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Improve Your Second Semester of Law School

2L, University of Georgia School of Law

Many students start out law school with one study strategy, discover that it is not the most effective method for them, and then change their strategy for the second semester of their first year. This is exactly my experience. During the course of my first semester, I was mostly concerned about memorizing facts and principles that I was learning. Although this was important and helped me to perform well in my classes, I found that I did better my second semester when I focused on practicing my issue-spotting skills and analytic writing, breaking up my studying into chunks, and outlining as I went along.

 

A law student can know all there is to know about a particular subject, like Contracts or Torts, but if she is unable to spot issues in exam fact patterns and to analogize solutions to questions from cases or principles that she has studied, then she is unlikely to perform well. I noticed that as I consistently practiced my test-taking skills during my second semester, I was able to approach tests feeling more confident, and I was able to spend less time engaged in issue-spotting and more time writing my answers. This allowed me to receive higher scores on exams, with this translating into higher grades in my classes.

 

During my first semester of law school, I would often engage in marathon study sessions, spending all day at the library while only taking short breaks to eat. Although I did get a lot of study time in by doing this, I found that after a while my concentration would wander, with this meaning that my study time was not being spent in the most effective manner. During my second semester, I resolved to break my studying into chunks, taking time in between study sessions to workout, eat, socialize, and relax. This really helped me to be able to concentrate more while I studied, with this leading to more efficient studying on my part.

 

Outlining is essential for many law school classes. Unfortunately, law students can often be crunched for time at the end of a semester to author effective, comprehensive outlines. I found this was my experience during my first semester – I was rushing to complete my outlines before my exams. During my second semester, I resolved to outline as I went along, with this enabling me to be able to spend more time at the end of the semester reviewing my outlines and taking practice tests. This really helped me to be able to improve my exam performance.

 

All in all, I found that my second semester of law school went a lot smoother than my first. My focus on issue-spotting and analytic writing, breaking up my study sessions, and outlining as I went along helped me to complete the semester with higher grades and less stress. I know that as other law students apply similar adjustments to their study habits, they will also see benefits accruing to their law school performance.

Comments

Joey, I completely agree! I have noticed that my studying has change significantly since my first semester of law school (now being a 3L). I would also add that my studying has subsequently changed depending on the class I am taking. If it is a heavy code class (like Secured Transactions or Sales), I find myself studying the code itself and the official comments. However, if it is a more common law/nuanced class (like Decedent Estates or International Law) I have found that outlining throughout the semester works best for me. Again, its all subjective and relative. Great post!

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Outlining throughout the semester is a helpful way to stay on top of the class and make sure you truly understand what is being taught while it is happening, so that you can ask questions as they come up instead of waiting until the end of the semester. I used to think that outlining at the end of the semester was a helpful way to study, since I was forced to review everything as I was outlining. However, after two semesters of a stressful finals season, I finally realized the trick of outlining as you go. That makes such a huge difference in a semester, not only because finals season is more manageable, but also because you feel more knowledgeable/prepared during the course of the semester! If students take away one thing from this blog post, it should be the importance of outlining as you go along.

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Awesome post! I had a similar experience during my first year. Another thing that helped me was learning which Wolters Kluwer study aids could help me at which point in the semester. Some students liked using the Law in a Flash cards, for example, at the end of the semester. I think they are great for reinforcing concepts as you learn them!

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Great post Joey!

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I think this post conveys valuable insight beyond just the second semester. Don't be alarmed if you have to change your study habits a third and fourth time. Adapt! For me, study groups was a disaster my 1L year because if someone else was confused on a topic, I second guessed my own knowledge. However, when I took a securities regulation class, I relished my study group because everyone seemed to be an expert on one particular area. I'd also caution to law students to create your own outlines rather than copying the free ones from a bar prep company or an outline bank. Those are good to supplement your outline, but they are not effective to actually internalizing the information like you would when you craft one yourself.

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I couldn't agree more, Joey. This reads almost verbatim the change that happened to me (and subsequently, my grades) between my first and second semester! Keeps sharings these great ideas, especially with the 1L students.

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Great post Joey. You hit the key point in that improving after your first semester starts with identifying those things that did and did not work individually and adjusting study methods accordingly. The hardest part of first semester is the unknown of what is ahead. Studying, note taking, and law school exams are all different than college and it is tough knowing what to expect. Identifying what works best individually helps make all of that time and effort more efficient and translates into better results.

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