Law School

Study How You Study

We previously discussed how to prep for 1L week and –surprise–the main focus was getting prepped for studying.  But it’s worthwhile to delve into “how to study” a little deeper.

I say this a lot, but it’s actually really important to realize that you will be most successful if you study how you study. Think back on all the college classes where you excelled and mimic those study habits.  Note that I wrote excelled, not: barely put in the work but somehow still passed–that won’t fly in law school.  The reason why this is important is because law school has the tendency to push people into doing the same thing.  According to them, if briefing cases works for one student then it should work for all of them.  The reality is that we all have different capacities and methods of understanding.  Definitely try case briefing, but if it’s not working–move on.  For upperclassmen, it’s also worthwhile to analyze your current form of studying and see if it’s still working with your current lifestyle because you’ve probably realized by now that 2L/3L year is very different from the previous terms.

how to study in law school

For me, it wasn’t until I was a 2L that I finally figured out a way to study where I would really understand the material.  Before I found “my method,” I tried different things like flash cards and case briefings, but none of it seemed to really help the material stick.  It wasn’t until I fell back on what I had done successfully in college and gave myself permission to stray from the way law students “should” study, that I finally started to really comprehend my cases.

Here’s what I did:  I would go to the library by 10 am on Saturday and read for all my classes for the week until around 7 (I’m not an early bird, so a late start was best for me).  Repeat on Sunday.  Usually, I was able to read all my assigned readings and type out notes for the week.  By 3L year, I could just write a note in the textbook or highlight something and I would be able to recall the point in class (but that takes a lot practice and time).

Yes, it would take up all my weekend.  Yes, it sucked.  But I preferred having my weeknights free because my boyfriend (now husband) and I had started to live together, and I wanted to commit some time to the relationship (a life outside of law school? Crazy concept, right?!).  Mostly, I ended up sticking to this “no weekend ever” plan because I enjoyed not feeling as if I was just barely holding my head above water during the week.  Which is exactly how I felt during my 1L year–where I would do briefs and outlines all weekend and could barely read my cases the day before class–it was a mess.  I was a mess.  Things improved greatly (including my grades!) once I found my groove.

While my method may not work for everyone, the point is to take a moment and figure out if your current study method is working for you.  Maybe you decided to try something new or you’re doing something because your school highly encouraged it.  That’s fine as long as it works.  Is it working?  If it’s not working, then fall back on your tried and true methods of studying and see if that makes things easier for you.

 

One Comment

  • thinktutoring101

    Reblogged this on Tutoring 101 and commented:
    First, let me thank Latinas Uprising for this terrific post about studying and the forming of strong study habits. And though this post is written from the perspective of a law student, the advice included here can be useful for students of virtually any age from middle school and up. There are two things in particular about this post — two ideas it presents — that, I think, set it a part from the many other posts on studying out there in the blogosphere:

    1. That studying is not a given skill and that studying, contrary to what is apparently popular belief, doesn’t look or work the same way for every student. As Latinas Uprising explains, “For me, it wasn’t until I was a 2L that I finally figured out a way to study where I would really understand the material. Before I found ‘my method’, I tried different things like flash cards and case briefings, but none of it seemed to really help the material stick. It wasn’t until I fell back on what I had done successfully in college and gave myself permission to stray from the way law students ‘should’ study, that I finally started to really comprehend my cases.” In other words, studying itself takes patience and practice — don’t let yourself be convinced that you simply aren’t good at a given subject. Instead, try exploring new styles and schedules for studying until you find what works for you.

    And 2.
    That studying requires more than simply the act of studying — studying requires creativity in scheduling and, above all, discipline. As Latinas Uprising explains of her newfound studying success: “Yes, it would take up all my weekend. Yes, it sucked. But I preferred having my weeknights free because my boyfriend (now husband) and I had started to live together, and I wanted to commit some time to the relationship (a life outside of law school? Crazy concept, right?!). Mostly, I ended up sticking to this ‘no weekend ever’ plan because I enjoyed not feeling as if I was just barely holding my head above water during the week.” Can you dig that wild news? Well, it’s true — to study successfully, you don’t always need to revisit the material on a daily basis. It all depends on the needs of your schedule and the unique ways that you learn best. This requires not only flexibility and discipline, but creativity as well — don’t let yourself get stuck on an idea of what studying is supposed to look like and when it is supposed to take place. If studying in the morning each day works best for you because you’d prefer to have your evenings free for a significant other, the advancement of a hobby, participation in an extracurricular activity, etc., then give it a try! If focusing the bulk of your homework time to the weekends might work best for you and your schedule, then give it a try!

    The main takeaway is, learning to study takes time — don’t let a few stresses and bumps along the way discourage you from pushing forward.

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