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Required Preparation for Entering Law School

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The time period covered by this article begins when you have received notice of your admission to law school and have responded that you will attend. It may be early in the calendar year, and classes will not begin until late summer. The weeks and months before you begin your actual law studies can be used to prepare for your law school experience.

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A. READINGS

Reading about the law and the study of law can be helpful to you. This book is intended to be a guide for you, and we hope you will read it in its entirety before you begin your law studies and then reread relevant portions of it throughout your first year. In addition, there are a number of other interesting books about the law and the study of law that you would find helpful.

In addition to books about the law, you might wish to read some books that will introduce you to legal history and legal philosophy. You might find biographies of famous lawyers and judges or accounts of celebrated cases to be interesting. Newspaper reading also is important in order to become knowledgeable about current legal issues and controversies, pending legislation, and recent judicial decisions.

It would not be especially helpful for you to read legal treatises or otherwise try to learn the sub-stance of the law during this time. You do not know what topics your professors will cover, and legal education is not about memorizing legal doctrine. Instead, use your time before law school begins to read for pleasure and for background information. Once school begins, you will have little time for reading other than for your classes.

B. VISIT YOUR LAW SCHOOL

If at all possible, visit your law school sometime before you arrive to begin your law studies. While there, it would be instructive for you to visit one or more law classes if school is in session. Usually, the admissions office is able to work out class attendance arrangements at least on certain days of the week. Explore the campus and discover what university and law school resources are available, such as medical clinics, athletic facilities, and bookstores.

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In addition, you should visit the law school admissions office to get the information you will need for registration for the upcoming school year. If your law school has assigned you a faculty advisor, this would be a good time to meet with that faculty member and introduce yourself. Talk with current students about their recommendations regarding housing, restaurants, and any other questions you may have.

You also might find it helpful to browse through the law library and learn where the various materials and departments are located. You should check out the various reading rooms, tables, and carrels to identify a quiet study space where you can study after you begin law school. You also can acquaint yourself with the circulation policies, library hours, and computer and copying facilities.

C. OTHER PREPARATIONS

Other ways in which you can prepare before law classes begin include visiting a courthouse and ob-serving a trial and talking with lawyers and judges about their work. You also can ask for their tips about the study of law. This is a good time to wind up all of your current commitments so that you will not be distracted by them after you start law school.

Most of all, during the months before you begin your law studies, you should rest up and prepare yourself physically and mentally for an intensive experience. Take time to pursue activities you en-joy-see a movie, read some books, and spend time with family and friends. Establish an exercise and recreation routine that you can continue after starting law school.

D. ARRIVING AT LAW SCHOOL

If you are traveling to another city for your law studies, you should plan on arriving some days in advance of the date for registration. You will need time to find a place to live and to make all the other necessary living arrangements. Your law school may have dormitory rooms available for first-year law students, or you may decide to live in private housing. In either case, you should look for a place close to your law school that is quiet and does not have a lot of distractions. You will be spending a great deal of time in your law library reading materials, oftentimes late into the evening, and so you should minimize the commuting time between home and law school.

If it is possible, take your spouse or partner with you to visit the law school, classes, and campus, to provide that person with a better understanding of what your life as a law student will be like. If you have children or other people for whom you provide care, work out a system for caring for them before school begins. After school starts, there will be enormous demands on your time.

Check the postings on the course board at your law school to determine the books you will need for your courses. Sometimes, that list is available in your law school bookstore. In purchasing your books, be sure to get the correct edition of the casebook, which may be available in used condition, as well as information about any book supplements. If you buy used books, try to find relatively unmarked ones so that you will have enough space to make your own annotations.

Many of your professors will post a reading assignment for the first class. You should identify the place in your school where class assignments are posted and look for your assignments in the days before classes begin. You should read all of the material that will be discussed in the first meeting of each of your classes in order to get off to a good start in your studies.

E. COMPUTERS

One final subject: should you purchase a computer? As a member of the information age, you probably have developed computer literacy by now. You will find a computer to be very helpful in your legal research and writing. It will help you organize your class notes and prepare a course outline. You can use it to type your writing assignments. Your law school may provide you access to online legal research services, so that you can do legal research from your home. Subject to your law school's exam policies, a computer also can be very helpful to you in writing your exam answers under the strict time limitations that apply.

If at all possible, we recommend that you purchase a computer if you do not already have one. If you need to learn how to use it, that would be an excellent use of your time during the weeks before the start of law school. If you do not purchase a computer, find out whether your school makes computers available to students. If so, start learning how to use those computers. You also should investigate the software that is available for briefing cases, creating course outlines, and organizing class notes and research.

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