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This is the moment you've been waiting for -- you're a 1L. Four years of college are done and you are about to start law school. Take everything you learned about studying in those four years and throw it away -- studying for law school is unlike any other you've done.
Most law school classes are taught in the style of the Socratic Method, named after the Greek philosopher Socrates. Essentially, your law professor will engage students in discussing and distilling ideas by asking many questions.
This approach to teaching and learning lends itself to a unique study style.
1. Don't Take the Wrong Notes
Because much of the class is a question/answer session with the professor doing the asking (not the answering), many of the answers you will hear are plain wrong. It will not help you to take notes on wrong answers, so think before you notate.
2. Use Post-Its & Write in Your Text Book
It's not out of the ordinary to spend one hour trying to hone in on what the issue in the case was -- when the professor clarifies it at the end of class, just write that down. We found it helpful to take notes directly in the margins of the case, or on post-its, that we would stick right on the case pages. This method comes in really handy when you are creating your outlines -- you don't need to switch back and forth between your notebook and casebook -- it's all in one place.
3. Don't Fall Behind on Reading
It's inevitable, you will get called on. And, it's really not a big deal if you've read the case. It's just that Murphy's Law always comes into play and you'll likely get called on the one day you didn't do your reading. If you didn't read the case it's best to fess up and just admit it rather than torturing your professor and classmates with prolonged silences.
Another reason you want to keep up with your reading is that if you fall behind, it's very difficult to catch up. Just keep up with it every night -- this is the strongest piece of advice we can give you.
4. You Have to Join a Study Group?
For some reason, there's this prevailing myth that you must be in a study group in law school. Don't believe it. Study groups can be time (and energy) suckers -- people love to chit chat and get off topic. Many times, people have no idea what they are talking about (it's usually the ones talking the most, and the loudest). They can be helpful for hashing out ideas you don't yet understand, but some people study better on their own. If that's you -- go with it.
Outlines are necessary in law school, but here is the trick: Make -- your -- own. Much of the learning (and remembering) happens in the creation of the outline. You can use purchased outlines (like Emanuel) as a reference but always make your own -- even if you are studying in a group.
The key to first year is to stay focused and prepared. If you think we left something out tweet us @FindLawLP with the hashtag #backtoschool.