Tips for Law Students Starting Law School
Starting law school can seem like a daunting task; it’s different from everything you’ve known and there’s more to learn in a much shorter time. Because we know how hard it can be, we’ve put together a few tips to help you along the way:
Drop Your Undergrad Habits
Law school and college are worlds apart. While you may have been able to get by with little sleep, a lot of partying, and cramming all your coursework into one overnight “study” session the night before your exam, that won’t work in law school. There are a lot of procedural and substantive laws to learn and cases to brief. It is impossible to learn them all in one night. You don’t have to give up your social life, but you will need to make law school your priority.
Stay Ahead of Your Class
The best way to fully understand those long lectures is to read ahead. You will be assigned compulsory readings and cases to brief- try to complete them before class. Doing so will give you an edge and keep you interested in what your professor is saying. Since you will already be familiar the material, you can compare the lecture to the notes you’ve taken and see what you already know and what you need to work on or may have missed altogether.
Some people like to start reading a few weeks ahead; this is a solid game plan if you can manage it.
Make an Outline for All Your Classes
It’s not enough to use a commercially available outline or one created by a senior colleague, to immerse yourself in a course, you need to create an outline yourself. This allows you to review the coursework and determine the rules of law that apply to the subject matter of the course and how they relate to one another. You can do this every month, every week, or after each topic is completed.
The first time many people use a planner is in law school; trust us, you’ll need one. A huge part of keeping your head above water is organizing your days down to the minutes. Write down tasks that need to be completed and give them time slots on your daily schedule. For example, if you have an assignment due in a week, try to determine how much time it would take you to finish the task, then divide it by five days. This way, you can do a little bit of work every day for five days then take the extra day to tie up whatever loose ends are left.
Don’t Get Lost in The Competitiveness of Law School
Regardless of how hard you and your peers work, only one person can emerge at the top of the class. Instead of striving to be the number one, focus on putting in your best effort. Treat your classmates with respect, not disdain; they’re not your enemies, they’re on this journey with you and will be of great help to you in and out of law school.
Form a Study Group
A study group can be quite instrumental in your learning process. It is near impossible for you to understand everything, and a study group can help. It is a safe space to talk about what problems you’re facing with your coursework and exchange ideas with your peers. You can also go over practice questions with members of your study group, discuss how to resolve issues, and help review each other’s writing style.
Take Out Time to Relax
Law school can kill your social life, and this can lead to a lot of pent up stress. Be sure to take some time out to engage in a fun activity with non-law school friends, or take time for yourself.