I am a firm believer in using good tools to make frequent tasks faster and more efficient. A good tool isn’t necessarily gadget-y or flashy or even newly invented; often the best tools are simple, humble things that have been around for years and just make life a little easier. There are handful of tools that have made the first semester of law school easier for me:
1. The Brother MFC7860DW Printer with Scanner, Copier & Fax
The 7860 has all the features I love in a full-size copier: two-sided printing, duplex and reduce/enlarge. I haven’t tallied up my cost per page so far, but I’d be willing to wager that it’s well below the 10 cents/page cost on campus. It’s handy to have a copier at home as well — if I’m traveling and don’t have room for the whole casebook, I can just copy the assigned pages and bring them along.
Prospective law students, take note: if you want to print at home, use a laser printer and not an inkjet printer. You don’t need color printing capabilities for a research memo.
2. Pentel Energel fine-point pens
I hand write class notes, so using a decent pen means that my notes are more legible and my hand doesn’t get tired as quickly. The ink dries pretty quickly on note paper (though can be a bit smear-y on the pages of a textbook.) One pen lasts through about a week of classes, and refills are available. I’ve also taken to underlining rather than highlighting in casebooks since I don’t have to switch writing utensils to add a note in the margin.
3. Travel Organizer
Nebraska Law provides lockers for students so we don’t have to carry 40+ pounds of casebooks around all day. I picked up a travel organizer to handle all the bits and bobs that are too small to justify shelf space, like extra pens, erasers, change for vending machines, tissues, etc. The clear pockets make it easy to find what I’m looking for, and zippers keep things from falling out.
4. My Timbuk2 laptop bag bag. It’s big enough for a laptop, casebook and three-ring binder but not so large as to permit over-stuffing. It’s also water-resistant, which is a big plus since I’m a bicycle commuter.
5. Black’s Law Dictionary, Pocket Edition
This was at my side constantly for the first month or two of law school, and still gets frequent use. Context clues don’t work as well in legal reading as they do in ordinary texts. You can miss a nuance, or even the substance of a case if you don’t know what a particular word means. The full-sized edition of Black’s was on the list of recommended materials, but since our library scatters copies of the full edition around the study area, I’ve been able to get by with the pocket edition alone.