Our fantastic intern, Cara Defilippis, shares more lessons from her 1L year. If you missed her first post, check it out!
One effect of attempting to manage the newness of the first-semester of law school is to adopt the mainstream approach to studying. After all, doing what everyone else is doing comforts us that the method works. And it does, for some. But everyone is different.
Let’s identify two mainstream approaches to studying of which everyone is aware:
- Living in the law library.
- Joining the ever-popular study group.
I took these approaches to heart, and by finals, I quickly figured out that the way I had been studying all semester had not left me well prepared for exams. This is not an uncommon experience.
When confused by not doing as well as in undergrad, we rarely ask ourselves: Is it simply that I need to take a different approach to studying?
Second-semester, I made some changes — and got better grades. I hope to demonstrate that you can make these choices early on to best achieve success on exam day. So first, let’s tackle number one: The Law Library.
The Law Library: A Place of Tranquility and Anxiety
How can it be both? Easy: it likely offers the quietest place to study (and in my case, sweeping vistas of a beautiful city), but it is also crammed full of law students. Put a bunch of law students in a quiet place and the message is detectable: stress (if even delivered by a subtle but telling stream of sighs).
I may be more susceptible to the subtleties of my environment than others, but I found the library more distracting for this reason, and, I should admit, because I am sociable and like to visit with my cohorts. But I nonetheless stuck with it the entire first-semester because that is where my peers were.
I figured the group as a whole knew better than I where to study.
I also wasn’t aware of the drastic difference a simple change could make.
Deciding to Move Home
Second-semester, I “moved” home. The desk I had procured for law school had gone neglected for three and a half months. I dusted it off, and soon found that I was more productive at home. I was in a room of one, with only my sighs to tolerate (they are not so bad when they are your own). And at home, I had the headspace to tackle the material in my own way. I could also snack freely, and would have only to occasionally ask my roommate to turn the music down (she obliged, yours may not).
I feel I should also give a brief shout-out to the coffee shop because it served as a refreshing change of atmosphere every once in a while. I don’t recommend it as a home-base because its beauty is in its ability to distract, and we can’t be distracted all the time!
My Advice to You
My advice to incoming law students: Find your preference early on and don’t hesitate to try a few things out! At the start of the term, again later to see if anything has changed, and once more for good measure — spend a solid week or two at each place of study and evaluate both how you feel and how much work you were able to accomplish. To do the latter, set out to achieve the same goals at each place (e.g. all of the required reading + a hypo for each class) so that you can be sure it is the place and not the workload that makes the difference.
Test what works best for you, and don’t be afraid to go against the grain!
— – —
- Lessons from My 1L Year: Introduction
- Lessons from My 1L Year: Be Careful with Study Groups
- Lessons from My 1L Year: Have Fun!
- Lessons from My 1L Year: Make Friends
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