Take notes via laptop.

Many incoming students will be torn between taking notes by hand or taking notes on their laptop. By far the most common response to this dilemma is that you should do what works for you, or do what has worked in the past. Helpful.

Use your laptop! 1) There’s simply too much work to be doing it all by hand. 2) It makes outlining infinitely easier. 3) When you need to find something, CTRL + F sure beats rummaging through hundreds of pages of notes.

Don’t listen to 75% of the things that will come out of your classmates’ mouths!

We can promise you that you will hear countless remarks from fellow students about how much they study, how long their outlines are, which teachers are the best, and so on and so forth. Don’t let them throw you off your game or intimidate you. You are all in the same boat, and quite often, the people who brag or are the most vocal are the same ones struggling. See, gunner, below.

Outline early, and keep up with it.

If these tips were numbered, outlining could very well top the list. The worst case scenario would be working on your outline during reading week, when you should be studying it instead. Outlining often is also a great form of studying, which is why it’s recommended that you do them yourself rather than using a commercial outline or a classmate’s. The latter options are fine as supplements, but you don’t want to substitute them for your own.

Treat school like a job.

This tip probably should’ve been titled “Balance Your Lifestyle” or something else along those lines. There’s something about structure that greatly reduces stress. If you treat school like a job – working somewhere around 8-5, Monday through Friday – there’s no reason why you should be up studying at all hours of the night. And hey, after sprinkling in a little outlining or leftover homework on, say, Saturday morning, you could then dedicate the rest of the day to NCAA football, and then your entire Sunday to the NFL! ;)

Make time for yourself.

Law school can and will be overwhelming at times. With that said, it’s important to keep doing the things you enjoy – e.g. working out, sports, spending time with your significant other, etc. You don’t want to overload and then burn out come time for finals. If you follow the previous tip and have a structured schedule, making time for yourself shouldn’t be difficult.

Don’t be a gunner!

gun·ner [guhn-er]
1. a person who feels the need to raise their hand at every possible moment and hijack class discussion (and hence, class time) with irrelevant, or tangential opinions and/or questions.

No one likes you.

Get comfortable with Westlaw/LexisNexis.

We recommend attending seminars at your school and getting more comfortable with the databases. A large part of what lawyers do is research, so it’s an especially valuable skill that only comes with practice. Also, if you plan on clerking (which you should), you don’t want to be that person that racks up thousands of dollars against the firm/client.

Don’t put networking and planning for summer legal work on the backburner.

As if you won’t have enough on your plate already, the last thing you need to hear is something about planning ahead for summer. With the current economy and job prospects, however, it’s more crucial now than ever. If you find yourself in need of some motivation, just think the terrifying thought of having six figures worth of debt and no job! Build relationships, get that invaluable legal experience, and don’t forget the magic words: “I don’t mind working for free.”

Take practice exams.

Reading your outline over and over is not the only thing you should be doing around exam time. Too many students make this mistake. Mixing in a little application will go a long way. A good place to start is checking to see if your professor has posted any of his or her past exams.

Last but not least, HAVE FUN!