As I enter my final year of law school, I reflect on the decisions I’ve made to get me here — those deep, meaningful decisions made at the cash register or, more frequently these days, in front of my laptop. That’s right, it’s time for a BU Law back-to-school shopping post!
Before you open your wallet and let the cash leak out, remember that you don’t need to buy everything in advance. These tips are to save you money and energy heading into your next (or first) semester.
Allston Christmas: You’re living in Boston. It can feel like everyone here is a student, and moving on Sept. 1 like everyone else in town can be a giant hassle, I’m sure. (One way to avoid it: Find an apartment and stick with it all 3 years, if you can manage. It’s saved my sanity twice now.) The upside? Allston, Brighton, and pretty much any other student-heavy area is full of reasonably un-stinky, frequently new or like-new “trash” on every curbside come the end of August. While I’d steer clear of couches or mattresses or anything else that can hide layers of grime or bugs, I’ve managed to outfit my apartment here with a good mix of curbside rejects, thrift-store finds, and discount store basics since moving here. And people tell me my apartment looks “grown up,” which is a compliment in (again) the land of students. I’ve gotten tons of essentials and fun extras just by cruising the streets — no Dumpster diving required!
Hot tip: Goodwill in Jamaica Plain beats Goodwill on Commonwealth Avenue any day of the week.
Textbook rentals: Maybe students coming straight from undergrad know about this, but as a returning student after nearly a decade off, I was not aware that you could rent textbooks at all, much less from discount retailers. BU Law does make you go on the school bookstore site to find your assigned texts, but once you check out that price, head to textbookrentals.com and compare prices for buying or renting new or used textbooks all over the web. Beware, also, that Barnes & Noble will allow you to rent the book at the used price, then charge you the new price if no used copies are available. Returns aren’t hard, but the line of undergrads can take an hour to get through on a busy day early in the semester.
Hot tip: If you can’t find one book right away, don’t despair! The BU Law Library has reserve copies of all textbooks on hold, and a scanner with USB and email capabilities, so you can scan a chapter without falling behind.
Legal research freebies: The BU Law Lexis, WestLaw, Barbri and Themis reps are friendly, their visits are frequent, and their tables are usually laden with pens, highlighters, post-its, and other goodies — usually a sweet or three, sometimes coffee and pastries. So come prepared, but don’t despair if you’ve forgotten something. The reps will be there, and all you have to do is listen to some (actually helpful) tips on legal research or test prep for a free breakfast or lunch almost any week. You certainly won’t be alone if all of your outlines, come exam time, are tabbed with WestLaw tabs, highlighted with Barbri highlighters, and you’re squeezing a Lexis stress ball to un-cramp your hand.
Hot tip: Lexis points! Lexis points! Sign up for anything you can to get more Lexis points, and cash in with gift cards to common stores. Most nice things I’ve bought in the last two years have been from Lexis points, from a diamond ring to a hands-free car mount for my phone, to a cellphone case, to, yes, textbooks.
Best buys: Again, I advise you not to go all-out before school starts, but these are the things nearly everyone has or needs to have.
- A really sturdy backpack has saved me more than once. Save for some serious hiking packs, most won’t be able to fit four textbooks at once, and that’s OK. My “women’s” Ogio laptop fits perfectly despite my initial chagrin over buying a gendered backpack. Plus, it’s cute. (Speaking of women: Almost all of us went from hot to cold to freezing and back once a day. Stuff a cardigan on top. Trust me.)
- Membership in at least one bar association: Get plugged in early, and keep an eye out for which groups you can get into for free. I have joined the American Bar Association (free for all), Boston Bar Association (free to BU students), Massachusetts Bar Association (free to students, I believe), Women’s Bar Association (when a WBA member offered limited free memberships), and the National Lawyers Guild Massachusetts Chapter (not free, but not expensive). Each group has something unique to offer.
- A spare phone charger is the first step toward winning new friends and influencing people (dated joke much?). You will be asked a dozen times for one, and chances are you will need one yourself a few times, so carry it or keep it in your locker.
- A good, easy to carry laptop is your most important school supply. I am obviously not a computer expert, but if you are, put that knowledge to good use before starting school.
- A semester T pass will save you money over time, even if $267 sounds like a lot up front. Some students vow to ride their bikes every day and keep that promise, but this winter, nearly everyone was struggling. If you’re on the B Line (which stops in front of the law school), you’ll almost always run into a classmate or five on the ride home.
- A spiral notebook or two: Chances are good you’ll have a professor who won’t let you use laptops in her class.
What did I miss?