Congratulations! You made it to law school. Now make sure that the time, effort, and money you will spend there is not wasted. Plan now to implement a few basic life and study skills that will serve you well for the next three years.
Read, Review, Repeat
Do all the reading for every class. Period. Failure to do so may result in falling so far behind that you never catch up. Set aside a quiet space for your reading during the time of day when you are most alert. Take notes while you read that include the significant facts of each case and the reason for the court’s decision. Review those notes right before class so you are prepared for that day’s discussion. Do this every day, without exception.
Outline Each Class
Writing outlines for each topic covered in each class is a powerful way to review and remember the subject matter. Furthermore, the skill of outlining and writing briefs will become important in your career. Judicial interns such as Rachel Lader spend the bulk of their internships reviewing, researching, and writing legal briefs and other documents. Get in the habit now of creating your own outlines.
Form a Study Group
While it’s true that misery loves company, there are better reasons than that to form or join a study group. Talking over coursework, reading material, and cases with your study group helps you retain material and increase understanding. Make sure that you seek out peers who have goals similar to yours and are well-prepared for class. Just be sure to resist any temptations to turn study time into a social hour or gossip session.
Take Practice Exams and Review Your Exams
Get copies of exams previously given by your professors and practice taking them. If there is a copy of the answers on file, check your answers. If not, ask your professors to review the answers with you. Make sure you do this well in advance of your final exams so you can learn and adjust your test-taking skills accordingly. After the grades have been posted for final exams, meet with your professors to review your results. Get feedback about areas in which you can improve.
Law school is infamously stressful. Even though time is a premium, you must carve out a bit for enjoyable, healthy activities. Build exercise into your daily routine. Connect with others socially, outside of class. Get plenty of sleep. Eat well land drink plenty of water. Contrary to what you see on television, lawyers cannot live on bagels and coffee alone. As always, if you feel your stress levels are impacting your life in overwhelmingly negative ways, talk about it with a close friend, a family member, a medical professional, or your dean.
It’s Not a Competition
Most importantly, remember why you’re in law school. No doubt you have goals that include serving others and working hard. Focus on those goals, rather than graduating top in your class. Just be your best.