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Law School 101: Tips on How to Study Smart

Compiled by: Archiebal Faller Capila

How do they do it?

You often ask yourself how some of your classmates are able to answer the recitations with ease. You often ask yourself how some of your friends and colleagues ace their respective exams as if these were as basic as the alphabet. You often ask yourself what you are doing wrong. You often ask yourself what you are failing to do in order to become one of the best in your class. Doubts linger in your mind. You always ask the same questions. You always look for the answer—how do you study?

Law school is and will always be a test of brilliance and perseverance. Wits are not enough in law school. Law students are required to have a strong will in order to survive. However, between these two necessary factors, one must consider some gray areas in studying law. One question that comes to mind is how can you maximize your time in studying and at the same time, absorb all of them?

The study of law is quite known for its multitude of assignments. For every subject, there is an equal amount of assignment that challenges not only the brains of those engaged in its study but as well as their patience in finishing the same. Accordingly, information overload often comes in next because of the several pages of laws and annotations one needs to memorize and understand.

Indeed, law school requires a lot from law students. But cliché, as it may seem, studying hard, is not enough in law school. Sometimes, it is even the wrong approach when students focus their respective energies on the wrong aspect of the law. Some law students focus on minor details that won’t even pop out for recitations or exams. They memorize the minuscule part of the doctrine laid down by the court. They read several materials that have no connection or whatsoever to the reading assignment due for that same day.

While a law student may have the brilliance and the skill to persevere and eventually finish tasks, they must still have a sense of balance. Law students must be able to maximize their time and expand their knowledge by adapting to means which are necessary for their success. In short, law students are also required to be able to study smart.

In line with our advocacy in helping law students reach their maximum potential, Barrista Solutions lists down the tips on how to study smart, especially during this time of a health crisis. In order to fully maximize a law student’s time and capacity to absorb such materials, we have come up with a list to help you all.

Below are suggestions which one may adopt in the long run. While we admit that the study of law is not always the same for all law students because we all have our styles, may this list nonetheless help those students who are in dire need of tips and those who do not know where to begin within their respective journeys.

The common misconception in law school is that you need to read every available material there is when it comes to a particular subject. Law students tend to hoard several books and reading materials that supposedly would help them master the subject under a certain professor.

One does not have the time to finish all these materials. You would be lying to yourself if you would say that you will be able to read four books and four additional reading materials for a particular topic assigned by your professor.

Ask your professor what his preferred book is. If he or she does not have a preferred book, ask around some law students who already went through the particular professor. Check the recommended reading materials and determine which text you are most comfortable reading. Choose the book and the supplemental reading material which you believe will be most understandable on your part. It will help you improve your knowledge on certain topics.

Another misplaced effort by law students all over the country is the fact that they read a lot in the book, sometimes to a fault. Sometimes, they already cover a topic beyond the given assignment. While the advanced study is good, one must remember however that time is of the essence in law school. Law students do not have the luxury of time.

It is important to read the syllabus first before delving into reading and analyzing annotations for the assigned topics. By reading the syllabus, one will have an overview as to what topics are included and what topics are important that they are even highlighted in the professor’s syllabus.

By looking into the same, you will also gauge how far the topic is going to be. Normally, the professor would also dictate what the last topic of the day would be. Mark your respective syllabus and you will be able to manage your time wisely in focusing on certain topics. Accordingly, you will be able to determine what should be primarily studied or focused upon the said instance.

It is without a doubt that a professor has his or her favorite topic with respect to his/ her lectures, recitations, and exams. A law student would notice this when the professor continuously repeats a question or even calls several students in answering the same until it is perfect.

Note these down and be sure to study well for that topic because it is most likely that the exams will include these particular topics. More often than not, these topics are the ones that are also all-time favorites in the Bar exams. It is better to be prepared on these topics than not because general concepts, gray areas, and commonly asked questions and terms in the Bar will help you become adept and brilliant with respect to certain topics of the law.

You cannot memorize something you do not understand. If you will be starting off with memorization without fully understanding the reason, explanation, and story behind the same—you are preparing yourself for failure. Yes, you may be able to recite or write the text but the same is only good for short-term memory.

Before memorizing a codal provision, a key part of jurisprudence, or even some requisites or elements provided for by law, you must learn to finish the whole topic assigned so you will have the time for understanding and processing. Without understanding the topic at first, you will have a hard time applying such concepts in recitations, quizzes, exams, and even in real life.

Always remember that it will all be easier if you understand at first what you are reading before memorizing everything and cramming every provision there is.

One of the tips in memorizing a codal provision, an excerpt in jurisprudence, or some of the essential requisites or elements of a doctrine is that you must be familiar with the keywords. As mentioned above, you must first understand it.

And when you have the keywords, you can create your own mnemonics so as to memorize everything with ease. While some books or reviewers have their own mnemonics, it is still better if you have your own version because you will remember more what you have done and memorized compared to the others.

Always remember that this is not a shortcut but rather a better understanding of the topics you have already read and understood.

These are just some of the tips on how to study smart in law school. As mentioned in the first few paragraphs, this is just a list of tips suggested by Barrista Solutions in order to help law students in this time of a worsening pandemic. To all the future lawyers who may be reading this, may you all have an easier journey from this point forward.

For more tips, view more articles on Law School 101.

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