Checklist For 1st Year Law Students, Part One
It’s never too early for first-year law students to prepare a checklist for their first year in law school. The following are some tips for finding success regularly throughout the year:
- Read. Always do the reading assigned for a subject in its entirety. The following point cannot be overstressed: If you fall behind on your daily reading, you are likely to fall behind for the entire semester. Also, read when you are most awake and alert in a location where there are no distractions.
- Brief. Take notes while reading an assigned case, noting the legally significant facts, the case’s holding, and the underlying reasoning of the court’s decision. Remember that a case summary or brief should be just that – brief.
- Review for the short term. Review case briefs immediately before class so that the material and information is fresh, thus significantly increasing the ability to closely follow, participate in and contribute to the class discussion.
- Attend. Many professors cover material in class that may not be discussed in the reading of the textbook, so failure to attend class will place any student at a large disadvantage on the final exam. Also, many professors subtract points for missing class, which may never be removed from the class or incapable of makeup.
- Pay attention. Any education at the university level, whether undergraduate or graduate, is costly and expensive. Students pay a substantial amount of money for tuition and should never think that any class discussion is not worthy of their attention. Students are in class to learn. It makes sense to utilize this time for such rather than wasting it.
- Participate. Students learn best when they are actively engaged in learning. It also boosts self-confidence to make a meaningful contribution to any class discussion and makes it easier to contribute the next time.
- Take good notes. It is impossible and inefficient to take down everything that a professor says during class. First, the idea of good notes is to highlight the important points that must be remembered for the final exam and practical purposes. Second, focusing on the detailed content of the discussion diminishes focus on the substance of the discussion. Good class preparation may be the foundation of taking good notes.
- Outline. Law students must remember that the key to the optimum use of an outline is to personally write the outline. Commercial outlines or those prepared by others are not acceptable substitutes. The personal preparation of a course outline provides the analysis necessary to determine the rules of law applicable to the subject matter and how they relate to each another. Circumventing this process has obvious drawbacks for learning course material based on any personal interpretation of the material’s overall and relative importance. The best way to have a summative, informative review personally tailored to individual study goals, methods, and needs is to prepare it personally and not rely on anyone else’s work or some third-party treatise like Emmanuel’s commercial outline. The latter are good supplements to a personal course outline. The key to an outline is starting work on it at the beginning of the semester and not waiting until week three or even week two. Like reading, if you get behind, you’ll seldom catch up.
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