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Law School Dispatches: Where You Live Matters

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Law students will share different opinions about the best way to prepare for law school in the summer before your first year (whether it’s reading up on how to take law school exams, or perfecting that summer tan and putting off work for as long as possible). As a law student about to enter my 2L year, I’ve been giving advice to several incoming law students that has little to do with the academics of law school, but probably matters a great deal to a student’s performance and general well-being over the three years of a law school program. That topic is law student housing.

While housing probably isn’t quite as complicated in some cities as my experience moving to New York for law school, it’s tough out there for grad students in general. Every student is going to have different reasons for choosing a certain place to live, but I think that all incoming students should consider how their housing options could affect their time, their mental health, and their debt after law school.

I was lucky enough to live within walking distance of my law school during my 1L year, which meant that I was saving over an hour on commute time compared to some of my classmates. But on the other hand, I had classmates living in dorms across the street from campus who could roll out of bed five minutes before a 9am class, and for that reason, had some extra time to sleep that I envied as the 1L workload piled up. Since law school can be overwhelmingly busy, I felt as though even an additional few minutes on a train or trudging through the snow to class could really add up over time, so my commute was an important part of my schedule.

I’m not one of the students who has chosen to live in the dorms during law school, because the convenience of living in arms reach of the law school library was, at least for me, outweighed by the stress of living in arms reach of the law school library. In other words, law school can be stressful, so I preferred to live far enough away to feel like I could mentally “clock out” from a day of law school work. For some people, the dorms could be a respite, but as a 1L, I saw it more as an extension of the school itself, where the people and spaces would feel like a constant reminder of one million things I needed to be doing.

This year, I’m moving further away from the law school, hoping that my slightly-more-flexible 2L schedule will mean that I can get by just as well with a longer commute but a little less spent on rent. Law students, after all, are really just in a three-year program of preparing for life as a lawyer, so we have to keep in mind how choices like housing will affect our life (and loans) after graduation.

As a final note, if you’re a student beginning law school in the fall who has yet to find a place to live, I suggest that you reach out to upperclassmen from your school for help. I get near-constant emails from my law school listserv about students looking for roommates or seeking out someone to replace them in their old apartment, so this is information that upperclassmen at your own school are probably happy to share.

Your first year of law school will go by fast, but it will go so much more smoothly if you take the time to consider how you’ll be living throughout that time.

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