Great 1L outlines: It’s about the process

It’s that one thing that looms around every corner of law school.

Maybe you did it some during undergrad, but never quite like this before. It is the bane of your law school existence, yet at the same time, the most crucial piece of exam preparation.

Outlines.

The first month of school consisted of scavenging the right 2L’s and 3L’s for the best outlines out there. Making sure to find those who did very well in your courses – and with your specific professors – is important.

But outlining is about more than just the end result. It’s about the process. Moving your class notes, supplements and handouts to a refined and organized study aid helps you put that critical information to memory. If you just grab from your peers or copy and paste from online sources, you won’t be putting that material in words familiar to you that truly help you understand the rules of law.

Another thing about the “process” … it’s a very long process. It’s time to start outlining (it’s mid-October already). Many schools will have a writing assignment due just before Thanksgiving Break that will require nearly all of your outside time and effort. It’s crucial to be up-to-date with your outlining as soon as (make that, BEFORE) you are given the assignment. This allows you to push aside your other classes, crush that writing memo, then get back to outlining in time to be finished before reading day.

That’s a lot of information. And potentially, a lot of additional stress. But that’s what it takes to get those 1L grades that matter so much.

Ready to join a study group? The benefits vs. the drawbacks.

It’s no secret, really. Every student learns differently, prepares differently and definitely studies differently. You know you best. By now, you are getting a good feel for this experience called law school. Or you may already have a strong sense of what works for you and what doesn’t. Perhaps you have yet to try something that could help (or harm) your ability to achieve success. Which leads us to this important question: How do you know if you should join a study group or not?

There are several benefits (and drawbacks — scroll down to see those, too):

BENEFIT #1

A study group can provide support and calm some fears. Law school can be terrifying and stressful, and spending time with your peers enduring the same journey makes you feel less alone. Confidence through camaraderie.

BENEFIT #2

If you are totally lost on a concept, think you’ve got something down but are dead wrong (and don’t know it yet), or just talking yourself around in circles, a study group is a great resource. Bounce ideas off colleagues. Group think your way to deeper clarity and understanding. Many times, law students feel they have a firm grasp of a concept and spend valuable time studying incorrect information. During class, they make this unfortunately discovery. Communication in a study group provides a nice checks and balances – to alert you of anything that’s incorrect, if you’re not expanding enough on a concept or even expanding way too much.

BENEFIT #3

Having a set time for your study group to meet works to fight that natural tendency of … procrastination. Who wants to study Future Interests at 9 a.m. on Saturday? No one! Bu if you have your study group partners waiting for you on that Saturday morning, you become naturally accountable. You’re more likely to show up and put the time in needed to be successful in law school.

And the potential drawbacks:

DRAWBACK #1

Group projects. Many students dislike group group projects because they feel much of the work lands on them. Lack of focus and productivity. Many times, group study can turn into a social event. That’s why it is so important to find and choose members/colleagues who are disciplined and dedicated to the bigger goals of collaboration, effort and ultimately staying productive and on track.

DRAWBACK #2

It’s possible you might spend an inordinate amount of time helping your group mates, sacrificing and not concentrating on your own progress and work. You may understand Torts as well as your professor and end up teaching it to your group … but make sure there are limits on how far to go with such assistance. You deserve the time you need to focus on your studies, too. It’s totally fair and reasonable to set this expectation early.

DRAWBACK #3

At certain times, you may need a quiet(er) place to study effectively. Study groups — as in plural — are going to be filled with questions, cross-talking, sidebars and comments blurted out on the spot. If you need “complete” quiet, the study group environment will be too distracting and disruptive.

All in all, study groups are meant to help. After considering the points above, should you join one? Give it some thought and be honest with yourself. That way, you’ll really know if these will benefit you. If not, try to make a few close friends in your section so that you can grab notes if you miss class or are stuck on a concept here and there. Although law school can be quite competitive, you’ll find that many students are more than happy to help one another out.

#The3Llife: Making An Effective Outline

GUEST BLOG Katie R. Day,
Quinnipiac University School of Law, J.D. Candidate 2018

Today is my last day of classes!

While I no longer have to sit in class, I can’t totally put the semester behind me yet. The next week is going to be full of outlining for all of my law school final exams, some open book and some closed.

Outlining can be a challenge and a lot of law students are tempted to make a “template” outline that they can fill in with class-specific material. While that sounds like a timesaver, it’s actually really detrimental. Every class is different, every exam focuses on different things, and therefore each outline should reflect those differences.

