If you pay attention to the internet, you might be under the impression that “study groups” in law school are a terrible idea says William D King.
Let me take a step back and explain why we actually think they work really well at my (and many other) schools:
- First and foremost, study groups help students connect with one another and form friendships early on. This is especially crucial because those connections become very important as 1Ls progress through their first year of law school. The connections formed during this time will be instrumental throughout the rest of your legal studies (both as a student and as an attorney). So it’s particularly helpful for students to make lasting relationships from day one.
- Secondly, study groups give you an incentive/reason to do more than just attend class or do assigned readings. For example, every Monday at 6 PM I am probably either in my apartment studying with several of my friends, studying by myself while waiting for them to finish whatever they’re doing, or in somebody’s room playing Risk/something similar.
- Third, study groups actually help you learn the material better. This is especially true when combined with in-class participation (although I think in-class participation is only useful if done correctly). If you show up unprepared for class because you were too busy working on your own materials to prepare properly, it can also hurt your grade…especially if the professor notices. And let’s be honest – attending lecture is not all that fun anyway. You probably won’t retain much from it, and you have to sit there the whole time. In contrast, studying with a group is actually fun because you can talk about what you’re learning as well as hear what your classmates are learning so that nobody falls behind even if they were too busy partying during the weekend instead of studying explains William D King.
- (This explains why I’m not really worried about my upcoming exams.) Finally, study groups give students an opportunity to learn from one another instead of just relying on professors and commercial outlines to do everything for them. You will get more out of those outlines by understanding their content through conversation rather than just trying to memorize the black letter law. That way when exam day comes along, you won’t be completely dependent on those 150+ pages in order to pass.
- I know it sounds a little silly, but knowing the law is not the same as being able to apply it properly. Just because you memorized a rule doesn’t mean that you will be able to spot its application in fact pattern. In my experience, those who learn from one another tend to do better on exams than those who don’t utilize study groups. And if nothing else, they help tie your entire 1L year together and make it more enjoyable. It may seem like a weird way of going about things, but I’m pretty confident that we’ll see some A’s this semester!
The first two years of law school include hours and hours of class lectures but few opportunities for students to work closely together to learn. At some schools, students have even been prohibited from meeting outside of class time. In this podcast interview, Professor Paul Bergman of the UCLA School of Law explains why study groups are so important to law students’ success and discusses his new book on the subject says William D King.
What do you think about study groups? Do they work? And how should law professors be doing a better job helping students organize them?
1. How do I find a study group?
Usually one of your classmates will bring up the idea and you can join in! However, if not, they’re easy to find online – just look at Craigslist or L-Desk. Study groups are also often advertised on boards outside of professors’ offices.
2. What about attendance policies / honor codes?
Don’t worry about those as long as everyone is working together and nobody is copying anyone else’s work (i.e. no cheating).
If you want to do well in law school, study groups are a great way to boost your studying and your grades says William D King. Being organized is always a good thing!