Tag Archives: 1L

Choosing the Right Study Environment

Law students spend a lot of time studying. And by “a lot,” I mean a good portion of each day. Regardless of whether you are a first-year student, in your final year of study, or somewhere in between, the quantity and quality of your study time is directly related to your academic success. I have previously explained how creating a good study schedule is important in law school. Today, I want to talk about location—in other words, your study environment. Choosing the right study location for you can be a key element of maximizing the time that you spend studying. You can have the best intentions, but the wrong environment can derail your entire study plan. (As I’ve noted before, the right study environment is also important for those people studying for the bar exam!)

Here are some tips for choosing the right study environment:

Avoid distractions: What things distract you when you are studying? If you are constantly tempted to turn on the TV, then studying in your living room may not be for you. Do you visit with friends rather than get work done when you study at the law school library? You may need to study somewhere other than at the law school. Some students prefer the background noise of a coffee shop, while others find themselves listening to nearby conversations. Be realistic in your assessment of what distracts you—choose a study environment that avoids those distractions.

Consider study breaks: What do you like to do when you take breaks from studying? If you want to be able to take a short walk, then setting up your study station at the local coffee shop may not make sense—you won’t want to have to pack up your stuff every time you take a break. On the other hand, if your idea of a break is checking your email or playing computer games, then a more public location may not be an issue. Just make sure that your study location is conducive to taking study breaks.

Consider your space requirements: Some students prefer to study at a large desk or table, where they can spread out their class materials. Others prefer to sit on a comfortable couch, overstuffed chair, or even the floor. Think about what type of space makes you feel most comfortable when you are studying—you’re going to spend a lot of time there.

Assess, and reassess: Do you prefer routine, or do you need to change things up periodically? For some students, maintaining the same routine every day—studying at the same place at the same time—works best. Other students prefer a little variety in their study environment. You may also find that what works for you at one point in the semester may not be as effective as you get closer to final exams. Periodically reassess your study environment and make sure it still works best for you.

The perfect study environment is a personal thing—experiment and find out what works best for you!

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Socratic Method Survival Guide

Today’s post is about how to survive—and even thrive—in a Socratic Method classroom. One of the most stressful parts of the first several weeks of law school is that many of your professors will use Socratic Method. If you’re an introvert, you may find that it’s even harder to make that feeling of dread go away. When a professor uses Socratic Method, the student is in the spotlight. You can’t always predict what the professor is going to ask you (or when you will be called on!), and, if you are a new law student, you are still trying to figure out what is expected of you and may feel a bit overwhelmed by everything that you have to learn.

Here are some keys to surviving (and growing from) the Socratic Method:

Prepare: In some ways this is the obvious one, but it’s really important and worth repeating. Preparation is the foundation to all success in law school. You have to consistently do the reading, brief the cases, and review your case briefs and class notes if you want to be successful at anything in law school, including the Socratic Method. It will be almost impossible to answer the professor’s question without putting in the hard work first.

Listen: Another key to tackling Socratic Method is active listening. It can be easy to tune out what is going on when your professor is focusing his or her attention on someone else. Often professors will transfer a line of questioning from one student to the next. If you are listening closely to the dialogue that preceded yours, you will often have a better context for the questions you will face.

It is also important to listen carefully to what your professor asks you, and how he or she responds to your answers. Sometimes we tune people out once we think we know where they are going with their questions—we start thinking about our answers instead. It’s important to make sure that you hear the professor’s full question though so that you can respond to exactly what has been asked. Especially as a new law student, you will most likely not predict where the professor is going with the questioning if you do not focus on what is being said.

Engage: Not only should you listen to the questions your professor is asking of other students, but you should actively engage with those questions. Ask yourself what your response would be to the questions that the professor is asking and compare your answers to the other students’ answers. Not only will engaging help you to understand the context of the questions if you are called on next, it is also a great way of practicing Socratic Method without being the student on the “hot seat.”

Anticipate: Part of what students find so stressful about Socratic Method is the fear of the unknown. Especially as a new law student, it often seems impossible to predict what your professor might ask you about what you’ve read. Although you may not know exactly what your professor will ask you, there are things that you can do to anticipate at least some of the possible questions. First, many professors will ask questions about specific parts of the cases you have read, and creating a good case brief for each case will help you to anticipate and answer those types of questions. Second, when you have read multiple cases that relate to the same legal issue, a professor might ask you questions about that relationship. If you think about those relationships before you come to class, you will be better prepared to answer those types of questions. Third, the notes after cases often set up additional hypotheticals—professors will often use those hypotheticals, or other similar hypotheticals, as an inspiration for Socratic Method questioning. Work through the hypotheticals from your assigned reading in advance, and you will be better able to anticipate possible questions in class.

