Friday, June 08, 2007

Summertime Advice for Law Students

This post concerns a couple of topics I've meant to post about for some time now, but have just not previously gotten around to. Today's as good a day as any to do it, I suppose.

It's summertime, and many law students may be thinking about enjoying their summer clerking positions, taking a break from thinking about how to be more successful in the classroom, etc. Nonetheless, there have recently (in a very relative sense) been a couple of topics floating around about how law students can be more successful. Because I have many friends involved in legal education, I thought I'd pull these couple of ideas and the related posts together here, so they can be shared with those students who might have some time this summer (or later -- this post won't be going anywhere) to work on being more successful students next year.

1. More Effective Reading:

Raymond Ward, over at the (new) legal writer blog, had a POST back in March on the subject of the correlation between "how" law students (and other legal readers) read and how "successful" they are, whether in terms of better grades or efficiency in legal practice. The post was referring to work done by Professor Leah Christensen of St. Thomas Law School in Minneapolis/St. Paul.

Professor Christensen's papers would be good summer reads for law students to gain an appreciation of this correlation and to consider ways in which their own reading might be more effective. In the short term this could translate to improved grades. In the long term this could translate to more success in practice. Both papers are available for free on The Social Science Research Network:

Legal Reading and Success in Law School (August 2006).
The Paradox of Legal Expertise: A Study of Experts and Novices Reading the Law (2007).

2. Secrets of Successful Legal Writing Students:

Also back in March, Ward POSTED about a research paper authored by Anne Enquist of Seattle U. School of Law studying the secrets of successful legal writing students. In the paper, Professor Enquist discusses a study done at Seattle U. comparing several legal writing students, their individual habits and practices, and their respective levels of succcess in the legal writing class. As Ward noted:

The study suggests (not surprisingly) that a systematic, organized approach is the key:

[T]he study reveals not only the results of working harder but the specifics of working smarter. The secrets to working smarter included note-taking and note-reviewing strategies; how to divide one’s time between researching, drafting, revising, editing, and proofreading; how to research and read cases efficiently; strategies for efficient time management; techniques for organizing one’s research and staying organized while writing; and accessing the professor as a primary resource. Pitfalls to avoid included procrastination, poor management of distractions, and scapegoating.

Professor Enquist's paper is also available on

Unlocking the Secrets of Highly Successful Legal Writing Students (March 2007).