Study groups are very common in law school, especially among first years and those studying for the bar exam. Whether you want to join or organize a study group depends on several factors relating to your learning style and the group's activities. The following article can help you determine whether a study group in law school is right for you and how to organize an effective study group if you decide that is the better path.
Group study isn't for everyone; even those who might benefit from group study will find that some groups offer little to no assistance while others are highly effective. Understanding your learning style is critical for determining the right study environment.
One recurring pitfall involves the most outspoken members of a law school class. Often perceived as the smarter students, these performers are sometimes ineffective when sharing time with others, may shirk preparation and may mislead others with their confident delivery when they know as little as their peers. On the other hand, very introverted members of the group may not contribute because they are not comfortable speaking up, even when they know the right answer.
Ideally, your 1L study group will consist of a few committed members who can meet regularly to review study materials, talk through concepts, and support each other's individual study efforts. A study group isn't a replacement for your individual study — it is a supplement. And forming a group of similarly motivated students that lacks showboaters, gossipers, or slackers can be a serious challenge.
Is a Law School Study Group Right for Me?
Law school study groups are as varied as individual study styles. Consider the advantages and disadvantages of joining a group discussed below and some items to think about when forming a group of your own.
Advantages of a Law School Study Group
An effective law school study group can be an enormous asset. At their best, study groups provide an environment in which students can share:
- Motivation and support
- Ideas about the subject matter from courses
- Understanding of legal concepts and hypotheticals
- Study aids and outlines
Study groups are a great place to review answers to practice questions ahead of your final exam. Other students can help you identify missed issues and flesh out your analysis. But be sure to write your own outline when you're studying for law school exams - only look at others to ensure you haven't missed anything.
Disadvantages of a Law School Study Group
On the other hand, mismanaged law school study groups can be a waste of time. Since your study time is limited, you need to get the most from your group or spend the time taking practice exams instead. Look out for groups that get derailed by:
- Gossip or socializing
- Discussions that become arguments
- Copycats simply looking to take other students' study materials
- Unhelpful or disruptive members
- Taking on too many members
Forming a Law School Study Group
If you decide that a law school study group is right for you, the next step is to organize your group. The following considerations will help you succeed:
- Form a group that has complementary learning/study styles
- Stay focused on studying during study sessions
- Keep a regular schedule
- Limit the number of members
And remember, you can always socialize after the group meeting! Having a support system within your program is essential, especially first semester.
Taking Your Next Steps
Whether you form a successful law school study group, find a single study partner, or decide to go it alone, you are sure to have more questions about your legal education. Visit FindLaw for Law Students to find articles, links, and materials to help answer questions that arise during your first year of law school and beyond.