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SKILL SHARPENER

When is a 1L More Than a 1L? Michigan Law’s “Summer-Starters” Give the Answer [by Erica Winter] “I’m a 1½L,” says Susan West, a student at University of Michigan Law School in Ann Arbor, who is just wrapping up her third semester this May. West, along with about 90 other “summer starters,” got a jump on the regular law school schedule through Michigan Law’s Summer Start option.

Michigan Law does not advertise Summer

semesters, with an additional fifth elective

selves, bond together early and stick together

Start very much, says West, but it is “the

class in the winter as well. Summer starters

through most of law school. “Regardless

most incredible option,” she says. “It is such

take three courses in the first semester over

of the year, summer starters are birds of a

a great idea!”

the summer, four assigned courses in the

feather,” says Wilson. He will graduate in

fall semester, and one assigned course plus

December 2007 and hopes to return to New

three electives in the winter semester.

York to work in a firm there.

class each year starts law school at Michigan

Brad Wilson, who had been out of college

Lacy Carra was in the Peace Corps doing

around June 1 and spreads out their first-

for three years, came to Michigan Law last

health education on the small Caribbean

year required courses and early electives

summer as well. He applied early decision,

island of Dominica while she was applying to

over the course of three semesters in a row

and all of those who are accepted early deci-

law school. Since her mail was routinely sent

rather than the typical two. Many summer

sion start in the summer. Wilson was drawn

to the Dominican Republic, or to Germany

starters graduate in December of their third

to Michigan Law because of the school’s

(“We don’t know why,” Carra muses), she

year. Others take a semester off during law

alumni he came to know while working as a

corresponded with Michigan Law’s Admis-

school to do an extended externship, work on

paralegal in a large New York law firm. These

sions office via email to try to work out a good

a political campaign, or have children.

alumni told Wilson about Michigan Law and

option for her starting time.

And it’s a very simple one. Law students start law school early. A quarter of the entering

its collegial atmosphere. Another paralegal in The system allows for flexibility in planning a

his firm went to Michigan Law a year before

“I had no idea what I was getting into,” says

law school career and a more relaxed begin-

Wilson and told him about Summer Start.

Carra, who believes that Summer Start was a

ning as well. Summer starters “had a chance

good choice for her, allowing her to acclimate

to settle in before we were overwhelmed,”

Wilson is very glad that he did Summer Start,

herself to both law school and living in the

says West, “it gave us more time to think.”

it was “every thing I could ask for,” he says.

United States again. There were other sum-

When the other law students came to Michi-

mer starters who had been abroad as well, so

West was partway through a Ph.D. program in

gan in the fall, it seemed that they were being

Carra had “room to breathe and adjust” with

Biology when she decided to pursue a career

thrown into the deep end right away, dealing

other people doing the same, she says.

in law. Legal research is very different from

with a large class load while getting used to

other academic research, West says; it is “a

an unknown place. Summer starters knew

Carra’s career goal is to do legal work on

completely different way of thinking.” Sum-

“simple things” already, says Wilson, like

human rights, women’s rights, and/ or in-

mer Start at Michigan Law gave her “breath-

where rooms were.

ing room,” she says, with time to get used to

ternational development. She will intern this summer with the Women’s Action Center,

Summer starters also get to know the faculty

a branch of Oxfam, in Cambodia. With the

better, says West, because the faculty have a

scheduling flexibility, plus a longer transcript

At first, West thought she would focus on

much lighter teaching load over the summer.

by the end of their first (three-semester) year,

environmental law, but found herself drawn

“We would be all lying out on the grass, and

many summer starters do similar programs.

to Constitutional law this year. She hopes to

the professors come out and just talk with

“It really helps with looking for jobs overall,”

work on civil rights issues after law school.

us,” she recalls.

says Carra. About half the Michigan Law

Typical first-years at Michigan Law take four

Summer starters, due to the small size of

required courses in each of their first two

the group and having the campus to them-

legal education.

students going to Cambodia this summer are

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summer starters.

continued on back


SKILL SHARPENER

Now that she’s in her third semester in a row of law school and nearing final exams, Cara is “a little tired.” Overall, she is glad she did Summer Start. “I’m really grateful for it.”

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When is a 1L More Than a 1L? Michigan Law's ''Summer-Starters'' Give the Answer