When I was in your place a year ago, I spent time searching for tips on how to prepare for law school, how to excel in law school (honestly, I still regularly search for this one, hahaha), and how to manage time in law school while being a working student. Now that I am done with my freshman year, I just want to pay it forward: based on real experiences, I want to share with you what to expect, what to do, and what not to do. 😉
- First of all, leave your ego behind. Your latin honors and the school you came from won’t matter that much anymore. What matters now is whether or not you can answer your professor’s questions during recitations (recits) and pass your exams.
- There will be a lot of readings. The cases I have read in my first year are more than what I have entirely read during college. No kidding! Save money for photocopies of cases, get a good internet connection for reading cases online, or buy a subscription of the collection of Supreme Court decisions since 1901.
- In relation to number 2, you have to prioritize to cover everything you need to study. I can’t emphasize this enough: being in law school would require you to sacrifice your time with family, friends, partner, and sometimes, with yourself. What do I mean “with yourself”? There will come a time that you will just want to sleep, cry, play your favorite game, or go to the mall, but you should not do that because time is precious. Instead of doing what you would rather do, the responsible side of you will set aside these feelings for the meantime and hit the books instead. I know, what a kill-joy, but you signed up for this. :p #DelayedGratification
- Having a full-time work and a full load in law school means sleeping very late or waking up very early to study. Coffee has become a regular thing for me everyday! Don’t go beyond three cups a day and make sure to get enough sleep when the reading assignments are not too heavy, otherwise, you will crash sooner than later.
- You might want to make a new Facebook account exclusively for your academic groups only. It’s an effective way to prevent yourself from mindlessly scrolling through Facebook. He he he.
- It is nearly impossible to read all the cases in the original assigned per subject, but read them in the original as much as you can because it will save you time later on. Cases contain the application of our laws. Understanding the fundamental concepts behind the law or the way that the Supreme Court decided a case (called jurisprudence) during your first year will greatly help you in your future subjects. You may have read or heard that preparation for the bar starts at your first day in law school, so when you feel lazy, remember that your first year in law school is your foundation. It pays off to make it stable.
- In relation to number 5, it’s also wise to have a digest pool in your class. That means that the cases will be equally distributed among the class members. Each class member will summarize (digest) the cases assigned to him/her and then share to the class through Dropbox or Google Drive. If your section doesn’t want a digest pool, find classmates who are willing to have one and just share the digest among yourselves.
- You will have blockmates. It’s better to share than to keep to yourself those reviewers, class notes by previous sections especially tailored for the professor, and sample exams (samplex for short). A good class will help and impress the professor. In that way, there’s less chance that your block will get dissolved. For future beadles (the liaison between the professor and the class), be transparent and always ask the class first before making a decision (such as in the schedule of a make-up class or ceasefire/no recit day). In law school, team effort is as important as individual effort. Law school is already difficult, so to lighten up your stay there, take care of your block and love your blockmates like family. A friendly competition is fine, but bear in mind that you have roughly have the same goal to be a lawyer, so help each other instead of constantly one-upping one another.
- When reciting, show courtesy to the professor who may be a lawyer, judge, or justice. Never ever invoke your personal opinion unless asked. Always refer to what the Supreme Court said when applying the law.
- You will get nervous every class, but that’s normal. Breathe in, breathe out. I think law school is 60% luck, 40% effort. You will not finish the coverage most of the time, so you will just hope that you don’t get called in the topic or case you haven’t studied. If you get a bad recit, you might sulk a little, but don’t let it consume you. Learn from it and move on immediately so you can study for the next class. The next time your heart breaks, hopefully it would be easier for you as you have already mastered the art of letting go and moving on through your recits. :))
- Be organized in your notes as early as first year so you can use these during your review for the bar. It’s important to note the doctrines, landmark cases, and related provisions. Make a table for related provisions, concepts, and cases for easier comparison.
- Buy books if you can, but if your finances don’t permit, you may just borrow from the library. Make sure your ID is validated so you can borrow! Upper classmen will surely suggest ways how you can buy a book with a cheaper cost. Hehehe. Don’t be afraid to ask them for tips on subjects and professors, too.
- Refer to previous bar exams to be familiar with favorite topics. Practice answering them so you can get a feel of what your mid-term or final exam would be like.
- Our Constitutional Law 1 professor, Atty. Jose Angelo David, taught us to use the S-L-A-C format when answering exams: short answer, legal basis, application, and conclusion. Practice presenting your answers in a concise and logical manner as early as now. Mind your grammar, too, and make sure that your handwriting is legible (make them big whether you’re writing in print or in cursive). Observe proper margins. These are important because in the future, considering the thousands of exam booklets that the bar examiner checks, he/she might get discouraged in checking an exam booklet with unpleasant handwriting or answers riddled with bad grammar and confusing presentation.
- Rest when you need to. There’s no point pushing yourself to absorb what you’re reading if you can’t understand it anymore, like when you are dozing off or when your head aches. The important thing here is that you need to draw the line between just feeling lazy and I-really-need-to-rest-now. 😉 In addition, drink vitamins, preferrably multi-vitamins.
- When in doubt or when feeling unmotivated, always think about your purpose of entering law school. 🙂 (If you’re like me who loves motivational quotes, posting sticky-notes with motivational quotes near my desk helps!)
I hope you will enjoy your first year in law school like I did! It’s a year of adjustments, so don’t be too hard on yourself. I hope the thought that you’re not alone in “suffering” comforts you. Hahaha.
These are just tips that I can think of right now. I hope these helped you. I’m not an expert, but if you have questions, I’ll answer them as much as I can. :)) If in case a law student/graduate/practitioner is reading this and wants to help, just leave a comment for tips, too! 🙂