The study group is a staple of the law school experience. We know study groups are important because we have been told they are important—by graduates, movies, and novels. Have you found your study group yet? Is it the key to success? Does it really matter? Today, we debunk five myths about law school study groups.
Myth #1: A law school study group is the key to being at the top of your class.
Law school study groups can be useful for sure—they can provide you support and they can help you struggle with concepts. They can even provide you moral support when you are feeling down. But shockingly enough, a study group does not magically lead to great grades. Why not?
Your exams are not a group effort! Come exam time, it is all about you and your ability to do legal analysis. It has nothing to do with your study group. Even if your study group has developed the best possible outline (I mean, so good someone really should publish it for other law students), it doesn’t help you get great grades unless you know everything in the outline and are able to apply it correctly to a fact pattern.
Can a great study group help you study? Sure, if it works for you. But it is important to remember that the group of people you are studying with doesn’t correlate with your grade on the exam. Case in point—I studied with a group of friends for a Property exam my second semester of law school. Within the study group, the grades ranged from a C- to an A. And we were all studying from the same materials.
Myth #2: Study groups make you more efficient because you can share the work.
Oh, isn’t it nice to count hours hanging out with your friends as “study hours.” I know so many instances where “study group meetings” have turned into gossip sessions or discussions of how much you hate professor so-and-so.
In addition to wasting time as a group, for some folks (and often this includes myself) working with a study group is not an efficient use of time. Actually, I learn better when I work quietly on my own and only discuss things once I have mastered the concepts. So while study groups were fun at times, they didn’t make me more efficient. That being said, sometimes around exam time, I found study groups helpful when working on sample exam questions or discussing larger concepts.
Myth #3: Folks in your study group know what they are doing.
News flash—no 1L really knows what he or she is doing. Study groups can create “groupthink” where a few people are sure they know what is going on and they convince the rest of the group that that is the case. Have you ever talked to two law students who sat in the same class but think different things are important? I have. I fact, it happened just this week. Who is right? (Hint—the professor is right.) But if these two individuals were in a study group together, which one would the “right” answer? Typically, the one with the stronger personality. And that has nothing to do with getting good grades (although it may make one an effective lawyer).
Myth #4: You must gather your study group quickly or all the “good” study group partners will be gone.
Most of our readers are in their fourth or fifth week of law school. You are just making friends and just getting to know people. How can you be sure that you know whom you will study with best? You don’t! I think it is fine to “shop around” and study with a few different people. I didn’t have a formal study group but, when appropriate, I did ask friends to study with me and that worked out great. We didn’t meet on a regular basis and we didn’t waste time. We got together, worked on projects that were best worked on in a group, and then went on our merry way. A good study group partner is one you can work efficiently with and one who helps you meet your academic goals. How can you possibly identify those people in the first weeks of law school?
Myth #5: You must join a study group because everyone else is doing it.
I didn’t join a formal study group and neither did Alison. Sure, at times we did work with other people, but generally we just went it alone. In fact, I walked out of a Civ Pro study group once—just a week before the final exam—because I realized it was a huge waste of my time. (Nothing against the other folks in the group, but as soon as I realized I wasn’t learning anything, I had to run.) Remember, as much as everyone loves to tell you there is one way to be successful in law school, you have to decide what is best for you. If that means joining a study group, great! If not, don’t spend a minute worrying about it. You can still have a very successful academic career without a study group.
Have you had a good or a bad experience with study groups? Please share in the comments.
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Here are some other helpful posts:
- Be Careful With Study Groups
- You Don’t Have to Live in the Law Library
- Sometimes We All Need a Little Accountability
- 5 Study Tips for Auditory Learners
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