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How to Survive Law School

Mar 01, 2011

Congratulations - you've been accepted into law school. Of course, now the real work begins. You'll need to be at your best from the very beginning to successfully meet the academic challenges that lie ahead. Learn what you can do to not only survive, but thrive in law school.

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Be Ready

Many students accepted into law programs breezed through undergrad study with honors. Law school, though, represents new challenges and approaches to learning. Before your program begins, familiarize yourself with briefs, outlines, the Socratic method and other elements of a legal education. There are many available resources that cover this information in depth; you can visit the American Bar Association's website for more info.

Get a Great Start

Your first year of law school is especially important. Concepts you learn at this time will inform coursework in your second and third years of school. Also, your grades will help determine whether you are eligible for associate positions, law reviews or moot court. These are opportunities that can help jump-start your career.

Be Prepared for Class

Professors in law programs typically utilize the Socratic method during class time. This manner of questioning an individual student is intended to gauge his or her understanding of legal matters. While it's important to demonstrate competence when called on, it's also important to know that virtually all students falter at one time or another.

Strategize Course Outlines

Creating an outline is an important element of each law class. This document - which incorporates ideas from lectures, readings and other sources - represents an excellent study tool for exams. Students usually generate their own outlines, sometimes incorporating ideas from peer and commercial resources.

Consider a Study Group

If it suits your style of learning, join with a group of three or four other students to form a study group. Group sessions can be an effective way to get diverse perspectives on material as you build experience explaining your own legal interpretations. Many group members also exchange outlines with one another to help fill in knowledge areas.

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Keep Up on Reading

Law school entails a great deal of reading. You are responsible for reading hundreds of judicial decisions in casebooks to foster your legal understanding. This assigned reading is constant, so not doing it one week means you'll have double the amount the next.

Perfect Your Note-Taking Style

Because you're responsible for so much material in law school, it's important to be effective in your note-taking. Some students prefer to take notes as they read individual cases; others like to get through a whole section of cases to gain context before going back to take notes. Whatever your method, be sure it's efficient.

Practice Answering Questions

It's one thing to know material, but it's another to be able to show it. In law school, exams make up almost the entirety of your grade. That's why it's important to fully answer questions in the expected format. Complete practice tests before actual exams so you have experience crafting the type of responses professors are looking for.

Find Student Mentors

Particularly in your first year of law school, try getting to know older students who can share information about year one. These individuals may have thoughts on everything from professors' personality quirks to procedures in place at your school.

Care for Yourself

Time is scarce, sure, but don't neglect getting the sleep, nutrition and downtime you need. If you don't take care of yourself in these basic ways, it's virtually impossible to perform at your best. At this level of education, you need every advantage you can get.

Starting to think about specialty areas? Don't miss this article on the different fields of law.

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