02 August 2009

Really pumped to perform well

Posted by Shake sense into me

Hello again, reader.

This post is probably most relevant to the 0L's, as I'm going to address the grades/studying/performance aspect of law school. To all those who've been through their first year and beyond, this is likely to be rather uninteresting for you, so be warned. However I promise to write about some of the crazy characters I mentioned in my last post tonight, so stay tuned!

Okay, 1Ls, listen up! It's really a simple equation you need to remember: motivation + real studying = success. You need both. Motivation is hard to garner, and studying for real is even tougher with all of the distractions out there. I sucked at the real studying part, but I had a lot of motivation.

First, Motivation:
I actually wrote myself a letter before I started law school that I was to read after my first semester, after grades came out, to kind of remind myself of why I was actually in law school - that was a smart move. Law school is so all consuming that often you are thinking so much about the elements of a contract or strict products liability for so long that is literally all you think about. You fail to remember why you are even in law school. Do not forget your personal motivation for pursuing a law degree. If you keep remembering why you are there, you will try harder and make contacts that are meaningful. Talk to professors about your reasons for going to law school, they know a lot of people and can probably help you reach your goals or talk you through the right/wrong reasons to get your JD (although I don't want to say that there are "wrong" reasons, but a lot of people think there are - so be prepared).

Remind yourself of why you are in law school every day, and limit the self-deprecating crap (it's hard to do...). Most of the females I have met in law school have severe problems with self esteem and that only makes this whole process harder - but there is something that made you apply to law school and something that your school saw in you to invite you to join their class, and remember that. Don't walk around like an entitled prick, but don't spend too much time putting yourself down. Be humble and goal oriented. Talk to your family as often as you can, and keep in touch with all of your old friends - when you are down and out, they are the ones that are so proud of you and will be able to bring you up. Don't count on your law school friends to help you here, because they are struggling themselves and often can't be of much assistance.

Write affirmations, use motivational quotes in your notes, make pretty outlines in pastel colors, whatever it takes to get you through it. Without motivation, you will likely sit on facebook for 12 hours a day, and watch re-runs of Charm School instead of studying. I speak from experience here.

Now, "real" studying:
Real studying means sitting down with your books, shutting your cell-phone off, not accessing the internet, and getting solid hours of straight studying in with minimal distractions. The more distracted you are, or the more you do while you study, the more distracted your learning is and the more messy the information in your brain will be.

Instead of nailing the small stuff, memorizing, and piecing it all together, and then sitting back and looking at the big picture - applying the rules you learn to situations you have heard about or thinking about how it actually works in "The Real World" - many students fret over the tiny pieces and their knowledge ends up as just that - a bunch of tiny puzzle pieces strewn about in your brain, unorganized and a mess. Sure, you know everything you need to know, but you may not know the order or the reason - which means you won't be able to do the most important part, the application. So challenge yourself once you know a concept to apply it to a situation, try writing about it, think about situations you have heard of. Watch Judge Judy. Watch the law shows (although I may be the only law student I know that does not watch Law and Order or any of those ridiculous imitations of real "lawyers" and "law" in action). Watch those shows to see if you can tell when the law you've learned is being applied right and wrong.

Do hypotheticals. Talk through them with your friends. Write sample answers and try and read as many sample answers as you can - this is probably the most important part. If you don't know how to write a law school exam, you will be rather unhappy with your end results.

Don't just assume you know the answer to any question posed in class or on an exam. You want to make sure you see both sides to every story, and make sure you take note when a professor assigns cases that come up with different results using the same rule, or when two cases apply different rules for the same problem. You are likely to be tested on it and to apply both rules, and come up with what you think the answer probably is, but also address the other side to the story. Never give a one-sided perspective.

Talk about this stuff with confidence, and when you can't - acknowledge that an area is your weak point and work on it.

Do the CALI lessons on the concepts you learn in class.

Take notes by hand, and type them into your computer the same day you take them. Don't bring your computer to campus or class unless you must.

That's all I have for now...but motivation and real studying are the two things I think you really need to do well. Law school is hard, but it is doable. You just have to make sure you get the job done.

5 comments:

Soleil said...

Good post.

Brandon said...

Thanks for all the advice! Just out of curiosity, why no laptops at campus?

Law School Podcaster said...

We are going to soon be discussing these same issues on our website.

Shake sense into me said...

Brandon -

I say no lap tops on campus because it's incredibly distracting if you bring it. Instead of typing notes, taking notes, or doing research, guaranteed you will end up shopping online, chatting with your new law school buds on AIM/Gchat, or perusing some other unmentionable sites (coughfacebookcough).

If you have a hearty sense of discipline - bring it. But I haven't met many that do.

Everything Counts said...

Well spoken. I quite agree with the view points. Thanks for sharing such beautiful thoughts.