Author: Nancy Levit and Douglas O. Linder

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The Summer Before Law School

Concurring Opinions is pleased to welcome this guest post by University of Missouri – Kansas City Profs. Nancy Levit and Douglas O. Linder, co-authors of the recent book “The Happy Lawyer.”

So you’re going to law school this fall.  Congratulations!  Getting in wasn’t easy. Last year 155,000 people took the LSAT. The 201 ABA accredited law schools across the country received about 88,000 applications.  Only 49,700 students matriculated.

Obviously you’re a hard worker (or you wouldn’t be coming to law school and you wouldn’t have read past the first paragraph), so you may be wondering what you can do the summer before to prepare yourself for law school.

First, let’s get the legal disclaimers out of the way.  There are no guarantees, warranties, or promises of any kind; there is no magic bullet for preparation.  There are, however, a few tips toward a happier and more productive beginning that we will offer you.

  1. Get Situated

More than one-third of you will be going to law school in some place other than your home or college town. It is important to have housing set up so you can move in at least several weeks in advance.  Find the stores you’ll need, arrange your banking, stock up on supplies and grocery staples. Students struggle when they land suddenly in a new town and promptly start law school. Law school requires more focus than other forms of education. It starts immediately, and is difficult at first because students may be called on to speak in class or have writing assignments due.  If you get behind in the first few foundational weeks, it will take a lot of work to catch up later.  In undergraduate lectures, you were free to fall asleep perusing Facebook.  Not anymore.

A colleague of ours, Dean Barbara Glesner Fines, has posted her wonderful Orientation speech online, emphasizing that there are better and worse times to begin law school, and the worst time to start law school is at the same time that you start (or end) a marriage, or have a new baby, or are newly diagnosed with a chronic illness. In other words, any time you’re facing significant personal challenges.  Arrange for your law school computer or any upgrade at the beginning of the summer, so you have plenty of time to become familiar with it. In short, get the distractions out of the way.

Related to the issue of getting situated is the idea of establishing residency for both bar and tuition purposes, depending on your state’s and your school’s rules. Top-Law-Schools.com has posted a guide to “Law School Residency Issues by State,” covering 23 states.

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