Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Art of Studying

Since I am getting more traffic from those who are either (a) in law school with children or (b) are law school bound with kids in tow, I thought I would post some useful information about studying. The number one most important rule of studying in law school, with children, is time management.

This subject has been covered before by fellow law school bloggers, but unless the blogger has children she (or he) has no idea what time management actually entails. My friends-without-kids spend eight or more hours in the library. That's just on the weekends. Eight hours?! We've got soccer practice, swimming practice, house cleaning and napping to do. You will not find me huddled in the library on the weekends. Actually, just forget studying at the library because people will invariably try to talk with you and otherwise distract you from your primary goal of studying.

My method for success is to do as little studying as possible. Before, you click away from my blog, I'm not advocating you not study, but rather become more efficient at doing it. Buy, or borrow, case supplements. Become really good at extracting the rule of law and holding from cases and use your supplement to hone your answer. For those professors who only want the rule of law, holding and reasoning (many first year classes) this method works extremely well.

Contrary to law professor belief, supplements are not evil. Some professors know this - like my Remedies professor whose only required text is a hornbook. Other professors will draw and quarter you if you so much as utter the work Gilbert's. If you are unlucky enough to have a professor in this latter category, you should definitely augment your mini case brief with actual text from the case to make yourself more credible if called on in class.

Another method that works for me is to study in small chunks of time. On average, I study two to three hours per day, but I rarely have a three hour block of time in which to just study. So, I study in the morning before my children are awake. I study on the couch next to Madhubby while he plays PS2. I study on the train while I commute home in the evenings. I study whenever and wherever I can.

At some point in your law school career, you may start to dread law classes. The material can be boring and, frankly, after the first year, law professors lose a lot of their bite. They don't require you to be "on call." The odd comment is rewarded with candy or praise (or both. This is true in at least one of my classes). So, you may become complacent and start to look for more "non-traditional" classes. Don't do it. I cannot stress this enough: law school is a means to an end. If you have a family, you probably need to get out and get a job, which leads us to my next bit of advice:

Don't take classes that will offer you little or no return for your time and money. Sure, "Law of Film in Spanish" may seem like an interesting class, but is it really going to be on the BAR exam or the MPRE? Take as many substantive classes as you can. If you desire change or variety, take a class through your local YMCA. I guarantee it will be more fun and a lot cheaper. If you have the time, the energy, a good support network OR no other marketable skills to speak of (e.g. you need to plump up your resume), then by all means join the Student Bar Association or go out for a journal. Otherwise, leave that stuff to your childless classmates.

And, finally, a word about internships. This section will have to wait while I weigh the pros and cons, in my own life, as to whether paying to work makes sense to me if I can get paid to work. For now, I am going to say that paid legal work usually trumps unpaid legal work. If your choice is between a paid firm job and an unpaid stint at Legal Aid, choose wisely based on your personal career goals. However, If your choice is between working at Starbuck's and an unpaid internship at the DA's office, then it's really not a choice at all.

The plain truth is you will not have as much time to dedicate to your studies as other students without parenting responsibilities. Don't beat yourself up over it. Do what you can, do it well, and move on.


Zuska said...

I largely agree with your advice. Except that I found the commercial outlines to be a waste of my time - or a luxury I didn't have time for. I read my assigned cases, and that was pretty much it.

I've also been lucky in that I have a job lined up now for after graduation, so my 3L year can be spent taking some non-traditional classes. I think it also helps my sanity to have things that truly interest me, and aren't pure WORK, since law school and parenting leaves very little time for hobbies or reading for pleasure. The paper I'm currently writing on Afghanistan's judicial system ends up transforming school work into pleasure reading. It's been nice.

I wrote a similar post last year, with some of what I've done to make things work as a Mom in law school:


MadMom said...

Thanks for providing another perspective!

Good point about taking classes that truly interest you in order to keep your sanity.