Recently, a soon-to-be law student asked me this question:
I wanted to ask your opinion about how you would approach the months prior to your first year. Would you say that downloading some of the law school apps (for exploration and later supplementation) in advance would be a good way to start getting my mind [geared up for law school]? I worked at a law firm, I’m anxious to start looking forward.
Well, this blog isn’t really about law school prep, but, since 1) I did go to law school; 2) I survived; and 3) I’m now a licensed attorney, I think I might be qualified as an expert to answer this question. Plus, this is my blog, so I do get to pick the topics.
So, what to do?
First, congratulations on being admitted. You’re joining the ranks of a number of people with good intentions. Law school was a memorable time in my life, and certainly one of the best and worst times. Law school is not easy, but with dedication and discipline, you will survive.
Second, because each school is different, “one” method doesn’t work for everything. In general, I’d take your first few months of summer to relax. People told me to watch The Paper Chase. Skip that advice because law school is nothing (well, almost nothing) like the movie.
If you have some spare time between now and August, get your hands on a BarBri short outline. I’m not talking about the full-sized crap you get when you register for BarBri on your first day of law school, I’m talking about the lecture notes (like these), where some diligent bar-prepper filled in all the blanks. Nothing puts law school into perspective like the 6 weeks of BarBri lectures. Get copies for all of your basic topics: Civil Procedure, Contracts, Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, Constitutional Law, and Property. These courses suck because of the relatively-difficult material. BarBri is the $3,000, “Law School for Dummies.” Well worth the price. Casually read through the lecture outlines to help get your mind around the concepts.
Third, get yourself an Android tablet to supplement your desktop computer. I like my ASUS Transformer Infinity Pad, but I recommend the Google Nexus 10 or Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1. Sam Glover loves his Chromebook, which is a great device if you’re not too heavily dependent on physical software. Personally, I think you could get through law school without needing any installed software, relying on Google Drive, Evernote, and Dropbox for your tasks. Either way, get accustomed to using your device, and using it fast.
Fourth, practice taking notes at frantic speed. You might try transcribing television or radio programs (where several different people talk contemporaneously) to build up speed. Practice taking all notes, or selecting the very best ones. Your work in number 2 will help with number 4.
Fifth, time for the apps. Check out this post on Android apps for law students, and take advantage of cloud computing services such as Dropbox, Bitcasa, and Evernote. You’ll appreciate the ability to save your files, back them up, and not lose them because of a computer or hardware failure. You’ll appreciate that around finals time when you’re not begging for outlines or trying to recreate something from nothing.
Finally, if you force me to pick the top legal apps for law students, here’s my list:
- dLaw (free+) – a great resource for offline statutes, laws, and regulations. Tobias has done a good job of compiling a number of state and federal rules and statutes into this handy kit. You’ll probably want to grab all of the Federal Rules (included in the app), the Uniform Commercial Code ($14.99), and the Legal Dictionary for DroidLaw. You can find all of the BigTwit apps here.
- Law School Dojo (free+) – this series of apps is a fun and interactive way to get excited about law school, if that’s possible. I reviewed one of the Dojo apps, and we had a fun follow-up contest. You’re probably not going to pass your CivPro ($2.99) final just using these apps, but you can have fun in your preparation.
- The Law Guide/Dictionary (free) – not on my top 10 all time apps, but this is certainly worth the price, if you’re looking for a quick dictionary. No internet is required, so you can quickly grab an answer regardless of your connection.
- Fastcase (free) – when you’re not using your free Westlaw or LexisNexis, you’d better get used to using the research tool that many real lawyers use, courtesy of their state bar association. Learning how to research cases in Fastcase, Westlaw, or LexisNexis will help you when it comes time to your legal writing requirement. You can check out my review here.
- Push Legal (free) – this app offers statutes and case law, similar to Fastcase, and will allow you to get information quickly. This app integrates with Google Scholar, which is one unique feature that the other apps don’t have. I reviewed this app awhile ago.
After all that, it’s your responsibility to achieve.
Image: Douglas Whaley