Review: Not all questions come from the current day’s assigned reading—sometimes professors will ask you to consider how a case from today’s assignment relates to or compares to something that you read a week (or a month) before. As you read for each class, ask yourself if there are any aspects from that reading that relate to previous cases that you’ve read. If you identify anything, make a note of it in the margin of your case brief so that you are prepared if the professor asks this type of question. Even if the professor doesn’t ask, the time spent reviewing in this way will not be a waste—identifying these types of relationships will help you to organize course materials for your outlines and exams.

Simulate: Finally, for students who get really stressed about being called upon and having to speak in class, it can help to simulate the Socratic Method experience outside of class. This is where having a study partner can really come in handy. After you both have read for class and created your case briefs, you can take turns quizzing each other as if you were the professor. Sometimes the experience of having to give your answers aloud to someone else, even if it doesn’t involve the same pressure that you feel in the classroom, can help you get used to being put on the spot and speaking confidently about what you have studied.

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What to Include in Your Law School Notes

Yesterday, we explored some basic strategies to taking effective notes in law school. Sometimes law students have a hard time determining what they should include in their class notes. Today, I will focus specifically on what good notes include. Although what you should take notes of can differ depending on the subject and the professor, here are some good general strategies for taking notes in your law school classes.

First, pay attention to what the professor says in class. If a professor says that something is important, you want to make a note of that. If the professor states that there is a 3-part test for some legal concept, make sure that you write down what those 3 steps are. If the professor talks about overarching themes or compares two cases to each other, note that as well. In other words, your best guide for what you should be taking notes about, what is important from assigned readings, and what might be tested on the exam is your professor. This is one reason why taking good notes in law school is so important. Students who take few if any notes won’t have this important information later when they start synthesizing course materials and studying for exams. In contrast, students who create a transcript of what happens in class won’t be able to differentiate between important information and unimportant information.

Second, remember that in the long term what the professor says in class is much more important than what your fellow students say. Sometimes students struggle with how to take notes when the professor uses Socratic Method. When taking notes in this situation, focus your notes on what the professor has asked and what the hypotheticals are about. Keep in mind that student answers may not always be accurate and on-point. Depending on what is going on in class, the professor may not take the time to point out a student’s inaccurate statements and provide the correct answer. There is also another benefit to this approach—rather than transcribing the student’s response to the professor’s questions, you can be engaged in that discussion yourself. Follow along mentally with the discussion, answering the questions in your head and comparing your answers to the other student’s answers. Make note of things that you can’t answer on your own, so that you can go back and review that material later.

Third, make careful note of any hypotheticals. Professors use hypotheticals as a way of helping students learn the nuances of the law. Maybe you have read two cases that illustrate differences in how courts resolve a legal issue. The professor may use additional hypotheticals, involving the same legal issue but different facts, to help the class better understand how courts apply the law to resolve that particular legal issue. Law school exams are based around hypothetical situations, and the more practice you have with them, the more comfortable you will be in applying law from cases to new hypotheticals when it’s time to take your exams.

Finally, sometimes professors begin class by summarizing what was covered in previous class sessions, or they may spend a little time creating a context for the current day’s reading assignment. Professors also may summarize important points from class materials at the end of class. Make sure that you take notes from these summaries, as they provide additional insight into what your professor views as important.

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Taking Effective Notes in Law School

When most people think of taking notes, they think of sitting in a classroom and taking notes while the professor lectures. In undergrad, note-taking is often a pretty passive task—students write down what the professor is saying without really processing what is going on in class. Once class has ended, the note-taking process has ended. Some students don’t take notes in class at all, instead relying upon other course materials when they study for exams.

Your approach to taking notes in law school should be very different. The first thing that new law students need to understand is that effective note-taking is a cyclical process. Your case briefs are the foundation for your class notes—by creating case briefs, you are creating a set of notes that you can rely upon in class. Then, when you go into class, you should take additional notes about what happens during class. Many law students stop at this point, but there is still a third step to creating good notes. After class is over, you should spend a little time reviewing your notes from class, elaborating upon things you didn’t have enough time to jot down during class and correcting any errors in your notes. You should also use your class notes to clarify your case briefs. Complete this review of your class notes as soon as possible after class has ended because your memory of what happened in class will still be fresh.

