So, it’s that time of year, time to head back to school. Or, for some of you, time to start law school. If that’s the case, you might be wondering what you can do in such a competitive environment to stay ahead. Or, you might just be wondering how to keep your head above water! So, I’ve compiled a few helpful tips that should keep you as stress free as possible this semester.
1) NEVER pay attention to anyone else. This is the absolute MOST important rule. Now, sure, there might be some exceptions, like a study partner, but for the most part you want to avoid others, at least on an academic basis. (Don’t take me too literally and become a recluse!) Everyone works at a different pace, and everyone works best in a different environment. Listening to how many hours Bob, your neighbor in Torts, spent in the library will just stress you out one way or another. Same goes for talking extensively about exams or other homework assignments, it will just make you insane. And let’s face it, law school already makes you a bit insane.
2) Stay Ahead. By this I mean don’t get behind. I know, easier said than done, right? This doesn’t mean just doing the assigned work from day to day, but UNDERSTAND what you are doing from day to day. Don’t wait until a week before exams to attempt to master something from the first week of classes.
3) Ask Questions. This is one way to accomplish number 2. Do not be afraid to ask your professors questions – it’s what they are there for! If it seems too intimidating to ask a question in class, schedule a meeting with your professor during office hours. If this doesn’t work, you have lovely people like LawTutors (hint hint! Ha ha!) to help you out!
4) Use Class time wisely. Remember, you don’t have to understand everything going INTO class, you go to class for a reason, to LEARN. I realize that class can be intimidating, and it seems like you have to go in understanding absolutely everything. This is simply not true. The purpose of class is to help you understand the information. You still want to prepare for class, so that you can understand the cases the professor is going over, and keep up with the lecture, but you do not have to comprehend every nuance of the law before class starts.
5) Outlining. First understand that there is not a perfect outline. The purpose of outlining is to synthesize and understand the information, and to help you prepare for your exam. This means that every outline might be a bit different.
6) Practice, Practice Practice. Do not start practicing exam writing the week before the exam, start practicing day one of class. The purpose of the exam is to see how well you can APPLY the law, not how well you can memorize it. This means that knowing the law is only half the battle. The best way to do this is to find old exams that your professor has used, and many offer them online. This allows you to not only practice, but familiarize yourself with your professor’s style. I also suggest LawTutor’s MiniEssays (www.lawtutors.net), which are paragraph long questions, designed to test just one topic (for instance, battery , or offer) and your IRAC skills. You might also try Aspen’s Examples and Explanations, which are a great source of black letter law AND hypotheticals.
7) Use your time effectively. Don’t study for the sake of studying – study EFFECTIVELY. How you might ask? By not trying to memorize law, but by applying it. Go through hypos with a friend, practice essays, think of different scenarios in your head, or rewrite rules of law in your own words. Remember, this is not a game of memorization, it’s a game of understanding and application.
8) Master IRAC. Isssue. Rule. Analysis. Conclusion. This will help you through all exams, including the bar, and remember, analysis is the most important part.
9) Find a good study partner. I’m not a huge advocate of study groups, or relying on others too much, but finding one other person whose study style matches your own can be a benefit. The two of you can answer questions for each other, AND you can bounce ideas off of one another and practice hypos together.
10) Last, RELAX. Get good rest, as hard as that is, go out once in awhile, and add a bit of humor into your life, like this site! http://overheardinlawschool.blogspot.com/
Hopefully these 10 tips help you get settled in. I’m going to be expanding on these topics throughout the semester.