Think about how the professor organized the class.

You should have the most information in your outline about the topics that were discussed the most. Don’t get caught up trying to thoroughly analyze something your professor just mentioned in passing. If you’re unsure if you understand something enough, meet with a classmate or your professor and talk it through. You can also ask if your professor will review your outline. I’ve had several who are happy to take a look and make note of things that are missing or over-emphasized.

Aside from tailoring your outline to the structure of the class, also tailor it to the structure of the exam. Open-book exams require very different outlines from closed-book exams. For a closed-book exam an 80-page outline isn’t going to do you much good since it’s unlikely you can memorize that much info. Try to condense the rules, cases, and concepts as much as possible so they are easy to memorize. Depending on your learning style you may want to make flashcards or create mnemonic devices.

Since you’ll have your outline with you in an open book exam, it can be a little longer and more substantive. The key to using your outline effectively during the exam is organization. The answer may be in your outline, but that’s not helpful if you had to spend 20 minutes flipping through to find it. Organize your outline in a way that makes sense for you and then think of some other ways you can make it easy to search through. For a longer outline, you may want a skeleton outline or table of contents you can quickly skim. I’m a big fan of adding tabs that note the different rules and highlighting key cases or concepts.

Whatever you choose to do, make sure you’re thoughtful about how you’re making your outlines and what will work best for you. It may seem like a lot of work–and it is–but the benefits of having a strong outline are well worth the trouble!

What are some of your tips for outlining? Share them with me on Twitter @The3LLife!

Why Every Law Student Should Have a LinkedIn

GUEST BLOG Katie R. Day,
Quinnipiac University School of Law, J.D. Candidate 2018

When I was in undergrad I constantly heard people talking up LinkedIn.

Every time I attended a networking event or a career tips panel, people were touting the benefits of the “professional” social networking site. I confess, I was skeptical. Despite my side gig as a social media manager, I’m not obsessed with social media. I understand their importance for brands, but I didn’t really understand the importance for my future career.

Flash forward a few months, I’d jumped on the bandwagon and set up a LinkedIn profile. I filled in my experiences (or what few experiences I had as a student), I added a nice headshot, I wrote a succinct summary, and then I waited. When I didn’t get 100s of connections or job offers out of the gate I felt a little discouraged. It seemed LinkedIn was helpful for everyone but me.

As time went on, I continued to build my page

I uploaded projects I had worked on, made note of awards I received in school, and shared articles about topics that interested me. And just as everyone said it would, my LinkedIn started generating job prospects.

At first it was just job opportunities popping up in my news feed. I started applying to those that interested me and ended up starting my social media management career before I even graduated from undergrad. As I kept building my profile and making more connections I started getting LinkedIn messages from recruiters and HR reps who thought I’d be a good fit for an open position. Not every lead worked out, but so far I’ve gotten two jobs that I’ve really enjoyed (and never would’ve applied for on my own) through people who reached out on LinkedIn.

I know, I know, I’ve turned into one of those people who talks up LinkedIn, and I promise to step off my soapbox soon, but I feel like I’d be remiss if I didn’t let you all know how important this resource has been to me.

I really believe that every law student should be on LinkedIn. You may not have extensive experience or high profile connections, but you have internship experience, extracurriculars, and classroom awards that deserve to be shown off. Make yourself visible to other attorneys and potential employers. You never know who you’ll impress or what opportunities might come your way!

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#The1Llife: A TRIBUTE TO MY BROTHER AND MY LAW SCHOOL

GUEST BLOG Makenzie Way,
1L at the University of Pennsylvania Law School

This past week was the hardest week of law school, in fact, it was the hardest week of my life.

Makenzie and her brother Brandon Way.

I lost my brother, he was only two years older than me, he was my best friend, and he was too young and too good to be taken this soon.

I remember a year ago, applying to law schools and explaining the ranking system to him – I wanted to attend a “top 10.” Back then the most important thing seemed to be getting the highest number on the chart. Funnily enough, when the time came to choose schools I selected not the highest school I got into, but a lower one that I found was a better fit for me personally. At the time, I couldn’t explain it because, like most law students, the appeal of saying I went to the higher ranked school was strong.

