There are many terrible guides out there on how to prepare for law school.
They are either written by people who never taught students, who never did well in law school, or who want you to work all the time.
This is not such a guide: I did well in law school, I teach students, and I don't want you to work all the time. (After all, this site is called Law School Hacker for a reason.)
In fact, this is the best free, concise guide on how to prepare for law school and how to study law to succeed that you find anywhere.
If this is not the best free, concise guide to law school success, I will eat a shoe.
That is how much I care about you, or how little I care about my digestive tract.
So here it is. My advice is based on received wisdom from friends (especially one friend, who talked with me for just one hour about a month before I started law school) and personal trial and error. I was first in my section first semester (three As and one B+--damn you, Eleanor Fox). I used the methods below to prepare for law school and excel--I graduated in the top 10 percent at a top 5 school without devoting all of my time to studying. Even my first semester, I drank heavily, worked out, and did many extra-curricular activities (later, I did way too much work on Law Review.)
I have confirmed the wisdom of this advice on how to prepare for law school and study law during the first year with other students who did well, and I have given these tips to other friends for free, and I currently use these tips to tutor students who want to get better grades in law school. Most who actually followed my advice on how to prepare for law school and study law got much better grades than they did before.
One last note: To be clear, by "succeed" I mean "get the best grades with the least effort possible."
My definition of success does not include "graduating first from Yale Law School" because I didn't do that.
I am friends with at least two valedictorians from my law school, I learned that they (a) really are smarter than everyone else (b) worked harder than everyone else and (c) were still a little lucky (that luck separated them from #2 and #3) I may yet interview these valedictorian friends who were Supreme Court clerks "How did you prepare for law school?" If they happen to give me their special sauce, I will publish these interviews for members of the law-school-hacker.com community. But use these free tips for now. (Or sign up for my newsletter to the right to get a comprehensive, free 70 page e-book full of advice).
My definition of success also does not include "becoming an awesome lawyer" because, perhaps oddly, law school does not necessarily prepare you to be a good lawyer--practicing law makes you a good lawyer. But more on this later. You want tips on how to prepare for law school now, and how to be a good lawyer later.
Before I tell you how to prepare for law school the right way, you have to really understand what law school is really about. Law school is a game in which no one tells you the rules before or during the game. Some people will mysteriously "get it" and others will not ever.
In other words, law school is a giant bait and switch. What you read in your case books and what your professor lectures or grills you on using the Socratic Method bears little resemblance to what you are actually graded on.
That is, you spend most of your time outside of class (less if you follow my advice below) reading cases and all of your time in class listening to a professor grill a student about these cases using the so-called Socratic Method. What are the facts of the case? Was this decided correctly in light of previous cases? Does judge's internal reasoning make sense? Is the judge's decision principled or driven by a desire to reach a certain result? Does the case accomplish the policy purpose of the law that it is interpreting? How would you decide the case if you were the judge? And so on.
Of course, none of these questions have anything to do with what you're tested on. You get none of these questions on your final exam.
Instead, your given a fact pattern full of strange occurrences ("Cain drinks five pints of scotch, gets in a car with a gun, and starts shooting at what looks like Abel, but is really his mother, and then hits a dog, narrowly missing a pedestrian who dies of a heart attack.") and asked a question like "Identify all of the potential crimes and defenses raised."
Huh? you ask yourself after your finals are over. What just happened? Did I not take this class? I did everything that the professor said: read all the cases, go to class, outline. Why did I get straight Bs? I tried to prepare for law school, what did I do wrong?
Here is the key: Law school is not like college or undergrad.
At least the way most people who studied social science or humanities treated college: you do all of the assigned reading, you write down everything the professor says, and if you memorize all of this, you'll get an A on the final exam. The exam tests precisely what you were asked to read and listen to during the semester.
This approach does not work in law school. You need to prepare for law school exams differently than you would for college exams. A law school final exam is like nothing you've ever seen during the year because the professor wants you to apply the law to a set of facts that will not be known to you before. You can memorize all of the cases and all of the professor's lectures, and this alone won't help you on the exam.
So what are you supposed to do? Not read? Not listen to the professor? That is where we get into part II...
What follow is a list, which is highly generalized but (in my mind) complete) on how to prepare for law school.
What I write is based, as I said, not just on personal experience, but anecdotal evidence and research (i.e., classmates who got As generally followed this approach) and testing (i.e., I teach these techniques to the students I tutor to get them to study in a way that will get them As).
While I already included some "do-nots" in my awesome list on how to prepare for law school, I think it worth reiterating these points:
Here are my personal recommendations for products and services that I have reviewed that can improve your results in law school. This list is short because I include only my top picks.
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