What Is the Best Way to Study in Law School?
Law school is demanding, particularly when finals roll around. In law school, you are not only expected to perform well in your classes, but you are also expected to get involved in activities, attend networking events, and go to workshops. So, what is the best way to study in law school to stay on top of your school work when there is so much to learn?
The number one key to success in law school is to start studying early. Studying does not have to be sitting in the library and memorizing black letter rules. Studying includes listening to Barbri videos before and/or after your professor lectures on a specific topic. Plug in your earphones and listen to CD lectures while at the gym! Try to outline your courses every other week. Everyone learns and studies differently. Whatever worked for you in undergraduate school, use the same study method. Why change something that works?
However, if you did not do well in undergraduate school or your study strategy does not seem to work for law school, maybe it is time to experiment with other study strategies. The difference between studying in undergraduate school and studying in law school is often that there is much more to know and learn in law school. Therefore, studying early is the key to staying on top of your law school work.
In law school, everyone knows what outlining is! The dean of my law school did not believe in outlining, but he was the exception. As I said, studying for each individual is going to be different. Therefore, do not panic if you see people in the library using flashcards. Some people like to use flash cards to learn the elements of a rule. Other people, including myself, learn the elements by outlining and by writing out the elements on paper.
Outlining is recommended by most law school professors. The outline method has been said to be the best way to study in law school. Outlining provides you with a picture of how the course is structured. The best way to study in law school is to use your professor’s syllabus to form your outline. If your professor does not provide you with an outline, use the table of contents in your casebook! When your professor spends more time teaching a particular subject, note it! The more time a professor spends on a certain topic typically means that the professor is going to test you more on that subject on the final exam.
Breaking It Up!
I have found that the best way to study for law school is to break up your outline based on the topics listed on your syllabus. When you have a one hundred page outline, it looks intimidating. But when you have an outline composed of 10 topics with 10 pages, it doesn’t seem as scary. By breaking up your outline in such a way, you can focus on studying just 10 pages a day instead of 100! Sounds much better, doesn’t it?
The best way to study in law school is to manage your time wisely. I have found it beneficial to create a calendar approximately a month before my finals start. On the calendar, I list when my finals are and what I plan to study each day leading up to my final. Some days, I only study a few pages of my outline. By breaking up your outline to study only a few pages a day, you can learn the information on a deeper level. Additionally, if there is something that you do not understand in your outline, because you only have a few pages to focus on, you can go to a supplement to make sure that you understand the material. That leads us to our next topic: practice, practice, practice.
Practice, Practice, Practice
From the time you were young, you were probably told that the best way to become better at something is to practice, practice, practice. Sure, you cannot practice without having a firm understanding of the information, but once you have studied your outline, the next best way to study in law school is to practice multiple choice questions and essays. The reason practicing multiple choice questions and essays proves beneficial is because no matter how much you study, sometimes when you do practice problems, you learn something that should have been included in your outline. How do you know what you are missing? See below!
Many law schools will have a law school exam archive. In this archive, you can often find past law school exams (back exams), often times from your professor. If the archives do not have any back exams, do not hesitate to ask your professor if he or she has any that you can use to help you study! In addition to practicing back exams, you may find practice multiple choice questions in supplements. One of my favorite supplements is The Glannon Guide. Not only does The Glannon Guide break down topics with easy-to-understand explanations, The Glannon Guide provides multiple choice questions and explanations to test your knowledge of the subject matter.
Practicing exams also helps to relieve test day anxiety. When you complete practice exams, try to time yourself. Most law school exams are designed so that you cannot form a thorough answer. The professors are testing who can spot the most important issue(s) and analyze the issue(s), quickly. If there are more facts that go towards one issue, then the professor probably wants you to spend more time talking about that issue. Students that do not practice exams may get tied up talking about one issue when that issue is not the most important issue in the fact pattern. Therefore, practicing exams and seeing the model answer that your professor drafted can be helpful.
The 9am-5pm Theory
So you’ve probably heard that you should treat law school like a 9am-5pm job. Am I right? It’s not a bad idea, however, you have to realize that you are not studying from 9am-5pm. For a good portion of the day, you are in class and will not be studying. Therefore, you will likely have to spend your mornings and/or evenings studying. I would say that you should treat law school like a 9am-5pm job. But most professionals that have a 9am-5pm job do not just work from 9am-5pm.
If you want to succeed in law school, you should be doing school work and studying more than just between the hours of 9am and 5pm. Should you take breaks? Absolutely! Giving your mind a break is important. However, as many law school students would agree, it is not possible to get all of your school work done and learn the information between the hours of 9am and 5pm. Saying this, 9am-5pm is a good theory, but it’s not reality.
Conclusion – The Best Way to Study in Law School
The best way to study will depend on what works for you! When you outline, break up your outline into chunks so that it does not appear intimidating. Start outlining early and create a study schedule (and don’t forget to give yourself some breaks!). And lastly, practice, practice, practice! You got this!
If you found this post helpful, you may want to learn about how to write a good law school exam answer here!