You know the old saying, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink”? Well, believe it or not, the same is true for law school. Over the years, we’ve seen several students who, for whatever reason, just aren’t very coachable. Now, this isn’t a personality flaw or something immutable. It’s not that they lack the intelligence or desire to do well. What I mean is that some students just respond better than others, some are more committed. So, let’s talk about why that is. Whether you’re getting advice from your professors, your tutor, or your academic advisors at school, here’s how to make sure you’re being as coachable as possible:
Start with the premise that this is all about you.
Ultimately, it all comes down to you. You’re the one in the exam room taking the test. You’re the one who will have to deal (for better or worse) with the grades you get. It’s not your professor’s job to spoon feed you information and make sure you understand. Your tutor won’t be doing the reading for you and then summarizing it into bite-sized chunks. The heavy lifting is all on you. You need to teach yourself the law. You need to practice for exams.
Decide who to listen to, but then, make sure you actually listen.
Not all advice about law school is good advice. This is especially true when it comes to your classmates. Remember, they don’t know any more than you do! And, sometimes the most outspoken, seemingly-confident people in study groups and lecture turn out to be the most misinformed.
Choose wisely when it comes to who you’re taking advice from in law school. Obviously, your professors are about as good as it gets. If you’re working with a tutor, they should be giving you great advice too. Again, though, no one can do much for you if you’re not going to listen to them and do what they recommend.
Be a self-starter.
I can usually predict who of our tutoring students is going to do well each semester by the way they interact with the work I give them. Some students drag their feet. They make excuses about doing hypos from week to week, and need to be pushed along every step of the way. They might not review the feedback I send them until right before our calls, and when we talk, they expect me to give a lecture so they can passively absorb. I’ll tell you right now, this isn’t going to turn out very well for them.
Other students take an almost opposite approach, which generally works out much better. They turn their hypos in on time or even early, they push themselves and come up with personal deadlines for when they will have their work done, and they stick to them. They ask for reminders and check-in emails if they’re struggling with procrastination. They show up to our calls with questions of their own because they’ve already tried to outline or work their way through the material themselves. They’re eager to practice as much as possible and learn from each and every mistake. These are the students who generally succeed. Why? Because they’re self-starters. They put themselves in the right mindset for law school.
Don’t think you’ve already got everything figured out.
Unless you’re acing every class, you have room to improve. If you’re getting Cs, or worse, that means that what you’re doing isn’t working. The tired, old cliché about insanity is true: You can’t just keep going through the same motions and expect that the result will somehow be better the next time around.
Students often tell me they’ve got some tactic or another that “already works” for them. My question is usually, “why do you think it works, what is the evidence of that?” Because if you’re not happy with your grades, chances are, what you’re doing is definitely not working. Ask yourself if there is something new you haven’t tried yet. Who knows, maybe it will make a big difference for you!
Law students often get stuck by pigeon-holing themselves. “I’m not a fast enough writer so I need to type my class notes,” “I’m just not an analytical person,” “I learn better by reading than by practicing.” The problem is, often these self-assessments are dead wrong. And believe me, everyone learns better by practicing. Learn to think like a successful law student. Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone. Try handwriting in class and write out a hypo, even if it’s a painful process.
Reach out when you need help.
Being a self-starter or coachable student doesn’t mean you won’t struggle. Sometimes the students who end up performing the very best are the ones who struggled the most. The really defining factor is what they did with that struggle. Did they let it weaken them, or did they use it to get stronger?
We understand that not everyone is as obsessed with calendars as we are. But, if you’re in law school, just face it, you need to have a calendar. There’s just too much on your plate. We understand that students can feel really overwhelmed, burned out, and lost from time to time. That’s okay. The whole point of office hours, academic support programs, and tutoring is so you have someone to turn to when you get to this point. Make no mistake, being motivated, eager and independent is not the same thing as being perfect. Nobody’s perfect! We all have rough days now and then, and law school can be really hard. If you feel like you’re spinning your wheels, you probably are, and there’s no time for that! So, reach out and get help if you need it!
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Other helpful law school tips:
- Fast, Healthy and Cheap Eating in Law School
- Want to Get Good Law School Grades – Become a Self-Starter
- All The Supplies You Need to Start Law School Right
- How to Think Like a Successful Law Student
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