FYI: You can probably get a copy of Office for free

OfficeMacEven if you prefer writing in tools like Scrivener or Pages, eventually you will need to share or edit a document with someone who uses Word. While Pages and its ilk do a decent job saving and reading Word files, at the end of the day there ain’t nothin’ like the real thing. Basically, if you’re a law student, you need a copy of Microsoft Office.

If you’re any kind of student at most universities in the United States, you can probably get the entire Microsoft Office suite for free!

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Outlining in Pages

One of the first things that new law school students learn about is the importance of outlining.  If you don’t already know, outlining is the process of distilling everything that you’ve learned over the course of the semester into a short document.  Your outline is (or should be) personal to you – the value in outlining comes not just from the finished product, but the work you did in creating it.

While I can’t tell you what the “right” way is for you to create an outline, here are a few tips that worked well for me.

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You Should Get a Monitor

One of the best purchases you can make for your desk at home is an external monitor.

While your MacBook can pack all of the power of an iMac, there is one area where it will always fall short: the screen size. You can buy your MacBook with the fastest processor and the most memory, but you still only have the choice of a 13 or 15 inch screen. While great for portability, when it comes time to sit at your desk and crank out a brief or outline, bigger is always better.  A larger screen boosts your productivity by allowing you to see more content without having to bounce between different windows.

Bigger is better

If you have the space and budget, I recommend a 27 inch monitor. I personally own a Dell UltraSharp 27″ 4K display. This size is absolutely perfect for working on assignments: you can easily look at two different full size documents side by side, without having to squint or zoom in to read the text.


WestLaw = BestLaw. Don’t @ Me.

If you don’t have the space for a monitor this size, this 24 inch screen still gives you plenty of room to work with, while taking up a little less desk real estate. Anything smaller isn’t worth considering.

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Using Scrivener for your Legal Brief

I know, I know: the first question you’re probably thinking is why not just use Microsoft Word?

After all, Word files are the de-facto standard, and your professor (or hopefully in the future, the judge) will expect you to turn in your brief as a Word document or a PDF file.

While Microsoft Word is great for letters and short documents, if you try to jump around in a longer document, you’ll quickly get frustrated. God help you if you need to re-arrange different sections of text. Word works in a linear fashion: you view your entire document from start to finish, in the same manner you would view a printed paper. It just isn’t designed for crafting longer documents with multiple sections, nor is it designed to allow you to easily bounce between multiple sections of a document at the same time

On the other hand, Scrivener is purpose built for long-form writing. Authors of all types rave about Scrivener, and it’s beginning to catch on in the legal community.

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Noise Cancelling Headphones


Noise cancelling headphones let you block out the outside world with the flick of a switch – helping you focus on studying, writing, or that new cat video your friend sent you. While expensive, I think a good pair of noise cancelling headphones are one of the better investments you can make to make your law school life a bit more comfortable (besides your shiny new Mac, of course).

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Apps for Controlling Procrastination

Admit it, we all procrastinate. Law students are especially good at it. You know it’s exam season when I have no dirty dishes in the sink and am fully caught upon Suits, Shameless, and Last Week Tonight. Heck, you’re probably procrastinating right now: reading this post instead of working your assignment.

While I can’t help you eliminate procrastination from your life, I can show you a few good tools that I use when I really need to knuckle down and get a brief written, work on an outline, or finish cite checks for journal.

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Which Mac to get for Law School?

Any Mac made within the last few years will get you through law school. If you purchased a Mac in undergraduate, and don’t have the cash to buy something new, chances are you will be just fine with what you have now. That being said, if your Mac is on it’s last legs, or is seriously old, it’s probably worth investing in a new one.

Computer requirements for law school are pretty minimal – you need to be able to type documents, use a web browser for research, and take exams. We’re not exactly doing quantum physics or producing blockbuster movies here.

In this post, I’ll cover what to get, what to avoid, where to find the best price, and if the warranty is worth it.

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Can I even use a Mac?

The short answer: Yes!

Macs have been growing in popularity – look around the average undergraduate classroom, and you’ll see that close to half of all students are using Macs (and iPhones).

Law school requires very little in the way of software, especially compared to some undergraduate programs. The only thing that you absolutely need is some type of app to type assignments in, a web browser, and the ability to run your school’s exam software. That’s it.

All of the major academic resource companies have been quick to realize that a large chunk of their customers (e.g., students!) are using Macs. Most of their applications run right within your web browser, and nearly every major application has both Mac and Windows version.

In the event that particular program doesn’t work on a Mac, chances are there is an even better Mac version for you to use.

Macs in law school aren’t a problem – you can even get through law school without a computer at all (although I wouldn’t recommend it). If you want to use a Mac, there’s nothing stopping you.