Tuesday, July 3, 2018
If you are a soon-to-be-first-year law student, you may find that it takes you several weeks to get acclimated to all of the new technology lingo used in law school. You'll be expected to quickly familiarize yourself with several new websites and research platforms. To help you get a jump start, I’ve created a list of the most common technology resources you'll encounter in your first few days of law school.
Legal Research Databases
Westlaw and LexisNexis are the two most popular web based legal research databases--essentially Google for lawyers. While these research tools require costly subscriptions for lawyers, law students get to use them for free. Each company's site has its own strengths and weaknesses (i.e. think Walmart and Target), and I encourage you to become comfortable using both services, because you never know which company your future employer will prefer.
To get started, you'll need a registration code or password from your law school. While you are waiting for the registration code to arrive, you can watch tutorial videos online to become familiar with the basics of Westlaw and LexisNexis. Both companies have even more training videos available after you officially login.
Classroom Management Tools
TWEN (accessed via Westlaw) allows professors to post materials for download, assign quizzes, and send class announcements. You will need to affirmatively register for each of your courses using the "add course" tab.
E-Campus (a.k.a. Blackboard) has the same features as TWEN, but you are typically automatically enrolled in the course.
Star or Banner is used by many schools' registrars for course registration, add/drop, and grade dissemination.
Supplemental Study Materials
Barbri, Kaplan, and Themis are three of the most popular bar preparation companies. Each company also offers first-year and second-year study materials, including outline books, lecture videos, and practice exams. Your law school may have a business relationship with one or more of the bar preparation providers. If so, be sure to take advantage of any free resources the company provides. I caution you, however, against paying out-of-pocket for anything extra. You can usually get enough free resources through your law school, such as from the Academic Excellence Center or library, that paying out-of-pocket is unnecessary.
CALI is a non-profit organization offering practice quizzes and tutorial videos for virtually every law school subject. CALI is free to all law students. You just need a registration code from your law school to get started.
Many students report that Quimbee is helpful during the first year, but Quimbee will cost you extra. Quimbee, like the other supplemental study resources mentioned above, provides case briefs, outlines, lesson videos, and practice questions.
Finally, many new law school textbooks come with a registration code, granting you access to free online study resources. Check the inside cover of your textbook for more details.
Other Technology Tasks
In addition to familiarizing yourself with these new resources, you may also want (or need) to go online and complete these other technology tasks:
Configure your computer to access the law school's wireless internet
Create an account to print at the law school or library
Set up a calendaring system (paper or digital, your choice)
Learn if your school offers free software downloads to students, such as Microsoft Word or security software
Set up a backup storage solution for all of your files, such as the free version of Dropbox