Study Guide: How to study in Law School
Have you decided to pursue law or been accepted into law school in the US? At this point, you may be wondering how to go about actually studying there. This study guide goes through some of the basics and then delve into specific topics on how to study in law school.
- Student Tips
Learn how to study in law school with our study guide full of tips and resources to maximise your success in classes and position yourself for employment upon graduation .
How to study law in Law School: The basics
Understand your legal system
Before going into the specifics of how to study in law school, you should understand how your specific legal system works. The USA, for example, has a “common law” legal system. This means that the USA follows English common law principles developed hundreds of years ago in England. One important thing to remember about common law is that it is based on precedent. This means that decisions made in past cases serve as guidelines for future cases. So, to be a good law student, it is important to understand how to research and analyze precedent.
Another vital thing to consider when studying law – or any other degree – is to stay organized. This starts with keeping track of all your assignments and deadlines and ensuring you are prepared for each class. Additionally, setting aside specific times each day or week to study and break up your studying into manageable chunks can be helpful. Find a way to track your workload and stick with it. There are many digital tools that can help you. Even an old-school calendar or planner can be a useful tool for organization.
It’s not enough to stay organized – you also need to study effectively. Try to find a study method that works for you – whether that means studying in short bursts, listening to audio recordings of your lectures, or taking practice exams. It can also be helpful to find a balance between memorizing information and understanding concepts. While it is important to remember the details of cases and legal doctrines, it is also essential to understand and apply these concepts to different situations.
Take a break
Finally, don't forget to take regular breaks and give yourself time to relax – burnout is a real danger during your law programme, so it is important to pace yourself. Get enough sleep, eat healthy meals, and exercise regularly. It is also essential to find time for activities that help you de-stress. This might include spending time with friends and family, listening to music, or reading for pleasure.
Now that we have covered the basics, let's jump into the specifics of how to study in law school:
How to study in law school: Tips for reading Law textbooks
Reading your textbooks is one of the most important – and challenging – things you will do in law school. Legal language can be dense and difficult to decipher and understanding the reasoning behind legal decisions and how those decisions are explained in writing is an essential skill that you will use in law school and your legal career. We will run through strategies you can use to help you understand legal language.
Be familiar with your level of reading comprehension and speed
One of the most important things to keep in mind when reading law textbooks is your reading speed. It is important to find a balance between speed and comprehension. If you read too quickly, you may miss important information. If you read too slowly, you will waste time and become bogged down in the details. The best way to find your ideal reading speed is to experiment and see what works best for you.
Start by timing yourself reading a section of the textbook. Then, try different reading speeds and see how long it takes you to read the same section. Pay attention to how well you comprehend the material at different speeds. Once you find a speed that works well for you, stick with it.
Establish what you do and do not know
When reading law textbooks, ask yourself, “How much do I know about this topic / term?” Remember, reading texts with legal language will be different from reading an ordinary book.
This can be done by doing a quick “pre-read” of the material. Simply flip through the chapters and look at the titles and subheadings to get a good overview of the topics covered in the book and help you identify any areas that you are already familiar with.
Use a legal dictionary
When studying in law school it is important to familiarize yourself with legal terminology and a legal dictionary will be essential. The best way to find a legal dictionary that meets your needs is to consult with your professors or fellow students. There are also many online resources that offer free legal dictionaries.
Remember, definitions in a legal dictionary may vary depending on the jurisdiction or the sub-discipline in which you are studying law. Look up unfamiliar words and try to understand the definition in the context of the legal document you are reading. If in doubt, ask your professors or a law librarian for clarification.
Take notes and highlight important information
As you read your textbook, take notes and highlight the most relevant information. This will help you identify the main ideas in each section and make it easier to review the material later on. When taking notes, focus on key concepts and topics covered in each section. Don’t worry about writing down every single detail – you can always go back and fill in the missing information later.
When highlighting information, use a system that works for you. Some prefer highlighting key concepts in one color and important legal terminology in another. Others prefer to highlight everything in one color and use symbols to indicate different types of information.
How to study in law school: tips for writing law essays
Understand the question/assignment
Before you start writing your law essay, make sure that you understand the question or assignment. Some things to keep in mind when trying to understand the question or assignment include:
- What is being asked of you?
- What key concepts and legal principles apply to your case?
- What are the facts of your case?
- How can you best structure your argument to support your position?
Keep your research focused and adequately sourced
When conducting research, keep your research focused. This means you should use information directly relevant to the question or assignment. You should also use only reliable and reputable sources. These sources can include law journals, textbooks, and legal encyclopedias.
Additionally, it would be best to critically evaluate all the information you include in your essay. This will ensure that your argument is well-reasoned and supported by evidence.
Finally, it is vital to use proper legal citations when writing a law school essay. Failure to properly cite your sources can result in plagiarism, leading to severe consequences.
Structure your Law essay
When writing a law school essay, structure your paper in a way that is easy for the reader to follow. Start with an introduction, followed by a clear and concise statement of your thesis. The body of your essay should be used to provide evidence and support for your thesis. Finally, end your essay with a succinct conclusion. Following this structure ensures your law school essay is well-organized and easy to follow.
Once you have finished writing your law school essay, it is important to proofread your paper. This will help to ensure that there are no grammar or spelling errors. Proofreading can help you identify any areas where your argument is weak or unsupported.
How to study in law school: Join a law study group
Pros of joining a law study group
- You will benefit from hearing different perspectives. Everyone has their own way of looking at things, which is especially true regarding legal concepts. When you hear different perspectives on cases and concepts, you can better understand the material.
- You will get used to discussing cases and concepts under pressure and receive feedback on your exam-taking skills from your peers.
- Study groups provide good practice for learning how to network in law school.
Cons of joining a law study group
- There will be times when you don't agree with everyone in your law study group. But that's okay! Healthy debates can actually help understand different perspectives on legal concepts.
- You might feel like you're not contributing enough. It's normal to feel like you're not contributing as much as everyone else in the group, especially when starting out. But remember that everyone has to start somewhere, and you'll likely find your contributions become more valuable as time goes on.
What to look for in a law study group
- A group that is respectful of different perspectives. This way, you can be sure that you'll be able to have healthy debates with your peers without anyone getting too upset.
- A group that is organized and efficient will enable you to get the most out of your study sessions.
- A group that is flexible. Try to find a group willing to meet at different times, so you can be sure to find one that fits your schedule.
How to structure your study group?
- Figure out what everyone wants to get out of the group, ensuring everyone is on the same page and that you're all working towards the same goal.
- Create an agenda for each meeting. Having a plan creates clarity for the group and everyone will know what they need to do to prepare. Everyone has a chance to share their ideas and thoughts by taking turns leading the discussion or presenting research or questions.
How to study in Law School: Visit the Law Library
The law library is a great resource whether you are studying for a Bachelor of Law LLB or a Maser of Law LLM. You will find a wealth of legal research materials to help you better understand the law. In addition to providing assistance and guidance if you need help finding something specific, the law library staff will have individual expertise in a variety of subjects and can be resources in their own right.
We hope this study guide has helped provide you with information on how to study law and be successful in your chosen law programe. In summary, there are many different ways to approach your studies, and it is important to find what works best for you. Good luck with your studies!
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After graduating with a degree in English literature and creative writing, Ashley worked as a bartender, insurance broker, and teacher. He became a full-time freelance writer in 2016. He lives and writes in Manchester, England.