It is the summer before law school. You are on the verge of signing away a substantial portion of your free time for the foreseeable future.
You scoff at law school preparation.
“After all,” you think, “law school is going to be difficult enough. Why get myself all worked up before I have to?” You have made the conscious decision to invest any remaining free time before law school in nonproductive activities.
Then one evening, you get a call from a friend.
He is not a close friend and was always a bit of a sycophant to the professors in college. His voice is giddy with excitement. Your friend describes the week-long law school prep course he just finished.
“They had professors from Virginia and Michigan on staff,” he effuses. “They lectured for a week. They taught us how to study, outline and take exams,” he continues.
Almost conspiratorially, he whispers: “Students taking the course make Law Review.”
“They graduate cum laude!”
You can hear him breathing hard over the phone.
You punch “Off” on the television remote, silently cursing your friend, who has just interrupted a reality show confrontation involving four generations of Iowa hog farmers.
Nonetheless, you have to hand it to him. He certainly got your attention. Your throat suddenly feels a bit dry and a small swarm of butterflies just commandeered your stomach.
You listen carefully. He gushes on.
Every word brings a new wave of the winged insects, fluttering into your belly.
The Hype and the Reality.
Fear of the unknown, more than anything else, dominates the thinking of pre-laws and first-year law students. You can see it on a daily basis in social media, just before the law school admissions test. It begins the summer before law school and intensifies as the first day of school approaches.
And then, just as suddenly as it began, it comes to a screeching halt right after school begins. It starts all over again the next year, like clockwork.
Most 1Ls struggle with fear that entire first year. Fear can be an excellent motivator and cause you to work hard. This is important in law school and law practice. But unmanaged fear can paralyze you and actually worsen your performance.
Given the amount of energy, time, and stress involved in law school, the last thing anyone really wants to do is spend a time the summer before reading and thinking about it.
Some students avoid the fear. They simply don’t think about anything until the first reading assignments are posted. In college, summer was for fun. They figure that if they don’t think about it, they can avoid it.
This is a bad idea.
The reality. Law school is a different kind of learning. In law school, you learn by doing. It’s akin to on-the-job training. This is very different than the reading and regurgitation common to most undergraduate studies. Rather than regurgitating information as you do in college, law school exams require you to take what you’ve learned and extend it into new areas.
If you rely on your old undergraduate study methods in law school, you will likely find yourself behind the pack early on. It will be hard to catch up and make good grades.
Law school is hard. The grading curve makes it very competitive. You learn to think and speak on your feet. You learn to read dense, indecipherable materials. You learn to always see the other side of an issue.
The Socratic Method and the casebook prevail. In law school, textbooks become casebooks. You learn the law by dissecting many arcane judicial opinions. You learn the law and how to apply it to factual situations.
Most of us simply don’t have these skills when we enter law school. We have to pick them up quickly. Our grades depend upon it.
This is why you should spend a part of your summer preparing for law school. You’ll hit the ground running. You won’t get left behind.