When I talk to students who are trying to evaluate what they can do better this time around to help them get better grades, the discussion often starts with preparing for class. Here are three ways to study smart before class (and three habits to drop).
Study Smart Before Class
Be sure to read the cases, but be reasonable about how much time you spend. It is true, cases are important to read because they prepare you to take part in class discussions. However, it is also important to remember that due to the way law school is structured, time put into reading cases does not directly correlate to the grade you will get in the class. (This is why you so often hear about someone who didn’t do any of his or her reading getting the high score in the class.) Reading is important, so you should do it. But if you find you are spending an extraordinary number of hours on reading, you need to rethink how you are spending your time. And don’t read cases twice, “just because.” It’s a waste of time.
Create briefs that help you in class discussions. Briefing is another activity that can be helpful in preparing for class. There are different types of briefing (book versus written briefs), but all that really matters is that your briefs help you to participate in class. Make sure your briefs reflect what your professor is likely to find important in a case (for example, if your professor never discusses procedural posture, you shouldn’t spend a ton of time briefing this information). Briefs help you follow the discussion, refresh your recollection on the reading, and help you when you get called on. That is all!
Collect questions to be sure you clarify any confusion. Many law students actually forget to think about the material they are reading and just read and summarize it. So read your cases actively and note questions as they come up. You aren’t expected to understand everything! If you track your questions when you are reading, you can then get them answered in class (or after class). You are more likely to remember and understand the material if you are engaged in it. And (not surprisingly) that will help you later in the semester.
Drop These Common Bad Habits
Writing long briefs that you don’t even use in class. Please stop writing long briefs that you never have the ability or time to reference in class. This is a waste of time (time you don’t have) and won’t help you get good grades at the end of the semester.
Reading “canned” briefs instead of reading the case yourself. The case method can be frustrating. However, you do actually learn by reading and struggling with cases. So just reading canned briefs is cheating yourself out of the learning process (note: attorneys read cases all the time during their day jobs).
Spending hours upon hours reading cases. Class prep should take you a reasonable amount of time. If it doesn’t, you need to talk to someone (your professor, academic support, or a tutor) about how you are spending your time.
Hopefully, these tips can help you prepare for class smarter as you get this semester kicked off.
— – —
Want more? Sign up for our free mailing list today.
And check out these helpful posts:
- Unhappy with Your Law School Grades? Get Real!
- Wondering What An Attack Plan Is?
- A Common Law Student Mistake: Spending Time Studying Material You Already Know
- What Am I Telling My Students? Practice!
Looking for some help to do your best in law school? Find out about our law school tutoring options.