How can you best prepare for law school?
(I am assuming you are just about to start law school or are already a 1L.)
The shortest possible answer to this question is: focus on those activities that will help you most directly do well on the final exam from day one. And only focus on those activities.
OK, you say, such a simple answer, and obvious to boot.
But what does it mean to focus on the exam from day one? That, I think, is not so simple and obvious. There are a million ways you could prepare for law school, but not all of them are helpful for preparing for final exams. (And apologies if you don’t understand everything I am talking about right now; you will soon.).
That is, many people will tell you, with certainty, what you should be doing to study. Other 1Ls, older students, and professors. Universitas Swasta di Bandung But they do not know what they are talking about, in the case of most students, and not all of them have your best interests at heart (the professors).
Here is a quick list of things you should not do to study because they are not focused on helping you. You should not do these things even though quite a few law students do these things or swear by them:
- Brief cases. There is no greater waste of time than briefing cases. You read way too many cases during the course of a year to spend 30 minutes slowly playing “legal anatomy” by identifying each of the component parts of each case you read. But how does this help you with your final exams? Ask that to anyone who tells you you should brief cases.
- Meeting with a study group without a focus or time limit. A study group should be a source of support but will quickly become a waste of time if you discuss every doctrine or every case discussed in class. What you should do is to focus only on doctrines that none of you understands, and meet only one to two hours a week. Towards the end of the semester, meet to swap outlines and most importantly to swap answers to practice exams.
Here are some of the things you should do to do well on your final exams, even if other people think you are strange or tell you not to do these things:
- Pre-study, even before you get to law school. I mean, get an outline or treatise or book on each subject you will study in law school and read through them in the month or two before law school. While many people say you will be fine just reading what you are given in class, it is not true.
- Start taking practice exams from the beginning of the year, not just the two weeks before exams. Almost everyone tells you to take practice exams (usually old exams by the professors who will be testing you) but only at the end of the semester after you have done outlines. But this is wrong. You can start by practicing answering issue spotting exams every day for 20 to 30 minutes. This is a weird way of exam taking, nothing like anything you did in college, and you need to get used to it fast. Almost no one does practice exams until the end of the semester, largely because they don’t want to realize that they suck at this. But you will suck at first and only get better if you practice more than everyone else. Another common argument is that you need to know the law well before you even take practice exams. This is mildly true but should not be a problem if you pre-study before law school such that you understand the basic elements of each cause of action or defense.
Did I confuse you? I hope not. But in short my advice is: Don’t do anything in law school unless you understand how it will concretely help you do well on your final exams. You can’t do everything to study; you can only do a few things, and you need to pick carefully what you choose to do.