Should you take notes by hand or on your computer? There’s an ongoing debate over whether law students should take notes by hand or on their computers. Some professors don’t allow computers in the classroom, and in those circumstances your decision is simple—you will take notes by hand. Most professors do allow computers in the classroom, however, and that means you will have to make the choice about what is right for you.

There are studies that have found that students who take notes by hand are able to remember lectures better than those who type their notes. One of the reasons for this phenomenon is that, when you handwrite notes, you are required to think more about what you are going to write—the cognitive process is different. Because most people cannot write as fast as they type, it isn’t possible to create a transcript of everything that is said during class. Instead, someone who handwrites has to process information differently so that they can write down the important things that were said in class.

Students who take notes on their computers have a tendency to try to write down every word. When you create a literal transcript of what happens in class, you are not really processing that information. Thus, if you choose to take notes on your computer, you will need to take a disciplined approach to your note-taking. Students who use computers also have to resist the urge to be distracted, as there is always the temptation to check social media sites, surf the internet, and message friends.

Check back in tomorrow for another blog post on this topic—I will be talking about what law students should include in their course notes!

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Case Briefing Shortcuts

Image courtesy of nonicknamephoto/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of nonicknamephoto/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Over the past several posts, we’ve explored how to read and brief cases for your law school classes. As you’ve read those posts, you’ve probably started to realize what a time-consuming process law school studying really is! All that reading and briefing takes a lot of time, actually—and that’s why I think a cautionary note is appropriate at this point. As you read and prepare for class, resist the urge to take shortcuts. The reading and note-taking process I’ve described in my previous posts is really what you need to do to understand the material when you are a new law student.

You may hear upper-level students talking about “book briefing”—in other words, just underlining or highlighting material in the casebook and jotting a few notes in the casebook margins, without actually completing a case brief. Some students may eventually get comfortable enough with their reading that they can book brief and get by, but book briefing is not a sound approach to studying during your first year of law school for sure, and for most students it doesn’t work well even after the first year. You will get more and more efficient in your reading and case briefing over time, but you still need to do the things that give you a deeper understanding of the assigned reading and organize material in a way that will be helpful to you later, as we’ve talked about before.

You should also avoid the temptation to rely upon other students’ case briefs or commercially prepared briefs—it may seem easier and quicker to take this approach in the short term, but you will not know the material as well and will not remember it as much when you are studying later for the exam. When you rely too much upon commercially prepared materials, you are not thinking about the subject in the way that your professor has organized your course. Commercial materials can be valuable, but as a supplement—not your primary source of information for the course. Don’t forget who will be grading your exams–it’s rarely the person who created those commercial briefs.

Moreover, don’t forget that many of the courses that you are taking in law school, including all of the first-year courses, are on the bar exam. The harder you work to really understand the law in each of these courses now, the better foundation you will have when you start studying for the bar exam after you graduate.

The bottom line: there is no real shortcut to law school success—if you cut corners with your studies now, you will find it harder to be successful on your law school exams—and on the bar exam. Shortcuts are really a dead end when it comes to learning.

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Making the Case Brief Yours: Utilizing Preferred Learning Styles

Image courtesy of jesadaphorn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of jesadaphorn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Over the past several days, we have explored how to read and brief cases for your law school classes. I’ve explained the various components that make up a judicial opinion, and as well as the various types of judicial opinions you may encounter in your reading. Today, I want to focus on how you make the case brief yours—how you can personalize the case brief and use it to prepare for class by drawing from your preferred learning style. (If you don’t know what your preferred learning style is yet, read about how to find out what your learning style is here).

Case Brief Formats: The first way to customize your case brief is to make a conscious choice about its format. Your learning preferences may influence your formatting choices. For example, reading and writing learners may prefer a more traditional case brief format, with Roman numerals, bullet points, or bolded or underlined headings and subheadings. In contrast, if you are a visual learner, you may color-code different parts of your case brief, draw diagrams, or create mind maps. Don’t forget that the majority of learners are multimodal learners—they may draw from a variety of these approaches, rather than settling on one standard format for all situations.

You also want to think about how you will use the case brief in the future. Although a reading and writing learner may prefer to handwrite their case briefs, other students find that an electronic copy of their brief allows for the insertion of class notes and makes it easier to transition to outlining later. Some students create two columns on each page—one column with the case brief information, and the other column for taking notes in class. There is no one way to approach your case brief—ultimately, you must decide what works best for you.

