Perhaps the most important factor making for law school success is the ability to manage time wisely. You may need to develop new strategies to deal with the greater demands that law school makes on you. Here are some suggestions that have helped students in the past.
Study Habits Assessment
Analyze your study habits to determine what works best for you.
- When do you study most effectively (morning, day, evening)?
- How long does it take you to read and digest a page of reading?
- How long does it take you to brief a case?
- Where do you study best? (Be honest!)
- What study methods and study tools (flash cards, outlines,charts) really work for you?
- What things distract you from studying?
Make A Study Plan, And Stick With It Long Enough To Give It A Chance To Succeed
Create a method for the study madness. Establish a study schedule and series of goals to help you stay on track with assignments. Set realistic expectations as to the amount of time required to complete assignments and reach semester-long goals. Buy and use a planner that you always have with you.
Weekly Study Schedule
- Look at assignments for the week and estimate time to complete each.
- Block out time to complete each assignment.
- Block out time to review notes.
- Block out time just before class to review briefs for class that day.
- Factor in time for assignments that take longer than expected.
- Block out eight hours sleep time every day.
- Schedule time for leisure activities and exercise.
- Set a time each day that you will STOP studying.
- Set study goals for each day.
Semester-Long Study Schedule
- Look up the law school’s academic calendar and block out holidays, designated study days, exam days.
- Look at the syllabus for each class and record deadlines. Pay close attention to the due dates for your Legal Writing and Research I and II assignments: you will need to factor in plenty of time to complete these.
- Set a deadline by which to start working on outlines.
- Set a deadline to have outlines complete.
- Block out time for practice exams.
Time Management Tips
- Study in short segments. For most people, the optimal study interval is 50 minutes with a short five-minute break between intervals. Don’t study for more than three hours at a stretch. Plan a long break every day (1½ hours) to refresh yourself. You’ll retain less of what you’ve studied in a marathon study session than short study sessions.
- Take study breaks. Treat yourself to a fun activity (not law school related) when you finish a difficult assignment or project. This study break can keep you motivated, and it can be as simple as a fifteen minute coffee date with a friend.
- Study where you won’t be distracted. Find a study place where you won’t be distracted by family, friends, pets or the phone and email. Hang a “do not disturb” sign if necessary. Guard your study time jealously.
- Say no! Do not allow yourself to become overloaded with outside activities that steal your study time. Especially during your first year, you must put studying first.
- Don’t spin your wheels. If you feel like you’re not processing what you’re studying or your mind is wandering, STOP and take a break or switch subjects. Stop studying if you become frustrated or sleepy.
- Study on the go. Make use of otherwise wasted time (e.g., driving time, short breaks between classes). Listen to study tapes when you’re driving or study some flash cards during waiting periods.
- Be systematic with your review. Students that leave review until the end of the semester are often overwhelmed by how much they need to learn. Systematic review is the key. Review cases before and after class and review your class notes on a daily or, at the very least, a weekly basis. Schedule study group meetings to provide review. Systematic review will greatly improve retention and may actually save you time because you will be able to understand new material more readily, and your outlining and exam preparation will go much more smoothly.
- Track your study time. On your weekly study schedule, honestly keep track of the amount of time you spend studying each subject. Tally your total studying hours for each class for the week. This will help you in estimating the amount of time it will take you to complete future assignments and projects so that your weekly study plan can be realistic.
- Treat law school like a full-time job. Come to campus for class and stay on campus. Study between your classes instead of running back and forth to your house. The more studying you get done during the day, the more free time you’ll have at night.
- Eat well and exercise. Eating well and exercising will keep you energized. It will also help keep you focused and mentally alert.
- Find Balance. Law school will no doubt require you to change your life style and make sacrifices; but don’t give up everything you enjoy. Keep time in your schedule for family, friends, exercise and recreation. Keeping a good balance will help you remain alert, productive and feeling positive.
- Make time for adequate sleep. Be realistic about your sleep needs, and schedule sleep into your time management plan. Set a fixed time for rising and going to bed each day. A good night’s sleep is key—without it, you put your health and sense of well-being at risk and substantially undermine your ability to think analytically.
Please email Kiyana Kiel, call (619) 260-6876 or stop by Warren Hall, Room 206.