Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Common Sense for New Law Students

New law students are now gracing our halls.  Their faces hold a mixture of excitement and uneasiness.  They want someone to tell them the ONE RIGHT WAY to read cases, brief, outline, and complete all of the other study tasks.  They get inundated with lots of advice regarding how to get the best grades in law school from a myriad of sources.

By mid-September (if not sooner), I see them totally lose sight of some basics that make a huge difference in their ability to do well in law school.  They seem to let their common sense fly out the window.

Here are 10 common sense tips that will allow a student to be successful:

  1. Get a minimum of 7-8 hours of sleep per night.  You cannot learn and retain anything if your brain cells are not alert.
  2. Eat three nutritious meals a day - not caffeine, sugar, and junk food.  You cannot learn and retain anything if your brain cells do not have nourishment.
  3. Exercise for at least 30-45 minutes three times a week.  You can alleviate stress and sleep better with exercise.
  4. If you are sick, go to the doctor.  You may not feel that you have time for a doctor's appointment, but you especially do not have time for an illness to drag on for weeks because you did not get the medication/treatment that you needed.
  5. Do not believe everything you hear on the grapevine.  Law schools are fertile ground for rumors and gossip.  If something you hear sounds outlandish or wrong, it probably is.  If the item is important, check it out with a reliable source. 
  6. Be patient with yourself.  Law requires new ways of thinking, writing, and studying.  You will need time to learn how to do those things well.  Do not expect to get everything right initially.  Even today's Olympic swimmers started in the shallow end.
  7. Compete with yourself rather than with everyone else.  You cannot know how you will do in relation to your entire section, but you can know whether you are putting in your best efforts each day.
  8. Get assistance when you need it.  Use the resources at your law school to help you succeed: professors, academic support personnel, tutors or teaching fellows, writing specialists, and the many others who will be willing to assist you.
  9. Stop wasting time.  Limit the electronic distractions in your life: e-mail, twitter, facebook, texting, cell phone calls.  Focus on studying and use these tasks as rewards after you get your work done.
  10. Treat others as you would want them to treat you.  You do not have to be cut-throat competitive or a jerk to succeed in law school.  Your classmates will be your future professional colleagues.  You want them to refer clients to you, give you a thumbs up for a job at their firms, and remember you positively.  Build a good reputation as an attorney starting now.

No matter how brilliant you may be, you still need to use common sense.  I have seen too many law students falter because they ignored the basics.  (Amy Jarmon)   

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