Computing Information for Incoming Students

By Deborah M. Keene, Associate Dean, Library & Technology


As a George Mason law student, you will make heavy use of computing resources including word processing, online legal research, and e-mail. Beginning in the Fall 2013, the George Mason University School of Law will have a mandatory laptop requirement for all incoming students. Many incoming law students may already own a laptop that meets this requirement, so this educational expense is not included in the standard Cost of Attendance (COA) for financial aid purposes. However, entering law students that need to purchase a laptop to meet the Law School’s program requirement may add the expenses of a new laptop computer, up to a maximum of $2,000, to the COA.

In order to qualify, you must provide a cost estimate to Carol Brosseau, Financial Aid Law Counselor, in the George Mason Office of Student Financial Aid on the Fairfax Campus. If you have already borrowed the maximum amount in a Federal Unsubsidized Loan ($20,500) for the year, the additional cost will need to be borrowed through a Graduate PLUS Loan if you have eligibility. Laptop purchases must be made no later than the end of the first month of class. Ms. Brosseau can be reached at cbrossea@gmu.edu or (703) 993-2345.

Macs vs. Windows PCs: The Law School and University fully support both Windows and Apple laptops.

Computer Specifications for a Laptop: When buying a new laptop, the rule of thumb is to purchase the most powerful computer that you can reasonably afford. Patriot Computers, a GMU-run computer store, provides information on recommended systems at http://compstore.gmu.edu. For more information, see www.law.gmu.edu/tech/purchasing.

Computer Labs: The Law Library provides two small computing labs for law students with a total of 19 computers, including 15 Windows PCs and 4 iMacs. For more information, see the Labs FAQ.

Wireless Network: The Law School has a wireless network that covers the entire building. Students use their GMU e-mail accounts to login, and the network will work with 802.11g and n cards. The wireless network is designed to complement and not replace the existing wired network. To get the fastest possible service, students should use the wired network where convenient. For more information, see Wireless Networking at the Law School.

Wired Network: Most of the carrels and tables in the Law Library, as well as most seats in the large classrooms are wired with electricity and Ethernet connections. In order to plug-in to the law school’s wired network, your laptop should be running Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7, or a current Mac operating system, and it must also have a "10 or 100 Base-T RJ45" Ethernet card installed. You will need to use your GMU e-mail account to log-in to the law school's network.

Word Processing Software: For word processing, we recommend that you use Microsoft Office. Patriot Computers, which is located on the Fairfax campus, has good academic pricing on Microsoft and other software, so you should consider giving them a call at 703-993-4100 for more information. In addition, Microsoft has very good pricing on Office 365 for enrolled students. See the Microsoft website for more details.

Anti-Virus Software: We strongly recommend that you use virus-protection software on your computer. As a Mason student, you will be able to download Symantec’s Norton AntiVirus free-of-charge from the University's web site.

Security: If you intend to bring your laptop to the library or law school, consider purchasing a security cable. Every year, laptops that have been left unattended and unsecured are stolen. All library carrels have security loops installed on the underside of the carrels so you that can secure a laptop with a cable. Security cable kits range in price from $20 to $50. You can buy these kits at any computer store or over the Internet.

E-Mail/Listservs: GMU will provide you with a free e-mail account (MASONLIVE) that you will be able to activate once you are registered for classes. GMU also provides a very effective and free anti-spam service that filters spam on GMU e-mail accounts. Right before orientation, you will be automatically subscribed to one of the law school’s student listservs. The listservs are one of the most important vehicles for communication within the law school, so you will need to check your GMU e-mail regularly.

LexisNexis, WESTLAW, and Bloomberg Law Accounts & Training: At orientation, you will be given free LexisNexis, Westlaw, and Bloomberg Law passwords that will provide full access to these systems.  Later in the fall semester and in the spring, you will receive training from the law librarians. The LRWA program and many of our professors use Westlaw’s TWEN to distribute assignments and other course information, so you will also be introduced to TWEN and given access during orientation.

Exams on Laptops: Many law professors allow their students to use a personal laptop to take essay exams. The Law School is currently using a product called ExamSoft which is made available to students free-of-charge. Exam answers are saved over the Internet to a remote server, so your laptop will need to have a network or wireless card. ExamSoft runs on Windows XP, 32-bit and 64-bit Versions of Windows Vista and Windows 7, and MAC OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard), 10.7 (Lion), or 10.8 (Mountain Lion). Please note that Windows emulators like Parallels, Virtual PC, or VMware MAY NOT be used with ExamSoft.

Internet Connectivity from Home: The University does not provide free unlimited access to the Internet from home. Instead, if you want to access the Internet from home, you will need to subscribe to a commercial Internet Service Provider at your own expense.

For More Technical Information: Contact Law School Technology Services at 703-993-4855 or lawsupport@gmu.edu.

If you have any other questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me directly at dkeene@gmu.edu.