Not too long ago, I wrote a post for the Bar Exam Toolbox about rubber duck bar study. In it, I revealed that the idea came from my husband telling me that Duckie Debugging has nothing to do with the Pretty in Pink character. I have decided to dispute his claim, and simultaneously offer up Duckie Law Study as the new thing to try if you, like many of your peers, are struggling with how to learn the law.
You Do You
I’m not really a movie buff, so I’m sure there are lots of characters who do this, but I can’t think of any movie character who embodies the notion of “you do you” quite like Duckie does. And, at its core, that’s what Duckie Law Study is all about. And while my recommendation is to use a rubber duck instead of a Jon Cryer poster, I can absolutely imagine that character hanging out in law school, talking to his rubber duck about Torts.
To start, you pick an object. Obviously, I suggest a rubber duck, but for some really specific reasons:
- It’s a good idea to use something small and portable. We’re not talking about a massive duck that will take over your whole desk. Think of something that will fit in your laptop case.
- Inanimate objects (usually) stay where you leave them, unlike people or pets who have minds of their own, and the ability to escape from an impromptu and unwanted Contracts lecture.
- Although photographs satisfy the first two conditions, it’s a good idea to use something tactile. Even if you aren’t a kinesthetic learner, engaging the senses is a great way to stay focused and learn things more effectively. So I suggest having something you can hold and play with as you study with it.
- Unless you have specific duck-related trauma (in which case, I hope you’re taking deep breaths and possibly decided to opt out of this blog post), rubber ducks are just happy. You want something that will make you smile. If that’s not a duck, find something that will. Just see the heading of this section!
Once you have your object, talk to it! Read your casebooks to it. Or, even better, interpret your readings. If you’re at the outlining stage, then take your class notes and talk through the synthesis process, explaining the rules to your duck, and all about how everything fits together. As you’re studying for finals, read and explain your outlines to the duck. Heck, you can make up songs about the law and sing to your duck if you want to (and whether you try a little tenderness or go for something a little more squeaky, that’s between you and your duck).
For one thing, it’s a great idea from a learning perspective. A while back, Alison wrote a post recommending that you try explaining the law as if you’re talking to your grandma. That’s still an excellent idea! Teaching is a great way to learn. Figuring out how to explain something to another person forces you to think carefully about both the concept and your words. You need to be brief but clear. You need to understand the material well enough to explain it. And, of course, your duck has absolutely no legal background, so it’s important to use straightforward language. Just don’t get one dressed in tiny judges’ robes, or it might make you nervous.
Also, is anyone else here guilty of literally falling asleep on a casebook? No matter how comfortable I got reading cases, or how uncomfortable my reading position, there were certain subjects that just always put me to sleep. I’m pretty sure that if I had been in possession of a sympathetic duck, I could have talked through the waves of exhaustion and finished my reading with a lot less stress – and a lot better comprehension!
I mentioned earlier about the importance of engaging the senses. I find that if the whole situation is interesting, I can remember details about it more easily. When I was in law school, my friend and I went to her parents’ house to take care of her family dog just a week or two before finals. We basically had a hardcore, multi-day study session away from the hustle and bustle of law school. I can still remember what the living room, furniture, pup, and even my notes looked like from that visit. During exams, I was able to remember certain rules by remembering where I was and what I was doing when I studied those rules. I think that duck-related explanations would be even more effective for this type of situational memory. (You could even have a different duck for each subject, since you can get them in those variety packs now.)
Most importantly, like Duckie, I think it’s important to just have a little fun with things. Law school is extremely serious, and can be absurdly stressful. By injecting a little whimsy, you’re giving yourself a reason to smile at a time when you might otherwise be drowning. So, if you’re having trouble focusing, consider a little yellow study buddy! Just don’t let them squeak during class.
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