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#DearFindLaw: Prioritizing Assignments, Unexpected 1L Necessities

By William Peacock, Esq. on August 08, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019
#DearFindLaw - Advice for New Lawyers and Law Students from @FindLawLP

What's up readers? Welcome to another edition of #DearFindLaw, an advice column for all young lawyers and pre-lawyers. (We recognize that the past few weeks have been all law school, all the time, but optimistic starry-eyed 1Ls are our favorite people, and they ask more questions. If you're a post-L and have a question, just hit us up on Twitter.)

What's on tap this week? One of our regular readers wants to know how seriously he should take his first 1L assignments (every assignment is life or death!), while my soon-to-be-1L brother is packing his car for the move and is curious about unexpected necessities.

Prioritizing Assignments

New Hampshire v. Winstead? The old: "Can I drive drunk if I'm not driving?" I always thought it was stupid that one could get a DUI while sleeping off the booze in the car -- a wiser move than driving. Yeah, the engine was running, but dude, it's New Hampshire. #coldworld

Anyway, when it comes to prioritizing your 1L classwork, here's how I would rank things:

  1. Anything listed as part of your grade on the syllabus (exams, papers, etc.);
  2. Anything your professor will be reading, regardless of grading (papers, memos, etc.); and
  3. Reading for class.

For the first month or two, do everything in your power to, well, do everything -- you learn something by briefing every case, reading every word, etc.

But as the semester rolls on, and writing assignments roll in, you may have to prioritize. At that point, Google case briefs if you're short on time, just in case you get cold-called.

And, of course, the most underrated piece of advice: Go to office hours with intelligent questions. Going just to put in face time will be transparent, and your professor has probably already grown to hate gunners, but if you have read the material and have actual, intelligent questions, good teachers love nothing more than an engaged student.

Going solo out of school? Spend more time developing practice skills and leave the marketing work for the experts.

Unexpected Law School Necessities

Alrighty, so, my dear brother wants to know what non-obvious necessities he should purchase for law school. The key here is not obvious, so laptops, casebooks, etc. are out of bounds.

Coffee paraphernalia is key, including a drip machine for marathon study sessions and maybe a French Press for when you're feeling fancy. My editor recommends carrying a BPA-free stainless steel travel mug, and I couldn't agree more: You don't want to pay $2 a cup for campus coffee (typically gross).

Also, highlighters. A full rainbow of highlighters. Everyone has his own strategy for breaking down cases, but one of the more common ones (which I used for the first few months of school), was to color-code the sections: green for facts, red for reasoning, orange for holding, etc. This makes reviewing while outlining, or quick glances during a cold call, a lot easier. Add professors' comments about a case in the margins with a pen.

Finally, another one from my editor: Amazon Prime. Such a great suggestion. Heck, to this day, I still use Amazon Prime, and for students, as a six-month freebie (and discounted for years after that), it's a no brainer.

Free two-day shipping means you don't have to wait five days, or keep items in your cart until you hit the "super saver" minimum for free slow shipping. And when it gets cold in Louisiana (does it even get cold in Baton Rouge?), you'll be glad you don't have to make a trek to your nearest big box store. Plus, Amazon's prices are almost always the cheapest.

How about you, dear readers? Disagree with my prioritization of assignments? Have any unexpected necessities that my brother should nab before school starts? Tweet us @FindLawLP.

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