Using Your Case Brief to Prepare for Class: Even after you’ve created your case brief, you may use it to prepare for class in other ways. Once again, your preferred learning style can come in handy. For example, if you are an aural learner, you may find it helpful to talk through your case brief with other students prior to class. Kinesthetic learners can also utilize this approach, even going so far as acting out parts of the case or even acting out the Socratic Method experience they expect to have in class, having other students quiz them about the case. (In fact, even if you are not a kinesthetic learner, you may find that practicing your responses to Socratic questions may reduce your anxiety about being called on in class!)

Experiment with the form of your case brief in the first few weeks of law school, and see what works best for you. Law students often have assumptions about what format they should use, but as they go through the semester they may find that another approach works better. Be flexible and figure out what seems most helpful both during class and as you continue studying the topic later after class has ended.

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Key Components of a Case Brief

Now that we’ve explored how to approach reading cases in law school, let’s focus on what should be included in your case brief: the key components of the case.

The Parties: First, look at the preliminary information found above the case and ask: Who are the parties? One way to identify the parties is by their names. Thus, in the case Smith v. Jones, the parties would be “Smith” and “Jones.” But the parties are also given titles, based upon their roles in the case. At the trial level, parties are usually known as “plaintiff” and “defendant.” In an appellate case, the parties may be known as “appellant” and “appellee,” or “petitioner” and “respondent,” depending on the court. (At the trial level, the plaintiff is the party who brought the case into court. At the appellate level, the appellant or petitioner brought the case into court.) Your brief should note both the names of the parties and their roles in the case.

The Court: The preliminary information also tells you which court heard the case. Sometimes the court is a state court, and other times it is a federal court. It may be a supreme court, or an intermediate appellate court. Include the court that decided the case in your case brief.

The Citation: The preliminary information tells you where the case was published, in other words, the citation. The cases in your casebook were originally published in bound volumes known as reporters. The citation creates a quick way of finding that original version of the case. For example, one citation might be 347 U.S. 483. The case would be found in the United States Reporter, which publishes U.S. Supreme Court opinions. The volume number would be 347, and the first page of the case would be page 483. (Don’t panic if you don’t always know what the citation means at this point—you will learn a lot more about citations in your legal research and writing classes.)

The Date: The final important piece of preliminary information is the date, which is found in parentheses after the citation. It’s important to make note of the date that the case was decided. In many classes, you will trace how legal issues developed over time, and the dates will help you relate multiple cases to each other.

Now that we’ve covered the preliminary information, let’s take a look at the various components found in the text of the case.

Procedural History: The procedural history is the history of the case. Include in the procedural history (1) what courts the case has traveled through, (2) what happened in previous court proceedings, and (3) how the case ended up in the current court.

The Issues: One way to find the issues is to ask: “What are the big legal questions that the court is considering? What has to be resolved or answered?” Sometimes the court states explicitly what the issues are. The court may say something like, “On appeal, the appellant asks us to consider whether . . . ” Or, the court may say, “The first issue is whether . . . ” In other cases, the court may not be as explicit—you’ll have to dig a little deeper to identify the issues. Keep in mind that issues are related to the law. If you’re having a hard time figuring out what the issues are, you can often use the casebook’s Table of Contents, Chapter and Section headings, case introductions, and case notes (located after the case) to help identify the issues.

Facts: There are really two types of important facts: “necessary” facts and “context” facts. Necessary facts are facts that are legally relevant—in other words, facts that the court relied upon in resolving the case’s legal issues. In contrast, context facts are facts that aid our understanding of the necessary facts—they’re not essential to the court’s decision but give a more complete picture of what’s going on in the case. Not every fact mentioned in a case is necessary or provides context. Most cases also contain extra facts that can distract you from what’s really important in the case. This is why you should sift through the facts before creating your case brief.

The Holding: The holding is the answer to the question, “How did the court resolve the issue(s)?” In other words, it is the answer to the legal questions that were asked in the case. Sometimes courts will label something as the “holding” in the case. Be cautious about these types of labels. Often, what the court calls the “holding” is actually the judgment in the case—in other words, what the court did as a result of its holding.

