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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-
students going to Cambodia this summer are
continued on back
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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