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Law School Essentials 101

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Being accepted to law school represents a major accomplishment. It also represents a big investment in terms of time – three more years of classes! – and study sweat equity. As a student, you owe it to yourself to make sure you’re prepared to not only survive, but thrive, in law school. Having access to the right “tools” can help you become better equipped for the rigors of law school classes and, equally important, achieve a healthy work / life balance.

Consider the following tips to prepare wisely with proven law school essentials.

  1. Start with the basics.
    New terms like res judica, impleader, and demurrer are just the beginning of the mountain of new vocabulary words that you will need to master while plowing through hours of assigned reading. Relied upon by generations of law students, the Bouvier Law Dictionary and Black’s Law Dictionary, are great resources for learning the language of the law. Add either of these titles to your back-to-school shopping list to quickly locate and understand new terms.
  2. Consider the case for new vs. used.
    While it’s tempting to try to save money by purchasing a used casebook, you need to know that not all casebooks are created equal. That’s because many of the red print casebooks adopted by professors for first year law school classes are now available as Connected Casebooks. In addition to a new print casebook, a Connected Casebook gives you access to a fully functional e-book, practice questions and exercises from popular study aids, and built in tools for highlighting, note taking, and text search. Just think how convenient it would be not having to lug heavy casebooks to and from classes when you could lighten your load with a portable online e-book accessible from anywhere using CasebookConnect.com.
  3. Don’t wait to get study aids.
    Many students underestimate how hard law school can be. Even the best students need help at times that goes beyond dropping in on their professor or academic support staff during office hours. Many study aids are available to assist your understanding the law; take advantage of them.

    Among the best, especially early in the semester, are the Examples & Explanations (E&E), Emanuel Law Outlines (ELO) and Casenote Legal Briefs series, all of which support learning the law and lawyering skills in different ways. Providing an alternative perspective to casebook material and lectures, each E&E offers clear explanations of relevant topics, followed by hypothetical questions and detailed explanations, allowing you to test your knowledge. Each ELO contains comprehensive coverage of the topics, cases and black letter law found in your casebook, but explained in an understandable way. When learning how to brief cases, many students find the Casenote Legal Briefs series indispensable for its expert case summaries and comprehensive analysis of concurrences and dissents.

    E&Es and ELOs are available in a digital-only format in addition to the traditional print format. Each Connected Study Aid includes an online e-book with search, highlighting, and note-taking capabilities; access to an interactive Study Center filled with practice questions that allows students to track their progress; and an outline tool that compiles notes and highlights to help start a course outline.
  4. Have a backup plan.
    If you’re like most students, you’ll be relying on your computer to organize your notes and brief cases. Don’t risk losing this important work due to lost or damaged files, or a stolen laptop. Get into the habit of backing up files onto an external hard drive, or create a free, basic Dropbox account for that purpose.
  5. Feeling stressed already? There’s an app for that.
    Anyone who’s been there will tell you law school can be simultaneously exhilarating and stressful. From the challenges of adapting to the Socratic method of teaching used in the classroom to the seemingly never ending workload, students often report feeling overwhelmed. To cope, consider taking up meditation or another form of stress management. Cleveland Clinic’s Meditation iPhone app offers eight clinically proven relaxation techniques and is available for free download.
  6. Remember there’s more to life than law school.
    Pretty soon you’ll be on campus and busier than ever. Make a promise to yourself to say goodbye to the classroom and law library now and then to take a break and have some fun. Signing up for a gym membership or exercise class is a great way to recharge and restore work/life balance.
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