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A Checklist of Law School Supplies

A Checklist of Law School Supplies

If you're ready to jump into your first year of law school but aren't sure what to bring, this list of suggested supplies will give you a headstart on the essentials you'll need to stock up on before classes start.

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Laptop

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Laptops for law school are pretty much a given these days and are even mandatory at some schools. Your education is an investment in your future so you need to make sure your laptop or tablet is up to the task. You don't have to kick in for all the bells and whistles but a lightweight model that has the current versions of any software you require and enough memory to handle large files is your best bet.

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Printer & Supplies

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You may do just fine printing out everything on campus, but if printing costs aren't covered by your tuition-and even if they are-you'll likely want your own printer. Again, you don't have to go top-of-the-line but do find something that can handle large-capacity printouts. Stock up on ink cartridges as well (both black and color since it's likely some of the materials you'll be printing will be color-coded) and don't forget lay in an ample supply of paper.

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Rolling Backpack/Bookbag

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How you choose to lug around extremely heavy law books and your laptop is a matter of personal choice but you're going to need something large enough to carry all your class essentials. Be sure whatever you choose has a place inside to stow your laptop securely. These days, you can find hybrid backpacks that not only have wheels and retractable handles but even come equipped with stereo speakers and USB chargers. While extra features are nice if you can afford them, your first priority should be well-built wheels and handles, sturdy zippers, and anti-theft features for security.

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Notebooks/Legal Pads

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Even for those who take notes on their tablets or laptops, good old-fashioned notebooks and legal pads not only come in handy, for some students they can actually improve the learning process. How? Because writing something out by hand is more likely to help you remember it. In fact, a 2004 study conducted by Pam A. Mueller of Princeton University and Daniel M. Oppenheimer of the University of California comparing the effectiveness of note-taking by hand versus by computer concluded that how you took notes did have an impact on retention. In a 2016 interview with National Public Radio (NPR), Mueller explained, "When people type… they have this tendency to try to take verbatim notes and write down as much of the lecture as they can." Students who took longhand notes "were forced to be more selective" since they were unable to write as quickly as they could type. "And that extra processing of the material… benefited them."

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Colored Pens & Highlighters

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Jotting down notes in different colored ink will help you find important information you need to refer back to later and it can also be a great tool for organizing your calendar. Highlighters are essential for several tasks, including case briefing in a book. By using a different color for each factor (e.g., yellow for facts, pink for holding, etc) you'll be able to reference items quickly and efficiently. You'll likely need lots of highlighters each semester, so buy more than you think you'll need.

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Sticky Notes in Several Sizes

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Sticky notes are extremely useful for both marking off important cases or discussions and writing down pertinent questions. The index tabs are especially useful in the Bluebook and in codes like the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC).

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Folders/Binders

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Folders and binders are great for keeping handouts, outlines, and other loose papers organized. Even in the digital age, professors sometimes hand out hard copies in class so it is best to be prepared.

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Fasteners

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Paper clips and binder clips, along with a stapler, staples, and a staple remover are all standard equipment for law school. While staples and standard paper clips are fine for smaller documents, binder clips are the best when you're dealing with something that has lots and lots of pages.

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Day Planner

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In law school, it's crucial to keep track of assignments, status updates, class schedules, and personal engagements. Whether you decide to use a paper planner or prefer to organize your life on your computer, if you start keeping track from day one, you won't wind up missing something important-like that big test.

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USB Drives and Cloud Storage

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There's no worse feeling than losing hours, days, or even an entire semester's worth of data. The reality is, laptops get stolen or damaged and you need to be prepared. Back up your data and do it often. If you're going to be swapping information with classmates, USB drives still come in handy but you should consider using cloud storage as well. You can create and save documents in an online suite of dedicated legal software from Microsoft Office, or if prefer, you can use Google Docs or upload your classwork to an FTP (file sharing protocol) site such as Dropbox.

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Bookstand

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Whether you're the kitchen following a recipe or perusing a hefty textbook, a book stand will hold a heavy tome open to the pertinent page while keeping your hands free-to chop onions or take notes.

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Healthy Snacks

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Law school students put in long hours and while living on caffeine and ramen noodles can't always be avoided, it's better to have healthy alternatives available to keep your body's defenses up and your mind sharp. Remember: Fresh fruit is your friend, as are nutritionally sound microwavable meals and protein bars.

Sources

  • Law School Toolbox
  • Mueller, Pam A., Oppenheimer, Daniel M. "The Pen is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Notetaking." Sage Journals, Psychological Science. April 23, 2004
  • Rider, Randall. "Backing Up Law Students' Data." Lawyerist.com. October 31, 2011