Weekly Academic Success Tip - Are You (really) Being Efficient?

Time is a precious commodity in law school.  Some law students look for shortcuts; however, shortcuts are not the answer.  Instead, you want to use your time more efficiently and effectively.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Learn the material as you read it rather than highlight it to learn later.  Ask questions while you read.  Make margin notes as you read.  Brief the case or make additional notes to emphasize the main points and big picture of the topic after you finish reading.  If you only do cursory "survival" reading, you will have to re-read for learning later which means double work.
  • Review what you have read before class.   By reviewing, you reinforce your learning.  You will be able to follow in class better.  You will recognize what is important for note taking rather than taking down everything the professor says.  You will be able to respond to questions more easily.  Your confidence level about the material will increase.
  • Be more efficient and effective in taking class notes.  Listen carefully in class.  Take down the main points. Use consistent symbols and abbreviations in your notes.  Before you leave the classroom, commit to summarizing the key points and include this short summary at the end of your notes. 
  • Review your class notes right after class, or at least within 24 hours.  Fill in gaps.  Organize the notes if needed.  Note any questions that you have.  If you wait to review your notes until you are outlining, you will have less recall of the material.
  • Regularly review material.   We forget 80% of what we learn in 2 weeks if we do not review.  Regular review of your outlines will mean less cramming at the end of the semester.  You save time ultimately by not re-learning.   You gain deeper understanding.  You have less stress at exam time.
  • Look for the big picture at the end of each sub-topic and topic.  Do not wait until pre-exam studying to pull the course together.  Synthesize the cases that you have read on a sub-topic: how are they different and similar.  Determine the main points that you need to cull from cases for the sub-topic or topic.  Analyze how the sub-topics or topics are inter-related.  If visuals help you learn, incorporate a flowchart or table or other graphic into your outline to show the steps of analysis and/or inter-relationships. 
  • Ask the professors questions as soon as you can.  Do not store up questions.  The sooner you get your questions answered, the greater your comprehension of current material.  New topics often build on understanding of prior topics.  Unanswered questions merely lead to more confusion and less learning.