If you’ve been reading this for a while, you know I’m a proponent of “study how you study,” as the only real way to study case law. Meaning, if you do flash cards, do flash cards, but if that’s not your style then don’t sweat it. When I first started, I wrote up case briefs, but had no real idea of the purpose. I wrote them up, ready to glance at them if I was called on in class, but never used them as a study tool. It was a waste of my time.
I also didn’t have a study schedule, doing all my readings the night before class (why lol) and so I just created a perfect environment for not so stellar grades and that’s exactly what I earned that first year.
But something clicked once I started 2L year. It’s almost embarrassing to admit, but what made me rearrange my study schedule was love <3 (awww lol). Basically, my husband (then boyfriend) and I moved in together. I wanted to spend my evenings with him, so I decided to go to the library on the weekends, do all my readings for the week so that I could have more free time with him. #priorities.
But that actually changed everything for me. I had a set study schedule, that didn’t leave me scrambling last minute. And because I was doing reading in bulk, I realized I had no time to brief cases. Instead, I reverted to what I used to do in undergrad and took simple (handwritten) notes.
Suddenly, I was analyzing cases easier, faster, and truly getting it. Obviously, an entire previous year of law school helped me understand concepts better, but changing my study style to what actually works for me was what made the difference. I went from barely ok grades to Dean’s List so the improvement was real and it was noticeable.
Do I suggest everyone give up their weekends to read cases for 8+ hours? Yes. Ok, not really. But I do suggest that if you’re not satisfied with your grades (and I mean satisfied because you need to improve not because you’re a type A perfectionist), then you should assess how you’re taking in material and if that’s really working for you.
Some things you can try:
Two. Take notes in your book. Mark up your book with comments and to emphasize points you want to remember. Don’t fall victim to the highlight everything on the page (everything is not relevant!). I wouldn’t highlight the facts of the case or procedural history etc, just the court’s discussion of the decision so as not to flood each page with pink highlighter.
Three. Try a different location. Coffee shops are so chic and don’t make you feel depressed like a library. But it’s law school, depression is kind of a given. Coffee shops are also expensive and possibly distracting. Just be honest with yourself about your study environment and change it up to see if that helps with your focus.
The great thing about any of these changes is that they’re small and can be done at any time throughout the semester. You’re midway to the end of this year. If you think you need a better grasp on the subject matter then make some changes now and see what happens.