The Reasoning: The most important component of your case brief is the court’s reasoning, or its rationale, for the holding. To determine what the court’s reasoning was, ask: “How did the court arrive at the holding? How did the court explain the answer to the legal questions asked in the case?” You can identify the court’s reasoning by looking for the places where the court is applying law (statutes, regulations, or other cases) to the facts. In your case brief, make note of the law that the court used to answer the legal question(s). Put this law into your own words rather than writing it out word for word—you will understand and remember it better in the future. After identifying the relevant law from the case, look closer at how the court applied that law to the facts. Were there particular facts that the court viewed as important to its analysis? Were there other facts that the court said were not important?

Sometimes the court also applies policies in their analysis of the law and facts. When a court considers policy arguments, it is weighing the potential effects on society of different approaches to the issues. If the court discusses policy arguments in its reasoning, you should note those policies and how the court applied them.

The Judgment: Finally, make note of the judgment in the case—in other words, what the court did as a result of the holding. The judgment refers to how the appellate court resolved the case on appeal, and it may provide instructions to the trial court. Look for words such as “affirmed,” “reversed,” or “reversed and remanded.”

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What is a First-Day Assignment?

For new law students, the next several weeks will introduce new ways of thinking and learning, new friends and colleagues, and new mentors and teachers. We’ve already explored some of these new things, like the Socratic Method and law school grading systems, and we will continue to explore many others in the coming weeks. Today I want to focus on one specific new requirement for law students: the first-day assignment.

Many of you may have already received a letter or email from your law school that includes a first-day assignment or directs you to a first-day assignment link on the law school website. On the surface, the first-day assignment seems pretty self-explanatory: it’s an assignment for the first day of class. In reality, there are some things you should know about first-day assignments that will set you up for success in your first week of class.

(1) You should read the first-day assignment before you go to class. In undergrad, the first day of class was often a really light day, with no real stress. Your professors probably went over the syllabus, their expectations, and what assignments and exams would be like, but often there is no substantive material covered on the first day. In law school, you will hit the ground running on the first day of class. You professors expect that you have done the reading before coming to class, and what happens in class builds upon that reading. If you don’t do the reading before class, you will be unprepared if the professor calls on you, and you will not have a foundation for anything that is covered during that class. Don’t fall behind in the very first week—come prepared!

(2) Make sure that you allow enough time to read each assignment. As I’ve mentioned before, law school reading assignments take much longer to read than most undergraduate assignments. You might have budgeted half an hour to an hour to read one assignment in undergrad, but that same number of pages could take your three hours (or even more) in law school. Don’t wait until the Sunday afternoon before your first day of classes to get started on your reading. If you wait until the last minute, you’ll run out of time before you’re finished.

(3) “Read” means something different in law school than it means in most undergraduate classes. Don’t just skim your assignments. Read them closely. Look up words and phrases that you don’t understand. For most assignments, you will need to read the assignment a second time, and even a third time. If it’s a really difficult case, you may read it over even more. Especially during your first semester of law school, you will have to read your assignments multiple times to understand everything you need to know before going into class.

(4) Brief the case—don’t just read, but take notes of important information from the case. We will spend more time talking about how to brief cases in the next couple of weeks, but one of the key aspects of being prepared for class is knowing how to take the right notes from what you read. Your case briefs will be an essential foundation to your classroom learning and later synthesis of course materials (commonly known as outlining).

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Taking Charge of Your Own Learning in Law School

Image courtesy of lamnee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of lamnee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’ve mentioned before that one of the most empowering aspects of law school—as well as one of the scariest—is that you are in control of your own learning. So what does that mean? What can you do to take charge of your own learning in law school?

Law school puts you in the driver’s seat.

For example, you will have reading assignments for each class meeting—often those assignments take several hours to complete. For the most part, if you are not called on during class, no one will know if you don’t do the reading on any given day. You make the choice—you stay on top of your assignments each and every day, or you don’t do the reading and do something else instead, such as go to the movies or watch that TV show that you love. Doing the reading is the first step on the path to understanding the law. In contrast, skipping even one day’s reading makes it even harder to understand what is going on in class, and getting multiple days behind decreases your ability to be successful on later assignments and exams. You often won’t feel the consequences of your decisions immediately, but your choices will affect your long-term chances of academic success.

As the semester goes on, you will have additional choices to make about your studies. Will you devote the time to synthesizing course materials to further develop your understanding of the law and its applications, creating outlines, mind maps, flow charts, and flashcards? Or will you attempt to take a shortcut through that process, relying on a past student’s outline or a commercial outlines instead of creating your own study aids? Once again, your choices will have long-term consequences for your understanding of the law you are studying, your grades, and your ability to recall what you have learned after the course has ended (an important consideration, since many of the subjects you will study will reappear on the bar exam in a few years!).

