The National Jurist - Back to School 2017 - 19
class, professors are going to require you to
have done work.
"I think one of the things that's most
surprising for people is that you just jump
right in," Monahan said. "You're going to
have cases to read even before you get to
that first class, and that first class is a
real class. That can be shocking for
In the classroom
And then there's the style of
teaching: The dreaded Socratic
method. It might seem like
torture, but professors say it
will develop critical thinking
skills so that future lawyers
will approach the law as intellectuals.
Law students have to
get used to justifying why
they believe something is
right or wrong, said Nancy
Rapoport, author of "Law
School Survival Manual:
From LSAT to Bar
Exam" and a professor at
University of Nevada, Las Vegas, William S.
Boyd School of Law.
"We're not doing it to humiliate them,"
Rapoport said. "We're really, really, really
not. We're doing it because if they draw bad
conclusions, they're going to give bad advice
to their clients."
She remembers being terrified when
professors called on her at Stanford
University Law School. But over time, it
"They should prepare to be uncomfortable, and they should prepare to get things
wrong, and that is OK," she said. "No one
has ever, ever died from being wrong in
After a few classes, you might start to
pick up on what certain professors like to
ask about. Think about those things while
doing your reading.
You can also try practicing with friends.
Ask questions of each other, and try to reason out your answer the way your professor
would expect you to.
Reading and studying
For the most part, Tiffany, you'll have the
same educational experience as all of your
"There's no two ways about it. I'd give
her the same advice I'd give anyone else,"
Rapoport said. "She needs to do the readings. There are not any situations where
she could cram."
Establishing good habits now can
help you succeed later.
"As with any new endeavor,
much of the challenge lies in developing a routine that works for
you," says Georgetown Law's firstyear student guide. "Although the
demands of the classroom do not
decrease in later years, having an
established routine and a solid
educational foundation from the
first year make these years more
Block out time when you're
fresh and alert. For some students it's mornings; for others
it's evenings; and for some, weekends are best.
It's also important to find a
place where you're able to focus. It may be
a study carrel in the library, a desk in your
Back to School 2017
The NaTioNal JurisT
apartment or a table at a coffee shop.
Perhaps most important: Turn off your
phone, and avoid Facebook and Instagram.
"This is hard for people, because we're
so used to being distracted," Monahan said.
Do you have to read every single word
you're assigned? Not necessarily. Do it to
the best of your ability, and focus on the
main body of text.
It may help to figure out what kind of
learner you are. If you're unsure, your law
school or university should have resources
to help you.
As a visual and kinetic learner, Rapoport
found that outlining helped her retain
information. Every weekend, she would add
the week's new material and then review
prior weeks' outlines. Because she was constantly reviewing her notes, she didn't have
to cram for exams and could just practice
"They should prepare to
be uncomfortable, and
they should prepare to
get things wrong, and
that is OK. No one has
ever, ever died from
being wrong in class."
Don't think you can just get outlines
from someone else. It's the act of outlining
that makes it a good study tool.
You should also work at your most efficient level, advises McClurg. Prepare for
every class, but don't over-prepare.
He says many students will put a disproportionate amount of time into their studies
at the start of the semester, and then burn
themselves out and be unable to keep up.
"That's the absolute most crucial piece
of advice: Don't fall behind," McClurg said.
"You cannot catch up in law school. It literally is not possible. There are no breaks, and
the workload keeps mounting and mounting."