Law school and studying have notoriously been synonymous, and for good reason. The American Bar Association requires each “credit hour” to normally include not less than one hour of classroom or direct faculty instruction and two hours of out-of-class student work per week. At Western State, we help our incoming students prepare for the rigors of law school with an “Introduction to Legal Methods” course which provides them a foundation for law school coursework. We have also tapped some of our alumni and asked them to share their tips for managing the workload. Here’s what they had to say:
- Prepare for today’s class – not next week’s
It might be tempting to try and get ahead in your studies, especially when just starting off. However, preparing for more than one week means double the work – which is a lot of time and can take away from the current work you should be focusing on. In addition, throughout your law school journey, you will continue to learn, work through projects and receive feedback which will help you fine tune your studying strategies. This means your efforts to get ahead might actually require more time to redo work if you find out you have been briefing wrong or you learn how to better track down the holding, etc.
- Find a study group
You are not alone in law school; all your classmates are on the same journey. Therefore, creating a study group early on not only helps hold you accountable and establish good study habits, but it can also be a crucial support system. In addition, working on projects and talking through cases with peers can open your perspective and help you see things in new ways. At Western State, we foster a cooperative versus a competitive environment. Therefore, we encourage students to study together as you are not competing against one another for grades.
- Set time aside for studying
Establishing good study habits early on is important to not only complete the work but also keep you sane. This is more than just setting a schedule but also acknowledging how long you can focus before you stop retaining information. In addition, since time during law school is limited, identify the classes that might need more attention and prioritize them during your week. It is also recommended to set a limit on how long you work on cases as it can be daunting if you don’t understand it. Sometimes preparing to the best of your ability and then moving on is a more effective use of your time than lingering when stuck on an assignment. Establishing these study habits early can help you not only through law school, but also when you transition to studying for the bar exam.
- Ask for help
When you have a question, there is no shame in asking for help. Tap into your resources whether classmates, professors, judges, attorneys, librarians or experts. This is especially important early on as your learnings build upon one another. So, make sure you have a good foundation. One alumnus likened it to putting a jigsaw puzzle together: You might not be given the full picture in year one, but each piece will eventually fit together so it is important to ensure you are not cutting corners.
- Leverage study aids and hornbooks
Study aids and hornbooks can help you break down complex legal matters. However, they are simply meant to be an aid and not to do the work for you. These can be good resources when you have read a case or a section of the book and are not understanding the concept. In these instances, you can leverage the Q&A or examples and understanding sections for helpful information. These can be costly, but law school libraries sometimes offer free access to study aids.
Your academics are an important part of your law school journey and succeeding in the classroom sets you up for internships, scholarships and job opportunities. Therefore, establishing strong study habits early on will serve you well. For more tips from our alumni read our recent article on Five Tips For First Year Law Students.