GUEST BLOG Stephanie Baldwin, 1L at the University of Arizona
Right now, I am on spring break at home reading, outlining, spring cleaning and trying to catch up with non-law school friends. What a difference a year makes! Last year, I spent March traveling to admitted students weekends. My journeys took me to New York, Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, Tuscaloosa, Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Tucson. I remember trying to make my final decision about where I wanted to attend school and was looking for tips to help me prepare everywhere. Since most 1Ls are on Spring Break, this blog is for you 0Ls. Here are some Dos and Don’ts to help you prepare for your 1L.
If you are still deciding on a law school:
Don’t take school rankings too seriously
As many of you know, the US News 2020 Law School ranking has been released. My advice — do not base your decision on school ranking alone. I was SHOCKED to get feedback that one of the top schools I was considering going to wouldn’t have much pull in the state I decided to practice when I spoke to local attorneys and judges. They advised me that unless I was going HSY (or should I say YSH), I should go to a school in the market I wanted to practice. This was a wake-up call and ended up being a deciding factor for me.
Do visit every school you are seriously considering.
A school I thought I would love I hated, and a school I thought I would hate, was a near perfect fit. You never know until you visit. Remember that most schools offer a travel allowance to attend admitted students day, so be sure to inquire about this. Try to stay an extra day to get a “real” feel for the school and talk to students. I would ask current students “What is one thing you wish you knew before starting at this school.” Their feedback helped me get a good feel for the program, learn more about the surrounding area, and see if the school was a “good” fit.
If you’ve already decided on a school:
Don’t forget about overlooked law school expenses.
No surprise, law school is expensive. Even if you received a full-tuition scholarship, be prepared for extra expenses. You might still be responsible for school fees which could be $1,000 or more each semester. Law School books can range from $1200 a semester if you want to buy new, or your books can be as cheap as $200 for a semester if you decide to rent them (like I do). Being prepared for these extra expenses greatly helped me adjust my budget.
Do apply for additional scholarships.
Check your law school for any specific scholarships that might be offered that require an additional application. You will also want to look at your undergrad scholarship website for smaller scholarships and fellowships. You can often sort by “law,” and you’ll find many law firms offering scholarships valued at $200-$1000 or more. Also, do not forget to apply for more significant scholarships like the One Lawyer Can Change the World Scholarship offered by BARBRI for incoming 1Ls.
Get Ready for School:
Don’t freak out…
First, congratulations! You are going to law school! Nervous? Excited? Slowly freaking out? STOP! It will be ok! Enjoy your own spring break this semester, travel and relax over your summer break. It will be the last time you really have any downtime for a while, and you want to walk into law school refreshed!
Do spend some time preparing
While this topic is highly debated, I believe you should relax AND prep for law school. I spent my summer relaxing and getting into the right frame of mind for school which included attending a BARBRI Law Preview session in Chicago and reading “1L of a Ride.” For my Law Preview Course, I chose the 6-day program, which included a legal writing and research day.
For me, Law Preview was the final step in confirming that law school was the right path for me. The intensive program introduced me to basic concepts of each of the core 1L courses plus taught me how to brief a case, create a study schedule and how to do legal research. This was invaluable for my first semester, as it allowed me to start school feeling confident. If you are interested in attending a Law Preview class, be sure to apply for a Law Preview scholarship!
If you’d like to learn more about my Law Preview experience or how I decided on a law school reach me @The1LLife on Twitter or Instagram.