Ten Unconventional Tips To Excel In Law School
Students go to law school with a similar goal in mind: to do as well as they can in order to secure their dream job. To that end, there’s no shortage of advice on how to excel in law school. Much of it is the same: do the reading, attend classes, and make sure you set aside time to study. In this blog post, we’re going to approach this topic a little bit differently. Here are ten unconventional tips to excel in law school!
Ten Unconventional Tips To Excel In Law School
1. Positive Affirmations/Visualizations
Do you find yourself struggling with your confidence levels as you prepare for law school? Now that you’re in law school, do you find yourself losing a little bit of confidence as you work your way through law school coursework? This is normal! Law school is very difficult, and it can be difficult to navigate new and challenging experiences!
If you find yourself in this position, try using some positive affirmations to get yourself in the mindset for success! After all, getting into law school is no easy task, and it’s no mistake that you were admitted. Your positive affirmations don’t need to be fancy. Try something like “I belong in law school,” or “I will succeed in law school.” Say it out loud to yourself, a family member, or your pet (goldfish are great listeners!). Remember to say your positive affirmation frequently. Make every effort to believe what you are saying.
Once you start to feel comfortable with your positive affirmations, you can also use visualization. Step back, close your eyes, and visualize yourself carrying out your positive affirmation. If your positive affirmation is “I will succeed in law school,” visualize yourself doing well on final exams or landing that job interview you’ve always wanted. Getting yourself in the mindset for success can lead to success!
2. Read Close to Class Time
Planning to do your reading the night before or the day of class may seem counterintuitive for many students. After all, since you know your assignments ahead of time, why not get all of your reading done over the weekend? Put simply, a lot can happen between the time you do the reading and the class for which the reading will be discussed.
Some students do all of the reading and forget what they read by the time class rolls around! This means that not only do they spend time reading, they have to spend extra time reviewing what they read on class day. By planning on doing your reading the night before or the day of, the material is fresh in your mind!
Are you struggling with your law school reading assignments? Check out our blog post on how to read a law school case for some tips and tricks!
3. Build Your Own Outlines
At the beginning of each semester, it seems like students are searching high and low for outlines. This is especially true for popular classes or classes with particular professors. Supplements, including outlines written by others, can certainly be useful when learning course material (we even sell law school supplements!). That being said, supplements are no substitute for attending, learning, and analyzing the materials yourself! It’s all too often that students get their hands on someone else’s outline and use it as a crutch instead of spending time learning the course materials! Outlines you create are in your own voice, they use the examples used in your class, and you’ll understand their meaning. By creating your own materials, you will have done all of the reading, writing, and studying, and you will be more prepared on exam day!
4. Don’t Forget About Case Briefs
This tip can help save you time as you dive into your reading material! By reading case briefs before tacking the actual cases in your textbook, you already have a high-level understanding of the rules, analysis, and holding of a particular case. When you read the long-form case after starting with the case brief, you already know the roadmap. This makes it easier to identify the most important points. By looking at the high-level analysis before getting into the details, it helps you move through your assigned reading just a little bit quicker (and can also make cases easier to understand!)!
(Please note, we do not suggest reading case briefs instead of reading cases!)
5. Be Protective of Study Time
There is no doubt that starting law school with good study habits can lead to success later on in your law school career. Students who excel in law school are often protective of their study time. In short, don’t feel bad about saying, “No” to events and activities when you have lots of studying to do.
For example, getting involved in law school can be incredibly beneficial. Not only does it look great on your resume, but it can also provide you with some purpose that you don’t get attending class or acing exams. Be careful not over-extend yourself, though! Pick a few activities that are important to you, and devote your time and energy to those activities. By being selective, you’ll have more time to study! By protecting your study time, it’s less likely that you’ll become overwhelmed and burn out.
6. Pretend Legal Writing Assignments are Due a Week Early
Pulling an all-nighter to finish that persuasive brief in your legal research and writing class is far from ideal. Tired minds can make simple mistakes, which can lead to losing points on your assignment! Instead, write down the due date for your assignment as being due a week early! This will help you identify any concerns you might have grasping the subject matter of the task right away and allow you plenty of time for some office hours. Additionally, this will help you get drafts done early and provide you with plenty of time to make final edits and deal with last-minute printing errors! You can turn in your well-edited assignment after a good night’s sleep!
