This week, I’ll be giving a few tips for surviving your fist semester of law school. The transition from undergrad to law school can be tough, but stick with me and you’ll be “thinking like a lawyer” in no time.
First, complete your assigned readings CAREFULLY:
As I have mentioned in my earlier blogs, law schools across the board use the Socratic method, in which professors will “cold call” to incentivize their students to read the material carefully. This can be difficult when you are given 25-50 pages of reading for each class. One way to make this easier on yourself is to brief your cases. A case brief consists of key facts, the procedural history (what the lower court(s) ruled), the issue the current court is addressing, the holding of the court, the reasoning for their holding, and the rule that comes out of the case. Essentially, your brief will provide you with a quick reminder of what happened in the instance you’re asked any questions or to present the case. Case briefs are also very helpful when you begin to outline for final exams.
Second, attend tutor and professor office hours:
Loyola, in particular, offers many resources for its students to succeed; tutor and professor office hours being one of the many. Tutors are hand selected by both a committee and the individual professor, and are there to help students. Each of them has done exceptional in the class and have taken that particular professor, so they know what it takes to do well in the course. They attend each class, take notes, and hold weekly office hours, in which they recap what the professor went over in the previous class and answer any questions that students may have regarding substantive material. Professors also hold weekly office hours. If ever you have any questions about material, especially ones about what is important, go straight to the source. While tutors are extremely helpful, ultimately, it is the professor who is creating the final and issuing the grade; it is their opinion of the case law that truly matters. Take advantage of these opportunities. Not only will you get to know your tutors, but you will also begin to form a connection with your professor that will certainly become handy down the road.
Third, start studying for the final EARLY:
The beauty of Loyola, is that there is no class on Fridays; use that time each week to outline. Outlining is what will get you through finals. Even if the final is closed book, an outline will help you to synthesize and condense all of the information you have learned throughout the semester. This will include your mini case briefs, class notes, and office hour notes. Once you have your full outline, begin to memorize. While it seems like an impossible feat to memorize 30 pages for each class, the more you go over the material the more comfortable you will be. As you memorize, you can begin to cut out what you already know. Your goal is to make you’re final outline walking into the final as short as possible.
Flashcards are also very useful. Handwrite your flashcards to drill the information into your head. Many of my friends tested themselves on the train to and from school. I also purchased some pre-written flashcards on Amazon that provided hypothetical questions and answers to better my understanding and test myself on the material (I used them for both Torts and Property).
By Thanksgiving break, you should have all of your full outlines completed. Get this done so you can take the time to enjoy the holiday with your family. I was able to get my outlining out of the way during the semester, so that I could take both Thursday and Friday off.
After Thanksgiving, now comes the grind. You have made it so far, don’t stop now. Create a schedule of when you’re going to study each subject as well as take practice exams. Once you enroll, you’ll have access to TWEN, which is the way our professors communicate to us. It is where you’ll find their syllabus, course materials, etc. Through TWEN, you are able to access old exams that your professor has given. Although each professor will give you one or two of their past exams, this is a good resource if you want a little extra practice. Generally, exams are either three or four hours long, so allocate the time in your study schedule to create that same exam environment. This will help you more than you know going into the final exam.
You have put in so much effort thus far, now is your time to shine.
Once finals are over, relax relax relax. Christmas break is the one time we can do nothing. Enjoy the holidays and spend time with your family and friends. You deserve it!
Thanks so much for reading this week’s blog on how to survive your first semester!
Loxley Keala is a 1L at Loyola University Chicago School of Law. She is blogging about the journey of her first year of law school. To search all posts written by her search the Loxley category on the right hand side. Questions for Loxley? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “Ask Loxley” and she will make sure to answer them in a future post.