20 Tips for Success in Law School – From a #1 Law Student
If you are looking for success in law school, here are 20 excellent tips from a student who graduated as the #1 law student. These tips have been used by hundreds of law students at JD Advising. (You can read additional tips in our free law school prep course here or by downloading our free #1 law student guide here!) In the meantime, review our 20 quick tips for success in law school below!
20 Tips for Success in Law School – From a #1 Law Student
- Learn to read cases efficiently. It is important to prepare for class each day so you can follow along with class discussion. This does not mean you need to read all of your cases several times. Instead, read cases as close to class as possible (the day before or day of class). And, if you have a lot of reading, read more quickly by consulting a commercial brief prior to reading the actual case. It might seem counterintuitive, but reading briefs prior to reading your cases will actually help you get through them more quickly because you will have an overview of the case before diving into it!
- Go to every class! Your professor tests on what they teach. Your class notes are your most important resource. Prepare for every class. Go to every class. And, take good class notes. Your class notes will form the foundation for the law that you memorize and apply to exam fact patterns.
- Volunteer. Volunteering will help your professor get to know you. It will help your classmates get to know you. And it will keep you engaged in class. (As a bonus, some professors offer a grade boost for volunteers!)
- Turn off your wifi in class. Class is so important. You need to minimize distractions of email, social media, online shopping, etc. So turn off your wifi and pay close attention in class.
- Review, condense and organize your notes shortly after class. If you go to class then you don’t look at your notes until the end of the semester, you will have wasted a lot of valuable time! Instead, review, condense and organize your notes (in other words, work on your outline!) within 24 hours of each class. You will remember so much more from class and your outlines will be much more valuable to you. (This is actually just a fancy way of recommending that you work on your outlines every day after class! That brings us to our next point…)
- Outline early on. Your outline is your bible for each class. Write your own outlines and start early. You will feel less lost, more organized, and you can start to learn the law right away. Make it a priority to outline each week, beginning from the start of the semester. Learn more about why you should start outlining early here.
- Make your own outlines. Do not use other student outlines as substitutes for your own. You learn the law by outlining it. You will develop an intuitive understanding of outlining if you create your own outlines. This deep understanding of the material is lost if you simply use other student outlines. So create your own! Learn more about creating outlines here.
- Memorize your outlines. So many people do not like the word “memorize”. But after you have a good understanding of the law (by organizing your outline in a logical manner), you really have to over-learn the rules. It is not enough to have a general idea of the law. Instead, memorize the elements. You will have a competitive advantage on your exams if you are able to learn the details and nuances of the law.
- Work on reviewing throughout the semester. Don’t put memorizing the law off to the end of the semester. (That is a daunting task!) Make it manageable by reviewing and memorizing your outlines each week.
- Supplements are just that — supplements. Your class notes are your #1 resource for each class. Why? Your professor writes your exam. Your professor grades your exam. Your professor will test on what they teach. Supplements are supplemental. Don’t create a bunch of extra work for yourself by constantly consulting hornbooks, commercial outlines, other student outlines, etc. Instead, only consult supplements if you need to (a) demystify the law (figure out a rule, try to understand what your professor was saying) or (b) practice problems (that is, taking practice exam questions).
- Only join a study group if study groups benefit you. Not all students benefit from study groups. And even if you do, it does not mean you need to join one the first week of law school. Take your time and find a group of peers with who you will benefit from meeting.
- Your classmates are your lifelong friends and network. Don’t forget that “success” is not just academic. Many students find success by leveraging their network. Make it a point to be kind to your classmates.
- Briefing cases is not worth the effort. It takes a lot of time and contributes very little to your overall exam score. Make an effort to stop briefing cases (and only do it in limited circumstances, if at all) after your first week or so of law school.
- Make mental and physical fitness a priority. In order to be your best, most alert, and most focused self, we recommend you (a) sleep as much as you need to (7 or 8 hours a night), (b) exercise at least four times a week, (c) eat healthily, and (d) take care of your mental health (practice yoga, journal, etc.). Don’t sacrifice any of these to “study more.” You will do your best studying if you are physically and mentally at your best!
- Start legal writing assignments early. Work backward from the deadline date. If it is due in 6 weeks, pretend it is due in 5 weeks and work backward. Figure out what you need to do each week to complete the assignment and incorporate it right into your schedule.
- Learn the IRAC strategy. IRAC stands for Issue, Rule, Analysis, Conclusion. While the exact IRAC formula is a little bit basic, it is a necessary building block if you want to write excellent exam answers. So review this strategy. (And then, more importantly, practice it!) Learn more about the IRAC strategy here.
- Practice exams. What is the difference between an “A” student and a “B” student? An “A” student practices several exams before taking their final exam. A “B” student only practices a few exams. If you want to get an “A”, then practice as many exams as possible. If you wanted to get good at painting, you wouldn’t sit around and read about strategy all day. Instead, you would paint! It is the same with practicing exam problems ahead of time. The more exams you practice, the better you will get at taking exams!
- Focus on your professor’s past exams. Your professor will likely use a similar format as they have in the past. They will probably test issues in a similar way. The best way to prepare for your professor’s future exam is to complete as many past exams as possible.
- Review model exam answers. After you write your practice exam, review a model or sample answer. Ask yourself “what did I do well?” and “what do I need to improve on?” Closely review the model answer so you can provide yourself feedback and maximize your exam-taking strategy!
- Create a study schedule. There is a lot to do in law school. The best way to prioritize and get it all done is to create an effective study strategy that you can follow throughout the semester.
We hope these tips helped you and we wish you success in law school! Please feel free to comment below with any questions!
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