From a reader who is going to be doing the summer start at Michigan Law School:
I read your most recent blog post about succeeding in law school, which scared me a little bit about going back to school after such a long break. Do you have any suggestions as to what I can do now to start preparing myself to be successful for law school? I'm just curious because I've got a lot more time on my hands than I thought I would at this point. Thanks for everything again.
Starting in the summer at Michigan is great for people who have taken some time off -- it will be just a tiny bit mellower than a fall start, since summer-starters are the only ones on campus for that semester. It also gives you a real headstart before other 1Ls show up -- you'll have had substantive experience already and will feel a little like the elder statespeople of the 1L class. (You'll also feel like the fall starters are invading your space, so try to minimize how territorial you feel... these are your classmates for three years to come.)
As far as ways to get ready for law school, I recommend reading well-written books about the law and the study of law. Not study guides to learn the black-letter in advance, since you don't know any particular professor's focus, but books like The Bramble Bush by Karl Llewellyn, The Nature of Judicial Process by Benjamin Cardozo (anything by Cardozo will show you what great law-related writing looks like, and really lays bare the internal process of one of history's great legal thinkers) and anything by Erwin Chemerinsky, Laurence Tribe or even Oliver Wendell Holmes. Some of these may seem antiquated, but really read and enjoy them -- they will go a long way to introducing you to a centuries-old learning process and way of thinking. And law school is all about learning to think... not necessarily "like a lawyer," which is the cliché, but learning to think in different ways -- recognizing how you think, how others think, and how you can take advantage of both what worked for you in the past and what others bring to the table.
Also, if you haven't done any writing in a while, just get reacquainted with that process. You will be writing at length in your law school exams, and you want to feel as loose as possible in this regard. Don't bother trying to write "legally" right now, just write in your own voice... it's the one you'll be using on your exams, no matter what anyone tries to tell you to the contrary.
I hope this is helpful, and Go Blue!
[Anna adds: We also recommend these books for pre-law prep on our Resources page:
- Benjamin Cardozo's The Nature of the Judicial Process
- Allan Farnsworth's Introduction to the Legal System of the United States
- Oliver Wendell Holmes's The Path of the Law
- Edward Levi's An Introduction to Legal Reasoning
- Roscoe Pound's An Introduction to the Philosophy of Law]
Any other books or tips we should be recommending? Please share in a comment.
Dan Goldman is the Legal Architect for Intellectual Property at LegalZoom.com. Dan practiced previously with the Los Angeles firms of Irell & Manella and Russ, August & Kabat. He graduated from the University of Michigan Law School in 2002 with honors, and is admitted to practice in California, the 9th Circuit, and the Federal Circuit.