizations interview you in the fall of your 2L year for summer internships. Those internships often turn into students' first full-time positions after law school, and those hiring decisions are typically made based primarily on 1L grades.

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There is a great deal that you can do this summer to alleviate much of the stress during your first year of law school. Below are five ways to prepare for law school that should make your law education more successful and less stressful.

1. Learn 1L material before you arrive on campus: It may seem strange to learn concepts that will be covered during your first semester before setting foot on campus as a student, but many future law students choose to take a course specifically geared toward prepping them for their 1L year. The more deeply and precisely you understand the material, the better you will do academically because 1L classes are based on a forced curve -- your grades depend specifically on your performance as compared to that of your peers.

Jeremy, a student of Stratus Prep's summer program, earned a 3.9 grade point average at Fordham Law School and then was admitted to Columbia Law School and New York University as a transfer student. The two schools even competed for him by offering him more and more coveted 2L law firm interview slots. He chose Columbia and is thriving there. Jeremy attributed his unheard-of 1L success to his summer efforts.

When evaluating pre-law summer programs, find one that is taught by graduates from top law schools as they will give the real inside scoop on how to succeed. Some programs use law professors to prep you for the 1L year which is of much less value because they often give students many of the same suggestions as their own law professors. Why pay twice for the same advice?

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2. Practice reading: You will be assigned significant reading throughout law school, often hundreds of dense pages per week. In college, some students got away with skimming (or skipping) the assigned reading, but in law school, you need to do all of the reading and fully understand the concepts because you are often tested on concepts that were included in the reading but never discussed in class.

Consider taking a speed-reading course. Be sure that the course focuses on how to absorb information efficiently, rather than how to read as fast as possible without fully digesting the material.

3. Make a study plan: Since you are graded based solely on a final exam, procrastination represents a serious risk and is the top explanation for poor law school performance. Create a plan to avoid this temptation.

A couple of weeks before you start classes, make a plan or calendar that will keep you on top of your studies: reserve time for class, at-home reading and outside activities. You can always amend it once school starts and you have a more concrete idea of your time commitments.

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4. Seek advice from current and former students: Current students or recent graduates know what you are about to experience better than anyone. Advice from recent law school students will be infinitely more valuable than that from individuals who graduated 20 or more years ago as law school has evolved significantly.

If you made any contacts while you were visiting campuses or have friends who recently finished their first year, check in with them. Thank them for any previous information they have offered and ask if they have any additional thoughts to share.

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5. Enjoy your last taste of freedom: Keep in mind that you are about to enter perhaps the most stressful year of your life. Don't forget to spend some of your summer with family and friends, enjoying activities about which you are passionate.

How are you preparing for law school? Let me know in the comments, email me at shawn.oconnor@stratusprep.com or contact me via Twitter at StratusPrep.

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