Congratulations on being accepted to study law! It is an amazing effort to make it through, especially with so many applicants these days.
A common question from prospective (and anxious, nervous, terrified etc) law students is what should I be doing to prepare for law school. Not only that:
- What can I start reading now to prepare for my first few lectures?
- What legal principles should I start learning?
- Are there any important concepts that I should be familiar with as a 0L?
- How can I get ahead?
In my opinion, you don’t need to do much to prepare for law school. Just relax and enjoy this time before the work begins.
Just take a moment to breathe before law school begins
The answers to the above questions are: nothing; no; no; and at the end of the day, you can’t.
Instead, just take a big breath and relax during these last few weeks of freedom! You’ll learn everything you need during the next few years and there is no real need to start preparing now.
You might hear stories of people reading entire textbooks before a single class starts. Don’t let this worry you; even if this is true, it is completely unnecessary (and a little bit sad). Besides the fact that it is rare that an entire textbook is needed (lecturers will pick and choose the topics to be covered), it just isn’t going to get you that far ahead.
I didn’t know a single person who could stay on top of their readings for law school, so reading a textbook during the last few weeks of your holidays just isn’t a very good way to spend your time.
What can I do then?
Prospective law students, being the enthusiastic (read: competitive) people that they are, will nevertheless be dying to do something.
Here are some short lists to consider. Don’t go overboard.
How to prepare for law school – legal cases
Reading a few cases before you start your law degree is a great way to get a feel for how a judgment is written. Don’t go overboard and take notes; just read through and enjoy.
If you are particularly enthusiastic, see if you can identify where the judge explains:
- the facts of the case;
- what the law is (and possibly what it used to be); and
- how the law applies to the specific facts of the case.
R v Brown  1 AC 212 – Assault is a crime; but is it still a crime if you give consent? While this provides for an interesting legal issue, most people will remember this case because of the fact scenario, where consent was given to “assault” during sadomasochistic group sex (Google this – you should be able to find the judgment on the first page of the results).
Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain v Boots Cash Chemists (Southern) Ltd – Many people believe that if a supermarket displays a product at a certain price, then they have to sell it at that price. Well, legally they don’t, and this case explains why. Nerdy, but interesting.
you can also check out my post on the freeman on the land movement for a few amusing cases.
Mastering Law Studies and Law Exam Techniques by Richard Krever is a great book for an overview on how to study law. It also includes some practice questions and example answers, which can be helpful to see what sort of work you will be required to do during your study.
Don’t bother buying it; go to your future university (or any university for that matter), find the book on the shelf and find a seat. This is a nice way to kill some time leading up to the start of semester. You will also get a feel for what the law library offers in terms of resources.
Forums and blogs
Forums can be a great source of information, however, beware the self-selected bias of posters (that is, many people post on forums to vent about their problems, so it can sometimes seem like everything is doom and gloom, and being a lawyer is the worst thing you can do in your life).
With that in mind, have a look through the following:
- Whirlpool – search for “legal” or “law” in the education sub-forum.
- Top Law Schools – Great forum for general information. Just remember that the American legal industry is in an atrocious state, which is why there is so much negativity here.
See our post on You’ve entered law land for a list of the top legal blogs in Australia.
How to really prepare for law school – TV series and movies!
We’re really into time wasters here, but as I said, you will learn everything you need at university, and you should be using this time to relax. Here are a few ways to do just that.
- Suits – Completely ridiculous and unrealistic (eg other than being occupied late at night, there is nothing believable about Harvey’s office). Very entertaining though.
- Rake – Rake might be the anti-Harvey Specter, his office is not nearly as impressive, but given the level of substance abuse in the legal profession it is a lot more realistic. It is also an amazing Australian series (the first season is, anyway).
- The Barristers – Follows four students trying to pass the bar in the UK, and shows how much work is required to make it in the legal industry (note that the UK industry is more difficult that Australia at the moment). Check youtube for the four-part series.
- Gideon’s Army (2013) – This film/documentary about three public defenders in America has some really good reviews. I prefer corporate law and wouldn’t rate it as highly, but to each their own. It can be purchased at the film’s website here.
- Michael Clayton – I think it has something to do with a lawyer, but all I remember seeing was George Clooney’s face for two or three hours. That may or may not work for you.
- Unraveled (2011) – A movie about American (ex)-lawyer Marc Dreier who stole $700 million from his firm and clients for a prestige fueled binge. Great film and great editing. He is a total idiot though.
- Better Call Saul – I don’t like it, but he’s a lawyer…
What about something a little more serious?
If you want something serious to consider, then you could start by thinking about possible places to volunteer during your law degree. Many students will volunteer to build up skills and put their legal theory into practice. Take a look at my post on volunteering here.
If you have any interest in commerce or the business world, I would encourage you to learn about commercial awareness, and start putting some steps in place so that you are commercially aware by the time you finish your degree. You can read more about this here.
The period before starting law school is great. You will be excited and enthusiastic. You can read a few things here and there to get an idea of what it is you will be studying, but remember that you don’t have to do much to prepare for law school; just enjoy this time and don’t take any preparation too seriously.If you found this helpful, please share it around!