October 28 2010
Success in Numbers- The Advantages of a Study Group in Law School
Are two heads better than one in law school? YES… if you can find the right people to work with. An effective study group in law school can help you internalize the cases and concepts presented in class and can supplement your studying prior to final exams. However, study groups are not for everyone. If you study better alone, have limited time, or find your self getting confused by group discussions, joining a study group is probably not in your best interests, although I would recommend trying one out just to make sure.
When you start your first year, you’ll find out that law school is extremely different from undergrad. You have to approach the material in a totally new way and it’s no surprise that your study habits will probably change as well. I absolutely loathed any form of group work in undergrad, but to my surprise found that my law school study group was extremely helpful.
There are many benefits to studying in a group. Having multiple people discuss a concept allows students to hear different perspectives, which improves the chances of anticipating exam questions and generally raises ideas that you had never considered before. Students are also less likely to procrastinate when in a group setting. Reviewing the cases and notes in a group will also improve on recall ability. Most importantly, you can form great friendships in a study group, which aren’t necessarily easy to find in law school.
It really depends on your comfort level, but 3-4 people is usually the norm. The larger the study group, the harder it will become to schedule meetings and to have effective discussions. A good indicator of an appropriate size is if every member is contributing and everyone is leaving the meetings with a good understanding of the material.
This is probably the most important factor for an effective study group. Your group will be meeting frequently throughout the year, especially as finals near, so it’s essential that you all get along and work well together. Generally, it is a good idea to find people who possess a good work ethic, are prepared for class (at least most of the time), and who have a different perspective than you. My study group was formed the second day of classes during my first year and fortunately it worked out. We each had different strengths and opinions and were able to guide each other through a good understanding of the material. Although picking random people works out some of the time, if you find yourself in a bad study group, GET OUT IMMEDIATELY! There is nothing worse that wasting your time studying in a group that is not helping you. Don’t worry about hurting someone’s feelings. As soon as you feel like you aren’t benefiting from the group, it’s time to leave. That’s not to say you may not have a productive meeting every now and then, but you don’t want to dread going to study group sessions.
Try to meet in an area where your group can focus, like a library study room or an empty classroom. Most law schools have rooms that you can reserve as well. Our group studied in a reserved room at the law school most of the time, but during finals we got as far away from the school as possible, simply because the environment was too stressful. Fortunately, we were able to reserve a conference room at one of our apartment complexes during finals. Wherever your group studies just try to cut down on the distractions.
How often your study group meets will depend on your needs. Some groups start meeting early in the year to help clarify material discussed in class. Other groups wait until right before finals to start meeting. During your first year, it will probably be helpful to wait at least a few weeks before your group meets, simply because it takes that long to get your head around the material enough for you to even be able to discuss it. Meeting once over your first break might be a good idea so that you can get your notes together. The faster you can get your outline written, the sooner you can start studying.
If you are a part-time student, extremely busy, or just have trouble scheduling study group meetings, I would suggest using Doodle
. Doodle is a free online service where you give the dates of your availability, send the link to your members, and then it finds the days and times when you when you can meet.
What Should Be Covered?
One of the advantages of a study group is that you can utilize different study methods and cover a wide array of material. Your study group should cover the material discussed in class as well as the cases and readings assigned. Your group can also prepare or discuss outlines before exams, use study aids, and take practice exams.
Never be afraid to speak your mind in your study group. If you are right you may help your partners out, and if you are wrong then you will get your confusions cleared up. Pick a study group where you feel comfortable to make mistakes, and comfortable enough to explain your opinions.