Tips for a productive law school study group

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Are you on the fence about joining a law school study group? Afraid the social aspect of a study group might take away valuable study time?

There are definitely pros and cons to studying with your fellow students. The camaraderie can create confidence, especially when it’s time to prepare for exams. But relying heavily on others isn’t always the best strategy for law school success. Here are some things you should consider about study groups to ensure you make the best use of your time in law school.

Think parameters and purpose

Staying on task is critical if you want to grasp the material. Having a set start and end time to meet will help the group stay on course, be respectful of each other’s time and keep the small talk to a minimum. If you want to socialize to some extent, have everyone show up early or stay after.

The group’s goals will likely vary throughout the semester as everyone gets more into the law school mindset and process. It might start with a general review of basic concepts. But as midterms approach, the group may pivot to put greater focus on outlines. Eventually, as finals near, hypotheticals might be what the group works on together.

If you think focus could become an issue, move on to find a different group with which to spend your precious time. If, on the other hand, it seems to be a great fit, use the group to work on other classes together as well. Just don’t let the study group outgrow itself. You want each member to get the attention they need to grasp concepts and be successful in the classroom. Keep in mind the goal is to join a study group that’s interested in getting things done in a purposeful way.

Group perspectives should spark ‘ah-ha’ moments

It’s true that success on exams often comes from issue-spotting; having different perspectives can offer an opportunity to learn different ways to spot issues that would otherwise be overlooked. Group thinking can help you achieve a deeper level of understanding and clarity, with focus on the right information.

If you have trouble with a topic even after it’s explained in class, your study group can help make sense of it, so you don’t interpret the concepts incorrectly. Group members can also be a gateway to additional study materials, tips and tricks on difficult subjects.

Ensure expectations are on-point

Will the study session be defined by Contracts, Civ Pro, Torts or something else? It’s best to set your plan based on what’s the most immediate focus. Then, designate a leader for each session who will present the big takeaways from each case and highlight important issues. The expectation should be that other group members ask questions, with answers coming from anyone in the group.

This is a useful method for quickly identifying problem areas and concepts that can’t easily be explained. If the group remains in doubt about a particular case or topic, you can designate someone to go to office hours on the group’s behalf.

Look for the built-in support system

The first year in law school can be challenging. In addition to the camaraderie, your study group partners can help you set goals and hold you accountable to take action on them. Accountability applies not only to doing the prep work for each session but also during each session, and it’s a two-way street. If one person disagrees with the group, each member has an obligation to speak up. This helps challenge each person to back up their claims.

The support you find in the study group setting just might be the extra push in the right direction you need to get (and stay) on track. Being held accountable is a great way to form good habits you will use again and again.

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