Thursday, August 4, 2016
TBT: Tips for tackling your first semester of law school #1Lhell
And so it begins: law school. Traditionally, law school begins in August every year. Although I've been through this before, I'm still a 1L. I'm a part-time student which means I haven't accumulated enough credits to be a true 2L. So, in solidarity with my 1L brethren, I offer these insights on what to do during your first semester.
When my study group and I were wrapping up our first semester of law school we reflected back on what we wish we would have done to make the semester a little less stressful.
School is hard enough without making it harder by missing opportunities. Effective and efficient management of school work is the name of the game.
So, for those of you crazy enough to attempt the JD degree, here are the 5 tips from my study group on how to effectively prepare for exams:
1. Do your reading. This should go without saying but I said it so I’m going to talk about it. Being prepared is a big deal in law school. It’s considered unprofessional to show up without having done the reading. Read your cases. Brief your cases. Some upperclassmen may tell you not to ‘waste’ time with briefing but to them I say “back off you crazy, lazy, gunning b*stards.” Briefing is a substantial study tool and a helpful skill to develop. Don’t sell yourself short. You got here – now do the work.
2. Start outlining earlier! If your school is anything like mine, then they will have this super nice Academic Success Program. The program involves students presenting on tips and tricks for succeeding in law school. One of the tips they offered was to wait to outline until November (about a month before exams). The theory was that you, as a new law student, wouldn't really understand how the rules fit together so your outline wouldn't make sense. But, I'm telling you, start as soon as possible. And when I say start, I mean, grab the table of contents for your case book and compare it to your syllabus. Write up a rough outline of subjects using those two resources as a guide. Do it before classes start if you can. And then, each week, type your class notes under the applicable section heading. This will help you tremendously when exams are looming over you.
3. Type your notes each week. Some of my professors didn't allow laptops in class which meant taking notes by hand. This didn't bother me because the act of writing something down always seemed to cement it in my mind. However, outlines are typed. And outlining is easier and faster if your notes are typed. Just don't do what most of my study group did - don't let your notes pile up. It's overwhelming and you don't need anything else overwhelming on your plate.
4. Run hypos sooner. When you get close to exams you'll likely want to run hypos. This means finding a study aid (like E&E's) and reading their hypothetical questions and noodling out your best guess of an answer. We did this for hours and hours on end before exams. But we all agreed it would have helped us tremendously if we had tackled hypos each week. Learn something new in Contracts? Run a corresponding hypo to make sure you understand the material. The exercises help you recall the concepts and keep the materials fresh.
5. Meet with your study group sooner. We all agreed we wish we would have started meeting sooner. Meet each week. Meet whenever. But meet sooner than you think you need to. Meet and discuss what was covered in class. Meet and talk through your questions. Meet and work on your collaborative outline. Do whatever. But meet. Meeting helped us stay accountable and kept us on track.
Hope these tips help. Have additional tips? Share them here.