When matriculating at and attending law school, the importance of good preparation cannot be overstated. Balancing the requisite number of study hours with networking and other extracurricular activities can be extremely difficult. To allocate time in the most efficient manner, law students should first create an outline of key individual performance objectives that will help them achieve academic success in law school.
If you are a law student (or will soon be one), here are ten ways to increase your chances of succeeding in law school:
1. Attend and participate in class.
Success in law school is partly determined by your attendance and level of participation in the classroom. Failing to attend class will put you at a significant disadvantage because many professors tend to discuss and test students on topics that are not covered in the assigned readings. Since many law classes are cumulative (i.e., each week’s topics build on those of the prior week), missing class may hinder your progress.
2. Read and brief assigned cases.
Learning is most successful when you read the majority (if not all) of the assigned cases before attending class. Active reading involves taking notes, briefing the assigned cases, and verbally reciting the key takeaways to prepare for the possibility of being called on in class. This level of preparation builds confidence and will provide the needed motivation to employ this strategy across all law school classes.
3. Participate in study groups/group learning.
Study groups can be an effective way to not only build symbiotic relationships with your classmates but also facilitate productive discourse on controversial class topics. While learning in group settings may not be conducive to everyone’s learning style, exchanging ideas among students (whether via informal discussions or formally organized study groups) can provide more information on which you can build a deeper understanding of the course material and ultimately practice developing well-supported arguments and analyses for final exams.
4. Get good sleep and follow a healthy diet.
Although it’s easier said than done, maintaining a consistent and adequate sleeping pattern will pay dividends. A typical day in law school includes—but is not limited to—meetings, significant reading, research, assignments, and classes. Therefore, you might get lethargic while attending class or reading cases. Achieving the minimum amount of sleep daily that will provide adequate rest is vital. Similarly, eating light versus heavy meals throughout the day will keep you energized and focused. Maintaining healthy eating and sleeping patterns could decrease your chances of falling behind from an academic perspective.
5. Reach out to mental health resources when necessary.
The biggest battle law students face is with themselves. Students experience highs and lows while attending law school. Your ability to overcome any mental roadblock will ultimately determine the level of success you can achieve in law school. One difficult class, experience, grade, etc., can impede some students from persevering. Without the proper mental health assistance, law school can be difficult to navigate. Seeking help when needed will help you maintain a positive mindset, which is a valued asset for academic success. Fortunately—and for the foregoing reasons—many law schools provide mental health resources for their students.
6. Leverage pre-law prep programs.
Many bar exam test prep companies offer law students complimentary materials to help them learn key concepts while building the companies’ brand awareness in the law student community. These materials are great resources to leverage during your studies because the learning method in these pre–law school prep programs is analogous to the approach to studying for the bar exam. However, you should not solely rely on these materials because law school professors may present their course information in different ways. Regardless, these materials can serve as a great cross-reference for assignments and law school exams while also preparing you to study for the bar exam.
7. Attend mock law classes.
Some law schools offer students the opportunity to attend mock classes, which typically last one week, before the semester begins. These classes provide a great introduction to law school teaching and learning styles and enable you to build relationships and network with other motivated law students. This firsthand experience should alleviate the stress of the unknown and provide an easy transition once official classes start.
8. Master the process of outlining.
Many students enter law school without understanding the importance of outlining. Given the amount of information you must memorize in law school, streamlining your learning is imperative. The main goal of creating an outline is to provide a roadmap that is easy to navigate and enables you to recognize commonalities among key topic areas. However, all outlines are not created equal; an outline that is effective for one student may not be the best option for another student. Therefore, you should develop outlines in a way that is most conducive to your learning style. There are multiple avenues through which you can procure an outline, including a school’s database, student clubs, bar test prep companies, online databases, fellow classmates, and alumni.
From a timing perspective, outlining at least once a week—where you consolidate your notes from the week in a concise and cohesive format—is strongly recommended. This practice also becomes extremely important when sitting for the bar exam. Therefore, you should begin to hone your outlining skills immediately upon matriculation at law school. Outlining will also help you complete assignments and alleviate some of the stress during final exam preparation.
9. Read supplemental materials.
Law students can be overwhelmed by the level of reading that is required to prepare for each class. This coupled with the style of writing in the course textbooks—which often includes cases with antiquated language—further compounds this complexity. The thought of reading even more materials on top of classwork can be daunting. However, supplements are useful; they assist students by breaking down complex topics into digestible nuggets of information that are ultimately explained in contemporary, relatable language. It may sound counterintuitive that reading more materials creates less work, but this holds true if done correctly. Reading supplemental materials will provide a better understanding of the course materials, which will expedite your reading process and improve your level of understanding of key topics and themes.
10. Find a support network outside of law school.
Just as building relationships with fellow classmates is important, so too is meeting and networking with people who are not law students. You should interact with individuals who are not stressed with similar law school struggles. Otherwise, you will remain immersed in unnecessary stress. Spending time with friends will provide a much-needed respite from the challenges of law school.