Top 10 Tips for Succeeding in Law School (Part 3)

machineHere’s part 3, the final installment, of the top 10 law school success tips that I’ve collected over the years.

Tip #7: “My grades do not define me as a person.”

This should be your mantra during law school. I’ve heard this from almost every law student I’ve talked to. Your grades do not reflect what kind of person you are. They also do not reflect how much you know or how smart you are. Stay away from negative people who want to look “better” than you. Hold onto who you are as a person and as a human being. You cannot measure a person’s worth by their grades in school.

Tip #8: Ground yourself in a community outside of school.

So many law students have told me that the thing that helped them mentally and emotionally during law school was having some kind of community outside of school. It could be your spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend, kids, relatives, mentors, friends who aren’t in law school, an organization you volunteer at regularly, etc. It should be a community that you feel comfortable in and that you interact with on a weekly basis. Your community will be a constant reminder of who you are as a person, not just as a law student.

Tip #9: Get practical legal experience and skills as soon as you can.

Many law students have admitted to me that law classes aren’t their favorite part of law school. What they really love is taking what they learned in class and putting it to use in the real world. The sooner you can get involved in a clinic, internship, or moot court where you can learn and develop real-world legal skills, the better.

Tip #10: Rage against the machine!

One of my clients was 15 years older than most of his classmates when he started law school. He had a wife and child and years of experience working in different jobs. It had been a long, winding road to get to law school and he didn’t take any of it for granted. He gave me this honest piece of advice to pass on to my students.

There is a “machine” in law school and it’s very hard to resist. The machine wants you to get high grades, get a job with a big firm, make lots of money, and make your law school look good. The machine wants you to believe that this is the only way to be successful.

Rage against the machine! Remind yourself of what you really want in life.

Do not let the machine dictate to you what kind of lawyer you should be, who you should work for, or what success means. You, and only you, can decide this.

Last but not least, the META TIP: Safeguard your reputation at all times.

From the first day you step into law school, to every day that you go to work, to the evenings when you’re kicking back with colleagues at a happy hour: act with professionalism at all times. Some law students and graduates forget this and they make careless mistakes that can cost them their reputation for years to come. Avoid this by treating yourself and others with respect all day and every day.

Hope these tips help you in your journey through law school and beyond. Good luck!

If you found these tips helpful, make sure to read Part 1 and Part 2.

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Top 10 Tips for Succeeding in Law School (Part 2)

study-tentHere’s part 2 of the top 10 law school success tips that I’ve collected over the years.

Tip #5: Experiment with different ways of studying.

A 2L told me that after taking detailed notes throughout her first year she decided to zoom out and focus less on the details. Now, she underlines important concepts in her textbooks and then writes them in her own words in the margins. Writing out the concept in her own words is crucial to her learning and has improved her grades as well.

This same student—who made Law Review by the way—also writes her own long outlines and then edits them by writing the case on a notecard. She writes the case out several times, each time condensing it down. These condensed note cards are what she then memorizes for her exams.

A 1L told me that he got involved with a club at his law school right away. He met some great students and got access to the club’s database of outlines. Some were good and some were not. The good outlines provided him with models to learn from. There is not just one way to outline. Find the way that works for you.

Another 1L told me that some professors push students to be in a study group. She tried this for most of her first semester but found it more productive to study on her own. She did just fine on her first semester finals. Try a few study groups to see if it works for you. If it doesn’t work, it’s okay to study on your own. Find the technique that works for you.

Another method a 2L shared with me was writing your own practice exams by looking at old exams. The first time she takes it, she does it open note. The second time, it’s closed note. Then, she takes her exam to her professors’ office hours and asks for advice. Many professors gave her tips on how to improve her answers and she was much better prepared to take her finals. Which leads us right into the next tip…

TIP #6: “The more you ask for help, the more helpful people are.”

This is a direct quote from a law student. Don’t wait until you’re in trouble to ask for help.

Ask early. Ask often.

For some classes, being engaged and asking questions in class and in office hours can bump up your grade just a little bit. Every bit counts. During your first year, take time to visit your professors, student services staff, and career services staff. People like to help people who take the time to get to know them.

A 1L told me about how he messed up his first semester of law school because he didn’t ask for help. He felt lonely and depressed being thousands of miles from home. He isolated himself. The end result? Poor grades for his first semester.

Feeling down, he met with his adviser and explained what was going on. He got matched with a professor for weekly tutoring sessions. He started meeting with professors during office hours. He reached out to his classmates and made some friends. He got involved with a club. His grades, attitude, and outlook changed for the better. He said his second semester was a “complete 180” from his first semester. All because he asked for help.

If you missed Part 1, go here.

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Top 10 Tips for Succeeding in Law School (Part 1)

Desk-old-fashionedI love hearing from my former students and clients. I enjoy connecting with them again, seeing how they’re doing, and hearing what law school life, or the lawyering life, is like. More often than not, they convey tips and stories to me to pass on to new law students.

Many thanks to Val, James, Travis, Ray, Ali, and all the students who’ve shared their advice with me.

Here’s part 1 of the top 10 law school success tips that I’ve collected over the years.

Tip #1: Do not underestimate your time.
However long you think it will take to do that assignment or study for that test, triple it. Especially during your first year, it will likely take longer than you think to study, prepare for class, and do your homework. Treat your first year in law school like a full-time job. Put in your 40 hours a week (classes, reading, homework) in order to stay on top of your studies.

Tip #2: Show up, but do not take on.
During your first year, do not volunteer for anything unless it only involves showing up. Do not become a club officer, take on a job, organize a fundraiser, or anything like that. Do not take on. Participate. Engage. Meet people. But do not take on more work.

Tip #3: Find people you can trust.
You shouldn’t go through law school alone. Take time to get to know your classmates in your first year section, in your cohort, and at your law school in general. You can’t pick who will be in your classes but you can choose who you want to spend time with outside of class. Make friends with people that are supportive and positive. Find at least two or three people that you can trust for good notes when you’re sick and can’t go to class, and for going out or just commiserating with when you need a break. They will help you when you need it and you will help them in return.

Tip #4: Buy study guides.
Consider buying an E&E, Gilbert’s and Acing for each of your 1L courses. They are not a replacement for taking notes in class or writing your own outlines, but they can be essential to your academic success. As one student says, it’s totally worth the money.

  • Examples & Explanations (E&E) fleshes out cases. Examples with answers. Good, solid explanations.
  • Gilbert’s study guides are all outlines. Clear explanation of rules. Find the guide that corresponds with your class’s textbook. Great for Property.
  • Acing is also all outlines. Their checklists are especially helpful for studying for exams. Great for Civil Procedure and Contracts.

More law school tips coming next week!