Now, a year later I can explain it, and I’m here to emphasize how important it is for you to choose the school that fits. More importantly, choose the school that is going to support you, because you will need that support in a variety of ways throughout your three years. Whether that support is in the classroom, during office hours, from the student body, or from the dean, what matters is that you have it.

Some schools will support you academically, but will fail to go above and beyond for you personally. My school, Penn Law, prides itself on ‘collegiality,’ and until this week I was unsure what, in reality, that meant. I now know that collegiality means having the dean offer not just to record the classes you’re going to miss, but giving you her personal cell phone number to call “in case you just need someone to talk to, or even if you just need someone to sit with you at 2am.” Collegiality is new friends sending a condolence gift all the way to Canada. It is classmates, whose names I didn’t even know, sending me notes because they noticed I was missing from class. And, it is upperclassmen reaching out to offer outlines, and a shoulder to cry on regardless of whether I actually knew them or not. Finally, it is professors not only excusing me from class and telling me to forget about that assignment, but offering up their personal time to support me both academically for the time I had missed, and emotionally.

In summary, choose the school that is going to go above and beyond for you, because while I hope none of you face a tragedy like mine, each of you will face hardships over the course of your three years, and it is your school, and the community it fosters that will determine whether you thrive or whether you just slide by.

#The3Llife: Keeping Stress Under Control

GUEST BLOG Katie R. Day,
Quinnipiac University School of Law, J.D. Candidate 2018

Full Disclosure: I barely had time to write this post.

Between classes, clubs, homework, and things ramping up at my part-time job, I’ve been feeling stretched a bit thin. Why am I writing about this? Because I have a feeling I’m not alone.

As law students, we’re usually insanely busy, it’s part of the job description. When you attend orientation on your first day of law school they warn you about the time commitment you’re about to make. But just because you know it’s coming, that doesn’t make it any easier to handle.

I’d like to think that over the past couple of years I’ve become pretty adept at juggling all my activities. I’ll be the first to admit it isn’t always easy, but I have discovered a few tips and tricks to avoid losing your mind.

Organization is key

We all think we have great memories, but the truth is, if you don’t write it down you probably won’t remember it. Whether it’s a to-do list on a Post-It Note, a daily planner, or an app on your phone, you need to find some way to keep track of your commitments. My friends and family tease me for writing EVERYTHING I need to do in my planner. From basics like “do laundry” to more important tasks, like conference calls, meetings with professors, and dinner plans, it all goes in my planner. I know that if I don’t write it down, I might not do it.

It’s not just okay to say “no”… it’s necessary

I’m the type of person who wants to take advantage of every opportunity that comes my way. I’m a “yes” person. While that’s a quality I love about myself, I also need to keep it in check. The truth is, when I take on too much I’m not able to do a good job and I’m not enjoying what I’m doing. It’s essential to evaluate the opportunities and activities in front of you and be really thoughtful about the different options and how they benefit you.

It’s also okay to bribe yourself

There, I admit it. I bribe myself. When I feel my motivation waning I try to come up with little incentives to keep me going. If I’m struggling getting through my reading, I’ll treat myself to some Netflix time when I finish. If my to-do list seems monstrous, I divide it into sections and give myself a little treat or a short break when I finish each section.

Take a break

Taking a break might seem counterintuitive to getting everything done, but sometimes it’s exactly what you need. Taking some time to get dinner with a friend or go for a run will help you relax and refresh your mind. You’ll likely find that when you come back to do your work you’ll be more focused and motivated.

What are your tips and tricks for handling stress? Share them with me on Twitter @the3llife!

#The1Llife: The Year In Review

GUEST BLOG by Jackson Long,
1L at SMU Dedman School of Law

Wow… what a whirlwind of a year.

August to May, nine months of new experiences at every turn and the hardest I’ve worked in my entire life. It just hasn’t truly sunk in yet. So before we look forward to what’s next, let’s look back and reflect (and learn) from what was a year to remember for each of us.

Starting Off on the Right Foot

First day jitters are definitely a thing. Who is in your class? How does the law school learning style fit with my own? Is the professor going to Socratically crush me on day one? Completing the BARBRI Law Preview course before the start of school helped answer all of those questions. I met a group of friends to gravitate to on day one and even some who attend other law schools in the state (we still keep in touch). The biggest result: knowing what to expect each day in class and knowing what professors expect on exam day. While others jumped straight into the fire, I felt prepared from the first day. And there are few things more important during your 1L year than being “ahead of the curve.”

