Blog banner features adult male student studying from a book on a couch, with a black background and white lettering that reads: ways to be the best law student

Ways to be the Best Law Student

Six tried and true law school success tips to help you be the best law student you can be and maybe even have a little fun along the way.

Attend Class Regularly and Take Excellent Notes to be the Best Law Student

This is my number one law school success tip: most professors don’t test on things they don’t teach. In fact, I’ve never taken a law school test that covers topics the professor didn’t teach. So, while it’s okay to miss class if you are sick or need a mental health day, it almost never makes sense to skip class to catch up on reading or work for another class.

Instead, be present in class whenever possible and take excellent notes. Hornbooks and study supplements should only be used to fill in gaps in your notes or to aid in understanding something that wasn’t clear.

Many of my peers also wasted time taking notes on their reading and integrating those notes into their outline. If you need to take notes on your reading to help you make it through cold calls, fine. But please don’t use those notes for anything else. Your professor will tell you what you need to know for the test, and this should be the focus of your notes and outline.

You might also like: This list of really cool things to make law school a little brighter

To be the Best Law Student Use your Notes to Outline

In law school, you really need to make your own outline, instead of relying on another student’s. And your outline should almost entirely come from your class notes.

Hornbooks and other supplements can be helpful, especially if you are trying to wrap your head around a difficult concept. But, because profs don’t generally test what they don’t teach, you can and should use your class notes to outline the material. Then supplement only when necessary.

I have a secret: professors know they are smart and they think highly of themselves. This isn’t meant to put professors down, but think about it. If you know you have a great legal mind and have the opportunity to teach young folk, then what are you going to test on? Your lecture, of course.

You might also like: This exhaustive list of on-campus interview questions

Get Involved to be the Best Law Student

Participating in extra- and co-curricular activities is a great way to learn skills, build your resume, and make friends. Great ways to get involved include law school clinics, clubs, and co-curriculars, like Law Review. Law schools generally offer credit for some of these activities, and it’s a great way to meet like-minded law students.

Getting involved serves two purposes. First, it can be an excellent resume builder, especially if you are joining organizations that make sense for your long-term career goals. For instance, if you want to be a prosecutor, it makes sense for you to join your law school’s Criminal Law organization and focus on co-curriculars that will help you learn trial skills.

But getting involved also serves another purpose when it comes to being an excellent law student: staying informed. My law school sent around so many emails. I don’t know who was running the show, but it was oppressive and impossible to keep up on the information.

Student orgs and co-curriculars have the inside scoop on what actually matters to their members. Plus the friends I made helped to keep me informed. Together, we were able to stay on top of what was actually important.

I hate to say use student orgs as a shortcut and excuse to not read your emails, but law students only have so much time in a day. And if your law school sends around as many emails as mine did, you need to find some time savers somewhere.

You might also like: This list of on-campus interview success tips

Use Your Time Wisely to Succeed in Law School

Again, there is only so much time in the day, so use your time wisely. Figure out what is most important for you to accomplish each day, and set your sites on that.

This can and should mean that you spend time taking care of yourself. I always prioritized working out, but self-care might mean something different to you. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as it feels to you like you are taking care of yourself and doing something to recharge. This might be time in nature, playing a sport, hanging with friends, or going to the museum.

But using your time wisely also means setting and enforcing your boundaries. It’s okay to say no, especially when you have to make a decision between studying (or even engaging in that self-care activity you promised yourself) and helping a friend or loved one with a last-minute favor.

You might also like: This handy guide on improving your writing skills

Be Kind to Your Peers

Whether you are an extrovert who enjoys making new friends or a busy introvert who just wants to finish law school, it’s important to be kind to your peers. Why? A couple of reasons: first, it’s just the right thing to do, especially since your peers likely find law school as difficult–if not more–than you find it. But also because your peers can lend you notes for those mental-health day classes you missed and it’s helpful to have a few close law student friends who understand the stress of the journey to J.D.

You might also like: This article on negotiating your starting salary

To be the Best Law Student Remember Why You are Here

More importantly, be kind to yourself. I write a lot about how common and normal it is to feel bad in law school. And that’s because this is true. Most students–and I know from working with hundreds of them–have some form of imposter’s syndrome and feel that other students know more than them, have an advantage, or are just plain better than them.

Why is this helpful? Because if everyone feels that way, then it can’t be true! It also helps me to know that I’m not alone and to recognize that law school can be a pretty toxic environment that leads to these feelings.

So, be kind to yourself and remember that you are in law school for a reason. You belong here, and if you have toxic law school friends who make you feel inferior, cut them out.

You might also like: Information about how to bill hours as a law clerk

If you liked Ways to be the Best Law Student

Check out my books, and then read this post by a current law student about managing your time during your second year of law school!

1 thought on “Ways to be the Best Law Student”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *