The Briefcase Diaries

10 Essential Things to Do Before Your First Day of Law School

It’s the first week of August, and your first day of law school is only a few weeks away.  To savor the last days of summer while preparing for the new school year, here are ten essential things to do before the semester begins.

  1. Get the right book bag

The right bag to carry your books in law school is essential.  Should you get a regular backpack, a rolling back, a tote bag, or a brief case? It is really up to you.  While the “perfect” bag differs for everyone, here’s my advice for law students in New York, especially those in the city who will be taking public transportation: Get a bag that is sturdy, but not too bulky. Carrying two to three casebooks plus your laptop is heavy enough. Walking up and down flights of stairs in the subway and weaving through New York City’s morning rush traffic is another thing. Get a bag that will carry your books, but not weigh you down.

That being said, be strategic about what books your carry and on what days. Most law schools in the city will have lockers where you can keep your books. Whether you store your books in your locker or not, think ahead about which books you can take home each day to lighten your load. For example, during my first semester, I had Contracts on Mondays and Wednesdays. I took my Contracts book home every Wednesday to avoid carrying ALL of my books every Friday. Small “think-ahead” steps can help avoid back-pains and physical fatigue, which can give you the mental clarity necessary to study.

  1. Make sure your laptop is in good working condition

Laptops are becoming increasingly popular, and almost necessary, for law students. Nearly all students at my law school took their exams on their laptop.  Many students also use their laptops to take notes during class if their professors allow it. (However, taking notes by hand is still prevalent and beneficial.) So, ensuring that your laptop is in good working condition will save any potential headaches during the semester. You will likely spend hours writing memos and briefs on your laptop.  If you choose to take your exams on your laptop, you will likely download your school’s exam software.  While I do not suggest buying a new laptop unless it is absolutely necessary, it is still a good idea to take care of these technicalities now rather than in the middle of the semester.

  1. Order your books.

It is not too early and not too late to purchase the books you will need for each class.  Casebooks can be very expensive, and you may want to get an idea of the book buying options now while you have time.

  1. Have a suit and professional attire ready.

You will need a suit for various networking and class events in law school. Even during my first semester, I was required to dress professionally about three or four times.  Get the suit and shoes now to avoid rushing to buy one after class.

  1. Get your pens, highlighters, notebooks, and folders

Law students can be particular about their school supplies. If you’re eager to get that new set of pens or highlighters now, go for it.  Having that special pen or highlighter can make hours of reading and taking notes more enjoyable. In addition to writing utensils, you will likely need some folders or a binder to keep important handouts from class.

  1. Have a planner, calendar, and/or planning system

The most important advice I received before my 1L year was to stay organized. There will be a lot of due dates coming your way both in your individual classes and for your school.  Make sure all those dates are in your calendar.  I also advocate having a planner or a planning system where you can organize your daily and weekly tasks.  There are countless types of paper planners and planning apps available.  Do a little research, and find what works best for you.

  1. Get familiar with your school’s neighborhood, and know your commute.

Get acquainted with your school’s neighborhood now.  Find that coffee shop to go to before class.  Also, be familiar with your commute.  If you’re in the city, know where the closest subway is, along with a couple of train or bus options.

  1. Buy any essential home supplies

From your first week of orientation until your last final in December, you will be busy—probably busier than you’ve ever been.  Even if you have a day off from classes or studying, you will probably want to spend that day relaxing.  So, take care of any important matters at home now.  Stock up on essential home supplies now.

  1. Have a place to study

That being said, get your study space together at home. Designate a place in your home for studying and storing your books.  It does not need to a huge space–we all know that New York City apartments are tiny.  But even if you plan on doing all of your studying in the school library, you’ll want to set up a desk and place to keep your books at home.

  1. Enjoy your last weeks of summer!

Your first semester of law school is exciting, inspiring, and a lot of hard-work. You may be anxious to jump right in, but enjoy your time off now while you can.  Spend time with your family and friends. Get enough sleep, and get ready for an incredible first year of law school!