Because I have no system in place for my blog posts, I still have roughly 40+ pages of Torts cases to read and a take home midterm to finish, I’ll keep this short and quick. Here is my top 10 lists of tips that I would recommend for a 1st semester 1L (Not that I’m an expert yet, but I ask a lot of questions)
- Get to know your professor
From what I have noticed with these first two months, most professors have a set system and curriculum they follow every. single. year. Therefore, they know exactly how they want you to recite in class, the phrasing of the rule of law and definitely how their final exams will look. A closed mouth doesn’t get fed, and you can only get as much guidance as you ask for. Make yourself known, be respectful and go to the office hours for any issues you have.
- Outline Every Weekend, No Matter What!
Long Story short, your outline is a condensed form of your notes for your specific class and is a simple way to review what you’ve learned. Pay attention to what your professor spends time on in lecture, write notes and every single weekend, no matter what, condense your notes with the rules of law, the cases that apply and the highlights from what your professor went over. Be careful about using other classmates, or previous student’s outlines. It’s okay to review them as a reference here and there, but everyone should be drafting their own outlines based on their own case readings and lectures
- With Your Professor’s Approval, Send them a Copy of Your Outline to Critique.
This is where it can get tricky, and one person in my section had their Outline figuratively “ripped to shreds,” however, this is what you need! If you send your outline to your professor and they critique it heavily, LISTEN and fix the issues. Don’t get bent out of shape, now is the time to correct the wrong information because come Final Exams, its entirely too late. My Torts professor is very strict about what she wants and is looking for, therefore, I will have my rules and notes exactly how she wants. Period.
- Genuinely Get to Know Your Classmates/ Section Mates and Network!
My section is somewhat different because we are part time students, with full time jobs/careers, so finding time to meet up is hard. When you come in to class, smile, speak and spark conversations with your classmates. This is genuinely professional and these will be the people you will spend the next 3+ years with, as well as working amongst each other in your field of law. Be Nice and Build relationships.
Networking and Socials/Mixers may seem time consuming and unimportant at first because your so focused on reading, briefing and trying to stay ahead, but the networking events are very crucial to internships and possible job offers during OCI (stay tuned for blog post, since I haven’t experienced OCI as of yet). During an alumni association mixer, I randomly sparked up conversation with a very charming man, who just so happened to be an assistant district attorney. Um… Hello!! Yes!! I am very interested in Criminal Law, more than likely Prosecution, therefore, this person could put in a good word for me for that competitive internship or job. It’s not what you know in life, it’s who you know. Go to Kinkos or some sort of store, get simple and professional business cards made, and get to networking! Always remember to dress business casual/professional at these events, never drink too much and be confident.
- Time Permitting, Join Organizations
I’ve heard a few times where people have said that 1L’s needs to focus on class and their grades. While this is very true, it isn’t realistic and honestly to me, bad advice. If you are capable of managing your time effectively, anything is possible. Time Management isn’t a problem for me, therefore, I feel confident about my abilities to stick to my study schedule, join organizations, network, write this blog and watch Sunday Night Football. Three of which I’m doing right now! I decided to run for a Student Bar Association 1L Representative position, and was fortunate enough to be selected. In addition to this, I have joined another student organization and a local Young Lawyers Association. My studies and grades are and will remain priority, but I also have goals to enjoy law school, make lasting friendship and contribute to my school. I think its possible, and if you feel confident, then go for it! If you start to falter in your coursework, it should go without saying that outside commitments and distractions should be placed on the back burner.
- Build a Solid Study Group
First things first, keep your circle small and tight. A solid 3-4 people is enough for a study group. These members should be likeminded, motivated people who are WILLING TO CONTRIBUTE. If people are showing up just to see what information you have, or to get tutoring, cut them off. This isn’t meant to be mean or insensitive, but your job isn’t to tutor other students, your job is to retain the information and be able to effective communicate it in lecture and on the exam. I have currently have only 1 other person in my study group, and I feel super confident about it. We both have a good grasp of the subject matter, can articulate it and have common goals. We meet on Saturdays, have a set time limit and are super focused. Build your group to the best of your ability, learn the way works best for you and your group, but always be efficient with time.
- Secondary Sources and Study Aides
Your law school will have set Texts that your professor’s will work from, but trust me when I say, THIS IS NOT ENOUGH! There is a plethora of books, resources and study aides available, and you need to utilize them. Simply ask your professor what other materials they would suggest, most will respond with helpful resource. Online resources such as WestLaw or Lexis Nexis have the “Black Letter Law” aka the basic standard elements or principle of the law.
Ex. Batter is the intentionally act of causing harmful or offensive contact or an imminent apprehension of such contact, and a the harmful contact with the person intended, directly or indirectly results.
This is an example of the Black letter Law for the Theory of Battery. Your professor may have option ways of how they want the law structured, but the elements of Intent, Harmful or Offensive Contact, Imminent Apprehension, Directly or Indirectly Results should be present in the way you structure your sentence. In addition to utilizing these resources, completing practice exams, study aides and quizzes are very effective. I use CALI, which is a phenomenal online study aid. Quimbee provides general case briefs, that are really effective if your in a pinch. Find what works for you, or what your school/professor recommend and do these modules and quizzes as frequently as possible.
This should go without saying, but sometimes It must be said. I’m one of those people who uses 5 different highlighters to label the Facts, Issues, Rule, Analysis and Precedent Cases in my casebook and briefs. It might not work for some, but when your professor calls on you to recite, you will wish you had your brief organized and discernable. I keep my classes organized in separate binders, my outlook calendar contains my work events, school events and personal events all together. Its visually helps me see what I can expect for each day and allows me to stay on top of my time. Again, everyone has their own way of making things work for them, I simply suggest finding a system and keeping it organized.
- Note Cards, Note Cards, Note Cards!!
Remember that Black Letter Law I talked about? Yeah, take that information and make a note card for every single topic/theory/rule you study and your professor lectures on. For Example, In Torts I have my Intentional Torts Notecards, broken down by theory then broken down further into elements and Negligence is done in the same manner, plus additional notecards for Damages, Policies, interest Protected etc. If you’re a 0L or freshly starting 1L, this information might seem over your head, but once get started you will know exactly what I’m talking about it. Note Cards are so simple because you can study them anywhere at anytime, without having to pull up notes on the computer and open your casebook. At the end of the semester, YOU NEED to have these rules memorized so you can smash that final exam.
- Find Time to Take Care of Yourself!
Go have a drink or two, get a pedicure, have a massage, visit your family or just sleep! Its so important to keep your mind and body healthy and rested. It might not be possible to take an entire day off, but at least an extra 2-3 hours of “Me” time is crucial to staying in the game.