Friday, July 27, 2012
Some of the returning students always ask my advice on what they can do to get ready for their academics and improve their grades for the coming year. Here are my suggestions - some of the items can be done this summer; others can be completed in the first few weeks:
- Sit down and evaluate your study habits from the previous year. Look at each aspect of law school: reading and briefing, note-taking in class, outlining, reviewing for exams, memorizing the law, taking fact-pattern-essay exams, taking multiple-choice exams, completing papers or projects. What were your strengths in studying and why? What were your weaknesses in studying and why?
- Decide which study habits to continue and which study habits to change. Meet with the academic success staff at your school if you need help with this evaluation of your studying or with brainstorming new strategies.
- If you have specific skill weaknesses, read a book about that skill to improve your understanding. Here are a few examples: Reading Like a Lawyer by Ruth Ann McKinney; The Five Types of Legal Argumentby Wilson Huhn; The Eight Secrets of Top Exam Performance in Law Schoolby Charles H. Whitebread. You can find a number of excellent books through Carolina Academic Press and other publishers.
- Start regimens now that are healthy and sensible. Get on a routine sleep schedule of 7-8 hours per night. Exercise at least three times a week for 30 minutes to an hour. Eat healthy meals. Do not let these routines disappear during the semester.
- If at all possible, relax for at least one week prior to the beginning of classes. You want to begin the semester with fully recharged batteries.
- Time yourself in each course for the entire first week to see how long it takes you to prepare for class (read, brief, complete problem sets). Then pick the longest block of time for each course and use that to set up your class preparation schedule.
- Schedule also regular time for other tasks each week: outlines, review of outlines, practice questions, research, writing, study group, and more.
- Read your course syllabi very carefully. Many professors include information that can help you get the best grades in the course: learning objectives, study aid recommendations, websites and other resources, study tips, and more.
- During the first month of school, review all exams from last semester for which you received a C+ or lower grade. By getting feedback from your professors on what you did well and what needs improvement, you can make the appropriate changes as you do practice questions for your next set of exams.
- If you were disappointed in your performance in a paper class last semester, ask the professor for tips on how you could improve your research and writing. Then use the feedback to improve on your papers this year.
Second and third years are somewhat easier because students have learned the basic skills needed for success in law school. However, both years bring new responsibilities with part-time work and student organizations. Time management and organization are going to be two key areas to work on to attain your best grades. (Amy Jarmon)
Thursday, July 26, 2012
Summer is the traditional time when new professionals in ASP start their jobs. If you are a newcomwer to the academic success profession, please get in touch with me so that we can introduce you to everyone with an Academic Support Spotlight posting. If you would like an introduction spotlight, just send me the following information:
- One paragraph that can be posted with information on your position, law school, and you (education, past work experience, and interests).
- A link to your law school's faculty profile on the website if one exists for you.
- A link to your picture on your law school's website if one exists. (If not, you can send a small jpeg file.)
Welcome to ASP! We usually do spotlight postings throughout late August, September,and early October. So, if you need some extra time for your law school to complete your faculty profile or picture posting, just get in touch when you are ready. (Amy Jarmon)
Monday, July 23, 2012
On Friday, I gave you some fairly sober advice about how to handle law school. Let me give you some counterpoint advice today: enjoy the ride.
I obviously don't mean that you should party your way through law school or do only what is fun or easy. You cannot prepare for that first client that way.
What I do mean is that you should realize that you have made it to the majors, and you shouldn't let that experience get swallowed by competition and pressure. Competition and pressure will be there, of course; and you will drop an easy catch or get caught looking at the perfect pitch. But any real ballplayer will tell you that everyone has those moments and that the successful ones shake them off and catch the next ball or hammer the next fat pitch. Real ballplayers will also tell you that they love to play the game, and that is what keeps them going.
You are about to spend three years transforming yourself from layperson to lawyer. What an amazing thing! You will have to master new skills, of course; play at a new game speed, even change how you play. But you get to play! Sure, you have to expect both setbacks and successes; they go with the territory. The trick is to relish the successes, learn from the setbacks, and appreciate the changes both bring about in you as you grow in this profession.
When you lose a game, remind yourself that you could not have lost that game unless you were playing in the majors to begin with. Remind yourself, as well, that every win is a major league win. You aren't Babe Ruth every day? You still get to play everyday, just like Ruth. You struck out today? Ruth led the league in strike outs.
You are playing in the majors. Not everyone gets to say that. In fact, few get to say that. But you do. Enjoy the ride.