6 tips to make this the most successful summer ever

By Alexandra Sumner

Summers are meant for sunny beaches, cold drinks and watermelon dripping down your face. But for law students, it’s a bit different. Summer often brings long hours and assignments, unpaid clerkships, externships and even summer classes. It means studying for the MPRE when you’d rather be poolside and staying late at the office to show that you’re a “team player.” If, by some miracle, you find yourself with a bit for free time over the next few months, here are a few examples of how to use your summer effectively and set yourself for success in the fall.

- Sleep. It’s time to catch up on what you’ve been missing. Between classes, finals, and writing on for law review, law students are more than a little sleep deprived. Use your extra time to go to bed early or even sleep in during the weekends. While you can’t “bank” any of the extra sleep you’re getting for future use, it certainly does feel good to wake up without your eyes burning!

- Read (more) books. A shocking concept, I know. While there was certainly enough reading during the fall and spring semesters, use this time to catch up on books you actually like. We all have a stack of “someday” books that we neglect, now’s the time to pick them up and dive in. They don’t have to be about law; just something that will reignite your passion for learning and occupy your mind from other endeavors—a sort of “brain break.”

- Watch legal documentaries. Along similar lines, use the next few months to binge legal documentaries. There are so many available—on any topic you can imagine—after watching a few, you’ll have developed some weird pockets of knowledge in this area, but it will make you a great guest at cocktail parties. For example, everyone loves to talk about the McDonald’s “hot coffee” case, but if you do some reading or watching on the subject you’ll find that a lot of people have the facts wrong, do your research to find out why. (Hint: McDonalds has a great public relations team.)

- Network. Join your local bar association and attend a few meetings over the summer; sign up for any practice area groups you’re interested in and meet new people. For example, last summer I signed up for the “Women in Law” division of my local bar association and was able to attend an event at a county club where I learned how to golf. (Which is substantially more difficult than mini-golf, by the way.)  Through my continued involvement in the program I was able to make countless connections throughout the city and find some life-long mentors.

- Work on legal research tools. Several legal research providers offer supplemental instruction lessons you can take at any time. Use the summer to finish these lessons and improve your searching skills, some even have a “Certificate Program”—talk about a resume boost. 

- Volunteer. Finally, they say the best way to find yourself is in the service of others. What better way to pass the long summer days than to volunteer and give back. Whether it be a soup kitchen, a home for domestic abuse survivors or even an immigration clinic. There are many organizations that could use your help. Find a cause you’re passionate about and pursue it.

But most importantly, don’t forget to have a little fun. Somewhere between the case briefs and the cold calls law students find themselves so deep in the stacks that they forget about friends and family. Use the summer to reconnect with those most important to you—go to weddings, picnics, beach trips and even visit mom and dad. Don’t forget about the people who helped you get this far. After all, you’ve still got a ways to go.

Alexandra Sumner is a 3L at Indiana University — Robert H. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis.