Wednesday, August 21, 2019

How Minority Students Can Succeed in Law School

It is common knowledge that members of certain groups start law school with educational advantages. High schools in more affluent neighborhoods generally provide their students with better approaches to learning, studying, and test-taking, and these advantages continue into college. Students who grew up in poverty not only deal with poorer educations, but with the problems of growing up in impoverished neighborhoods.

The above socio-economic problems mean that minority students and others who grew up with disadvantages begin law school behind. However, this does not need to continue. Minority and poor students can easily be taught better approaches to studying and learning.

Although it helps all law students, my book, How to Succeed in Law School (2019), gives minority and poor students the tools they need to catch up with their peers who had better high school and college educations.

The first chapter helps students change their attitudes. Studies have shown that students with growth mindsets succeed while those with fixed mindsets fail or do poorly in college and law school. In addition, students must be able to self-motivate; law school requires a great deal of hard work. This chapter gives students techniques to develop a growth mindset and self-motivation.

Chapter Two is the most important chapter in the book. Students generally come into law school with poor study habits. This chapter explains study habits that work, and, equally importantly, those that don’t. For example, just re-reading does not help students retain knowledge and leads to poor grades.

Most students come to law school with poor reading habits. Chapter Three shows students how to get everything out of a text and how to effectively brief cases. It also introduces them to the five types of legal reasoning.

Chapters Four and Five help students develop advanced thinking skills. In particular, they help students become self-regulated learners.

Chapter Six gives students practical advice on what to expect in law school, including doing well in doctrinal classes, law school exams, collaborative learning, the types of classes in the first year, law school activities, summer jobs, social media, journals and the honor code.

Chapter Seven is unique because it gives students the context for law school. In the main part of the chapter, I demonstrate how the American legal system developed and give a detailed example of this development. Other sections discuss the structure of the American legal system, mandatory versus persuasive authority, and ambiguity. The chapter ends with the anatomy of a civil case.

The final chapter covers a subject of particular importance to law students today–wellness. This chapter tells students how they can deal with the stress and anxiety of law school, it tells them how law schools are helping students deal with emotional problems, and it gives them online resources they can consult.

In sum, my book gives minority and poor students skills they probably didn’t get from high school and college. It gives students a method to get better grades in law school, while also giving them a firm foundation in how to learn and become life-long learners.

(Scott Fruehwald)


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