How Do You Prepare to Study Like a Law Student?
- Student Tips
It’s hardly surprising law schools are seeing an increase in applicants over the last few years. With more time on their hands due to the COVID-19 shutdowns, as well as the political unrest in many parts of the world, more students are considering a change in career or further education into law. Recently, “Law School Admission Council (LSAC) released statistics revealing a 35% increase in applicants and a 56% rise in total applications over last year.” Therefore, if you got into law school, you’re likely to be amongst the good company of people who want their spot there. Being prepared to study like a law student will help you find success during school and after you graduate.
The lawyer's mindset
You’re going to want to get started by learning how to think like a lawyer. You might find yourself asking what this means. According to scholar.princeton.edu, “Thinking like a lawyer means, in the first instance, thinking with care and precision, reading and speaking with attention to nuance and detail. It means paying attention to language, but also understanding words can have myriad meanings and can often be manipulated. It thus also means paying attention to context and contingency.” It also means being prepared to take on any side during an argument with well-formed ideas and facts while using good judgment. It’s a switch in mentality that can take some getting used to, but will ultimately help you be more successful in your classes and in practice.
There are some skills that are considered the most critical when studying law. Therefore, you will want to make sure you’re spending some time honing your skills in areas of seeking knowledge, communication, independent learning and studying, collaboration and teamwork, as well as research. All of these skills are components that go into making a great law student, and ultimately a great lawyer.
Understanding how to study
Law school involves is a completely different type of coursework to what most students are used to or have participated in before. Therefore, it stands to reason that studying for these courses will also be different. In order to be successful in law school classes, you will need to make sure you are taking clear, concise, yet thorough notes during lectures or while reading. Additionally, you’ll need to learn how to read and write succinctly, so as to absorb the most information without overextending your energy into one specific area. Finally, make sure you’re asking questions of your professors and classmates to clarify any assumptions or lingering inquiries you mave have. Finally, remember to stay humble, and to absorb as much information as you can. You're there to learn from everyone around you, so it stands to reason that you won't know everything yet.
Create a study space
You’re going to spend hours with your coursework; there’s just no getting around that. Therefore, create a study space that works for you. Decorate your space, and fill it with study materials that will help you find success. Soft lighting, a comfortable chair, a good desk, storage, and cute office supplies are a great way to get started. Make sure you stay organized in this space, which will help translate to organization in class or while working on assignments as well.
Find a study group
Law school takes collaboration and one great way to do that is to find or form a study group. Seek out a group of students who are like-minded, and ready to hit the books with you. Spend some time getting to know each other, because it’s highly likely you’re going to be spending a lot of time together.
It’s easy to get lost in the weeds when you’re learning a new way or method of studying. There’s also a lot of reading and assignments to complete in law school. Setting yourself up for success is going to include making a study schedule, as well as setting goals. This will make your work load feel much more manageable, and help you avoid burnout. Once you hit your goals, make sure to reward yourself!
Be prepared and ask questions
Don’t go to class unprepared. Make sure you’ve completed all your assignments, and have questions about the material ready to go. Being prepared is critical for ensuring you get the most out of your class experience, and being unprepared will show your instructor that you aren’t as invested in your education as you should be.
As tempting as it can be to wait until the end of the semester to review your coursework, that’s just not going to fly in law school. “Make time for frequent review over the course of the semester,” and incorporate reviewing your material into your weekly study schedule. Waiting until the end of the semester to cram is going to make studying for your final exams more difficult. Avoid the rush, and study frequently throughout the semester.
Work on soft skills
Before you get to law school, spend any remaining time at university or in your job working on improving your soft skills. Seek out opportunities to “actively improve your soft skills such as analysis, writing and public speaking. Identify areas for improvement and practice those skills in your personal life as well as at school or work.” This will help you find more success in your law school career, as all of these skills are critically important for practicing law.
Being a law student is challenging, yet ultimately rewarding. Don’t forget to take care of yourself while in law school, study hard, and try to have some fun as well. Remember, you are there to receive an excellent education and make connections that will help prepare you to achieve your career goals.
Chelsea is a Student Affairs expatriate, who now works as a freelance writer and editor. She homesteads in a small town in rural Maine, USA. She enjoys hiking, fishing, cooking, reading, all things Laura Ingalls Wilder, spending time with her family, and chasing her black lab puppy, Cash.
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