Law school is nothing like undergrad, but you can get through it and even do well in it! Here are some tips for surviving law school.
In undergrad, it was easy to cut corners and cram the night before an exam after not keeping up with the syllabus. You can’t do that when in law school. You have to stay on top of the readings, show up to class and study ahead of time. If you fall behind, it can be hard to catch back up. Remember, you’re being curved with your classmates, so if they’re putting in more time than you are, they have the advantage. Also, do not rely on already-made outlines. It might be tempting to use outlines that have been shared with you, but making them yourself is going to help you memorize the material better and locate any information you need faster on exam day.
“Knowing your audience” applies to law school exams. Aside from knowing how to apply the law, it’s helpful to get inside your professor’s mind for exam preparation. Take thorough notes and pay attention to what topics they focus on the most – you might be able to make predictions about what will show up on the exam. If your professors have sample exam answers, go through them to see what kind of responses get A’s. Go to office hours to pick their brains as well. Practice catering your answers to what your professors want. If your contracts professor says she doesn’t like long answers, don’t write her a long answer on exam day.
Law school exams are probably more intense than what you’re used to. They’re usually three hours long and may require you to write answers longer than this article. To avoid going into a panic on your first exam day, practice writing out your essays under timed conditions.
There are a few benefits to having a study group. For one, the only people who understand what you’re going through are other law students, so you and your study group can agonize together. You’re going to be in the library a lot, so sharing a study room with your study group or sitting next to a study buddy can be comforting, even if you’re not actually discussing anything. The best perk of being part of a study group, though, is going over exam questions and materials together. If you’re having trouble issue spotting or understanding the law, a study buddy might be able to help.
If your school doesn’t set you up with a mentor, find a 2L or 3L to coach you at the beginning of your law school journey. They may have some valuable insight on professors, and they will likely have access to thorough outlines (but remember to just use these outlines as a guide). A good mentor will also help you calm your nerves. They’ve been through what you’re going through and made it out just fine, so believe them when they tell you things are going to be okay.
Law school will feel like more than a full-time job. You will almost always feel like you have something to read or study, but you need to set time aside for yourself. Whether you regularly go to gym, cook yourself dinner, call your sibling or watch your favorite show, it’s important to give your brain a break.
Once you’ve finished your first year, you pretty much have the rest of law school figured out. 2L and 3L may be just as busy and stressful, but you’ll know how to navigate it. Soon enough, you’ll be the one giving law school tips to incoming students.
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