Wednesday, August 6, 2014

6 Mistakes to Avoid When Starting Law School

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George Bernard Shaw once said, “Success does not consist in never making mistakes but in never making the same one a second time.”  Yes, we learn from our personal mistakes and grow from them.  Unfortunately for first year law students, the mistakes aren’t usually known until after the first semester exams have been graded.  So to save you time, here are a few tried and tested mistakes you should avoid.

Mistake #1:  Procrastination.  I’ll read it later.  I’ll catch up on notes later.  If you find yourself thinking or saying the word “later,” you’ll quickly realize that later doesn’t exist. Hundreds of pages of reading are assigned each week. It is important to read all of your assignments (including recommended reading and those tiny footnotes that your professors will love so much) BEFORE the class.  Take notes as you read and during lectures, organizing them into an outline on weekends.  By the end of the semester, as your classmates as scrambling to catch up or put together a study aid, you’ll be done and can focus on actually using your study aid to prepare for finals.

Mistake #2:  Relying on Student Notes/Outlines.  A used textbook with notes inside or a friend who lent you their outline from the semester before can do more harm than good.  Maybe the information is accurate, maybe it isn’t.  If you do the work yourself, you will better remember what you’ve read and learned throughout the semester.  If you have any gaps or misunderstanding, check with your professor during office hours or look into commercial outlines and treatises in your law library.

Mistake #3:  Forgetting That You’re Human.  A lot of students come to law school with the misconception that no sleep, no exercise, and vending machine foods are the only way to graduate with a JD.  This will likely cause you to be tired and susceptible to illness, which diminishes time for you to study and for your brain to absorb what you learn.  Treat law school like a person’s normal work day.  Your office hours are only for studying and class.  Leave the evenings for exercise and whatever helps you wind down.  Get at least a solid seven hours of sleep and three healthy meals.  You’ll be better off for it.

Mistake #4:  Overloading Your Time with Extracurricular Activities.  Within the first two weeks, law schools typically offer a club fair of some sort to allow 1Ls a chance to see the plethora of groups they can join.  Now, this isn’t something to avoid entirely.  Groups can be a good way to find a release, create a support system and maybe even form a study group.  However, over-involvement, especially in your first year, is not important enough to take away your time from studying.  What matters most is your GPA and class rank, not clubs.

Mistake #5:  Ignoring Bar Review Reps.  Oftentimes you can put a deposit on a bar review course and receive a locked in price or discounts.  Additionally, they usually offer free study materials that include outlines, practice questions, and tips.  Research which bar exam course will best fit your needs and try to lock something in to save money and help your skills.

Mistake #6:  Spending Beyond Your Means.  With finances and time management, planning is everything.  You only have so many hours a day and so much money in the bank.  Create priorities and budgets and stick with them.  Keep an eye on the big picture – graduating with a top rank and minimum student loan debt.  You’ll be thankful you did!

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