As law students are back to school around the country, I wanted to share with you five things I think are critical to setting yourself up for second-semester success.
1. Review old exams and figure out what went wrong.
How can you make changes if you don’t know what went wrong? You must collect those exams, visit your professors, and learn about what went wrong (and right) on your past exams. It might be somewhat uncomfortable meeting with a professor who gave you disappointing grades, but you must do it anyway! It is a critical step in doing better this semester.
2. Get the most out of your class time.
You should, right now, start thinking about how you are preparing for class (briefing cases) and taking notes in class (have you ever tried handwriting your notes?). You can actually save yourself time by being actively engaged in class. But to do this you must be prepared and present during class time.
3. Study the law throughout the semester.
One common mistake law students make is that they forget to think about the material. And then they save studying or outlining until the end of the semester. Here is a news flash! You can actually “outline” or study—all semester long. It makes final exams a completely different experience because you already understand the material. And if you already know the material by the time finals come around, you can spend your time practicing.
4. Practice, practice, practice.
Law students hate it, but it is a necessary evil. You must practice writing throughout the semester. You cannot wait until the end of the semester. Although it may seem as if there is nothing to practice, if you are a bit creative, you can actually come up with a ton of practice from past exams, supplements, hypos given in class, and even from writing your own hypotheticals.
5. And get feedback.
One of the biggest complaints law students have is that they don’t get enough feedback (typically there is just one graded exam during the semester). But you can get feedback if you are smart about it. Take the practice you are doing (especially writing out hypos that your professor circulates) and go to office hours. A professor will give you quite a bit of useful feedback during that time. Or if your class has a teaching assistant, ask him or her for help. And don’t forget the academic support department. Or you can seek out a law school tutor. Whatever you do, make sure you are getting feedback on your work so you can continue to become a better essay exam writer throughout the year.
Keeping these steps in mind will help you be smart about your law school work this semester.
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