Although it may not always seem like it as a 1L, law school is about more than just reading cases and surviving cold calls. Law school is, ultimately, about preparing you to pass the bar and enter the legal profession. And, as you might expect when training for any new job, there are several new skills that you will need to master in order to be successful. While your undergraduate background laid some of the groundwork, there’s still a lot to learn! Part 1 of this series noted some of the key differences between college and law school and part 2 suggested some ways you can adapt your college study strategies to effectively deal with those differences. This article concludes the series by describing some of the new skills you need to develop in order to successfully make the jump from college to law school!
1. Rule Synthesis
In order to perform some of the more advanced tasks required in law school, like issue spotting and analysis, you must first have a complete understanding of the legal rules. It all starts with knowledge of the blackletter law! Of course, this being law school, the rules won’t be handed to you in a neatly organized packaged. Instead, you will be responsible for crafting the rule statements. The process of crafting a rule statement is rule synthesis, and it involves pulling together the various principles from several cases into one concise, general statement of the relevant law. Rule synthesis is a skill that is fairly unique to the practice of law, and it’s one that you will use throughout your legal career.
After identifying and synthesizing the legal rules, you’ll need to organize them into an outline. Most incoming law students know that having a good outline is crucial to academic success in law school, but few appreciate how challenging the outlining process can be. Outlining involves organizing all of the rules, cases, policies, and principles from your course into a single framework. A good outline will allow you to see the big picture while also providing detailed rule statements and notes. When outlining, each topic, subtopic, rule, case, etc. should be placed into a hierarchy so that you can easily see the proper relationships between the topics. Creating this hierarchy and recognizing where each rule or case fits may sound easy in the abstract, but the process takes time and effort. Your outline will be your primary study aid going into finals, so it’s crucial that you develop your outlining skills from the start of law school.
3. Legal Analysis
Legal analysis is essentially what lawyers do: make a thorough, well-reasoned argument given the facts at hand and the relevant law. While lawyers use legal analysis to make arguments on behalf of their clients, law students use legal analysis to apply the rules they have synthesized to hypothetical fact patterns. Legal analysis is both an art and a science, and more than anything, it takes consistent, hands-on practice to learn. Class discussion will give you an opportunity to verbally articulate arguments, but make sure you’re also practicing your written legal analysis, because that is the skill that you will use on final exams.
4. Spaced Review
Gone are the days when you could cram at the end of the semester and still manage to ace the final exam. Law school classes cover a lot of complex material, and you’ll need to replace cramming with spaced repetition to truly learn it. Spaced repetition is the process of reviewing past material at regularly spaced intervals throughout the semester. For most students, the most challenging aspect of spaced review isn’t the actual review process, it’s summoning the self-discipline to stick to their review schedule and avoid procrastinating. If you struggle with time management, you’ll need to work on those skills as well!
5. Stress Management and Self-Care
Law school is the most academically intense environment most students will experience. While it can be incredibly interesting, there are also times when it can be isolating, overwhelming, and stressful. Mental health and substance abuse issues are an increasingly common problem for law students, so developing an ability to manage stress and take care of yourself must be a priority. While law school will certainly keep you busy, a good schedule and efficient work rate will ensure that you have time to relax and get away from the stressful law school environment.
Law school will be more challenging than college, but don’t let the differences or the new skills you will need to learn deter you from pursuing this path. If you were admitted to law school, the faculty clearly believes you have what it takes to successfully make the jump from college to law school! To ensure that you’re ready to take on this challenge, consider registering for Start Law School Right, so that you can feel confident that you have the knowledge and skills necessary to hit the ground running from day 1.
For more helpful advice, check out these articles:
- Podcast Episode 1: Mindset: The Key to Success in Law School?
- Law School Toolbox Experts Share: Mistakes I Made When Starting Law School
- Pre-1L Summer Checklist
- Ahead of the Curve: Your First Week of Law School: What to Do Week by Week
Looking for some help to do your best in law school? Find out about our law school tutoring options.