Tips & Tricks

If Only I Knew – A Few Helpful Hints for Your 1L Year

Alex Verdegem is an LLS student blogger.

You can’t really know what law school is like until you’re actually in it. I have classmates who grew up knowing they were bound for law school, whose parents went to Loyola, who didn’t know how to outline or write a case brief. It’s okay. The learning curve is steep but most people get the hang of it within the first couple of months. There are however a few things that you can prepare for – things I wish I knew before I started and things that I am still working on. They essentially break down into two categories – study habits and life habits.

The three study habits that I wish I knew before I started were when to outline, when to start using supplement books, and where the good study locations are. First and foremost, an outline is basically your own summary of all the material in the course that you will need to know for the final. My outline was never more than 38 pages long and should probably have been shorter than that. You can find student-made outlines from past year on the St. Thomas More website but you’ll want to write your own.

Most professors will give you advise on when to outline but, generally, you should start your outline after completing the first major section of the course, usually three or four weeks into the semester – for example for Prof. Selmi’s (fantastic) torts class you should start outlining after you complete intentional torts.

Once you start outlining you should also spend an hour every Saturday and Sunday practicing that section from Example and Explanations books (E&Es) and other supplement books. Not all supplements are created equal. Some supplements cover material that is NOT covered in your class so ask your professor if they have any preferences or recommendations. You can burrow a lot of these supplements from the library, scan the entire book with the book scanner in the computer lab, and then upload the scans directly to your personal Google Docs account. Be a good person and share your scans with friends.

Finally, the good study spots are the small study rooms in the library (I like the basement). You usually need to reserve these in advance so beware if someone ever tries to kick you out of a study room. On sunny days, there are a couple great patios on the fourth floor on Burns building where all the faculty offices are located. The views of DTLA are not bad as you can see.

Two life habits that will help you are to manage your time around sleep and make sure to give yourself time for things that make you happy. I’m still struggling with the second of these habits. Try your best to get enough sleep every night so that you are pleasant to be around. At least in 1L year this shouldn’t be too terrible but make sure that you’re not pushing all your reading or studying for Sunday night.

You also need to get outside the library and do something productive that makes you happy. I like to swim, other’s like to go to the gym or walk around Santa Monica. My study group also did game nights and Korean barbeque nights. Keep your spirits up and you’ll do great!

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