The Briefcase Diaries

Study Tips for Law Students

Quick throwback to those grade school workshops and quizzes where you found out if you were an auditory, visual, or kinesthetic learner. Don’t worry – that’s not what this article is about because I’m still not sure what any of that even means. However, if you have figured out how to study the law “kinesthetically,” please share.

Whether you are a 1L, 2L, or 3L, you would like to think that you have figured out this law school thing to some extent, but have you really figured out the studying bit? Unashamedly, I haven’t. If you haven’t figured it out either, then this article is probably worth reading.

Here are some study tips from yours truly:

1. Create a Conducive Study Environment: This is not a Brandy Melville one-size-fits-all situation. For some people, this is pretty simple and the carrels in the library provide a safe-haven. Other people cannot stand spending time in the library – and I don’t blame them. I like to spend as little time as possible on campus and the library is my personal Alcatraz. However, unlike some, I am incapable of studying in a public space like the park, a café, or a restaurant; I just need to sit at my desk, hunker down, and do work.

Having a workspace at home is important and you should make your workspace functional, but also comfortable. Function and comfort are a balance; a lap desk and your bed or the couch are not the best ideas when it comes to satisfying function and comfort because you are not habituated to working in those areas, but rather you are habituated to sleeping or relaxing in them. Find a place for a desk (preferably outside of your bedroom) and make it a place that you don’t mind being at. Keep some candles at your desk that you can light when you’re studying or get a room diffuser instead. Splurge on a nice desk chair, or try and find a nice one second-hand. Make sure your workspace has adequate lighting – you want it bright so your eyes don’t strain.

2. Don’t Study in Bed: I just touched on this, but I am going to talk about it more because it is really, really important that you don’t get your body accustomed to doing work in bed. As someone who loves their bed, I know how tempting it is to get into bed and do your reading, but it is terrible for you and your sleep patterns. Your bed is a place for rest and sleep – don’t confuse your body by making it a place for work as well.

3. Set Goals or Have a Plan: Syllabi – we have so many of them. Set aside some time every Sunday evening, look at all of your syllabi, and create a master list of what you need to get done for the week. Personally, I like the “Stickies” app on my Macbook. I keep a “sticky” for every course, my journal, etc. and update them weekly. Previously, I kept them by day of the week, but I found it was not the best for keeping track of long-term deadlines, and that system can get frustrating when professors inevitably fall behind. You can even try bullet journaling or just keep a notepad handy where you can write down what you need to get done and cross items off as you go. Am I the only person who finds it oddly satisfying to cross items off of a to do list?

4. Minimize Distractions: That means putting your phone in your bedroom and turning off any notifications or messenger applications on your computer. It seems terribly difficult, but I promise you that it will pay off in the end. Stopping periodically and taking a minute to respond to your BFF Jill’s texts adds up. If you just waited to respond to her until you take an actual break (we’ll get to those in a second) or until after you finish your work, you could actually have an uninterrupted textversation. It’s really going to be okay if you have to wait a little to get that juicy tea or don’t see your new Bumble match right away.

5. Take A Break: Yes, I’m telling you to actually take breaks. I know – that seems anathema. It’s law school, aren’t we supposed to grind until we can’t grind no more? Everyone would like you to believe that’s true, but they are actually doing you a disservice by perpetuating that misinformation. According to science, which I would hope you believe in, your concentration actually becomes impaired after 45-50 minutes. Furthermore, your brain actually finds it really difficult to retain new information after 90 minutes of studying. That probably explains why we have all hit that point in the night where we have reread the same paragraph five times because we just can’t seem to get it to stick. Set an alarm for 45 to 60 minutes when you sit down to do some work and take a 15 to 30-minute break once that alarm goes off. If you’re at the library, pop outside and take a quick walk, call your grandma, etc. If you’re home, these short breaks are a great way to keep on top of housekeeping (I’m pretty sure these breaks are the only reason why my dishes ever get done).

Figure out what works best for you. I know you are probably thinking you need to be working harder, but try working smarter first.