How to Prepare for Class in Law School
How to Prepare for Class in Law School: There is a lot of advice out there about how to best prepare for class when you are in law school. Our advice comes from many years of working with law students and helping them succeed. We believe that the best way to prepare for class is to not to read endlessly for hours at a time. Rather, it makes more sense to work smarter, not harder, of course. Plus, its takes more to succeed in law school than simply reading your assigned cases. You have to have time to outline and practice exams.
How to Prepare for Class in Law School
So what should you do?
We believe that investing in some sort of case briefs supplement that is keyed to your casebook is the first step. Then, take your text book and glance at the assigned reading. Before reading your casebook, read the briefed version of the case from the supplement. In other words, read the case brief version of your case before reading your text book.
A lot of students ask us if this is “cheating?” And our position on this is a firm “no.” If you start with the briefed version of a case first, prior to reading the long case book version, you will already know what the important facts are, what the issues are, what the holding is, etc.
The next question we frequently get on this topic is well, then why read the case book at all? You should read—or skim—the casebook because it is still important. A lot of casebook authors include important notes at the end of sections or include practice problems. However, approaching the material already knowing what you are looking for will save you a ton of time. You should be able to get through your assigned reading from the casebook in a fraction of the time.
What about notes?
Our position on note taking of your assigned reading prior to going to class is somewhat flexible. As long as you are not spending hours briefing every case, you are probably fine. Briefing cases is great for the very beginning of the semester when you are getting use to processing all of this information in a new way. Or, briefing is helpful if you know you will be on call and your professor handles lecture in a way that a brief would assist you. But otherwise, don’t spend time briefing your cases. This is especially because you should not be inserting case briefs into your outlines. Rather the information you include in your outlines regarding cases should be the rule or the important take away. (Not the whole brief!)
So, then how should you take notes on the reading so that you remember things for class? This can be done in a variety of ways. After reading your cases, briefly type up or write what was important about the cases. Or, highlight and write in the margins of your casebook. However you decide to take notes on your assigned reading remember one thing—your notes should not be too lengthy. This is because you will have notes from class too! Then you have to make time to review your notes on the reading and your notes from class to turn them into an outline. If you have lengthy notes from before and after class, you are creating a ton of work for yourself.
What should I do with my “extra” time?
Using our method, you should have extra time to do the other things necessary to succeed—such as outlining and practicing exams! Many students only have time to read for class and find themselves terribly unprepared when exams roll around. Instead, if you can take less time preparing for class, but yet still prepare, you will have time to review your notes after class. This is arguably as important as preparing for class and is so frequently overlooked! After you review your notes, you can take time each week to outline and practice problems.
Ultimately, how you prepare for class in law school will have a big factor in how well you do in law school. So figure out what you need to do as early as possible, and once you find something that works, keep doing it!
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