These are strange and stressful times. Local curfews. Self-imposed isolation. Mandatory “shelter in place” orders. Life was never this challenging (or scary) when I was growing up. I feel terrible that today’s youth need to experience such uncertainty.
I’ve curated these free resources, so you can get a jump-start (and some serious inspiration) for your future life as an entering 1L law student and, eventually, as a lawyer.
Free Open Courses To Take
Free from the University of California, Irvine via Coursera
Availability/Duration: Class begins on April 6, 2020 (5 weeks)
This course is taught by longtime BARBRI Constitutional Law scholar and Dean of UC Berkeley School of Law, Erwin Chemerinsky. In this course, Dean Chemerinsky highlights the construction and interpretation of the U.S. Constitution through the centuries. Entering law students will learn the history behind the Constitution (think Hamilton minus the speed-rapping!), cases that formed important precedent, and how changes in interpretation have been dependent on shifts in cultural and political climate as well as the composition of the Supreme Court.
Free from University of Pennsylvania via Coursera
Availability/Duration: Class begins on March 23, 2020 (7 weeks)
This course will give you a glimpse into six different areas of American law: Tort Law, Contract Law, Property, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, and Civil Procedure. You will gain insight into the complexities and dilemmas that arise from the application of law in different settings, and what is distinctive about American approaches.
Free from Harvard University via Coursera
Availability/Duration: Class begins April 9, 2020 (8 weeks)
Register for this course, and you’ll have the privilege of being introduced to contracts from Harvard Law Professor Charles Fried, one of the world’s leading authorities on contract law. This course provides an introduction to what a contract is and also analyzes the purpose and significance of contracts in our society. It also discusses the intent to create legal relations, legality and morality, and the distinction between gifts and bargains. The course also investigates common pitfalls: one-sided promises, mistakes, fraud, and frustration. With the knowledge of what makes contracts and how they can go wrong, Professor Fried will discuss remedies and specific performance. Finally, Professor Fried will introduce how contracts can create rights for third parties.
TED Talks To Watch
Availability/Duration: Available Now (23 minutes)
An engaging and personal talk with human rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson, who shares some hard truths about America’s justice system, starting with a massive imbalance along racial lines: a third of the country’s black male population has been incarcerated at some point in their lives. These issues, which are wrapped up in America’s unexamined history, are rarely talked about with this level of candor, insight and persuasiveness.
Availability/Duration: Available Now (15 minutes)
Every human deserves protection under their country’s laws — even when that law is forgotten or ignored. Sharing three cases from her international legal practice, Kimberley Motley, an American litigator practicing in Afghanistan and elsewhere, shows how a country’s own laws can bring both justice and “justness”: using the law for its intended purpose, to protect.
Availability/Duration: Available Now (14 minutes)
The divisiveness plaguing American politics today is nothing new, says Harvard Law’s constitutional law scholar Noah Feldman (yes, the same Professor Feldman who testified before the House Judiciary Committee during the impeachment of President Trump!). In fact, it dates back to the early days of the republic, when a dispute between Alexander Hamilton and James Madison led the two Founding Fathers to cut ties and form the country’s first political parties. Join Feldman for some fascinating history of American factionalism — and a hopeful reminder about how the Constitution has proven itself to be greater than partisanship.
Availability/Duration: Available April 5, 2020, on Oxygen TV (2 hours)
Cultural icon turned criminal justice reformer, Kim Kardahsian West, explores four cases, including a sex trafficking victim and a woman who murdered the family member who molested her. Each of them believe they received unfair sentences; two of them end up being released.
Availability/Duration: Available Now on Amazon Prime Video (88 minutes)
This documentary begins by examining a case you think you know (but don’t!) — the now-notorious case Liebeck v. McDonald’s, in which 78 year-old Stella Liebeck won a $2.7 million verdict from the fast-food mega-chain after it sold her scorching hot coffee which caused second and third-degree burns over much of her body. The lawsuit became the instant poster child for frivolous lawsuits and a centerpiece in the case for tort reform here in America. The film uses this case as a launching pad to document the “evils” that the tort reform movement has perpetrated against countless other Americans.
Availability/Duration: Available Now on Netflix(6 episodes)
This six-part docuseries explores the brutal death of a young California boy and the subsequent criminal trials of his guardians and social workers. Extremely hard to watch at some points, but this documentary is important because it rightly questions the systems we have established to protect our most vulnerable citizens: children.
