Filling a Goodie Grab Bag for my 1L Student
May 8, 2008 8:51 AM   Subscribe

1LFilter: My boyfriend's starting law school in the fall. What can I buy him so he'll be able to hit the ground books running?

I've bounced around on MeFi and found plenty of great suggestions on what to buy a law schooler for a graduation gift, and some good 1L advice, but nothing about what to buy a law schooler in advance of them starting their first year.

Any recommendations by way of books? Maybe a digital voice recorder? Office supplies? I'd like to but together a basket of stuff for around $100 or so. He's a bit nervous about starting and has been doing some legal-writing reading already, but if there's anyone out there with some concrete recommendations about what they wish they'd had in hand on their first day of law school, I'd appreciate it. I've got plenty of time to collect everything. Oh, and would I just be better off just getting him a nice (non-wheelie) bookbag?
posted by acorn1515 to Shopping (23 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Bookbag might be nice. Or a laptop bag. I bought a laptop sleeve so that I could put my laptop in my bag with my books.
Can he type quickly? If not, maybe a cheap software program to learn how to type.
posted by Shebear at 9:32 AM on May 8, 2008

Black's Law Dictionary.
posted by moxiedoll at 9:35 AM on May 8, 2008

In terms of supplies, tabs and highlighters are a 1L's best friend. Black's is a good suggestion too. I never did the voice recorder thing, but if he's not the best typer, that's an idea.
posted by harrumph at 9:40 AM on May 8, 2008

Black's Law Dictionary is unnecessary.
posted by subtle-t at 9:43 AM on May 8, 2008 [3 favorites]

Thumb drive. No one I knew did the voice recorder thing.
posted by Pax at 9:47 AM on May 8, 2008

I work in a law school, and this is what I see students favoring....

-W/R/T a bookbag, don't buy anything unless you know he wants it and its comfortable. At the very least, a nice laptop sleeve for protection. I love Radtech's neocase for its use-in capability
-non-spillable waterbottle (Sigg, Nalgene) and/or coffee mugs (OXO makes an almost-leakproof one). If the library forbids drinks, that's a good way to sneak them in ;-)
-a pound or two of his favorite coffee (or Starbucks card)
-USB key
-laptop security cable
-depending on his sense of humor, this t-shirt
-books: Law School Without Fear: Strategies for Success, 2d is a good one, and doesn't do much scare mongering as other law school guides. Also, my profession obligates me (haha) to recommend Finding the Law - if you learn even part of that book, it will put you miles ahead of your classmates when you get your first legal job.
-"coupons" from you for free backrubs, homemade dinners, etc.

On preview - seconding both the post-it tabs, highlighters and earplug recommendations, and the suggestion that the dictionary is unnecessary (law dictionaries will be available to him for free via Lexis and West). The voice recorder is also unnecessary, as some profs won't even let you record lectures.
posted by dicaxpuella at 9:51 AM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

A thumb drive or a DVR (if you think he'll use it). I never once used the Black's Law Dictionary I purchased my 1L year. I think the most bang for your buck would be to get him Gilbert or Emmanuel's outlines in the topics he's going to be studying first semester.
posted by thewittyname at 9:52 AM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

As far as books, the number one is Getting to Maybe. Right behind that is Law School Confidential. If he reads those over the summer, he'll know what to expect, and that's the biggest way to take that initial stress off.

I'd make sure he has a good backup plan for his laptop — something like Mozy, perhaps? My hard drive died on my last week, my own 1L exams are this week... without a backup, I would have been in serious trouble.

Does he know about LSD?
posted by electric_counterpoint at 9:58 AM on May 8, 2008

My first year, I used notebooks, pens, adhesive tabs, and a backpack. I didn't really need anything else. Things like hornbooks, etc. are a personal choice best left up to the student himself. If he uses a laptop, get him a laptop sleeve or laptop backpack. Second the thumb drive.

Maybe make him a nice "go get em" card and slip that into his bag ahead of his first day. If he's like me, he'll probably be unlucky and get called on/grilled the very first day of class. That would be a nice pick-me-up if he's nervous.
posted by pandanom at 9:59 AM on May 8, 2008

I used some legal terms flash cards the summer before starting. They were somewhat helpful. He will need Black's, as mentioned above. I also found Burton's Legal Thesaurus a good reference.
posted by Carbolic at 10:35 AM on May 8, 2008

Black's Law Dictionary is unnecessary.

I guess I should have expanded on my recommendation a bit more, because it's true that dictionaries are unnecessary nowadays. Actually, I suppose that the textbooks are also unnecessary, given that you could find out the names of the cases and get them online... but assuming that he's going to sit down with a big textbook of cases and try to plow through 100s of pages of unfamiliar terms (which, for me, required a quiet place without distractions - and the internet is a wildly dangerous distraction, for me) then a good old fashioned paper dictionary is indispensible.
posted by moxiedoll at 11:19 AM on May 8, 2008

If it were Mac compatible, I would currently be lusting after one of these for my classroom note taking. (Although it does exceed your budget by about $50.)
posted by j-dawg at 11:29 AM on May 8, 2008

Highlighters. You go through more highlighters than you ever thought possible, and they're not as cheap as you think. I really like Sharpie accent in the multi-color pack for book briefing.

He doesn't need a Black's Law.

Seconding the coffee travel mug. A nice travel mug is leaps and bounds better than the crappy (yet free!) ones that Lexis and West hand out.

The starbucks card would be good too, if there's one by campus.

