Study Groups: Dividing The Workload
When discussing the best ways to study while in law school, the mention of study groups tends to elicit differing reactions. Some students thrive in such groups while others perceive them as useless and a waste of valuable time. The success of a study group often depends on how and what work is divided among its members.
In any given semester, the opportunities to participate in a study group may be minimal and any interested student may have to initiate the process. It is not unusual for many students to have little or no interest in study groups, which may make it difficult to find enough people to make the endeavor worthwhile. So much depends on making the study group sound like a good idea.
Much depends on how many courses a study group plans on covering. Is it just one course? Is it the entire semester’s course load? Is it somewhere in between? If it is just one course, is it a subject dominated by case law (constitutional law) or is it mainly regulated by statute (tax or criminal law)?
Study groups typically divide the workload among its members who are then responsible for making a universal outline shared by the group’s members. The more material covered in a study group, the more a member must condense his or her work in the time available for outlining. It is important to remember that the work typically required by a study group will be in addition to, rather than a substitute for, the daily class preparation required for a subject.
When dividing the workload it makes sense to assign material based on the strengths of members. Who best understands Contracts? Constitutional Law? Not only must the members of a study group have an excellent understanding of the material, but they must also have good writing and organizational skills to produce a fine outline, and good communication and critical thinking skills to discuss the material in the group.
A study group also requires time for group members to meet and not only to discuss current classroom material but to ensure that each member is making progress drafting a useful outline. Because time is so precious to law students, using a study group efficiently to focus on members’ trouble areas rather than any general review discussion may be the wiser course of action. If everyone in the group understands what an offer is, there is no reason to use the group’s time to reiterate it.
As a precaution, it is probably a good idea to make a personal outline that will provide a good backup should the study group outline be deficient. It is not uncommon for study group outlines to be more than adequate in some areas but insufficient in others. Once all the study group’s outlines, as well as personal outlines, have been completed, the combination and best of both should be what provides an excellent summative, but comprehensive, informative, and useful outline.
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