How to Start the Law School Semester

Our best tips on how to start the law school semester are here, just in time for syllabus week. With 2021 off to a tumultuous start, law students are returning to their (potentially virtual) classrooms, as is the winter OCI process. The Law Exams Guide team has put together a few tips on how to best prepare for and take advantage of the beginning of a law school semester. Let us know in the comments or contact us if you think we missed any!

swimmer on block before diving into pool akin to the start of the law school semester
Photo by Heart Rules on Pexels.com

Choose the Right Classes

The beginning of the semester may be a whirlwind with initial reading assignments, a deluge of emails, and multiple student orgs courting new members. And while it may add to the busyness, it is worth it to sample a class or two before finalizing your schedule. In law school, a critical skill is time management. The foundation of a strong semester starts with a well-managed schedule. Many law schools allow students to change their classes in the first week or two of class – take advantage of this!

Sampling a class allows students to find the right combination of scheduling, difficulty, workload, and interest. To properly do this, self-asses as to what you need to graduate, what you are interested in, what works for you schedule, and what you are interested in. The ultimate goal is the right balance of classes to achieve or secure the GPA you need for the job you want, and it might be the case that a certain path-class gets you there. Obviously if you are a night owl or a morning person, work that fact into your class schedule.

Some schools also allow you to take classes outside of the law school.

clear blue shore symbolizing life outside of law school
Visual representation of a class outside of the law school. Photo by Asad Photo Maldives on Pexels.com

If so, take advantage of this! If you were a philosophy, spanish, or business major in undergrad, getting credit for returning to these classes is a relaxing way to get a break from the grind of law courses.

Get the Right Materials

Obviously, you need to buy, rent, or borrow your textbooks. A secret that professors don’t often tell you is that these books rarely change from year to year, so if you’re on a budget, consider using the old book and borrowing a friend’s for the few extra cases that have been added or just finding them on Westlaw.

In addition to textbooks, supplements can be crucial. The best supplements and resources can be found in our resource library. You may also have more creative ways to kick off studying, like if your books or secondaries are available via a source like Audible (here’s a free trial, or check if your local library has free subscriptions).

You don’t need to rush into gathering and buying all of the resources you can find. Instead, get a feel for the professor, the class, and the materials by attending a few sessions and then asking students who have taken the class. Remember, the entire purpose of your study should be to ace the exam. Don’t get too bogged down in extraneous reading or taking notes if doing so won’t be helpful to you while preparing for the actual exam.

Do Some Networking

While the start of the semester is a busy time, much of it is work you can put off, prioritize, or (some of which) you can ignore. And compared to the few weeks before exams, you have plenty of free time. Take advantage of this time to do some networking in the area which you want to practice. This means both geographically and substantively. Make a plan to reach out to five attorneys and ask them for a brief call to talk about their practice. (Almost) no attorney will turn you down for this.

man and woman near table
Photo by fauxels on Pexels.com

Networking with attorneys will help you figure out whether you are really interested in a particular area or role, but will also prepare you for OCI and interviews. Law interviews are generally informal and are centered around get-to-know you type questions that seek to create a discussion. If you’ve had coffee with 10 attorneys in preparation, you’ll be very comfortable having a similar discussion again with your interviewer. Not only will you be comfortable in the situation, but you can relate the discussion back to various learnings from your discussions with attorneys to show that you’re an informed candidate who is intentional about the role you are seeking.

Find Time for Yourself

Take a break. Even though the beginning of the semester is a busy time, it’s also a time when you can cut yourself some slack. You don’t need to go into hyperdrive on every assignment, reading, or extra-curricular. Remember, how to succeed in law school comes down to acing your exams. You have time now to relax and catch up on your mental health.

Take some time to relax

Make a Study Plan

Finally, make a study plan, so that you can approach the semester confidently and not have generalized anxiety about what’s going on. Take a look at the syllabus, make sure you have the right materials, and then assess what you need to do for your own study habits to get you prepared when it comes time to outline. If you’re particular, you might decide on which days you’ll do the reading for which class. Or simply make a plan as to what exactly you’ll need for each class (maybe you have to be prepared to be on call, and formatting notes or highlighting in a particular matter helps). And after a few weeks, you should have a sense of when might be appropriate to start your outline.

Don’t forget, you can always find the best study materials in the resource library.

Think we missed something? Get in touch!

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