Law schools follow closely with the military training model. First, they break you down and then they build you back up the way they want you. This means that, for most students, the hardest part is the first year. Surviving this is certainly not impossible, evidenced by the numerous attorneys available in any given phone book, but it will be difficult. The first thing you need to do to survive is realize this and prepare for it.
There are three basic area that you will need to focus on the most in order to survive law school and become a successful graduate. These are study habits, social habits, and mental and physical health. The first focuses on your ability to learn and retain the material. The second focuses on both your ability to apply the material and to work with your peers. The third, and possibly the most important, supports your ability to focus on the first two. Following is a list for each that will help you address law school with a positive attitude.
Before you even begin your first semester, see if your school has a reading list available. If they do, read the books and materials that they recommend. Schools provide this to help you be a successful student and you will be a step ahead if you read them before you begin school.
Most importantly, read all assigned readings for your courses. Professors will often ask you intense questions relating to the reading and if you don’t do the reading they will continue to call on you every class period until you do. This will also effect your final grade and the first year is not the time to let your grades slip.
Also, sit down every Friday and outline both what you have read and what you have learned in class. This will help you study for exams down the road.
Next, get involved with a good study group. This will allow you to get to know your classmates and get help with anything you don’t understand. Remember, though, when your study group helps you, reciprocate this as much as possible.
Familiarize yourself with the library quickly. There will be many resources available, such as horn books or practice manuals, that will prove very useful throughout your academic career.
Know how to write a case brief. If you have not learned how to brief a case in your undergraduate classes, learn. Much of your work in law school will involve briefing cases.
Most of all, do the work and go to class. Your grades can effect your future job prospects and the ABA requires a certain amount of “seat time” so don’t skip out. Remember that your GPA for your first year sets your class rank. Don’t be intimidated and don’t waste time.
First, if you can, avoid working a job during your first year. You simply won’t have time.
If you are married, involve your spouse. Law school can be very stressful and if you don’t involve your spouse it can cause stress on your marriage as well. By involving them, you are allowing them to understand, to some degree, the stress you are under.
Consider joining legal fraternities or clubs. Also consider participating in clinics or other activities such as Moot Court, Law Review or Client Counseling. These will provide helpful experience. Also, consider taking summer law jobs for the same purpose.
In your third year, run for a position with the student bar. This will also provide helpful experience.
Go out with your friends and have fun. Law school can be very stressful and it helps to blow off some steam from time to time. It is generally a good idea to set aside at least one day a week that you don’t do anything law related and instead focus on having fun.
Remember that, even among your peers, your reputation is golden. Protect it.
Physical and Mental Health:
Ensure that you are setting enough time aside for yourself and don’t get overwhelmed. Remember that law school is only three years and graduating will change the rest of your life. Stay motivated and confident.
Exercise and eat right. In order to succeed in law school, you must have a strong, healthy mind supported by a strong, healthy body.
Be careful of your addictions or indulgences. Particularly be careful that they do not increase or get in the way during your time at law school. Remember that you must maintain a healthy mind.
Most of all, maintain a healthy social life. Be careful not too pay too much attention to your social life and not enough to school, but also be careful not to reverse the scenario. A healthy balance of the two is a must.
If you follow all of these guidelines, as well as any you determine necessary, you should have no trouble getting through law school successfully. Remember that law school is only three years and it will positively impact the rest of your life. Keep your head up and don’t give in.