I often have incoming law students ask me what they should be doing the summer before they start law school. You want to do well, and you may be concerned that you will be left behind if you don’t do something to get a head start. In response to those questions, here are 4 suggestions for things that you can do the summer before starting law school (as well as some suggestions for what not to do as well!):
1. Do some reading. But don’t read every book out there on how to succeed in law school. Many students think that they need to read as much as possible about law school and the subjects they will be studying. But there are three problems with that kind of approach. First, many of the books that are out there are written by people who were successful in law school themselves, but these people may not have any expertise in how to help other people be successful. Second, you don’t need to be an expert on the law before you even come to law school—if you did, law school wouldn’t be necessary in the first place. You could just study on your own and then take the bar exam. Third, students who try to prepare too much in the summer before law school often end up burning out because their brains are already tired before the first day.
So what should you read instead? Read for fun. Read those novels you haven’t had time to read because you were finishing up that senior project in undergrad (and won’t have much time for once law school begins). Read some magazines, or even some comic books! Have fun with reading rather than making it a chore. And if you really want to read something law related, still try to read books that are not too academically oriented. Everyone has their favorites, but here are a couple of websites that list some of the best law-related books: ABA Journal’s 25 Great Law Novels Ever, and 50 Greatest Legal Novels for Both Lawyers and Laymen.
2. Create a context for the things you will be studying in law school. Expand your understanding of the larger world, whether through travel, going to museums, reading and watching the news, or other efforts. Law is situated within the fabric of our society as a whole—its art, culture, political structure, debates, current events. The more background information you know, the more context you will have for the topics you will be studying in law school. And, as a bonus, it’s fun as well!
3. If you don’t already have one, develop a healthy routine to take care of your mind, body, and spirit. As I’m sure that you’ve heard before, law school is an intense, often stressful, experience. Developing the habits that you need to take care of yourself now will help you tremendously once you are in law school. What each person needs in this respect is different, although there are some common elements. Try to eat food that are good for you—what nourishes the body also nourishes the brain! Develop some type of exercise plan. For some people it may be running, while for others it may be yoga or swimming. Even if you just take a walk every day, you will be improving your overall health. You will be able to handle stress better, and it also can have a positive effect on your immune system. Law students often ignore their physical health because they are so focused on academics, but physical health can have a significant effect on mental health and academic performance as well.
4. Have some fun with friends and family. Law school will be a busy time, and you won’t always be able to spend as much time with friends and family as you would like. So take the opportunity this summer to have fun. Enjoy holidays like the Fourth of July with family. Have those cookouts, and go on those family vacations. Go to the movies. By spending time with your friends and family you will be communicating that they are important to you, even if you won’t have as much time to hang out with them in the Fall, and you will be recharging your batteries as well so that you are ready to hit the books in August!