Setting Your Foundation

One of those things, however, is finding the right fit for yourself. 1L year will test relationships (good and bad), habits (also both good and bad), and many other things previously set in your life. It’s critical to get into a grove that you are comfortable in even with the chaos of law school swirling around you. I was fortunate to find a great group of friends to balance staying active and social with the rigors of studying. The relationships created in law school and through your experiences lead to many opportunities both professionally and socially.

Embracing the Grind

After laying the groundwork in your new place, then the real show begins. We don’t need to go over how demanding 1L year was. We both know it. The biggest thing is learning to roll with the punches, keep your balance, and move forward. I had two major computer issues hit me this year. My roommate ruptured his Achilles. I’m sure some students have had much MUCH worse. I’m thankful for only having the troubles I had. Because law school has no mercy – you can only push forward with all you have, and give it all you got for one year.

Finishing Strong

And here we are, finished. Many of you have probably already started your summer work. Look back on the last three weeks with pride after putting every last ounce of effort into your 1L grades. I often make fun of how I didn’t know a lick of Civil Procedure until the last week of April. Personal side note: thank you Professor Richard Freer of Emory Law, your BARBRI 1L Mastery videos single-handedly saved my Civ Pro backside. But that’s part of finishing strong. If there’s a will, then there’s a way. And when you have to fight through the last few weeks, you finish strong because you have to.

I’ve certainly enjoyed the opportunity to write along on our 1L journey together. We’ve had lots of ups and lots of downs (almost getting hit by a car). But through and through, I hope your 1L experience is one that you can look back upon with great pride and joy – even if you’re absolutely thrilled that it’s finally over like I am.  Now you can pass the torch. Congratulations and cheers to you, the new 2L!

#The3Llife: Taking Advantage of Opportunities

GUEST BLOG Lauren Rose,
3L at University of Detroit Mercy

As many of the readers may know, I am big on taking advantage of all opportunities that are made available.

BARBRI Essay Advantage Workshop

This is my motto for law school and for life in general. The most recent opportunity that fell into my lap: BARBRI Essay Advantage. This opportunity was given to 3Ls at my law school. Naturally, I decided to sign up for the workshop.

The Essay Advantage workshop included watching a video lecture and writing an essay to be graded by a professor. The video lecture was given by BARBRI Professor, Steve Levin, Esq. He provided helpful tips and strategies on how to answer essay questions on the bar exam.

For example, I learned that I should read more than just the call of the question before beginning the essay. By reading the first sentence and the call of the question (and maybe the sentence before the call of the question depending on the question), you are provided with an understanding of what the question is actually asking. Once you have figured out what rule of the law the question is testing, you can then read the facts and begin applying the facts of the question to the rule of law.

I tried this new strategy when working on my essay question for the workshop. I found it to be incredibly helpful. I knew the rule of the law that the question was asking before I even began the question. I was then able to apply the facts directly to the law.

Moral of the blog: take advantage of workshops that are offered to you through school. You will likely learn something new that will be useful for law school and the bar exam!

#The2Llife: Where The Going Gets Tough

GUEST BLOG by Lauren Rose,
2L at University of Detroit Mercy

*Cue the horror movie music*  Finals are almost here.

This is where the going gets tough.  The entire semester leads up to the end, the final exam, the finale. Now is the time to buckle down and start hitting the books. Here are a few of my tips for final exams.

  1. Ask for outlines. It is so beneficial to ask other students for outlines. Ask students who took the class before you for a copy of their outline. Your school may even have copies of outlines in an outline bank. As always, make sure to edit the outline with updated cases and class notes!
  2. Review BARBRI videos. I cannot stress this enough for your main courses. Barbri finds a way to condense an entire semester worth of information into short, informational videos. During 1L year, these videos were a lifesaver.  I am currently watching the evidence video and it has been very helpful.
  3. Review commercial supplements. If you’re in need of more information, check out a commercial supplement. These books break down the subject into incredible detail. I find it helpful to look at supplements when I am unclear about a topic or want to learn more about it.
  4. Find what works for you. I like to write things down. I study by writing, rewriting, and rewriting my outlines 17,000 times. I also make flashcards to memorize big topics. However, I know a lot of people do not like to write things down. Figure out something that works for you and stick to it!

Good luck on finals! Do you have any tips or tricks for law school finals? Tweet me @The2LLife!