for those of you who have the time (and, even those who dont!), i HIGHLY recommend reading Dean Tonsing's book, 1000 Days to the Bar But the Practice of law Begins Now ... it is by far the best book that's been written on how to survive, and excel in law school. its a pretty quick read (only 180 pages) but its really top notch. it pretty much covers every question you’ve ever had about law school... from briefing to outlining to time management to taking notes… so far it has been my bible in law school. Having read it a few times this summer I can easily say that I am MUCH more prepared than the vast majority of my section.
Notice that (above) you find some law students are studying just a few hours each week – others are studying an extraordinary amount. That’s because they have different objectives and vastly different abilities, aptitudes, reading speeds, and study methods.
Because most law students are bright individuals, many can “get by” or even do “well” with a minimal amount of studying (“minimal” being a relative term).
However, if you view law school as the beginning of your career as a lawyer, are you willing to settle for “getting by?” I encourage students to perform at their personal best levels, preparing for the days when they will be representing clients whose freedom, lives, fortunes and families may well be at stake. Start practicing now to be the kind of lawyer you would hire if you needed a lawyer.
How does this translate into time spent studying? You’ll read posts in this forum suggesting that studying quite a bit will cut down on those other essential parts of life that keep us happy, well-rounded, and psychologically well-nourished. Think about this: if you are going to engage in a career as a lawyer, are you embarking on a career that will gobble up your life and not allow you to be happy?
You see, a light week for most attorneys is in the neighborhood of sixty hours. Why not devote as much time to law now as you will when you enter the professional practice? Practice managing your time (during law school) in such a way that you are able to devote considerable time to your law practice, and still have as much time as you need to lead a well-balance life, packed with social opportunities, exercise, and fun – maintaining your psychological and spiritual health at the highest levels. Then, when you begin your professional practice – about 1000 days from the first semester of law school – you will be very experienced at balancing law and life.
Consider this: 14 hours in class; 42 hours outside of class (3 hours for every class hour). That adds up to 56 hours – one-third of the 168 hours we all have in each week. If you sleep as much as 8 hours each night (7 X 8 = 56), that leaves you with 56 hours to attend to your personal health and well being, to socialize, to cook gourmet meals, to attend church, to play tennis, to fold the laundry, to do all those other things that make life worthwhile.
If you spend substantially more time than this, you run the risk of burning out, ruining your health, giving in to the stresses we all (lawyers and law students) face, and – therefore – doing less than your personal best.
If you spend substantially less time than this, you probably won’t be attending to all the essential elements of high-level study and exam prep: reading, briefing, attending every class, taking notes, transforming your notes, creating course summaries (“outlines”), developing flow charts, and answering practice hypotheticals in writing.
For an in-depth discussion of how much time to spend studying, and how to use that time most efficiently, go to your law library and find the September issue of Student Lawyer, the ABA Law Student Division publication. The cover article I wrote covers this whole topic, and provides a step-by-step method for allocating your time. There you will find a sample of how a student can determine precisely how much time to spend studying each day.
If you have further questions about this, feel free to e-mail me.