By Professor Herbert N. Ramy
Director, Academic Support Program, Suffolk University Law School
Read Cases Actively – It is obvious that students must read the day’s assignment before attending class, but it is important that you read cases actively. Reading actively means, among other things, formulating questions about the material as you read it. Questions might include:
- Why is the outcome in this case different?
- What is my bottom line take away message?
- Might the case come out differently in a different jurisdiction?
- Which facts were essential to the court’s reasoning and holding?
- How might the principle from this case appear on my final exam?
Asking questions like these will help ensure that you better understand the day’s lessons before you even walk into the classroom. Further, by acknowledging questions as you read, you are much more likely to see nuances in the material. If you don’t regularly have questions about new material, then it is quite likely that you are viewing the cases at a superficial level.
Reviewing Must Become a Cornerstone of Your Study Schedule – While it is important to read actively and be fully engaged in your classes, you must review your class notes on a regular basis if you hope to excel in law school. Regardless of how well you prepare and listen in class, you will need additional time after class in order to incorporate the day’s lessons into a broader understanding of how each area of law operates. If you do not review and outline at the start of each semester, there will be holes in your understanding of the law. As the semester progresses, these holes will get bigger and bigger. Reviewing regularly helps ensure that the holes in your understanding get filled quickly with knowledge. Day by day, and week by week, you will know more and more. While you may not experience a single light bulb moment when everything comes into focus, you will notice that the weekly reading becomes incrementally easier to complete because you have not let questions linger. Then, come exam time, you may be surprised at how little you have to cram for exams. Instead, you will simply be reminding yourself of concepts you learned earlier in the semester.