How did you prepare for class and handle cold-calling?
Kaci: I read what was assigned the night before class, made reading notes in a word document, and reviewed my notes prior to class.
Conner: Briefing cases throughout 1L was something that helped me retain the most, not only for a particular class period, but also when finals came around. It takes time to learn how to brief well and figure out what are the important parts in a decision, but the process of distilling cases into a brief helped both my legal thinking process, and also made me more confident going into class if I had to speak.
Casey: Made sure to read before class. Made notes in the margin of the book on the topics the professor liked to call on.
Chad: Short answer: read through all the cases. Long answer: briefed each case. Early on I would write more thorough briefs, but as the semester and year went on, I learned how to read through opinions more effectively and learned short-hand that worked for me. A good brief goes a long way when cold-called. If you can read and understand your brief quickly and effectively, cold-calling will be a lot less intimidating.
Kendall: I took my time reading for each class. If I was confused about a certain case, I would look up a brief and try to understand that, at least. Cold-calling was especially terrifying for me when I first started, but I really just tried to focus on the fact that professors aren’t expecting you to be an expert on the cases, just that you have read and tried to understand them.
Ramon: I read the text without touching pen to paper. Then, I read through a second time and made notes. In complicated cases I created briefs.
Jillian: Do the reading. It sounds silly but I promise, if you put the work and time into the assigned reading then cold-calling will feel far less painful.
How did you review information after class?
Kaci: I incorporated my class notes and my reading notes into an ongoing outline.
Conner: I would bring my reading notes into class then edit and add to them with information from class. I would take this material and add it to past classes in order to start giving my outline shape throughout the semester.
Casey: Entered the info into my outline.
Chad: Before class, I had an idea of which areas I understood better and which areas I did not. After class, I would review and amend my notes with new information based on my expectations from prior to class.
Kendall: I would generally just look over my notes a day or so after class and delete things that weren’t useful and add things that I thought were important about the reading for that class. Nothing extensive.
Ramon: I reread my notes and filled in any holes that I noticed.
Jillian: I spend my Fridays going over my notes from the previous week.
Did you have a study group? If so, how did you approach that?
Kaci: I study solo
Conner: I didn’t utilize a study group very well because I get distracted easily, and thus gravitated to the quiet area for most of my weekly assignments. I did find study groups very helpful closer to finals so that you can make sure you’re understanding concepts and becoming fluent in the pertinent ideas.
Casey: No study group.
Chad: Yes, but I did not really actively search for a study group. Early in the semester, there were some classmates that I would often work with in the library. This would generally include reading and reviewing before and after class. Over that time, we developed a connection and understood how each other worked. From there, we formed a formal study group to prep outlines and study for finals.
Kendall: I did have a study group, but only approaching finals. We focused on hypothetical problems and fact patterns. It was really useful to be able to talk out the problems with a group.
Ramon: I did not participate in any study groups.
Jillian: I did have a study group. We would mostly self-study up until November when we would go through hypos and help each other with any material that one of us might be struggling with.
When did you start outlining?
Kaci: Usually 4-6 weeks after the first day of class.
Conner: I attempted to do it throughout, but my outlines began taking real shape closer to middle or late semester. I wish I’d started on these earlier so that there was less stress going into finals, and I could spend more time learning (rather than compiling) information, as well as doing study groups, practice tests, etc.
Casey: Started about 5 weeks into the semester.
Chad: Roughly halfway through the semester.
Kendall: I started outlining around Thanksgiving/Spring Break.
Ramon: I started in mid October.
Jillian: I took “organized notes” throughout the semester. I started to create proper outlines close to Thanksgiving when I had a better grasp on the entirety of the material.
Did you use any outside sources to help in preparing your outlines (e.g., BARBRI, other student outlines)? If so, how did you use these sources?
Kaci: After I created my own outline I would cross-compare with BARBRI and other student outlines. If the other outlines had a better way of explaining or approaching a concept then I would incorporate it into my outline.
Conner: I used other student outlines. These were very helpful as starting points and references for ways to organize information. If I used another outline, I would add, subtract and edit to make it my own and so that I really learned the information. Simply having somebody else’s great outline will not help that much in time pressured finals.
Casey: Depending on the class, other student outlines were helpful, but some had to be generated on their own.
Chad: Skimmed a few BARBRI outlines and referenced other student outlines.
