Tag Archives: Spring Break

Outlining for Success in Law School

Okay, so what’s the deal with all the talk about “outlining” for your law school classes?  Let me tell you, the “deal” is that for most people, it is an absolute necessity to outline your course material to do well on exams.  Here are some general guidelines to follow in outlining your law school course material.

TIP # 1:  The outline should be “issue” and “rule” driven, not “case” driven.  What this means is that you should structure the outline around the topics/legal issues discussed in class, and then the rules should follow.  After the rules, cases and hypotheticals from class should supplement the rules.

TIP #2:  Write rule statements as a sentence, even when breaking rules into elements.  The idea here is that you should be able to take your rule statements and transfer the language directly to an essay exam.  By doing this, you should be able to focus more on analysis on the exam, and not have to think about how to express the rules.

TIP #3:  Don’t wait until the end of the semester to outline!  Pre-Outline before you attend class.  I find it helpful to read about the assigned topic in a commercial law outline or other supplemental source before and during my reading of the casebook.  If you take a few minutes to learn about the topic generally, before reading cases, you will likely be more efficient in extracting the rules from the cases when you read them.  Type a “pre-outline” of the material, and then supplement it with your notes from class. You can even add to your outline during class, while the material is fresh in your mind.   By pre-outlining you will probably have a better understanding of the material and therefore will be able to more accurately pick up on the more nuanced areas of the law that come up in class discussions.

I have found the above suggestions to be very helpful in my own study strategies, and I recommend them to any student who wants to improve his or her academic performance.

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Spring Break, Vampires, and Law School!

So, it’s that time of the year again.  Time for Spring Break!  That said, in law school, Spring Break is really just a break from classes, but not a total break from work.  Preparing outlines, completing projects, and working through practice problems to prepare for exams is how I typically spend my break.  However, I do make time for other things.  I took most of today off and finished reading a novel I’ve been reading periodically throughout the semester: Salem’s Lot, by Stephen King.  For those of you who have never read the tale, it is a modern take on the classic Dracula story by Bram Stoker.

Here’s the premise (and admittedly corny) point of this post : Law School, if not kept in perspective, can be “vampire-like.” It will try to suck you dry spiritually, financially, emotionally, and physically.  The demands it makes are not for the weak.  Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve come to enjoy the law school experience, and believe I am blessed to just have the privilege of going to law school. I certainly am not taking it for granted.  However, I know that for some people (including myself the first year or so) law school is an all-consuming monster.

After almost three years in law school, I think I’ve figured it out enough to lend a little advice to those considering law school, or those already caught up in its grip:

(1) Make a study schedule for the week.   Plan on about 2-3 hours for every hour of class-time.  That means, if you are taking 15 credits in law school, you should plan on about 30-45 hours of study time in addition to the time spent in class each week.  No kidding, it takes that much work (unless you’re some-kind of genius–and please note that even having a 4.0 in undergrad won’t qualify you as the “some-kind of genius” who won’t need to spend 40 hours a week studying).

(2) Make “to-do” lists of your tasks for the day.  Making a list can give you peace; you won’t forget what you need to do for the day; you will have a sense of accomplishment as you cross things off the list; and you will be better organized as a result of planning your day this way.

(3) Take a day off.  Yeah, that’s right.  Taking a day off gives a person something to look forward to at the end of the week, a “mini-vacation” of sorts.  Trust me, you’ll need it.  For people who go to church, a day off to go to church and spend time with family can be a wonderful time of renewal and recovery from the week’s tasks.  It’s tempting to let the Law School vampire try to work at you 7 days a week, but don’t do it.  Hold your ground, and take a day off!

(4) Work hard.   When it’s time to work, WORK!  Stick to your schedule. Get things done. Don’t procrastinate. Be diligent.  Being diligent in your study habits puts the “stake” in the time-sucking Law School Vampire’s heart.

Of course, the above points are not all that is required to succeed in law school, but they are enough to keep one from being sucked dry by Law School.  I’ve put the above into action myself, and it has helped me enjoy law school, and not see it as a monster.  When put in the proper perspective, Law School isn’t scary; it becomes fun.

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