A day in the life of a law student, especially a 1L, is filled with study, papers, legal citations, learning legal research, being yelled at in class, reading cases and then reading more cases.
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My first day as a law student I was totally clueless. The law school sent my package of information to the wrong address and failed to contact me when it was returned. I was trying to move my family, finish work at my job so I could return if I decided law school was not for me, and figuring out how I was going to pay for all of this. On top of that my laptop computer had not arrived and neither had my law school books.
Here are a few tips that I wish someone had someone had written out and given out to all the first year law students.
LEGAL CASE BRIEFS
First is that good attorneys do not necessarily make good teachers. Your law professor will insist that you do legal case briefs. THIS IS A COMPLETE WASTE OF TIME and of your day. There are a lot of free resources for legal case briefs and I have included links to some of them on the individual course pages. Lexis-Nexis and Westlaw also provide legal case briefs. I prefer the "Lawyers Edition" on Lexis Nexis. If you are not familiar with them go to the Legal Writing page and do the tutorials. The best way to do case briefs is to include them in your legal outline.
YOUR LEGAL OUTLINE
Your legal outline is where you need to spend your day. You need a computer program similar to ONENOTE. Most of their other material is crap but this program is excellent and cheap. It allows you to link to the cases directly on Westlaw or Lexis Nexis and you simply copy the case brief directly into your notes. You can also incorporate any other material directly into your final exam outline. You will need to play around with your final outline as you go along. You want enough information but not so much that you are overwhelmed. Find out what materials, if any, your professor will allow you to take into the exam and prepare your final law school outline accordingly. Click on the links at left to find legal outlines for each law school course. There are also some links to outline banks below. Please do not rely on these outlines as anything but a guide. If you do not prepare your own outline, you will be lost at exam time. There are links to various law school outline banks at the bottom of this page. Also check the link on the left for the specific law school course for resources and sample law school exams.
LEGAL STUDY AIDS
My first year as a law student I was naive enough to believe that I could get the material from the textbook and going to class. WRONG While I knew the cases, I was lacking in the concepts. You are much better off ignoring the hornbook and purchasing two good legal study aids at the start of the semester. I waited until just shortly before exams to buy the study aids and then realized how little the class prepared me for the law school exam. The Examples and Explanations Series or Glannon should be your first purchase. Then Siegles or Exam Pro depending on the particular class. Click on the links at the left to see the recommendations for each course.
THE ESSAY EXAM
The ONLY way to prepare for your final law school essay exam is to look at past exams and practice writing the answers under timed conditions. There are only so many concepts and so many situations per course. By going over past law school exams you will get the "black letter" law down and will not waste time with the rule. You will also learn how to quickly pick out the issues which is the most important ability required to ace the essay law school exam. You need to start this early in the semester and not wait until just before your exam. This will help you understand the concepts and ask questions in class about anything you do not understand. Click here for tips on essay exam taking.
LAW SCHOOL ESSAY EXAM BANKS
LAW SCHOOL HELP Highly recommended. Past exams with model answers and outlines.
Berkely Law Exam Database It is important to know how the exams are scored and this site has model exam answers.
CHECK THE SPECIFIC COURSE LINKS ON THE LEFT FOR MORE SAMPLE EXAMS
TAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF Every day get involved in activities outside of class. Treat law school like a job and give it your best, but be sure to get involved in activities outside of class. Try joining a student group or picking up a hobby. You need to keep up an exercise routine. One of my major mistakes was to spend time studying and snacking and not enough time walking, jogging or at the gym.
Before you decide to go to law school or if you have already been accepted, I suggest that you read Succeeding in Law School and then Legal Reasoning by Delaney. This will get you started on the right track.
For those of you who like flashcards to help memorize the Black Letter Law
Law Flashcard Exchange
Having problems with citations? Introduction to Basic Legal Citations
This is from Melly who teaches law and bar review:
"Everyone out there has a different way they learn, the best thing you can do is law school is figure out what yours is. As for outlining - it's the process of outlining that is key, not the end result. It doesn't matter what it looks like, as you create the outline you should be condensing what you know and ensuring that you understand the material, as well as helping yourself memorize key elements of black letter law.
Second, law school isn't about memorization, which is mostly the case with undergrad. It's about taking the black letter law (which MAY require memorization) and applying it to facts. This can only be done by practicing with hypos, not reviewing an outline ad nauseum.
As for supplements - they help you understand the concepts, which is necessary to fully apply the black letter law, but that's about it. They can also be a good source for practice exam questions and hypos, though your best source is always professors old exams. Examples and Explanations is a great resource."
I posted this just to emphasize my point about hypos. The best way is to ask your professor if he has some that you can answer and then meet with him to go over them.
Another excellent way to study for your law school essay exam is to go over actual bar exam questions and answers from past bar exams. We have a link to many of the various state bar exam sites and bar exam study guides at
OneNote & Law School: beginners guide Tips on using One Note
These outlines are from a number of sources so use at your peril. You should prepare your own outline and only use these for reference.
FindLaw for Students Extensive list of outlines and some exams.
Outline Depot They claim to have 49,589 currently approved outlines available for download, OutlineDepot.com is the most comprehensive source of law school outlines anywhere. You have to post an outline to download.
NEVER EVER waste your time briefing cases. You can find case briefs online at a variety of free sites.
You should purchase the Examples & Explanations series for each of your courses. You can purchase used ones at the following site from other law students at a very reasonable price.
ASK AN ATTORNEY YOUR LEGAL QUESTIONS