Returning to law school: (actually) helpful tips
Everyone knows that coming back to law school is about making new friends, starting afresh with your organisation goals and (actually) attending classes this year. So I didn't write that list. I'm sure you'll read it elsewhere on whatever law school or student blog is trending these days. What I did write is a list of studying tactics, taken from the process of trial and error that was my first year of post-grad law.
Should you really be attending all of your lectures?
Almost everyone told me to attend all of them. I’ve been to all of my lectures for one subject and received a C+. I’ve also been to hardly any of them for another subject and received an A. Don’t go to a 9:00AM lecture if you know you are going to need a double-shot espresso (or three). If you’re not an early bird when it comes to learning, like myself, watch your lectures later. I watched my Contracts B lectures online every Thursday night and paused it to write notes. It was more effective.
Preparing for classes helps to sink things in.
In my first semester of law, I was overwhelmed with all the information I had to take in. I’d write notes like crazy during my second-year subject classes. Where did this get me? Nowhere. I soon learned that I needed to prepare for my classes. This doesn’t mean writing summary notes and reading every word of the required readings – it means to have brief knowledge on what that class will be about. It helps to let things sink in. You’ll probably start saying, ‘oh, I remember something about this’ while the tutor is speaking. The lightbulb effect!
You should know when it’s best to read a case brief or the full judgment. Sometimes, a case brief is enough because the concept is straight-forward or simply gives an authority. However, if a concept is a little tricky and most likely to appear on an assignment, reading a case thoroughly assists to understand the concept better. The only time I found it necessary to read a case almost word for word was when I wanted to have my own perspective in a research essay. Definitely time consuming, though.
Tuning in to your lecturer's wavelength
Your exams are based on your textbook, yes. However, your lecturer is the person who writes the exam (and sometimes marks the exam). Don’t you think it would be wise to listen carefully for hints, personal interests and viewpoints that the lecturer has? Admittedly, in the past, having paid close attention to a lecturer, I had a gut feeling about what would be in the exam. I was right. Thank you, gut-feeling.
Study groups – waste of time?
Before starting law school, I read countless blogs that swore by study groups. People can share ideas, help and encourage each other. This is all very true… if you have a good study group. Meet for a fixed period and specific purposes. Discuss concepts you didn’t understand in class and answers to questions for exam preparation. Don’t waste your time chit-chatting away – that’s defeating the purpose and wastes time.
Knowing when to step in
If there is someone who is bothering you, either because it’s 2:00am and they’re calling you for "help" for an assignment that’s due at 9:00am or they’re putting you down, stand up for yourself. Say something. It’s not okay if someone else is bringing you down and being detrimental to you. I’ve always studied better when I’m in a better mood, happy and healthy. Positivity is important.
Above all, do what works best for you.
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