Successful students make conscious, positive choices about their own learning.

Understanding that their choices affect their academic success and long-term goals of being an attorney, successive students are not passive in their approach to legal education. Instead, successful students take positive actions to improve their educational opportunities—establishing regular study schedules, avoiding procrastination, taking advantage of opportunities to improve their academic and legal skills, and keeping their academic, professional, and personal priorities in focus. They avoid taking shortcuts that make things easy in the short term but don’t improve their understanding of the law. They develop their own methods of holding themselves accountable for what they learn. Successful students aren’t perfect, but they learn from their mistakes and don’t repeat them. In short, successful students don’t just focus on learning the law—through their efforts they learn to be better learners as well. These traits help them to become better students . . . and also better future attorneys.

Stay tuned for related posts about how successful law students approach these topics—I will be blogging more about things that you can do to take control over your learning in law school over the next few months.

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Transferable Skills: Leveraging Your Undergraduate Education for Success in Law School (Guest Post)

One of the interesting things about law school is that anyone with a four-year degree can attend. There’s no specialized undergraduate training required for admission, and law schools end up with an eclectic grouping of all sorts of majors: English, History, Political Science, Engineering, Math, Business—the list could go on and on. Keep in mind, though, once you cross the threshold into law school you are expected to be responsible for your own education. In other words, don’t expect to receive explicit instructions on how to transfer your individual background in the context of your nascent legal education because that’s part of what you are supposed to figure out. In the midst of so much new stuff, it’s normal to end up feeling like you are lost at sea and disconnected from everything you thought you knew. But connections between your earlier education experiences and your new legal studies do exist, and you can use the knowledge and skills you already possess to achieve success in law school.

It might seem that some undergraduate disciplines offer significant advantages over others, at least as they relate to law school. I’ve often heard complaints that the political science majors have an edge because they understand the federal and state governmental systems really well. Or perhaps English majors have it made because they are used to reading and writing. The reality, though, is that each discipline has strengths, and each has weaknesses. I once taught an engineer who was worried about his writing course because he had not been required to write papers in undergrad. He ended up being one of the top students in the class, though, because his analytical mind knew just how to distill a complicated legal theory down to its essential core.

As a law student, you can ease your transition into legal studies by building on the inherent strengths of your undergraduate education and improving upon the intrinsic weaknesses. Consider the strengths and weaknesses of some undergraduate majors commonly found amongst law students:

Business Majors:

  • Strengths: Experience with some legal concepts like contracts; knowledge of business practices; creation of practical solutions.
  • Weaknesses: Less experience with expository writing; preference for clear answers

Engineering Majors:

  • Strengths: Experience in problem-solving; linear/methodological thinking; logical/systematic thought processes
  • Weaknesses: Less experience with expository writing; preference for clear answers

English Majors:

  • Strengths: Experience with varied writing assignments; research experience; knowledge of citation systems.
  • Weaknesses: Tendency toward wordiness; tendency to overinclude information

History Majors:

  • Strengths: Knowledge of ancient legal systems; understanding of cultures and societies; research and writing experience
  • Weaknesses: Little experience in analytical problem-solving; tendency to memorize facts and regurgitate information

Math Majors:

  • Strengths: Experience in problem-solving; linear/methodological thinking; logical/systematic thought processes
  • Weaknesses: Less experience with expository writing; preference for measurable outcomes

Political Science Majors:

  • Strengths: Knowledge of the court system; familiarity with foundational documents (like the Constitution); experience with long reading and writing assignments
  • Weaknesses: Little experience in analytical problem-solving; tendency to memorize facts and regurgitate information

Because our brains process and comprehend new and abstract information by relating it to existing knowledge and life experiences, finding connections between undergraduate and law school experiences is essential for success, especially in the first year. The above descriptions represent just the tip of the iceberg with regard to potential connections between law school and your past educational experiences. For more on this topic, check out Teri McMurtry-Chubb’s book, Legal Writing in the Disciplines. This book is especially helpful to students enrolled in legal writing, but its concepts easily relate to all law classes, making it an easy-to-follow guide for students who are interested in pushing their legal education to the next level.

*This guest blog post was authored by Elizabeth Megale, Associate Professor and Director of the Legal Skills & Professionalism Program, Savannah Law School.

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