The summer before my 1L year there was an entire list that I compiled of things that I thought I had to have for law school. Some of those things ended up being a great decision, others ended up finding a new home in the back of my closet. Hopefully your law school has presented you with an idea of some of the things you will need. I know some schools don’t do a very good job of this however, and many of them miss some things. So here’s my guide to the most important necessities that any rising 1L should have!
A hard working laptop
In undergrad I took all of my notes with pencil and paper. I never once brought my laptop to class or even outside of my apartment for that matter. In testament to that fact I’ll mention that my laptop didn’t even run unless it was hooked into a wall outlet. In my undergraduate institution all of my exams were still done on paper. Fast-forward that to law school. Not a single exam is performed on paper, all of them require you to bring your own laptop. Taking notes with paper? Good luck, the amount of information presented to you each class period is several times that of an undergrad class.
A well-running laptop is an absolute must have. If your running with an old, cheap laptop like I was in undergrad, its time for an upgrade. While your at it, check whether or not your school has any required programming. The only requirement my school had was that the computer be capable of downloading the exam-taking software.
Lots & Lots of Business Casual Clothes
There is no requirement that you have to dress nice for your classes. In 1L the most important this is excelling on the exam, and that often requires staying up very late studying. Professors understand that you are overworked and not paid (ha), and most don’t care when you show up to class in sweat pants and a “please shoot me” look on your face in the morning.
There is however a plethora of student events and activities that require you to dress somewhat more professionally. Business Casual is the name of the game in many of these circumstances, and you really will be looked down upon if you attend severely underdressed. So my advice is make sure you have an assortment of business casual clothes before you make the move to law school. Don’t worry about professional clothes that you might wear at an interview just yet, as I assume you will go home during winter break.
An Apartment Fit for a Law Student
My apartment has always been my favorite place to study even since undergrad. I’ve never liked studying in the library very much, and I realized a long time ago that you can get more done faster when you study alone. If your like me living in a major city with neighbors above, neighbors below, and neighbors on both sides, it can be downright distracting to try and study in your apartment. If you prefer to study in your apartment ask when you view the apartment about noise. A lot of older complexes have concrete between the apartments which acts as an excellent sound barrier. Some apartment complexes install carpet on the floors to reduce noise.
Something else you will want to confirm about a potential apartment is the wifi. Does the place come with wifi? What’s the quality of the wifi?
Bookbag with plenty of space, laptop cushion, rain protection
Law School textbooks are heavy, expensive and large. You need a large bookbag that can handle heavy books. Nothing is worse than finding out your bookbag cant handle the weight of your textbooks after the bottom falls out on the way to class.
You absolutely have to have a compartment for your laptop, but you also need more than that. Many bookbags don’t have cushioning for laptops or it’s skimpy. A good bookbag offers plenty of cushion for your thousand dollar laptop.
Depending on where your studying, rain resistant bookbags may be a necessity. I’m from North Carolina and we get a lot of rain. I didn’t have a rain resistant bookbag in undergrad and it could be a huge detriment. I remember one day I could have just left it open on the sidewalk so the birds could get a bath. You don’t need a waterproof bookbag unless your law school is in the ocean, but a water resistant bookbag can be very helpful.
Portable power pack
Speaking of bookbags, I purchased mine off of Amazon and it even had a space for a portable power pack! I didn’t think of it at the time, but it really comes in handy. Some days I’m at school and in the library for 12 hours or more. My laptop and phone begin to die eventually, and its so nice to be able to just plug them right up into my bookbag.
Good walking shoes
Moving to the city for law school? Buy some great walking shoes, I’m talking the very best reasonably priced walking shoes you can find. I never lived in a heavily urbanized area prior to law school, and let me tell you my adidas walking shoes may have saved my life. The very first week of living in D.C I walked more than I walk in three months back home. There are plenty of reviews online of what urbanites consider to be the best walking shoes, I would check them out.
Coffee mug/caffeine pills
I get it not everyone in law school drinks coffee. However if you’re a member of the 99% that will drink a coffee pot or more in a single day, I advise that you prepare accordingly. I bought a nice travel coffee mug off of Amazon when I started law school and its worked wonders. I also keep a pack of caffeine gummies in my apartment.
I admit it I’m a caffeine addict, but I regret nothing and have no intention of quitting whilst I am expected to study well into the night on a daily basis. If you can relate to this, I highly suggest that you ensure you have a nice supply of caffeine available.
School Organization Stuff
So the obvious one is some sort of weekly planner or at least a calendar. I never used one before law school, but I quickly learned that your juggling a lot of stuff and it really helps to try and organize it on paper. The less obvious one is notecards. I literally have bought well over a thousand thus far. They are extremely helpful to use throughout the year. I keep a stack at my work desk, and I just continuously add to them as the semester progresses.
A lunchbox could probably fit in with the coffee category here, because they essentially serve the same purpose. Saving you a ton of money so you don’t go broke from foods trucks and Starbucks. There is a delicious food truck that sits in my apartment complex parking lot during the week. If I walk half a block toward my school there are six more food trucks, and a very nice coffee shop. After checking my bank account two weeks into my first semester I learned that these things are temptations that must be resisted at all costs.
Having to refuse those delicious food truck 9 times out of 10 is a terrible burden, but you will have plenty of time to experience expensive food when you are a high earning attorney!
That’s it for my list of law school must haves. I’m sure that there are more that I could come up with, but these are definitely the biggest ones for me.