This may sound a bit crazy to you at first, yet it’s actually a good idea: Make an effort to know your law school professors outside of class time. You may be thinking, “Really? I just got raked across the coals for half of today’s discussion, over a footnote in Hadley v. Baxendale, and you want me to go ‘get to know’ this person?” Well, yes. Law school professors have office hours for the purpose of helping students – that means you – even during this time when we’re all relying more heavily on remote/contactless communication options like Zoom meetings, phone calls, emails and texting.
Your professors are the ones that write and grade your final exams. They can help you narrow down what they are looking for on your answers. You just have to ask. They will provide guidance. But you have to make the effort. You can’t be so hesitant and nervous, when you can simply ask and benefit greatly come exam time.
Your professors are experts on the law. There is absolutely no substitute, no matter how great you think that supplement is, for talking to your professor about what you don’t understand. In fact, many law school professors are well recognized legal thought leader and some have authored the textbooks actually being used in courses across the country. Find your professors. Pick their brains.
Your professors can provide a letter of recommendation. Someday you will need one. And they need to know you on a more personal level to write that letter. Do not underestimate reaching out to speak with your professors on a regular basis. By getting to know them better, they get to know you better, too.
Gain intel on the grading criteria
Law school final exams are unlike any undergrad test you’ve ever experienced. They will cover everything you have done in a class, from day one. If you’re lucky and get a midterm exam during the semester, you’ll have a rare opportunity to know just how well you’re grasping the law and even a strategic head-start on preparing for the final exam. To reiterate once more, everything you’ve learned in a course is going to be distilled down into a single 3-to-4-hour final exam. Advance intel doesn’t hurt and you shouldn’t feel shy about getting it. Talk to your professors and find out what they consider an “A” answer. Ask if they have any past exams that you can review. The more past exams you can practice taking, the more familiar you will be with your professor’s testing style and the easier it will be to succeed on the exam (knowing what you have to do for an “A” answer).
Pick the brain of a law expert
Your professors are teaching Contracts and Real Property and Constitutional Law, for example, because each of these is an area of expertise for them. While supplemental study materials are helpful to understand the black letter law you’re trying to learn, there really is no better source for information and explanation than your professors. Only your professors can help steer you toward what they feel is the operative fact or most important rule of law from the case. And don’t forget, your professors are the ones that evaluate your final exam. You want their interpretation of the cases to be front and center.
Build a relationship that matters
In the near future, you will need legal references for prospective employers. Professors make great references. However, they are people, too, and will want to know more about you before they provide any recommendations. Take the time to get to know at least one professor on a more personal level. If you are really interested in a Prosecutor’s or Public Defender’s office, for example, your Criminal Law professor is an ideal relationship to foster. This way, not only do you have a great reference, you have a reference in the specific field that interests you. Also, many times, professors will have great contacts in their field of practice.
Overcome intimidation, overachieve
While it may seem intimidating at first, you have nothing but positives to be gained by getting to know your professors. Take advantage of office hours. Ask questions you may not ask during class time. Make that personal connection. It will be worth it in the long run.