LL.M. students: Four tips for success in U.S. law school class

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By Juliana Del Pesco
BARBRI, International Legal Manager Americas

The decision to immerse yourself in a foreign culture and its laws is a bold move. It will also be very rewarding once you are well-prepared. In each U.S. law school class, you will come to understand the language of law in the United States. Strange words such as casebooks, outlines and the Socratic method will soon make good sense to you.

Here are four ways to get the LL.M. education you desire and be ready to take on a U.S. bar exam.

Use your casebook as your “road map”

Central to your LL.M. education over the next year will be learning to read and brief cases. Most of your reading assignments will come from a casebook, which is a compilation of edited judicial opinions, other supporting text such as statutes and law review articles, and questions or problems. Once you complete a reading assignment before class, you will brief the case during class.

It’s a process that takes practice. Your casebook can be your guide for knowing how to approach an assigned case. Take a look as the chapter headings and table of contents in the casebook when you are given a reading assignment. They are your key to finding the topic to which the assigned case may relate and getting up to speed on it.

Learn to read as a U.S. lawyer

We all know how to read. But not everyone knows the nuances of critically reading an assigned case. Speed reading may have been the goal in other aspects of your education. It won’t do here. You will soon discover that it is all about grasping what’s on the written page. Careful and critical reading of EVERY word put in front of you. This will be your most effective way to learn U.S. law, and begin thinking like a U.S. lawyer.

Dictionary with featured term "attorney," which begins with success in U.S. law school class

Keep a good law dictionary close by

Law is a technical language with technical meanings, and U.S. law is no different. The sooner you can absorb these meanings, the better. So when you’re reading cases, always keep a good law dictionary at hand. If you don’t understand a word you see, stop and look up its meaning. It could make the difference in your ability to properly interpret the case.

In the beginning, if you are still learning the language, you may also need to have an English dictionary to reference.

Be prepared to brief cases

The ability to brief, or discuss, a case will be extremely important as you move closer to thinking like a U.S. lawyer. A brief is intended to help you recall the case in sufficient detail to discuss during class and to integrate into your class notes. It’s your best way to analyze the facts and reasoning for a reported case in an organized and manageable fashion.

It will serve you well in your legal career to master the art of reading and briefing cases early on. Law school professors largely base their classroom discussions on the “case method” of analysis and discussion rather than straight lecture. Your professors will expect you to come to class prepared to discuss the assigned cases. That means learning how to read and brief those cases as efficiently as possible.

Law school is your time to develop and polish the skills you will need to pass the bar exam and become an amazing international lawyer. Click here to learn more about law school case briefs. 

For additional guidance to help make the most of your studies, also download the free BARBRI LL.M. Guide.

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