Availability/Duration: Available Now on PBS Frontline (90 minutes)
It is the centerpiece of America’s judicial process: the trial by jury system that places a defendant’s fate in the hands of a jury of one’s peers. But just how many citizens are aware that nearly 95 percent of all criminal cases never reach a jury but instead are settled through plea bargains? To overworked and understaffed defense lawyers, prosecutors, and jurists plea bargains are the safety valve that keeps cases moving through our backlogged courts. Critics, however, contend that the push to resolve cases through plea bargains jeopardizes the constitutional rights of defendants who may be pressured to admit their guilt whether they’re guilty or not. This documentary explores the moral judicial and constitutional implications of relying on plea bargains to expedite America’s criminal justice system.
Free On-Demand Webinars
Availability/Duration: Available Now (60 minutes)
You’ve gotten your acceptance emails and now it’s finally time to choose a school. But how do you pick the one that’s right for you? Where you go to law school impacts your 1L experience and your legal career. Making a decision based on some magazine’s rankings alone can be a flawed tactic. Deciding where you will attend is one of the most important decisions you will make on your journey to 1L. Before you commit to that one law school and send off your seat deposit for your 1L year, learn how to find the best law school fit for you and your goals. From geographic location and specialized programs to campus environment and career opportunities, our panel of top law school Admissions Deans discuss “the entire equation” and provide rock-solid advice on what you need to consider.
Availability/Duration: Available Now (60 minutes)
Get an in-depth look at how to finance your legal education with this one-hour webinar. Our panel of experts will help you set realistic expectations while giving you some inside tips along the way. Learn how to maximize your chances for merit and/or need-based scholarships, the best sources for outside scholarships and different strategies to minimize your debt load upon graduation.
Availability/Duration: Available Now (60 minutes)
We’ve assembled a panel of current first- and second-year law students who were not only able to cut through all that chatter, but currently sit at the top of their respective classes. Don’t take our word for what law school is like, listen to what these top students have to say about how they attacked their first year of law school and explain not only what they did and, but also what they wished they did differently.
In these days of 1,000+ point swings in the stock market, applying for some free money to pay for law school is time well spent.
- BARBRI Law Preview’s “One Lawyer Can Change The World” Scholarship
- AdmissionsDean.com’s Law School Scholarship Finder
- LSAC’s Law School Scholarship Page
- Yale Law School’s Outside Scholarship Page
Movies To Watch
Availability/Duration: Available on Amazon Prime (96 minutes)
Elle Woods has it all. She’s the president of her sorority, a Hawaiian Tropic girl, Miss June in her campus calendar, and, above all, a natural blonde. She dates the cutest fraternity boy on campus and wants nothing more than to be Mrs. Warner Huntington III. So, when Warner packs up for Harvard Law and reunites with an old sweetheart from prep school, Elle rallies all her resources and gets into Harvard, determined to win him back.
Availability/Duration: Available on Amazon Prime (120 minutes)
The true story of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, her struggles for equal rights, and the early cases of a historic career that lead to her nomination and confirmation as U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice.
Availability/Duration: Available on Amazon Prime (118 minutes)
The story of Thurgood Marshall, the crusading lawyer who would become the first African-American Supreme Court Justice, as he battles through one of his career-defining cases.
Availability/Duration: Available on Amazon Prime (137 minutes)
Military lawyer Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee defends Marines accused of murder. They contend they were acting under orders.
Availability/Duration: Available on Amazon Prime (112 minutes)
Apprentice lawyer Robin “Stormy” Weathers turns a civil suit into a headline-grabbing charade. He must re-examine his scruples after his shenanigans win him a promotion in his firm, and he must now defend a college professor who is apparently guilty of murder.
Availability/Duration: Available on Amazon Prime (122 minutes)
Roman J. Israel, Esq., a driven, idealistic defense attorney, finds himself in a tumultuous series of events that lead to a crisis and the necessity for extreme action.
Availability/Duration: Available on Amazon Prime (154 minutes)
A young Harvard Law graduate gets recruited to join a prestigious law firm only to discover that it has a sinister dark side.
Availability/Duration: Available on Amazon Prime (127 minutes)
A juror on the inside and a woman on the outside manipulate a court trial involving a major gun manufacturer.
Other Free Resources by Law Preview
- 3 Must-Reads the Summer Before Law School [Free Download]
- Law School Tools: Supplies Checklist [Free Download]
- Law School Tools: Scholarship Organizer [Free Download]
- Navigating Law School [Video Series]
- Are You Ready for Law School? [Quiz]
- What’s Your Law Student Personality? [Quiz]
Other Articles to Help Get You Through Self-Isolation
- Five Podcasts For Incoming Law Students
- Six Things You Can Do While You’re Waiting For Law School Decisions
- Law School Scholarship Tips From An Actual Application Reader
- Understanding Law School Scholarships
- Five Ways to Succeed as a Part-Time Law Student
- How to Become a Top Law Student (And Why It Matters)
- How to Brace for Law Student Life
- Choosing the Right Law School for Your Future Legal Career