We talked about the 2L slip, or some of the problems that arise when you’re a second-year law student. If you missed our tips on balancing on-campus interviews and extra-curricular activities, take a read here. We continue with this series by bringing you three suggestions for keeping up academic success as a 2L.
Problem: Deceptively Difficult Classes
Some 2L classes, such as Evidence and other bar exam prep. classes like Corporations and Professional Responsibility, can be deceptively hard. Even if the curve has relaxed somewhat since your 1L year, the competition is still tough, and worse—other peoples’ skill sets have improved. Unlike with 1L year, you can no longer rely on some classmates not having caught onto the game yet.
Chances are, by 2L year, virtually everyone has figured out how to outline and study. Also, the students who didn’t perform well as 1Ls, are most likely trying new strategies, working harder, and getting help. See below. Also, with 2L classes—such as Evidence and PR—the black letter rules are more or less handed to you. They can also be fairly straightforward. Therefore, the competition may be even tougher and distinguishing your exam essay from the pack may be a lot trickier.
Solution: Keep Up from Day One and Practice Early and Often!
The best way to conquer deceptively tough 2L courses is to start your outlines and begin struggling through the material early. Each time you conclude lecture coverage on a new rule, outline it! Find as many hypos and practice materials as you can and start working through them early in the semester. In addition to starting early, avoid the temptation to rule dump.
Your goal is synthesis!
Unless your professor specifies otherwise, focus on formulating concise statements of the law rather than trying to memorize the full text of the rules verbatim. Keep the significant legal buzzwords, such as “out of court statement” and “truth of the matter asserted” that translate into required elements you could use on an exam and throw out any wording that is less important. These rule buzzwords might come piecemeal from the text of the rules themselves, or they may be your Professor’s wording from lecture, or both. In any case, most professors (and again, check with yours if you have any doubts) don’t want to see the entire hearsay rule with its broad definitions and numerous exceptions regurgitated at length in your essay.
It’s important to condense the rules one by one before you put them into your outline, and to include all of them, but in the proper places (don’t be surprised if figuring all this out takes a while!). You should then be practicing hypos using these synthesized, organized rules. They’re easier to memorize and easier to apply to a fact pattern. Again, though, figuring out each component to each rule is crucial. If you have any questions about whether your rule statement is missing important elements, ask your Professor in office hours. Finally, practice as many hypos and/or multiple choice questions as you can. You know the competition will be!
Problem: Resting on Your Laurels if You Did Well
If you did well your first year, it can be virtually impossible not to kick back at least a little bit as a 2L. Everyone promises themselves they won’t relax too much, and yet, so many students do. Even if you don’t think you’re in danger of slipping out of your class rank, you probably are.
Solution: Fight Even Harder
Everyone at the top is pushing just as hard if not harder to stay there. Students who did poorly are pushing even harder to climb. Where does this put you? Whatever you did your first year that worked, keep doing it. You may be able to abbreviate your process here and there, or cut corners on things that you are now faster and better at, but be careful!
If you excelled, use your best judgment when making decisions about changing your study habits. Stick to what is tried and true for you personally, and don’t think for a minute that 2L year is going to be easier. It’s not. It may be less scary, you may have a better game plan, but if anything, you will need to work even harder than you did as a 1L.
Problem: Climbing the Ranks If You Did Poorly
If you are trying to jump from Ds, Cs, or Bs, to As, you are going to have to work extremely hard, and school needs to be your first priority. Bottom line.
Solution: Focus on Schoolwork
If your grades your first year were not what you hoped, consider cutting some extra-curricular opportunities so you can focus more on your graded assignments. Classes your second year will be just as hard, if not harder, but maybe for different reasons. See above. I always find it curious when I hear about 2Ls who are presiding over the Whatever Law Society (that future employers have never heard of) and whose grades are simultaneously at the bottom of their class. These students usually argue that their leadership roles in clubs and associations will make up for their bad grades. Be careful, though, because for some employers, they won’t.
Extra-curriculars can really be a trade-off, and keeping up with them can be monumentally challenging. Consider what your calendar is full of and what the payoff will be for spending your time the way you are. Maybe you already have a job lined up and you know for a fact no one will ever see your 2L grades or care about that C- in Con. Law. In the more likely event that your transcripts will matter someday, though, at least consider how you can make yours better.
I have found that some of the things I spent my time on in law school mattered a lot to employers, and to my own academic and professional fulfillment, and others just didn’t. So, take stock of why you are doing what you are and make sure you’re not engaging in activities that seem promising now, but will ultimately do little to serve you later.
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And check out these helpful posts:
- The 2L Slip – Balancing On-Campus Interviews and Extra-Curricular Activities
- How to Get Stuff Done in Law School
- Dealing with Law School “Time Regret”
- Being a Law Student and Functional Human Don’t Have to be Mutually Exclusive – Finding Balance
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