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Time is of the essence
for smart studiers
10 I STUDENT LAWYER I September 200]
IME IS OFTEN A LAW STUdent's enemy. We have all heard
the stOlies. Law students lament
that they sleep only five hours a
night because they are constant1y reading for class. They complain about
frantically finishing writing assignments
hours before the deadline. They consider
it impossible to find time to outline, do
practice questions, or review for exams.
Charles Buxton once said, "You will
never find time for anything. If you want
time, you must make it." This adage is certainly true for law students who wish to
su=l rather than merely survive. Proven
strategies exist that make time for effective
studying and still leave time for life.
How does one make time? Here are
some techniques that can help you:
Realize that prior study techniques may not match the reality
of successful studying for law
school. Law school reading is more
"dense" because it includes cases, which
have a specialized language. Casebooks
rarely have introductions, headings,
graphics, or summaries. The volnme of
material covered is daunting. Many law
professors guide students rather than tell
thenr exactly what they need to know.
Few law students made course outlines
in college. Law school final exams focus
on the application of matelial ratlrer than
the cases read.
Because of these differences. new
strategies and regular review of material are essential. Many law students relate
that they earned As in college while
studying less than 15 homs Pel' week and
cramming for exams. Even those with
graduate degrees remark on adjustments
to law school studying. Older law StlIdents often relate that they have forgotten how to study.
Stop making "ad hoc" study decisions. Many law students decide day
by day, or even hom by hour. what they
will do. These law shldents are finding
time for tasks instead of making time.
They stay very busy, but most of them
do not study efficiently or effectively.
Law students who arc ad·hoc time
managers often expand tasks into the time
available (taking four hours to read what
could have been read in three and a half
hours). They procrastinate because they
"have all day" to complete several tasks.
They waste time getting ready to study.
Consequently, they become focused only
on reading for class. Other assignments
and tasks are completed haphazardly.
They grasp at sh0l1cuts rather than more
efficient and effective ways to study.
Make a weekly schedule that includes all of the study tasks for
success. By having a regular routine
that is modified but not reinvented, you
take control of your study tasks. A full·
time student will study 55-00 homs per
week to complete all study tasks and prepare for exams during the entire semester. A part-time student will study 35-45
hours per week. The rewards are lower
stress and guilt-free relaxation.
Critical study tasks to includearereading for class, briefing for class, reviewing
before class, reviewing class notes after
class, outlining, reviewing outlines, and
doing practice questions. Other tasks
may vary and include weekly tutoring,
study groups, and extracmricular ohligations. Following are the steps for making
yom hase study schedule:
L Make a template table for Monday
through Friday with days as column
headings and one·hour slots as row headings. Half-hour slots can be designated
with a line dividing a slot into two parts.
2. Label time blocks specifically with
the tasks. Examples: ureacllncome Tax/'
"outline Evidence," "review Torts notes."
3. Include fom to eight hours weekly
for each project or paper course even if
these tasks will start several weeks laler.
Any unused time initially can be allotted
to other tasks or relaxation.
4. Fill in regular commitments first.
These commitments may vary depending on your lifestyle. Examples: classes,
tutoring sessions, morning prep timel
commuting time, bedtime story for your
child, church service.
5. Fill in seven to eight hours of sleep
at the same time for Sunday through
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