5 Things to do NOW to Get Ready for Law School – Advice from a Student who Graduated #1 in her class

5 things to do now to get ready for law school 5 Things to do NOW to Get Ready for Law School – Advice from a Student who Graduated #1 in her Class

In this post we discuss five things you can do right now to get ready for law school. This post is written by Ashley Heidemann, who graduated as the #1 student in her class of 2011 at Wayne State University Law School.  Ms. Heidemann also has designed a law school preparatory course for those looking to learn the exact techniques she used to succeed in law school.

5 Things to do NOW to Get Ready for Law School – Advice from a Student who Graduated #1 in her Class

1. Don’t lose sight of the bigger picture.

This is so important and yet extremely overlooked by even very well-intentioned law students. Most students focus on the “urgent” instead of the important—that is, they focus on reading cases, briefing cases, and looking as impressive as possible when they are “on call” in law school.

But in doing so, they lose site of the bigger picture and prepare all wrong. The bigger picture is that what really matters is your final exam. Your final exam determines your entire grade in most law school classes (besides legal writing) so you have to do what is required to succeed on your final exam (and that is outlining, reviewing your outlines, and taking practice exams—as we explain in a moment). Unfortunately, reading and briefing every case and doing a stellar job “on call” will not help you on your final exams!  So we do not recommend you spend hours each day reading and briefing cases.

Basically, the first step is to keep this bigger picture in mind. After all, you will not be able to be productive if you do not eliminate unproductivity! Your time is limited by hours in a day and you have to spend those hours efficiently and productively.

2. Learn how to outline and figure out your learning style.

Learn how to outline:

This is the most important thing I can recommend you do from the first day of law school: Outline early and outline often.  So learn how to outline before law school!  Your outlines do not have to be perfect, they just have to be done! And done regularly. Please see this in-depth post on how to make a law school outline if you don’t know where to start.

Many students wait until week 8 or 9 or some other arbitrary time to start outlining. Then they spend the rest of the semester catching up and feeling behind. They also feel lost the first eight weeks of law school because they do not understand how what they are learning one week fits into the material they already learned. In short, they waste a lot of valuable time.

You do not want to spend your time catching up. By outlining all along, you will be caught up throughout the semester, you can start learning and memorizing the law right away, and you will not feel so lost!

Figure out your learning style:

It’s not enough to have an outline—you have to know it, and know it cold. Reviewing your outlines consistently is key. I used to review each of my outlines (and by review I mean “memorize”) every single week. Make sure you actively review your outlines. If you are just reading them and re-reading them, you are probably not reviewing them “right.”  Here are some tips to actively reviewing your law school outlines, if you are not sure where to start.

This is so important because in order to do well on a final exam you have to know the law very well. The first step toward learning the law is to organize it into an outline and the second step is to memorize this outline! If you never learned how to memorize in undergrad, you will need to learn it in law school! (And don’t worry, it is not that hard, it is just time-consuming! Please see the post above for ideas so you can figure out your learning style and try out different methods!).

3. Learn how to answer exam problems.

The next thing you can start to do before you even start law school is to come up with a good method for answering exam questions. Here is an in-depth guide to answering law school exam questions if you are not sure where to start. You don’t have to go crazy with this, just have a good method and then make sure that you are ready to put this method into practice after you begin law school.

Over the semester, you should plan on answering exam questions consistently so that the final exam is not super difficult for you. Your professors’ past exams are the best resource for answering past exam questions. Make it a point to get a hold of as many practice exams as you can right away so you have them at your disposal. Then start answering them after you have some information under your belt.

It’s also a good idea to pick up a supplement—e.g., Examples and Explanations—to practice all throughout the semester and get a clearer picture of the law. You can pick up supplements even before you begin law school.

4. Create a law school study schedule.

We have a detailed post on how to create a good law school study schedule here. A law school study schedule is key because if you don’t have a study schedule, you won’t get done what you hope to accomplish. You can have all the “theory” about how to do well in law school in your head, but without a practical plan, it is useless.

Your law school study schedule should make time for studying and also time to engage in stress-free activities (like sleeping as much as you need to, exercising, etc.).  If you have an efficient approach to law school and follow the steps outlined in this post, you will not need to spend every minute on law school. (See this post for how I graduated as the number one law student and still managed to take a day off every single week.)

5. Keep in mind how important your 1L year is. Take our private one-on-one or small-group law school prep course if you want detailed strategies on how to succeed!

Your 1L year not only determines your GPA (and thus, potentially your job after law school!) but if you do well your 1L year, the bar exam will be that much less stressful of an experience. Putting the time, energy, and effort into your 1L year will thus maximize your chances of:

  • getting a good job
  • getting competitive internships and clerkships
  • writing on to law review
  • receiving a scholarship
  • transferring to a better law school (if that is your goal)
  • passing the bar exam

Since your performance your 1L year determines SO much,  remember that it is really your final exam grades your 1L year that are “key”—which really means that it is how well you outline, learn your outlines, and practice exams that is key!

Put in the time and energy now and you will save yourself so much time, energy (and money) later!

If you want a detailed approach to succeeding in law school, please sign up for our law school preparatory course. This course is offered in a one-on-one and small-group setting and teaches the approach that I used to graduate as the #1 law student.


Ms. Ashley Heidemann graduated as the number 1 law student out of over 200 students in her class of 2011 at Wayne State University. She now works as a tutor for law students and the bar exam. She also offers a
Law School Preparatory Course for students interested in learning the skills necessary to achieve a high GPA in law school.