Legal Affairs: Six Lesser-Known Tips for Law School Success
Oct 29, 2014
Ellen Sampong, JD
Charles Dickens may not have been describing the law school experience in the opening lines of A Tale of Two Cities, but, in many ways, the study of law really is the best of times and the worst of times.
It is a singular experience that is, at once, extraordinarily challenging, fascinating, frustrating, stimulating, confusing, rewarding and—dare I say it?—even fun.
Here are a half dozen often-overlooked tips to help you maximize law school’s many “bests”—while avoiding its “worsts.”
- Practice Good Habits from Day One
Learn—and put into practice—good habits from the very beginning of law school. Review graded assignments from your faculty mentors for feedback that will help you develop your analytical skills. Practice bar exam and “baby bar” exam questions on the State Bar of California website in order to familiarize yourself with these two critical essay exams. Answer as many sample Multistate Bar Examination questions as you can, too. You can easily and affordably purchase old commercial bar prep books with multiple-choice questions and practice, practice, practice before you take your final exam in each course. This will help you practice for the MBE portion of the bar exam as it better prepares you for your law school finals.
- Buy Used Casebooks
I often urge students to buy used books from sites like Amazon. Law school books are very expensive and buying them used online will save you some hard-earned money. If you have difficulty reading books with underlining and highlights, you can usually find used books with limited markings.
- Pay Attention to your Diet and Overall Health
In law school, the sheer volume of reading and coursework requires hours and hours of studying. In conjunction with work and family responsibilities, this can be extremely stressful and tiring. Protect your health by eating lots of fruits and vegetables and maybe even trying the occasional green juice (I swear by this). Do not make fast food your go-to meal in an attempt to save time. Over the long haul, watching your diet and health will pay big dividends.
- Ask your Faculty Mentors for Help
In law school, you are expected to study your course readings, complete assigned homework, and research material you do not understand. However, do not hesitate to reach out to your faculty mentor for help—that’s what they’re there for. And remember: faculty mentors were once law students. They can relate to what you are going through and fully understand that some topics can be difficult to understand. They expect your questions and will work with you to make sure you understand the material.
- Outline the Material and Use Flash Cards
Outlining (synthesizing and organizing your coursework in outline form) and using flash cards will help you assimilate and better understand the large amounts of material you will be exposed to in each course. Outlining helps you to put the law in your own words and engages multiple modes of learning, enabling you to retain the material in your long-term memory. Flash cards (such as Emmanuel Law in a Flash) provide hypotheticals that test your substantive knowledge of the law. Their portability allows you to study the law during lunchtime at work or even while waiting in line at the post office!
- Do Not Give Legal Advice
Believe it or not, as soon as you start law school, people will begin asking you for legal advice. Although this is somewhat flattering and you may desire to help, you must avoid giving legal advice and, at all costs, do not present yourself as an attorney—you are not one…yet. Your professional responsibility course will enlighten you further on the liability that can result from giving such advice.