Succeed in Law School: My A+ Law School Study Schedule
I graduated first in my class at law school, and I was able to get mostly A+’s in the process (about 55% of my grades were an A+!). I liked to get A+s for two reasons: (1) it was a nice buffer! Aiming for an A+ made it more likely I would at least get an A in any particular course. (2) It was a nice ego boost. Not that I told anyone (or that anybody cared) if I got an A+, but it was nice to see my seat number on the class list as the only A+ out of over 100 students! Read on to learn more about my A+ law school study schedule that I used to succeed in law school!
Succeed in Law School: My A+ Law School Study Schedule
Critical to my A+ law school study schedule was a routine that centered around three specific actions:
- preparing for class and taking good notes;
- creating my own outlines and memorizing them; and
- taking practice exams.
Preparing For Class And Taking Good Notes
I am a morning person by nature, and I found it easiest to prepare for class on the day of class. Each morning, I woke up early and would spend an hour or so preparing for each class. I always started by reviewing case briefs before reading the assigned material. A simple Google search or Casenote Legal Briefs were the two resources I tended to use. Then, I would read and book-brief each case. For an excellent case brief template, check out our post, How to Brief A Case for Law School: A Step-by-Step Guide by a #1 Law Student.
Doing classwork work the same day as class kept the material fresh in my mind. As a consequence, it was easier for me to follow the professor in class. This also made it easier to take good notes during class, which was vital to my success because law professors test what they teach. So, taking good class notes (including jotting down the examples my professor used in class) and learning what the professor thought about the course material was critical. In short, rather than spending my time focusing on the nitty-gritty facts of each case, I focused instead on the rules of law, and the lessons of the professors.
Some students make the mistake of spending all of their time preparing for class (e.g. writing out case briefs for each assigned case, joining study groups to talk about cases, etc.). However, remember— this is only one step of many to getting high grades in law school! You also have to outline, learn the law, and take practice exams. (In this post, “How to Prepare for Law School Final Exams,” our main hint is to stop obsessing over cases.)
As a final note, I was one of a few law students that actually handwrote class notes. This allowed me to really focus on what was important and process the information during class. It also had the bonus of helping me avoid any temptation to check social media, shop online, or do anything besides pay attention to my professor! Handwriting class notes is not necessarily the best approach for everyone, but I found it worked for me.
Creating Your Own Outlines And Memorizing Them
When it came to outlining, I took a day-by-day approach. I made it a habit to work on my outlines each day right after class. In fact, I started them on the first day of each class.
I found it really helpful to do this right after class (or at the very least, within 24 hours of class). By working on outlines after class, I could better internalize the material since it was still fresh in my mind. I also had a good idea of what was important (and what wasn’t!). By taking this approach, I was able to organize my notes on a daily basis, fetter out the rules of law and explanatory hypotheticals, and then export those notes right into my outline.
However, I never just copied and pasted my class notes and then deemed it an outline. Doing that just leads to an unruly, unorganized, and unhelpful outline. If you find yourself fumbling to figure out just exactly how to outline, check out this post, How do I create a law school outline? where we provide an in-depth guide to outlining. We also include a quick how-to video. The five-step approach focuses your efforts, minimizing the potential for feeling overwhelmed!
After making my law school outline, I then spent time each day reviewing them.
We talk about how to learn law school outlines in another blog post which provides seven tips to get you on your way. It is important to remember that just having an outline isn’t enough—you must actually learn the material on it. Going into a final exam without knowing the elements of the law will leave you in a difficult position. Even if the exam is open book or open note, you still will not have enough time to consult your outline for every single rule. Under those circumstances, wrangling an A+ can be extremely difficult.
To get a head start on final exams, I made sure to review my outlines every week. I started reviewing my outlines at the beginning of the semester. In short: build good habits. After you go to class and create your outline, make sure you spend time learning the elements of the law. This keeps the information fresh in your mind, and as you repeatedly review, you will also repeatedly learn. At the end of the week, review your entire week’s notes. This will help you to retain the material.
I found it helpful to learn my outlines by quizzing myself. To do this, try covering up portions of your outline and see if you can recite the elements of the law. I found this to be a great active study technique rather than merely passive, learning. This process of testing and re-testing myself allowed me to learn the law in a way that didn’t leave me feeling completely overwhelmed, and it also helped me to see how the law I had already learned fit into the newer areas of law that I was learning.
Another bonus was that by the time my other classmates started outlining, I already knew all of the law, and so I had a far less difficult time answering questions in class. In addition, when I started studying for the bar exam I was simply reviewing that which I had already learned, making bar preparation much easier.
Taking Practice Exams
The third thing that I did that helped me to succeed in law school was to take practice exams. If you don’t take practice exams, you should not expect an A on a final exam! Taking practice exams is what really separates the As and the Bs!
Start with hypotheticals early in the semester.
In addition to class preparation and creating your own outlines, I advise that you start getting ready for final exams early on. Review hypotheticals, see if you can answer them correctly, and then once you’ve gotten to the mid-point of the semester, move on to taking prior exams from your professors. If your professor does not have any exams, try checking with the school library or speak with the Dean of Students. You can even ask a bar exam advisor or academic success personnel!
JD Advising also offers various law school study aids including short practice problems and over a thousand multiple-choice questions. (You can also try these out for free!) There are also, of course, endless books of sample questions and answers that you can most likely find (on display) in your law school library.
Once you’ve found your repository of questions, use them. Use them daily, use them weekly, and keep track of your performance. It’s also important to notice how you are approaching the questions. Are you quickly answering and moving on? Do you read the answer and understand why the answer is what it is? Are you anxious when you are answering the questions? Do you retain the information? If not, be sure to try to figure out why!
In a previous post, How to Answer Law School Exam Questions, we provide helpful guidance on how to incorporate and apply your question practice to your test-day performance. The point is, that just showing up for the final exam is not enough! Learning how to take the exam is just as important, and that will get you ready for that A+!
Next, make sure to use your professor’s past exams!
About midway through the semester, switch to your professor’s past exams! If your professor does offer previous exams (as many do!) you’ll get a better sense of not only what your professor tests but how your professor tests content. After you take the exam, be sure to get sample or model answers that accompany the exam, and then self-assess. Because most classes only have a final exam, it is incumbent upon you to figure out if you are on track! Be honest with your assessment and identify where you can improve. If your professor does not have practice exams, or if the exams lack a model answer, then try a Google search! For example, Google, “Contracts exam model answer” so you can see examples of how other professors have tested Contracts exams and you can also get the model answer that can be a helpful tool as you review.
As you move through the practice questions ask yourself the following:
- Did I spot the issue?
- Did I identify the rule?
- Is there an exception to the rule that is applicable?
- Was my analysis thorough?
- How confident was I in my reasoning and my ultimate answer?
That last point is important. Understanding if you are too confident or not confident enough can be very important in determining your overall exam-preparedness. Overconfidence can lead to disastrous results, and a lack of confidence can too. Learning to manage your emotions is a very important part of the law school, especially when taking law school exams. For more information on how to prepare for law school exams, take a look at our posts “An Overview of How to Succeed on Law School Exams,” “How to Study Effectively for Law School Exams,” and “The Best Way to Study for Law School Exams.”
JD Advising offers many resources to help you to succeed in law school. If you have yet to start law school, check out our completely free law school prep course, here. If you are already in law school and you’re looking for practice exams, visit our law school study aids here!