How to Succeed in Your First Year of Law School (Tips and Advice)


Law school can be challenging because it is requires a tremendous amount thinking about complex and dense issues for long hours under tremendous amounts of stress, especially in today's job market where your first year grades will have an impact on finding a job after law school. But the truth is that if you understand how to approach law school before you even arrive you will have a tremendous advantage on your classmates who will be lost for the entire first semester of classes.

Track Down Your Professor's Prior Exam

If possible track down a previous test from the professor that you will be taking or are taking as early as possible. Sure you won't have any idea how to answer the question but it will give you an idea of what the end goal is. Most students will not even know what a law school exam is until ten weeks into classes and some will not know what it is until they walk into the exam itself. Each professor's exam will be different and focus on different things, so when you get it read it throughout the semester and try to think about what the professor is looking for and keep that in mind as you develop a plan on what to study and how to study.

Outlining: Do it Your Own Way

After some time you will find that outlining is a major part of your first year of law school. At first no one will have any idea what a law school outline is but as the semester rolls on you will find that students become crazy about outlining, some make it the most important thing. Some people recommend that you don't start outlining until later in the semester because you have no idea how to outline your first year, but that is really up to you. The important think to understand is what outlining is. It really is just what it says, its an outline of legal principals that will be tested. The key to a good outline is to make it yourself so that it makes sense and so that you are forced to think through legal principals. Of course I would recommend you start early and review it often and make changes as you go alone. The key to succeeding as a student is to start with a long outline (50 to 100 pages) and then memorize it until your down to a page or two of important principals. The students who do this tend to do much better on exams because they are not having to look through their outline the entire exam. Most exams are three hours and open book, which sounds great but the time is short and students who do not have to waste time flipping through their outline will do better.

Review and Memorize Principles after Each Class

Students who take the time before and after each class to review the material and memorize any important principals will be so far a head of students who are trying to cram all the material in the few weeks before the exam.

Remember the Purpose of Studying Cases

Most of your class time your first year will be spend covering cases. Most students will read difficult or long cases over and over or spend a lot of time reading the cases so they are prepared to get called on in class. Their motivation is often so they don't look stupid when a professor calls on them. But you need to remember that looking like fool in class most likely will not affect your grade so remember that it is most important to be prepared for the exam. So that being said try to spend your time understanding the principles that the cases are trying to teach and the rules that come out of those cases. The key to succeeding on the law school exam is understanding rules and how they apply to different sets of facts so that is the skill that you should be honing throughout the semester.

Use Supplements From The Start

There are many good supplements and many students and probably most professors will advise against supplements but that is just ridiculous Of course there is always the chance that you have a professor is teaches material that is not in a supplement or focuses on the material differently and a supplement may not be very helpful in that sense. And when using supplements you should know what material will be on your professor's exam so you are not reading material that you will not be tested on. But supplements are excellent because unlike your casebooks they make the law clear, they outline the black letter law in clear ways. They are helpful to read before you go over a topic in class so that you better understand it when the professor is talking about it, they also will help you understand your casebook better.

Choose Supplements With Practice Problems

The key to succeeding on the law school exam is to practice taking law school exams. Some supplements will have questions after each section and this is very valuable. Be sure to take advantage of that, and when you do don't just answer the question in your head practice writing out the answer then learning what you left out and how you could have answered it better. This will better prepare you for the final exam.

Be Prepared for Class

If you are not prepared for class you will get so much less out of class than if you are not prepared because you will have a better understanding of how what your professor is teaching ties into the broader subject and sometimes that is hard to see the bigger picture.

Do it Your Way and Work Hard

Whatever your strategy becomes be sure to do what works best for you then do it. Now matter how you dice it if you work hard in law school you will be better off. But remember that not all hard work is good work, you only have so many hours in a day so spend it wisely. Good Luck!

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