This week we welcome guest writer Hillary Vaillancourt to talk about easing into fall semester after that summer off from law school.
Transitioning from summer break to fall classes has its challenges. For some, the summer was spent at a law clinic practicing one area of law or at an internship maybe touching on a few legal subjects. For some, especially incoming 1Ls, the summer may have been spent working a retail job or simply taking time off.
No matter how you spent your time this summer, law school will be a big change come fall. Even if you spent time practicing law in a clinic or internship, the type of cases you’ll read in law school and the subjects covered will likely be different than what you experienced over the last few months.
So how do you prepare for fall classes?
Organize Your Study Space
When I was in law school, I fell short time and time again in reviewing my notes until it was time to study for finals. By then, the material was cold, and I had to relearn it all over again. If I had a place where I could organize my notes after every class, a place to store my books properly rather than in a stack next to my bed, or a place to post notecards with valuable legal rules, I would have done better in law school than I did. Perhaps even more importantly, I would have saved myself a lot of valuable time trying to get reorganized before studying for finals.
Getting and staying organized from the very first day of law school will save you time, energy, effort, and make for a better law school experience. Plus, it will prepare you for the practice of law where organization will be key.
Brush Up On Last Year’s Subjects
If you’re an incoming 1L, you may not have taken many or any law-related courses, but you could always look ahead to first year classes and review professionally produced outlines, legal articles, or books on those subjects.
And, if you’re a rising 2L or 3L, looking back over the previous year’s class notes will help you not only get into an analytical frame of mind but also help keep the material relevant for you. Believe it or not, the bar exam will be right around the corner, and if you’ve invested the time to recall those bar exam subjects on a regular basis throughout law school, you will be ahead of the game when it’s time to prepare for the bar exam.
Read Legal News
This summer there has been debate about citizenship questions on the national census, abortion restriction challenges in numerous states, and issues pertaining to electoral map composition, all affecting or capable of having an impact on fundamental rights. And, that’s just to name a few stories circulating in the news.
Before you head back to law school this fall, take some time to catch up on legal news. Understanding current legal events and changes in the law will help you refine your analytical skills again. And, when you graduate, it will be your professional responsibility to do so. Why not get in the habit now while you’re in law school?
Reach Out To Your Professors
Your professors are an invaluable resource. They can provide job recommendations for you, give you insight into areas of law in which you might be interested, and help shape your study habits.
Further, developing a professional relationship with your professors will enable you to feel more comfortable when needing to ask questions or when being asked questions in front of your colleagues and classmates.
A week or so before classes begin, introduce yourself to your professors. Find out when their office hours will be and mark that time on your calendar so you always know when you can ask for help. Ask them about their teaching style. Discuss ways you can better prepare for their class.
Professors want to see you succeed. Many of them will be especially glad you took the initiative to reach out. And, you’ll be better prepared and more confident for the semester.
(Re)Connect With Your Classmates
For many, you may not have seen your law school classmates much over the summer. And, of course, if you’re a rising 1L, you haven’t met your new colleagues yet.
Spend some time now socializing with your friends and classmates. Reconnect with them in person if you can, and if not, say hello over social media or send them a text. While there will surely be time to socialize during the semester, you’ll want to be able to focus on your studies as much as possible. By getting the reunion out of the way early, you can get down to business a lot faster.
Plus, your classmates may also be a great resource for planning your attack strategy for the semester. Some of them may have had one or more of the professors you will encounter in your fall classes and could give you their unique insight. If you’re a 1L, some of your classmates may have legal experience that could benefit you.
By connecting with your classmates before the semester begins you will not only be better prepared to make your classes your top priority, but you may also develop valuable connections.
Prepare For Success
All too soon you’ll be sitting at a desk listening to your first law school lecture of the fall semester or hearing a classmate answer rapidly fired legal questions their way. Don’t wait until then to get organized or connect with your professors and classmates. Take the time now to prepare for the fall semester so that you can set yourself up for a successful academic experience.