Tag Archives: accountability

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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Filed under General, Grades, Pre-Law, Study Tips

Motivation Techniques for Studying for the Bar Exam

Although the time that you spend studying for the bar exam is not that long when compared to many other things you have done as a law student, it is an intensive, stressful, and often monotonous process. In the first days and weeks of bar prep, it can be relatively easy to stay focused on what you need to accomplish, but, as time goes on, it may be harder and harder to motivate yourself to spend the amount of time studying that is really required for success on the bar exam. At this point in the summer, it may be time to add some motivational techniques to your study plan.

Reward System

One way to motivate yourself as you study is to create a reward system. For example, some law students have already developed a reward system that is easily adapted to studying for the bar. In this system, the student chooses some type of snack system—it could be M&Ms, gummy bears, pistachios, blueberries, or something else that is small and appealing to you. One item is placed next to each paragraph, page, section, etc. of the study materials, depending upon how often you want to reward yourself. As you finish that part of your reading, you then get to eat your snack reward.

Another way to approach the reward system is to think of something that you really enjoy doing. Some examples might include: going to a movie; playing a video game; getting a pedicure; or going to the zoo or a museum. Set a “price” for that experience, in the form of points. Then determine how many points you can earn for various study activities. Study away and start racking up the points! Once you have earned enough points, you can “cash” them in for a little study break.

Giving yourself something to look forward to, however small, can be a great way of infusing new purpose into your studies.

Improved Study Environment

Another way to motivate yourself is to figure out a way to improve your study environment. Once again, this is a technique that gives you something to look forward to as you study. Maybe you love coffee—you might get yourself a gourmet bean that you only allow yourself to brew when you are studying for the bar exam. If tea is your thing, you might splurge on a special loose leaf tea and even make the brewing process part of your de-stress routine. It might be a special snack, or a lunch item that you look forward to. Or maybe it is a particular pen that is more expensive, but the smooth flow of the ink, or maybe its color, satisfies something inside of you. (Some people adopt inexpensive fountain pens, for example.)

Whatever it is, knowing that you have something special that you like but only get when you are studying can provide additional motivation for bar studies.

Accountability System

Finally, as we’ve discussed previously, creating accountability can be a great way of motivating yourself as you study for the bar. Approach a friend who is also in the midst of bar prep, and create a system with that person so that you check in each day and see how things are going. It’s amazing how, when you set goals and articulate them to someone else, you are inspired to accomplish what you’ve set out to do.

Whatever approach you decide to take, focus on motivating yourself to work hard at your bar studies. I’ve never heard bar takers say that they regretted studying hard for the bar, but I have heard those who failed the bar exam say that they wished they’d pushed harder.

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Filed under Bar Exam, General, Stress and Mental Health, Study Tips

Accountability Creates Motivation: Studying for the Bar Exam, Part 3

It’s now only two months before the July Bar Exam, and everyone should be busy studying at this point. At times, it can be hard to find the motivation to study, especially when the exam date still feels like it’s far away. Your commercial bar prep program may seem a little monotonous, as you seem to do the same thing every day: watch a lecture (whether in person or online), study the outlines and supplemental materials, complete the practice questions, repeat. It can be tempting to watch TV, play computer games, or do something else when you should really be studying. Keeping yourself motivated at this time is key, and one way to motivate yourself is to establish some type of accountability system.

What do I mean by accountability? Sometimes it is easier to not focus on what we need to be doing when we feel that no one will know about our lack of progress on our studies. If your bar review course gives you the option of attending lectures in person or watching them online, attending them in person may help you to be more accountable for your studies—the people around you will notice if you are missing. It can also help to set up some type of accountability system with a friend who’s also studying for the bar exam. It may be that you just touch base with each other every couple of days to make sure you are each on track with your study goals, or you may actually schedule study sessions where you quiz each other on material that you have just finished reviewing. Another way to create accountability would be to reach out to someone in charge of Academic Success or Bar Skills programs at your law school. Explain what your study goals are and that you want to create some type of accountability system to keep you on track.

When you know that someone cares about your achieving your study goals and will know if you don’t achieve them, you will be more motivated to stay on focused on your studies. Accountability creates motivation!

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Filed under Bar Exam, General, Study Tips