There are many methods and techniques that law students develop as their legal education progresses and many first year students, or 1Ls, are unsure of how to use those techniques to make the most of their study time. Your first semester of law school will be an exciting and overwhelming time. It’s filled with exciting new firsts – including, for most students, the first time you open a legal casebook (for you unwitting 1Ls - it is a mystical text compromised of run-on sentences and Latin legalese). Reading a casebook for the first time is not too different from reading a book written entirely in Italian with only a French dictionary by your side. But take a big breath and don’t fret! After repeated attempts to tackle the reading list, you will slowly begin to realize you can pepper everyday conversations with terms like inter alia and case law will be on the tip of your tongue. However, for many students the key to understanding assignments in law school is to develop a personalized study plan. The following are tips for how to develop you own method for conquering your law school reading:
- Form a Study Group
A great way to test your understanding of cases and concepts learned in class is to form your own study group. Try to gather a group of people who think differently than you, so you can see how the same subject can be interpreted in many ways.
- Focus on Learning and Understanding the Material
Instead of speed skimming the text to ensure you cover everything as quickly as possible, focus on understanding what you read. Question yourself why you were tasked to read each assignment, and think about all the ways you can apply your newfound knowledge.
- Think of Your Long-Term Goal
Don’t forget that you’ll need this information in the future when you take the Bar! Shift your paradigm of thinking from doing well on exams at the end of the semester to how law school should be helping you prepare for your future as an officer of the court. You should worry less on verbatim recitation and more on visualizing how you can use these concepts in practice.
- Try, Try, Again
Don’t be afraid to try different study methods. Try handwriting your notes vs. typing them or vice-versa. You can even record your notes and listen back to the recordings during your commute to campus. It’s also ok to have different study methods for different classes. If you need to draw charts to understand how the different rules of Federal Civil Procedure interact with one another and type the rest of your notes, that’s alright too.
- Organization is key
Once you find a method of note-taking that works for you however, make sure you organize your notes for each class in one spot. You can even organize your notes by breaking them into segments for each course by following your professor’s syllabus. By keeping all your notes organized, you will be better able to create outlines (a tool that can help you summarize what you’ve learned) closer to final exams. Another great tip is to get a planner and set deadlines to ensure you stay on schedule.
- Use Boyd’s Resources
A great resource at Boyd is the law library. It is filled with more secondary sources like treatises, hornbooks, and study aids than you could imagine. If you aren’t sure about a concept or simply want to learn more about a subject, the library is a great place to start. Boyd also has a wonderful and incredibly useful academic success program called CASE. If you are feeling lost and confused, set up an appointment to see a CASE mentor. They can help you get back on track with your studies.
- Go With What Works
A lot of people will give you advice about what they think works, but it is you that has to understand the law. Ultimately, studying is a personal process and you should do what works best for you and your needs.