Five Things to Know About Preparing for Law School

By Jeff Becherer, Associate Dean for Admissions and Professional Development

5 Things to Know AboutI get asked all the time by incoming law students and their advisors, “What should I do during the summer to prepare for law school?” Here is what I* recommend, in order of importance:

1. Recharge your batteries. The best thing you can do is to ensure that you’re rested and ready to engage when law school begins. Once it does, you’ll have less time for activities outside of your studies. So catch up on sleep, exercise, travel, enjoy your hobbies, and spend time with the people who matter most to you.

2. Get organized. Try to put your personal life in order and eliminate distractions so that you’ll have time to focus solely on law school. This means addressing any financial aid issues and budgeting for the academic year (and beyond). It also means having honest conversations with your loved ones about how limited your time will be and how they can support you. If you’re an evening student, this means developing a plan with your employer to ensure you are meeting your professional and academic obligations. Finally, do your best to complete any major milestones related to your job, housing, and/or personal life.

3. Read for fun. Spend time reading for comprehension and to think critically about a text. The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Economist are great options that are likely to expose you to a wide range of legal issues. But specific topics are less important than developing a reading habit generally, so feed your brain with information on any topic that interests you! For law-related books, Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, Anthony Lewis’s Gideon’s Trumpet, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, and Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s My Beloved World are sure bets.

4. Read about law school. You’ll learn everything you need to know once you get to law school, and diving into the substantive matter ahead of time could be counter-productive. That said, I recommend a few titles that focus on the critical reading, planning, and organizational skills that will help you be successful in law school: Ruth Ann McKinney’s Reading Like a Lawyer, Jane Grisé’s Critical Reading for Success in Law School and Beyond, Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Peter Brown, et al., and Expert Learning for Law Students (third edition) by Michael Hunter Schwartz and Paula Manning.

5. Explore the profession. Develop a deeper sense of what lawyers actually “do”! This can be done in any number of ways, namely speaking to lawyers about their jobs, shadowing lawyers at their jobs, observing lawyers in court (most courtrooms are open to the public), and reading local legal publications (e.g., the New York Law Journal).

Editor’s Note: “Five Things to Know About …” is a law school admissions-focused series authored by Associate Dean Jeff Becherer. Pre-law advisors and prospective students can reach out to him at jeff.becherer@nyls.edu or 212.431.2888 for printable resources. Pre-law advisors can also contact him to receive NYLS’s Pre-Law Advisor Bulletin, offering admissions-related tips and events.

*This was a collaborative effort. Thanks to my NYLS colleagues, Professors Ross Sandler and Kris Franklin, Assistant Dean for Academic Success Paulina Davis, and Assistant Dean for Academic Planning and Career Development Courtney Fitzgibbons for their contributions to this article.