Tips for Having a Productive Law School Study Group


GUEST BLOG Stephanie Baldwin,
1L at University of Arizona

I was on the fence about joining a law school study group before school started. I can be very social, but I did not want the social aspect of a study group to cause a reduction of valuable study time. I also knew that success on exams comes from issue spotting, and having different perspectives would offer me an opportunity to learn different ways to spot issues I might overlook. A law school study group seemed like a perfect solution to this issue. Plus it is a built-in support system for the challenging first year.

Luckily for me, my study group seemed to create itself. In our legal writing class, we were already assigned a micro group of 4 for group assignments in that class. We were a great fit, so it made sense to work on other classes together. We had two more people ask to study with us, and our group was set.

While 6 people is a bit large for a study group, it seems to work for us. We started meeting the 3rd week of school, which was a brilliant suggestion by one of our members. Even though we weren’t sure what we wanted to do, we quickly formed some rules and guidelines.

We are still new to the process but here are the guidelines that have helped us stay on track:

Have a Specific Start and End Time

Our study session begins right at 6 and ends at 8 pm. This is important because it keeps us focused. If we want to socialize, we show up early or stay after. Having a set time period helps us stay on track, be respectful of each other’s time, and keeps the small talk to a minimum.

law school study group

Establish Goals for Each Session

This may vary week to week for your law school study group, or you may have different goals throughout the semester. Our group started with a general review of basic concepts. As midterms are quickly approaching, we have placed a greater focus on outlines. Eventually, as finals approach, we will work on hypotheticals together.

Understand Expectations

We have a set schedule for what we will be discussing each week. We used our midterm schedule to help set our plan. We started with Contracts, tackled Civ Pro last week, worked on Torts this week and will be reviewing outlines next week. Each week, one person is the designated leader. They present the big takeaways from each case and highlight important issues for the class. The other members of the group are expected to ask questions, and anyone in the group can answer. Using this method has helped us quickly identify problem areas, and if we are not able to explain a concept well, we go back to the basics until we are all solid. If we are still in doubt, we designate someone to go to office hours on behalf of the group.

Hold Each Other Accountable

This applies not only to doing the prep work for each session but also during each session. If one person disagrees with the group, we each have an obligation to speak up. This helps avoid “group think” and challenges each person to back up their claims.

So far I feel like we have all benefited from our group and I am really looking forward to next week. What suggestions do you have for a successful study group? If you implement any of these in your own group, let me know over at the @1LLife on Twitter or Instagram.

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):


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.


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.


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:


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.


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.


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.