Ramon: Yes. I created my own outlines and then compared them to the commercial options. I then added anything that I missed or restructured if the commercial version lent more clarity to an idea.
Jillian: If an area of my outline felt a little weak, I would rely on my study group to go over their notes and outlines to see if I was missing anything.
Do you have any other general outlining tips?
Kaci: Organize the outline based on the professor’s syllabus.
Conner: Practice using them before the test by taking practice tests and seeing how the organization of your outline worked to help you go through a test efficiently. Outlines aren’t simply about having a ton of information, but having it organized in a way that allows you to attack different problems/scenarios efficiently.
Casey: Make it clear for yourself.
Chad: Don’t worry about others’ outlines. Do what is effective for you.
Kendall: Most of the time, you don’t need to be exhaustive. Just reiterating every fact from the book or your notes is doing less good than anticipating problems and distilling information.
Ramon: There is no right or wrong way to do this. Don’t focus on what others do; instead, learn what works best for you.
Jillian: Do what works for you! I am very visual so I like color-coding, tabs, highlighting etc. If you do not need those things to understand the material, than do not waste your time!
How did you manage your time on a daily basis?
Kaci: I gave myself a one-hour break at the end of the school day to relax. Then I started reading for the next day’s classes until I was finished. I kept an agenda so I could keep track of what I needed to do.
Conner: I work best in the morning so I studied accordingly. I found that planning my time out as much as possible helped keep me on a schedule to get my work done, which allowed me to make time for R&R.
Casey: Treat Law School like its a job.
Chad: Routines. Over the course of weeks, I figured out how long certain things will take. I had an idea of when I would need to start something to finish by a specific time or day. To make things easier, I wrote out my schedule Thursday nights for the following week. From there, I was able to see what work I had ahead of me and how to manage it.
Kendall: I made a lot of calendars. During the weeks leading up to finals, I would really start to micromanage my time. I scheduled breaks, social time, etc.
Ramon: The busier I am, the easier it is for me to manage my time. Therefore, I just stay busy.
Jillian: My calendar! I live by my Google Cal and my daily planner. I keep track of weekly readings, to do lists, classes, meeting etc. There is always a lot going on and staying organized helps me make sure that I am not missing anything!
How did you plan out other major deadlines (e.g., outlines, major papers, job applications) over the semester?
Kaci: I started outlines early in the semester and required myself to have them done by the time reading week came. I would start papers as early as possible (because writer’s block is a real thing) and then I would edit as needed until the paper was due.
Conner: By fighting the urge to procrastinate as hard as I could, and knowing that more work early on will mean less work and stress later on.
Casey: Used the calendar on my phone to set deadlines.
Chad: I had a larger calendar that had September - December. I wrote out all the major deadlines and my finals schedule, and I just kept this sheet at the front of my binder.
Kendall: I have a sticky notes app on my computer that I would put all major deadline things on so that I would have to look at the reminder every time I opened my computer. I would try to schedule a little bit of time to work on things every day, especially concerning job applications. They take a long time, but they can be done in discrete segments that won’t take a lot of time out of your day.
Ramon: I put everything in my calendar and added numerous alerts. I treated all of my “deadlines” the same way I would treat deadlines for a job or a grade.
Jillian: Same as above. I live by my Google Cal.
Any other advice?
Conner: Make time to clear your head, spend time with friends and family, and do things that make you feel like a real person by taking your mind of law school. There’s always something to do in law school, so get used to that feeling so the stress of it doesn’t eat you alive.
Casey: Read, Read, Read.
Chad: Take time off. There is always the feeling of looming deadlines and tons of pages to read. However, take time off here and there. Take a break Friday night, go for a hike Saturday. Really, do something other than law school related work. Also, don’t lose sight of your hobbies. Your hobbies are a great way to unwind from a long day or week of law school.
Kendall: I would just try to remember that law school isn’t the most definitive thing about your life. Remember why you’re here and focus on the end goal. Work hard, but don’t lose touch with the rest of reality. Call your family and your (non-law school) friends. Go see a movie. Take a nap.
Ramon: There is no canned answer for studying, time management, and organization. The method that works best for you will come from the struggle and attempts to develop solutions based on the suggestions of others. Ultimately, you will create your own approach.
Jillian: Breathe. Try to keep things in perspective. Remember self-care. Be kind to yourself. Remember that outlining and exams are just a tiny part of law school and an even tinier part of your legal career, and you’ll survive!