Tuesday, March 12, 2019

What I’ve Learned About Doing Homework and Studying in Law School

When you first start law school, it’s so easy to get caught up in existential questions like:

  • “Who am I?”
  • “Why am I in law school?”
  • “How do I study?”
  • “What is legal research? How do I use Lexis Nexis? Westlaw? Should I have a preference?”
  • “What is the rule of perpetuities?”
  • “What is blue-booking? Is that when you forget to read your book and do your homework?”
  • “How will I do well?”
  • “Will I get cold-called today? How do I avoid getting cold-called today?”
  • “How can I get everything done when there’s not enough time in the day?”
  • “When do I get to go to sleep?”
  • “Why did I get myself into this?”
  • “What is the meaning of life?”
  • And the list goes on and on….
The one good thing about law school is it actually does get better. You learn things that help you get through your daily challenges and methods to deal with your daily stressors. You also (hopefully) will learn how to balance your time, and you (hopefully) will find that everything can be done with a little bit of planning.

One thing you really learn about and hone in on throughout your time in law school is your study style and preference. In all honesty, when I first started law school, I was overwhelmed. I had spent the nearly two-year gap between my undergraduate studies and law school working in a law office and enjoying not having to go to class on a daily basis, write papers, and study (well I guess I did for the LSAT, but like many rules in evidence, that’s an exception). During this time, I was focused on getting real life practical and legal experiences that I believed would prepare me for law school. So when I started law school, it was almost like culture shock trying to find my place and get into the swing of doing the “school-thing” again. As silly or trivial as it sounds, I had to learn how to read, study, and prepare for law school classes. Loyola offered mini crash courses with tips and tricks on how to take notes, write memos, do research, and take exams. To do well, I learned that I needed to take these tips and adapted them to suit my own study style and preference.

Today, my homework prep consists of the following:

  • I sit down the night before class and go on TWEN or to my syllabus and check what I have assigned for the next day.
  • I then look up the assigned cases on Lexis Nexis and read the brief synopsis of each case before reading each full case in my textbook. I’ve found that doing this helps me prepare for the case and determine what the focus is going to be.
  • While I’m reading, I use different highlighters and pens to color-code the facts, procedure, issues, holding, rule, reasoning, dissent, etc. (I actually learned this color-coding method from some of my Loyola professors during 1L and incorporated it into my study routine.). I’ll take little notes in the margins of the text to summarize what I’ve just read i.e. the holding or the rule of the case.
  • After reading the case, I write up a case brief for the particular case in Google Drive document I have running for the class. This helps me get a better grasp on the case, and I end up feeling so much better about getting cold-called in class.
  • If I don’t have time to take separate notes, I rely on my color-coding and just make sure to take extra notes in the margin of my book so I can jog my memory in class or in case I get cold-called.
  • Note: I adapt this procedure even further to match the requirements/difficulty of each class, the professor’s teaching style, etc.
My one tip for all of you about to start law school is to be open to trying different methods of note-taking, doing homework, preparing for class in order to find what really works for you. There’s really no right or wrong answer. As I’ve so often learned and you’ll surely learn while in law school, the answer is “It depends.” It depends on you: how you think, how you process information, how you study, etc. Despite all the tips and tricks you’ll learn and all the advice you’ll get from professors, 2Ls, 3Ls, and attorneys about how to study and prepare for class, you know yourself the best, and you know what you need to do to be efficient and successful in your endeavors. So trust yourself! You’ve got this!

Until next time friends!