7. Plan Ahead
If you’ve read some of our blog posts before, you’ve likely noticed a few themes. One is that we tend to emphasize planning for studying in advance. This is true if you’re studying for law school or the bar exam! A well-thought-out study schedule can make it easier to stay focused, and puts you on track to complete your work on time!
In addition to putting together a study schedule, you can also plan ahead for events unrelated to course work. If you typically take a day off each week where you don’t study, you can plan to use that day to go to your cousin’s wedding or your best friend’s Halloween party. Do you have to travel across the country to visit relatives for Thanksgiving? Add it to your calendar! We all know that life doesn’t stop just because you’re in law school. In fact, spending time with friends and family is a great way to decompress and avoid burnout!
By planning ahead, it’s easier for you to step back and be present in the events and activities you attend outside of law school. You can enjoy these outside events because you’re not worried about school work; you already have a plan in place to ensure that you don’t fall behind!
8. Go Beyond the Law School Library
Finding a spot to study while in law school can be tricky. Where do you go on a day when a coffee shop is too noisy? How do you handle studying while living with roommates? Many students gravitate to the law school library, but some students can find this to be distracting. Seeing other students that you know studying close by can sometimes lead to quiet conversations as opposed to catching up on your Constitutional Law reading.
If you find yourself looking for a quiet place to study, try exploring your local library! Local libraries often have quiet study spaces that are perfect for perusing your Contracts textbook. On a similar note, if your law school is part of a larger college campus, the undergraduate library can also have space conducive to studying. Additionally, a change of scenery can sometimes increase productivity and help you better retain information. Don’t be afraid to venture out and find the perfect study spot available to you!
9. Think About the Bar Exam and MPRE
This goes along with Unconventional Tip #7. Planning now to avoid stress later is just as applicable to the bar exam and MPRE as it is with studying and social events. For many students beginning law school, the bar exam and the MPRE seem so far away! After all, there is a lot of studying to be done before you start your bar exam application. While you certainly don’t need to start researching bar prep programs on your first day of law school, there are some things you can do early on in law school that can make preparing for the bar exam and MPRE a little bit easier.
First, acquaint yourself with both exams! Many students aren’t familiar with the MPRE, so spending a little bit of time acquainting yourself with the MPRE and its expectations can be well worth it in the long run! Additionally, we have loads of blog post articles that discuss what to expect on the bar exam (and the MPRE!).
Additionally, begin thinking about is when you might want to take the MPRE. The MPRE is only offered a few times a year (March, August, and November). By putting some thought early on surrounding when you want to take the MPRE, you’ll be ready to go with an MPRE-prep course and time set aside to study. This helps you avoid the last-minute scramble to take (and pass!) the MPRE and avoid some unnecessary stress!
Likewise, keep track of when your bar exam applications are due so you’re not racing to complete it at times when you otherwise planned to study. By planning ahead for the bar exam and MPRE, you’ll know you have the time set aside, and make it less likely to interrupt your other studies.
10. It’s ok to say “No” (and “Yes!”)
We talked earlier about being protective of your study time, which can necessarily require you to say “no” to certain events and activities. Don’t be afraid to say “no” if you are struggling with your law school/life balance. Setting boundaries are not only ok but expected as you work your way through law school. For example, if you find studying with peers is not as effective as studying by yourself, don’t feel pressured to join a study group! You can meet up with classmates during lunch or by grabbing a coffee before class. Don’t waste your valuable study time participating in activities that are simply not helpful.
Likewise, law school can be an amazing experience! Many students walk away from law school with life-long friends and incredible memories. Don’t be afraid to say “yes” to joining that student org you’ve always been interested in or grabbing coffee with that person in your legal research and writing class! Going through law school can be difficult and lonely at times. Finding friends who are experiencing the same thing you are can make all the difference!