Today we welcome 2L student, Daniel Higgins, with his advice on prepping for the next few weeks before your 1L year.
The summer before law school can be full of anticipation, anxiety, excitement, and many other feelings. Students are coming from out of state or relocating to Oklahoma City, and a lot is happening before school starts. But there are things that you can do to prepare yourself for the upcoming year even before you start.
(1) Create a budget for the year and borrow responsibly
One of the biggest concerns for many incoming law students is, “How am I going to be able to afford school?” While some students have scholarships, grants, or otherwise, many students are going to be taking out student loans to pay for school. Whether or not you will be taking out student loans, you need to create a budget for the upcoming school year and the following summer.
I’ve found that the best way for me to start a budget is to list off the expenses that I expect to incur over the year. These expenses include tuition, school fees, textbooks, school supplies, room and board, clothing, health insurance, and anything else I can think I may need over the next year. I also like to include some extra spending money. Budgeting a little extra money to go out to dinner or make a trip home is a great way to relieve stress. From there, I consider how much money I’m going need to meet these obligations. Applying for loans can be a stressful process. If you feel overwhelmed or need additional information, the Oklahoma City University Financial Aid Department is there to help. They are available for quick calls, or you can schedule an appointment to go and meet with them. All of the discussions that I have had with them usually take about 15 – 30 minutes to get me the information that I need.
Just remember any money you borrow you will have to pay back. So, while you are in law school, it is better to live like a college student and not as a lawyer and to borrow responsibly.
(2) Read what to expect your first year
Before starting my first year of law school, I found a lot of material online about the conditions of your first year in law school. The articles and blogs that I found varied widely. Some told horror stories about people ripping out pages of library books containing the information about the course that you were looking for or other similar stores. While this may be true in some law schools, I’ve never found that at Oklahoma City University School of Law.
There are two books that I would recommend. First is “Law School Confidential: A Complete Guide to the Law School Experience: By Students, for Students” by Robert H. Miller. Recent law school graduates from around the country wrote this book. The students provide a variety of testimonials about first-year courses, reading cases, briefing techniques, and other information you’ll need for your first year of school. I found one of the highlighting methods to help improve my understanding of what was happening in the case.
Second, is “1L of a Ride: A Well-traveled Professor’s Roadmap to Success in the First Year of Law School” by Andrew J. McClurg. This book is written by a current law professor who has taught at a variety of different law schools. He gives a perspective of the first year of law school from the standpoint of a law professor. McClurg discusses what kind of habits and techniques he sees from the students who do best in his class. And spoiler alert, attendance is one of the most significant factors to a student’s success! Even if you don’t want to purchase these books, the Chickasaw Nation Law Library at Oklahoma City University have these books available to all students.
(3) Create a Schedule.
Law school is VERY different from undergrad. Many of the students coming to law school were able to breeze through classes with minimal effort, but that will not be the case in law school. You may not have assignments that you need to turn in every week, but the professors require class participation and preparation for each class. Time management is critical.
Every law student has a method to manage their time while in law school, but you must create a schedule for the semester, which fits you. My first semester (and still today) I treated school as a full-time job. I planned to spend at least 40 hours per week working at school. To build my schedule, I start by putting in my classes into my calendar. Next, I block out my time for reading, briefing, outlining, and any other obligations. The first semester you will be in class for about 12 hours each week. The additional 28 hours can be used to do the work required for class or to prepare briefs and outlines. If you can create and stick to your schedule during your first semester, then you will be setting yourself up for success!
Your schedule is something which can change throughout the semester. Be sure to re-evaluate it and make sure that you are spending enough time on each class and are understanding the course. You can also meet with Academic Achievement Department to help you come up with a schedule.
In conclusion, enjoy the last few weeks of summer and try to start law school refreshed and ready to tackle the challenges ahead!