1-L Bootcamps (I wish really want to go to law school!!!)

Posted on: May 8, 2006

Ask Anna: Are 1-L Bootcamps Worthwhile?

Ivey is a private admissions counselor who works with people applying
to the top business schools and law schools, as well as the author of The Ivey Guide to Law School Admissions: Straight Advice on Essays, Resumes, Interviews and More. If you have a question for Anna Ivey, send her an e-mail.

Formerly the Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law
School, she has also practiced corporate and entertainment law in Los
Angeles. She received her BA from Columbia and her JD from the
University of Chicago Law School, where she served as an editor of The
University of Chicago Law Review. To learn more about her admissions
counseling, visit

Question: Have you heard of pre-1L boot camps? What do you think of them?

By the time you apply to law school, you have likely mastered how to
"do" college. You’ve been doing it for a while, and you have the system
down pat: how to take notes, how to read the class materials, how to
discuss them in class, how to prepare for exams, how to write exams.

However, law school is a very different beast from college, and even
from pre-law programs, which typically have little do to with the
graduate law school experience. From my own law school days at the
University of Chicago, I remember well how many people were caught off
guard by their first set of grades, both the people who did very well,
and the people who didn’t. Being a superstar in college – and there are
many such people in law school – seemed to correlate very little with
success in law school. Having great LSAT scores didn’t necessarily
correlate either, not least because many law schools use a forced
grading curve, and half the class by definition ends up in the bottom

The ones who did very well in law school figured out from day one
that they had to retool their approach completely. Your first-year
curriculum is designed to teach you how to "think like a lawyer" – it’s
a unique skill, one that you learn only in law school. It actually
retrains your mind: how you think, how you approach a problem, how to
process information quickly and in a specific way, how you arrive at
and defend your answers. For most people, that retraining is humbling
and uncomfortable, but the dividends are great.

What most people don’t know before they start law school is that it
is very front-heavy: your first-year (1L) grades shape your
post-graduation options to a disproportionately large degree. Your 1L
grades determine what kind of summer job you’ll line up after your
first year, a job that in turn typically leads to a permanent,
post-graduation offer. It’s great to have an offer in your pocket
before you’ve even started your second year, but that also puts a lot
of pressure on you to ace your first year, and it can feel as if you’re
still trying to find the bathroom when your first exams hit. Many firms
use class rank cut-offs in their hiring decisions, and many law review
journals fill at least some of their slots based on 1L grades. Your
first-year grades also determine what kind of judicial clerkship you’ll
have after you graduate, because you’ll be interviewing with judges as
early as the fall of your second year. Your 2L and 3L grades matter
too, of course, but they have far less impact compared to your 1L

The other kicker? Most grades are based entirely on a final exam, if
you’re lucky also a mid-term. Unlike college, law school generally
doesn’t reward trying really hard, or talking a lot in class. It’s also
a surprise to many people that one doesn’t have to write particularly
well to excel on a law school exam, so don’t think you’ll have an edge
on law school exams just because you’re a gifted writer. It all comes
down to whether you’ve mastered studying the law and taking law school
exams. Most people figure out how to do that over the course of their
law school studies, but doing so earlier rather than later offers
substantial advantages.

Is there a way to get a jump-start on those skills if college
doesn’t teach them? Yes! There are some excellent pre-1L prep courses
that make it much easier to hit the ground running. Most of them are
classroom-based, last a week during the summer, and are available in
large cities around the country. My favorite pre-1L prep course is
offered by Law Masters Series.
It is a week-long webinar, which means that you can watch it live from
anywhere in the world and participate in interactive
question-and-answer exchanges, or you can view the sessions afterwards
at your own convenience and at your own pace. Each subject is taught by
a well-known law school professor and will give you a real taste of law
school before orientation even starts. It’s money well spent.


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