Practical Advice for students during their first year of law school and beyond.
Wherever you are on your law school journey, the following list has something to help any student succeed in law school.
Tip Number One: Review your notes before each class and ask a question about the materials.
As a first-year law student, I was intimidated to speak in class, but I really wanted that grade bump. So before each class, I reviewed my notes and formulated a question. Most professors will ask if anyone has any questions at the beginning of the class. This is a great time to ask your question, and the benefits of doing so are at least threefold:
- It will help you to learn the materials and make outlining easier.
- It will help you identify areas that you don’t understand.
- It may help you to get a grade bump.
“Participating” in class doesn’t necessarily mean having the right answer. Well formulated questions can lead to valuable in-class discussions. And as a bonus, it will help the professor get to know you. If she doesn’t know who you are, she can’t give you a bump.
Tip Number Two: Create your own outline to Succeed in Law School.
Many students wonder how to study in law school, and some of the common advice isn’t necessarily the best. One such misconception is the idea that to succeed in law school you need an outline from a 2L or 3L who performed very well on their exams.
While another student’s outline can certainly be helpful in clarifying areas of law that you don’t quite understand, the best way to learn the materials is to create your own outline. Here is an in-depth resource that guides you through the process.
Tip Number Three: Select a Co-Curricular Carefully to Succeed in Law School.
Law schools offer a variety of co-curriculars, like Moot Court and Law Review. The process of selecting a co-curricular activity can be onerous. Keep the following in mind as you decide:
- Apply for more than one co-curricular: Like applying for college and legal jobs, you want to have a backup in case you don’t get selected for your top choice. Apply to at least two or three co-curriculars to ensure your success.
- Select a co-curricular that makes sense for your goals: Different co-curriculars teach different skills. If your goal is Big Law, you should apply for Law Review. If you aim to be a prosecutor, a trial advocacy co-curricular would make the most sense for you. And Moot Court is a good fit if you aim to do complex litigation. Even though it’s appellate level writing and oral argument, the briefing and oral advocacy skills are directly transferable.
- Use your co-curricular to help you achieve your goals: This is great fodder for interviews because interviewers are impressed by focused students. In other words, a student who tells an interviewer that she selected mock trial because she wants to be a prosecutor will impress the interviewer far more than a student who says she selected it because she thought it would be interesting.
Participating in a co-curricular can help you develop skills for your future career. Plus it looks great on your resume, and you can use it to impress interviewers.
Tip Number Four: Don’t let other students get you down.
There is always that student that stays at the library until close and wakes up before everyone else to begin studying. Since most law students don’t know what to expect their first year of law school, this can be unnerving. And it often causes law students who don’t follow the same study pattern to feel guilt and shame.
However, we all know we reach the point of diminishing returns when we work too hard and are no longer able to retain new information. The students who work untenable hours often don’t achieve the results they desire. It’s important to take care of yourself and to find balance so that when it is time to study you’ll feel fresh.
Tip Number Five: Find Balance to Succeed in Law School.
The life of a law student can’t be all work. It’s important to take breaks and take care of yourself physically and mentally. Self-care can have many meanings, like going to the gym, reading for fun, or hanging out with your friends. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it is something you should prioritize.
Legal employers often ask interview questions, like “what do you like to do in your spare time?” or “what are your hobbies?” because they want to know you have healthy outlets to handle the stress of law school.
Let me know in the comments below what tips helped you succeed in law school.