Some rules and guidelines for a productive 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.

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