This is going to be a post on my first year of law school: What worked, what didn’t, and what I will have to change moving forward. [I am now a 2L]
First: Outlines are helpful, and you should start outlining much earlier than your Thanksgiving break. Some teachers told us to wait, and not to worry about it so early. I disagree. The first week you learn something, look at your notes and condense them in a new document. Don’t mix up your notes from class with your outline. Your outline should look something like this:
case name — 2-3 sentences on the holding with key facts. This is what you will reference in your exams. (ex. Our client wants to withold her performance, similar to the case xxx where the plaintiff did this, this, and this. In that case, the court found xxx, and this court will likely do the same because this fact, this fact, and this fact are all similar blah blah you get the drift.)
Statute — this statute applies to this type of case. See [case] for application.
*** Your NOTES from class should follow the IRAC (Issue, Rule, Application, Conclusion) format or whatever your teachers advise. These are what you’ll bring to class for lectures and such. Your outline is a very condensed version that is mainly to jog your memory when writing an exam at the end of the year.
This will save you SO much time and also help you review while you’re writing it. I didn’t do this my first year and creating an outline at the end was horrible. It really cut into my study time and this is something I regret. Don’t be me. Do it this way.
Second: Study groups can either be helpful, or a waste of your time. You need to find a group of people who will actually review material with you and not talk about things outside of what you are trying to review. That’s not a study group, that’s a lunch group. Meet each week to review what you learned. This is not a replacement for doing your own review, which I typically do after each class to solidify what I know and what I don’t get yet. I did not have a study group and I think this is where I might have benefitted. Extra review never hurts and doing it on my own left me with some grades I can improve through more insight.
Third: Do the reading and briefing. This might be the most important thing I can say. It is a lot, it is sometimes boring, and it is your best tool to learn the material and avoid cold call disasters. Do not think that printing a bloomberg brief is sufficient. I did this a few times and it was useless for understanding the material. It also annoys your teachers to no end. I can not stress enough how important it is to read in your textbook the cases assigned!!!!!! Read the footnotes and look up the Latin words. If this is too much work for you now, don’t even go to law school. It just gets more tedious. If you hate reading, this is not the profession for you. Even litigators do a lot of reading and writing. If you have forgotten your textbook, your library will have a copy! And if that is checked out, ask where they have their older editions. These texts are revised every year but most of the cases are the same and it will do in a pinch! You can also look them up on WestlawNext or LexisNexis for the full text.
Fourth: Go to office hours. The classes I did best in were the ones where I went to see the professor, introduced myself, and asked questions. It looks good on you, it helps you, and you build a relationship with a professor where they can help you outside of the classroom. Some of my friends got job interviews from professors passing their name on to colleagues.
Fifth: Attend the school events, join a couple clubs, and don’t drink too much. I didn’t attend hardly any school events and I only joined one club. My 2L year I am on the board for 2 groups and I joined a journal so I am changing this and here is why. People seemed more connected and had stronger bonds with each other. I missed out on the fun side of law school. People you go to school with will be some of your best networking partners. So go, be remembered, maybe in 5 years you’ll have a job offer thrown your way from one of your friends you made during these years. I don’t really drink so this next tip is not a problem for me, but don’t be the sloppy drunk. It reflects poorly on you. This is a professional degree, so be professional even when you’re out having fun. That said, people talk. Be aware of that and always be on your best behavior.