Law School Without Fear is a pretty quick read and a good introduction to what law school's going to be like, how you can survive, etc. without a super-gunner overtone.

I also used a cookbook, I think it's called Six Ingredients or Less, something like that. It was a lifesaver--the motivation to cook at home is a lot higher when you can just open a page and you'll only need to buy, like, four things.

Law school's a bit transition, especially the first 1L semester. Good luck!
posted by lockestockbarrel at 11:30 AM on May 8, 2008

Oh oh, one more thing. If he doesn't have Microsoft OneNote, buy it. Even though it comes from Microsoft, it's insanely useful and I used it to take all my notes and make my outlines. It might come bundled with softwear now, but it didn't when I bought my laptop.
posted by lockestockbarrel at 11:32 AM on May 8, 2008

My husband just finished law school last year, but I remember 1L vividly... (ugh).

Nthing highlighters--all the law students I know use them to study, highlighting cases in one color, decisions in another, etc. Get a HUGE multicolor pack at someplace like Costco. I'm told the thick ones are better than the thin ones. I put a 48-pack of highlighters in my husband's stocking Christmas of 1L year and they all got used up. It may have been the most useful present I've ever given him, sadly.

Also nthing USB drive--perhaps one large one (1-2 GB) and several small ones, if you can find them. Some law schools ask students to write their exams--take-home and not--on the computer and save them to USB drives, to be turned in for grading. So he may need a few.

And for yourself, get some good books, a subscription to Netflix, and a bunch of dinner dates with friends--he'll be studying a LOT that first year!
posted by Ms. Informed at 11:56 AM on May 8, 2008

Seconding the purchase of a copy of Getting to Maybe. It was my favourite "how to" book during 1L.
posted by girlpublisher at 12:04 PM on May 8, 2008

If you're going with highlighters, go with these: the Faber-Castell textliner dry. Law books have very thin paper; highlighters dry out very quickly. Textliners are great. They don't leak, don't dry out; don't bleed; don't show through the back of thin pages. I love them. Levenger used to sell them, but not anymore. Some eBay stores and some art stores sell them. I horde my jealously.

The books I recommend to my legal writing students are: Writing to Win by Stephen Stark and the Laurel C. Oates series: Just Writing, Just Memos and Just Briefs (these may be assigned texts, however). I also encourage them to read Volokh's book about scholarly legal writing for students, but that's not a 1L thing.
posted by crush-onastick at 12:33 PM on May 8, 2008

I'm not being snarky - I've been a 1-2-3L and went through the bar exam daze. Having experienced that first-hand and being a guy, I can say with complete sincerity that the two most supportive things my wife did for me while I was going through law school/bar exam were: 1) the day she delivered a bag of freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies in my mailbox at the law school; and, 2) the non-legal briefs from here that helped relieve my law-school stress from time to time. Seriously.

Or you could get him a highlighter.
posted by webhund at 12:59 PM on May 8, 2008

Response by poster: Hey everyone, thanks for the great ideas so far -- feel free to keep 'em coming -- as well as the moral support for me!
posted by acorn1515 at 1:39 PM on May 8, 2008

For a contrary position, 1L just isn't that big of a deal. People inject all of this concern and significance into the experience which ultimately becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. It's not that hard, it's not that much work, it's nothing that a moderately thoughtful person can't handle. Hyping it up is not going to get anywhere and creating odd totems of highlighters and brieftaking is just going to make it worse. Maybe some people need this sense of dread and importance, but honestly, it's just school.

As far as books go, Black's is completely unnecessary, Getting to Maybe is decent but somewhat obvious, and I've never seen anything else that rises above the level of bad. I'd give him the same things you'd give him for his half-birthday.
posted by allen.spaulding at 3:49 PM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Bah. No Blacks. I never cracked that thing all through law school or in several years of practice.

Frankly, I'd give him something completely unrelated. 1Ls stress WAY THE HELL TOO MUCH, and he should enjoy his last few months of freedom by doing something fun, and completely unrelated to the law.
posted by paultopia at 5:34 PM on May 8, 2008

Nthing no Blacks. Seconding Getting to Maybe, and DEFINITELY "How To Find The Law." Also, I hate those #*$(( wheelie bags. You get students who look like they're about to head to the airport, and the NOISE, and they can't be arsed to pick them up and climb a flight of stairs...

Um. Yes. Also, "Law school exams : preparing and writing to win," by Charles Calleros. Man, I wish I'd known about all this stuff before I went.
posted by cereselle at 8:46 PM on May 8, 2008

Seconding "Getting to Maybe." Don't bother with Black's, it'll just gather dust. Also:

(1) Glannon on Civil Procedure - CivPro is non-intuitive for many people, and this book is pretty much the golden standard for civil procedure.

(2) Volokh on Academic Legal Writing - it's billed as a law review / seminar papers book, but it's an excellent introduction to legal writing in general, especially if he has not done any legal writing before.

More importantly, tell him not to freak out. 1L year can be stressful, but quite honestly, there is very little he can do to prepare for it. Reading law school prep books (and especially hornbooks, guides, etc.) before school starts is potentially detrimental, because you don't want him to be one of the people in the class who thinks they know more than they do; it alienates other students and creates a false sense of self-confidence that can be devastating come exams time.

Finally (and most importantly), not that this needs to be emphasized, but really be there for him. I don't know if he will be staying in your local area or moving away; 1L year is difficult, and helps to have your SO stay in touch, be there for you, etc. That'll do him much more good than Glannon's on CivPro or anything else you can buy him.
posted by detune at 7:24 PM on May 9, 2008

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