How to Become a Better Law Student

When I started law school, I knew it was going to be hard and require a lot from me, but I didn’t know exactly what I had to do to succeed. I was spending so much time reading and rereading, dedicating so many hours of unfocused attention hoping that it would result in good grades. Did I get good grades? No! And I was also not absorbing the material. So I did my research, asked professors for their studying tips, and started my second semester with a different approach. The list below are the steps I have been taking since then. My grades have improved immensely and I am actually learning the material. I hope this list will help you as well!

Create a Study Area

This is a fundamental part of studying. You will need a quiet area to study in your house (or the library). And the interesting part of having a specific place to study is that you will condition yourself to study mode whenever you sit on that desk.

I have mentioned before that I share an office space with my boyfriend, who is actually working and playing music in the same area as me, which means that the study room is not so quiet. My solution? Sound blocking headphones! And you can take your headphones with you if you need a change of air and decide to study outside, in a park, coffee shop, or another loud environment.

An interesting tip I learned from a psychology professor was to use a specific desk lamp only for studying. In the same way you can condition yourself to think that it’s time to study when you sit in a desk in your house, you can condition your brain to think that it’s time to study when you turn on that desk lamp. After a while, you’ll get used to the idea that you need to focus whenever that desk lamp is on.

Take Breaks

If you decide you want to spend 5 hours studying non-stop, eventually, you will get tired and lose focus. Your reading will not be effective and your grades/learning won’t improve. So what’s the secret? Read for as long as your attention spam allows. For some people, that may be 15 minutes, 20 minutes or 30 minutes.

When you are taking a break, look outside, play with your pet, talk to your family members, do something to get your mind out of the books. With time, you will notice that your attention spam will also improve and you will be able to focus for longer periods of time.

Take Notes in Class – Review Your Notes After Class

That’s a difficult one to get used to because that is the last thing anyone wants to do when class is over, but it’s important! After class, review your notes and expand on keywords you jotted down or ideas that need clarification. If you get into the habit of doing this, you will notice how much more you will be able to take from your notes when you start outlining. Also, if there is something that you didn’t quite understand, you can look it up or ask your professor to clarify the issue.

Solidify Information

One method to solidify information is to look away after reading something and explaining it in your own words. Another method is to explain it to someone else. Preferably someone who does not know about the law. If there is no one you can do this with, explain it to an empty chair, to your dog, or just imagine that your grandparents want to know about that particular topic. How would you break it down for them?

Get Some Sleep!

There have been plenty of studies showing that sleep allows our body to rest and restore its energies. However, that is not the only reason why sleeping is important for us. Sleeping actually allows for information that was learned to be solidified in our brains! So make sure to get those daily 8 hours of sleep!

SQ3R

SQ3R stands for Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review. It is a method to a better and more efficient approach to study textbooks. That was a novel idea for me, so here’s a little visual aid:

Feedback

I hope this list will be helpful to you! Let me know in the comments section down below if there is anything else you do that’s been a great resource for you.

Law School: Should You Join a Student Association?

Ok, so you started law school and now you are hearing about all of these student organizations, Environmental Law Association, Latino Law Student Association, Military Law Student Association, Criminal Law Society, and SO many others. You have tons of reading to do and you have already met some people and connected with them in your section, so should you join a group too?

Here is what your options are.

First, there are different ways to join a group. You can be a Member and receive email updates with the events these groups are organizing. You can choose to be a Representative for your section and so, actually be a part of the executive board. Or you can choose to have an even more substantial presence and run to be a Secretary, Treasurer, Vice-president or President.

My advice is that if you are not sure of how much time you can spend dedicating yourself to one of these groups, then be a Member or a Rep.

Being a Member just means you are interested in the group but puts no pressure in actually participating of the events.

Being a Rep requires you to advertise events to your friends and the section you represent (lots of social media posts too). A Rep is the most low-key position in the group, but gives you the benefit to show future employers you were involved (resume booster alert!).

Those positions sound pretty good, right? Then why give yourself even more work by running for one of the other positions in the executive board?

For one, it’s a huge resume booster. Yes, being a Rep already gives you the chance to add that activity on your resume, but employers love seeing that you were dedicated to a cause, specially if the group is related to their field.

Another reason is the experience. I am from a different country and law school was the first time I actually studied in the United States, so I had no prior experience of how schools worked here (it was quite a learning experience–but back to the point). I chose to be a Rep for two different groups on my first year. Then, on my second year I became the President of one of these groups and I have learned so much! Organizing events, delegating tasks, reaching out to lawyers I never met before, using school resources to give back to students… this has been an amazing experience and one I will never forget.

Third, connections! By being in the executive board you will get in touch with many different people, new students, alumni, lawyers, judges, professors, employers! I got a really good internship because I was representing my group on my first year and got a card during dinner. That was really lucky, but it would never have happened if I hadn’t put myself out there to meet different people and connect with professionals in my area.

That is all amazing, but what’s the downside?

Work! A lot of work. The higher the position you choose to run for, the more work you will have. The success of your group depends on you and how much time you dedicate to it.

As the president of a group during Covid times, I had quite a few challenges. Previously, organizing events meant getting speakers to come to school and ordering different foods to serve on these events. Starving law students are always up for events such as these, there is really nothing to lose for them to participate. But since Covid, all events are online and students are Zoom fatigued. So, that meant we had to be creative and organize events students actually made time for. I can write a whole different post on this, so for now, I’ll just say that, yes, it can be a lot of work.

So is it worth it? My honest opinion is: yes!

I suggest starting as a Rep for one group you identify yourself with on your first year. Observe the executive board, see what they are doing right and what you would do differently.

Run for an executive board position such as Secretary, Treasurer, Vice or President on your second year. You have a better understanding of how law school works now, and you know how much time you can dedicate yourself to other activities on your second year.

Third year, feel free to go back to being a Rep or a member. I intend to pass the presidency torch and focus on the Bar on my last year, but who knows? Maybe I’ll continue on the executive board in a different position next year.