I’m Struggling in Law School—What Should I Do?
It is a common misnomer that in law school, nothing matters until the final exam. It is true that in many classes, the majority of your overall grade in the class comes from your score on the final exam. However, one of the biggest mistakes you can make in law school is not devoting enough time to day-to-day preparation. If you find yourself struggling in law school around the middle of the semester, this would be a good time to re-evaluate the strategies you’re using to prepare for class each day.
I’m Struggling in Law School – What Should I Do?
1. Come to class better prepared!
Law school can be daunting in that it throws an incredible amount of material at you on a vast array of subjects and expects you not only to learn it, but understand how to critically apply it in a very short period of time. It is very difficult to succeed in law school if you aren’t utilizing proper study techniques throughout the semester.
Although professors do put a lot of weight on the final exam, they still expect every student to come to class prepared to discuss the material assigned each day. You should not be briefing cases or spending hours upon hours reading them a day. But you should book brief or be familiar with them before class. This will help relieve anxiety and it will help you keep up. You can read more about book briefing in our post on law school time savers, found here!
2. Review class material immediately before class.
If you review the assigned material directly before class, it will jog your memory about which topics are important and what you will be expected to discuss in the next few hours. We highly recommend buying commercial case briefs so that you can review case briefs before class.
3. Outline early!
One of the biggest mistakes we see law students make is that they do not outline early enough. Start your outline right away. If you start your outline ASAP, you will notice a few positive effects right away:
- You will instantly feel more comfortable with and more in control of the material.
- You will feel less “lost” in class, because you will have a bigger picture of the law in your mind.
- You will feel (and be!) much more prepared for the final exam! You will not be trying to cram information into your head all at one time. You will take it gradually and let it sink in!
To read our numerous outlining tips, please click here.
4. Practice exams.
Another thing that may contribute to your anxiety is not knowing what the final exam is going to look like. So many students feel an overwhelming anxiety about the final exam. And sometimes this anxiety leads them to avoid looking at exams altogether!
If you find yourself avoiding looking at final exams, take steps to be proactive. Put it in your calendar that one day you will download exams (or get them from your law school’s library). The next day you will look at just one problem of one exam, etc.
This way you will take a piecemeal approach. You will see your anxiety start to lessen immediately! To read our numerous tips on law school final exams, click here.
5. Ask others for help.
Don’t be afraid to ask others for help. Remember that your peers are just as new to this experience as you are. They’re most likely struggling in some of the same ways. Forming a study group can be an excellent strategy to help you get your questions answered. Also important to remember is that your professors are there to help! They truly want you to understand the material and are an excellent resource if you have questions.
If you feel like you are struggling with a particular topic, make an appointment with your professor or visit them during office hours. Often struggling students feel like class just moves too quickly. Many also feel uncomfortable asking questions in front of others for fear that it makes them look inferior. Law school is a very competitive place and so those feelings are perfectly understandable. Remember, though, that the professor’s job to make sure everyone succeeds! They won’t judge you for not grasping a concept as quickly as the others.
6. Remember that you are not alone!
For those of you struggling in law school at this time of year, you are not alone! Now is the perfect time to re-evaluate your study strategies and take inventory of the subjects you really feel uncomfortable with. Take advantage of the many resources that are at your disposal. Make sure that you’re putting in the effort every day. is still plenty of time to turn things around, you just have to be willing to work for it!
Laura Sigler, a JD Advising bar exam essay grader, who graduated cum laude from Wayne State University Law School wrote this post.
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