Originally published -
I have spent a lot of time recently reading Law School prep books. It has gone from a sincere desire to learn to a newfound respect for reading. Prior to this spring, I had not read a book besides a scientific text or manual for several years. I have learned much about myself as a reader by re-opening the book. Specifically, I now pay more attention to the “voice” of the author, trying to picture them saying what they are expressing through the text. With podcasts, it’s even easier to hear, and Law School Toolbox is one gem that I have found.
The podcast is hosted by Lee Burgess and Alison Monahan, who are both experienced as lawyers and are now in more instructional roles. Yes, it has great advice about the material in the Law School curriculum, but I find the best advice to be related to what goes on in parallel with academia, the quest for internships and jobs. It has given me a better sense of the expectations and common pitfalls as a perspective and/or associate in the field. Several seem to be specifically related to mistakes summer associates make, and it reinforces the gears that need to get turning in order to work with high-powered partners.
The show emphasizes being authentic, and the hosts are pleasantly open and honest about the realities of being human. We all do make mistakes, but we can try to be the best we can muster. I think that these two things combined, being the best version of your authentic self, is a good lesson, and one that I have put more thought into recently. Allison had previous experience in programming, writing code, which is what I do currently until I start school in the fall, so that is one way that I can connect more with the experiences.
Law School Toolbox isn’t all soft skills though. They do an excellent job giving practical tips about topics such as what to buy before going to school, and maybe more importantly, what not to buy. After reading a couple other prep books, I had my Amazon cart loaded up with primers for each of the classes that I speculated I would have. The podcast discussed the variability among different professors as to which primers they would recommend, outside of a couple mainstays. I rethought my strategy, and after seeing the one that I did end up getting (Torts by Glannon), I don’t think I need to worry about getting it finished before I get to school.
The show also recommends great life-management skills that I find very helpful. One that reminds me so much of the tools that we use to manage software projects is Trello. If you do have a background in Software Development or Project Management, Trello is extremely similar in functionality to JIRA. You create tickets for each of the different tasks you need to perform, and then track the progress of each task with different lists indicating things like “To Do”, “Doing”, “Done”. This was a great tip for me, and it is a good one to start using before you even get to school. I transferred a to-do list that I had made into Trello that contains all the tasks I need to do to get ready for the fall semester. Having everything in one convenient location, and a level of organization for the madness that is everyday life is relieving to me. Calendly is also a great recommendation. Along with this kind of stuff, Allison and Lee dive into law-related tools such as CALI and Westlaw.
The episode that I was listening to on my commute from work today was called “How to Issue Spot an Exam Question”, and I was impressed by their ability to break down the exam problem in a podcast format. I had actually been skeptical about this episode just because it seemed like it would be hard to analyze a problem like this through a radio show, but it was probably the most engaged I have been for one of these simulations. Unlike the example that I mentioned in my review of Planet Law School 2, which made students cry during the real exam period, the example outlined in Law School Toolbox seemed pretty textbook for a Criminal Procedure class. I’m not saying this is necessarily better, as the wacky fact pattern in PLS 2 was quite entertaining to think about, but the one presented in the show felt much more valuable. It was also nice to hear the interplay of ideas between the two in certain controversial aspects of the case, and I think it shows the type of dualistic reasoning that is going to aid us as exam-takers.
The show also promotes the Career Services department, which is also a really great thing to get prepared for. Looking back at my undergrad, that was probably the resource that I most underused. In one of the episodes, one host says something like “there are students who run into the Career Services Office only when it is desperately short on time, and then say ‘I need a job, how do I get a job now’”. This sadly summarizes my experience with the career services at school. The fact is that learning to make the best use of these services takes time.