7 Steps to Succeed in Law School

The first thing to keep in mind about law school is that in order to be successful, you need to focus on the end game. This means focusing on the exam and, in the longer term, focusing on how to get a good job after graduation. Any work done that is not geared towards these goals is waste.

Step (1): Find out which classes give credit for class participation and which do not. Oddly enough, some teachers will tell you on the first day that your participation in class won’t affect your grade, and then complain when no one in the class participates. If the teacher doesn’t count class participation, there is no need to waste your weekends reading assigned materials and preparing for class every day. Even if the teacher calls you, it can be embarrassing not knowing the answer, but it doesn’t really matter because not knowing the answer won’t affect your grade in any way. In those classes, your grade is based solely on the exam, so that’s all you need to focus on. Others will waste time at the end of the semester trying to catch up on reading and trying to be prepared for class each day. Instead, use that time more wisely to take practice tests and summarize your notes so you can start focusing on the end game right away.

If your teacher places weight on participation in the classroom, make the effort to participate. In most large classes, the effort requires a simple raising of the hand to ask or answer a question no more than once a day. No need to be a superstar here.

Just make sure you participate often enough that the teacher knows your name. In most big reads, most people are too afraid to participate, so take advantage. Many times, it could lead to a raise or even a major increase in your grade (B- can become B+, B+ can become A-).

Since you spend so much time studying and preparing, you might as well take advantage of any breaks you can get. It is also helpful to attend the professor’s office hours a few times during the semester with a few questions about the course. Most students rarely show up on time and teachers have to be there, so take advantage of your ability to improve your grade with a little effort. You are likely to increase your grade more significantly by participating in class than by spending extra time studying or revising your outline a million times.

Step (2): Obtain a copy of the previous exams from the professor. They are usually available in the library or, sometimes, the teacher himself will provide them to you. See exactly what kinds of questions are being asked on your exams. Is it essay, fill-in, multiple choice, or none of the above? Knowing exactly what kind of questions the teacher will ask will help you prepare for the study. For example, if the exam is just an essay, there is no need to memorize the minutiae of every little case. You will only need to focus on general concepts and seminal cases.

Step (3): Learn how to write essay answers using the IRAC method. Go to the school’s free writing center or hire a tutor. Practice writing test questions using the teacher’s old tests. Sometimes you can even convince a professor to look at one of your sample answers in their office hours to get an extra head start and hear exactly what the professor is looking for.

Step (4): Determine how you would like to study. Some students dress learning in study groups; others prefer to learn for themselves. There is no one way better than another. Use what you did in high school and college and don’t stray now. If it worked then to get you into law school, it will work for you now. Besides, if you use study groups and you don’t understand some topics, go to the teacher during office hours and ask him. Don’t rely on guesswork answers provided by other students who are learning the material for the first time, like you.

Step (5): Start preparing your outlines for each class 6 weeks before the final.
Make sure your final outline is no longer than 35 pages. Law school exams typically test major concepts, so any level of detail beyond 35 pages will probably not be useful for the exam and therefore a waste of time.
DO NOT try to cram information a week before the test. Many concepts build on each other, making it extremely difficult to study (unlike in high school or college).

Step (6): Try to join the Law Review/Journal and/or Moot Court. Do not join law campus activities/organizations such as student senate, etc. Unlike high school, employers don’t care about extracurricular activities. All employers care about is GPA, law school rank, law review/magazine, and moot court experience. You have a limited amount of time, don’t waste time on activities that won’t help you. Don’t lose focus on the end game.

Step (7): Attend study sessions conducted by the teacher’s assistant. Usually the teacher has an assistant who will tutor once a week in the class. The student has usually taken and excelled in the teacher’s class. Use it as a resource to gain insider knowledge about the teacher’s exam and grading scale.

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