Start-up essentials for law school: Your 1L shopping guide

AdobeStock_129534067-1500x630 (1)

GUEST BLOG Makenzie Way,
1L at the University of Pennsylvania Law School

So, you decided to become a law student … now, what do you need to buy in order to fit the mold?

While there, of course, is variety amongst us law students, some items seem to be a common amid the masses. With that in mind I’ve compiled a list of the most popular law school items – consider this your 1L Shopping Guide.

  1. Highlighters … highlighters … and more highlighters
    In undergrad I owned two highlighters, both yellow, any more would be overkill, right? Wrong. When case briefing it’s suggested you use a minimum of five different colors for facts, procedural history, issue, holding, and the decision/dissent or concurrences.
  2. Pens AND Pencils
    I’m a pen person, but during first semester I had to get back in the habit of using pencils.  When you rent your textbooks (because it saves you a ton) they generally don’t appreciate margins filled with permanent notes, thus you’re encouraged to use pencil. Furthermore, I had a process of taking my notes in pen, and then during review adding afterthoughts in pencil within the margins so as to separate my ideas.
  3. Notebooks or loose-leaf
    College was a time for many of us where we threw paper to the wind and adopted a purely technology-based system of note-taking. Law School brings you back to the stone ages and, in the majority of classes, prohibits the use of technology. Thus, be prepared to take your notes by hand, and since there are a lot of them, may I suggest purchasing a separate notebook for each course.
  4. Water Bottle / Thermos
    Not only is water essential for your health, it’s also useful when you’ve been called on. If you’ve ever watched professors or professional speakers, you’ll notice they always, without fail, have a water bottle near to ensure they never end up with a raspy voice due to a dry throat. In law school, you’re essentially being put on stage when you get a cold call so it’s always a good call to have water nearby. One smart move I’ve seen many students make is purchasing a dual bottle/thermos so they always have the option to switch to coffee or tea when fatigue hits.
  5. Binder
    Again, back to high school, we go. Case briefing for class (which you should do if you want to be prepared) means you’re printing out 1-6 pages per class, per day. Don’t be stuck shoving those valuable notes in your backpack to become crumpled, lost, and unorganized. Some opt for a small binder per class, but warning you will need one that’s larger than 1”. Personally, I went the one binder, individual tabs route to save myself space.
  6. Heavy Duty Backpack
    Casebooks are heavy. You’re $10 Wal-Mart no name backpack, or even your cute but flimsy designer bag is not going to do the trick – for us girls, using a purse is also a no go. You need a backpack that is not only sturdy enough to support the weight, but also one that’s comfortable – since you’re lugging it around – and that has enough space for your books, and pockets for your pens, highlighters, water bottle, etc.
  7. USB
    A USB is really never a bad thing to have on you, especially in a world where you’re constantly reading case briefs, and researching. Though most schools allow you to sync your laptop with the university printers and provide you access to on-campus computers, it never hurts to have a USB handy for the times when the school system is down and your forced to run across the street, or use someone’s personal printer.
  8. The Bluebook Online
    I believe every law school requires you purchase the Bluebook for legal citing purposes – if yours doesn’t you should 100% pick up a copy. Though I do believe you should own a hard copy, I have also discovered the joys of the e-version. Unfortunately for us, purchasing the hardcopy does not grant access to the online version, thus you’re forced to shell out more money to own both, but trust me it’s worth it.
Scroll to Top