How to Be Average in Law School: If you are in law school or planning on going to law school, you may wonder, how can I be mediocre? What can I do to graduate smack-dab in the middle of my class, with a lot of debt, a crappy shot at passing the bar exam and not a lot of job opportunities? In this post, we tell you what you can do in law school to come out with an unimpressive GPA.
Here is a list of five things we recommend you do if you are striving for mediocrity in law school:
How Be Average in Law School:
5 Things You Can Do Today To Be One Step Closer to Mediocrity
1. Obsess over the cases. Read every word of every case you are assigned. Spend 90% of your “study time” briefing cases. Join a study group that only talks about the facts of cases. Develop a complex highlighter color-coding system.
2. Prepare to be on call every class, even when you know you will not be called on. Make sure to constantly talk about how well you and others perform on call. Try to do everything you can to impress the professor, even though they do not really know who you are and don’t particularly care about how well you do. Try to do everything you can to impress your classmates and show how much you know about the cases you are assigned (even though they care even less than the professor – they are too worried about themselves to care about your on-call performance, no offense.).
3. Spend at least twelve hours a day in the library. Spend 70% of this time reading cases. Spend the other 30% of your time on Facebook, (updating your status about how you are spending all day in the library) or texting your friends about how much you are studying. Don’t leave the library, leave your seat, or take any formal breaks. Don’t eat healthy, exercise, or take care of yourself.
4. Don’t start outlining until Week 8. Why start early when you do not know how to outline? (Isn’t that how the logic goes?) Instead, cram it all into the weeks preceding final exams (when you likely have some legal writing project due) or your study period just prior to final exams (when you have approximately one million other things to worry about). Or use someone else’s outline if you do not have time to make your own.
5. Don’t look at practice exams. There is no need to intimidate yourself right before the exam. Your professors don’t seem to think they are that important and do not even provide you with any past exams to look at. So just feverishly outline during study period and pray you will be able to formulate a thought-out response to a super-difficult fact pattern you have never seen.
Some other things you can do to be average in law school are: Go to networking events but don’t actually form any real relationships. Don’t ask for help if you need it or show any signs of weakness. If you feel insecure, act overly confident. Focus on getting a “big firm” job even though you probably won’t like it.
In short, to be average in law school, do what everyone else is doing. If you follow the crowd, you will end up right where the crowd ends up.
If you are one of those people who, for some reason, want to be above-average, have a good chance at passing the bar exam, and opportunities to acquire a well-paying job (or a non well-paying job that you like!), here is what you should do instead:
How to Be Above-Average in Law School:
1. Stop obsessing over cases. Very few professors test on the facts of cases. You should read them or skim them (I always recommend starting with commercial briefs to minimize the time you actually need to spend reading cases). Please do not brief every case you read. Please do not spend more time on cases than you absolutely have to. (Note: If you had an infinite amount of time to complete law school, my recommendation would be different – but the fact is, you have to prioritize. And because reading cases does not help you much on your final exams, it cannot be your sole focus nor even at the top of your priority list in law school.)
2. Stop worrying about your “on call” performance. First of all, if you worry about it, you will perform worse. Second of all, it does not matter at all how you perform on call. Even professors that give grade boosts for participation give grade boosts for just that – participation. That is, showing up to class and raising your hand once in a while. Even these professors do not generally give points for doing well when you are randomly called on.
3. Spend time in the library, the coffee shop, your home, or wherever you study best. Take frequent breaks to maximize your productivity when you study, to allow your brain to internalize and memorize the material, to ease anxiety and boost concentration. Get off Facebook. Use your study time efficiently. Exercise, eat healthy, and take care of yourself.
4. Outline early. The advantages of outlining from the beginning of the law school semester (making an “ongoing outline”) cannot be overstated. Outlining can help you organize material, internalize material, and memorize material “as you go along” rather than cramming the entire understanding/memorizing/internalizing process into the few weeks before exams. (If you are not sure how to start on outlining, see this in-depth guide to outlining.)
5. Get practice exams and complete them early and often! The #1 mistake I see law students make (besides students obsessing too much over reading cases) is that they do not practice exams. This could be because exams (even practice exams!) cause students to have anxiety, or because professors do not make past exams easily available, or because professors themselves understate the importance of them (probably because they have to grade on a strict curve and it makes them easy to dole out A’s if not everyone has taken practice exams!). But to distinguish yourself, you must complete practice exams often! This helps you learn the law, apply it to the types of fact patterns that you will see on exams, and gives you a competitive edge going into law school.
Some other things you can do are: Strive to form real relationships in law school. Join causes or groups you are passionate about. Ask for help if you need it and don’t be afraid if you don’t always know the answer (it is law school – sometimes there is no right answer!) Focus on getting a job that will be meaningful to you and meaningful to the world. Do not worry if you are not doing the exact same things everyone else is doing — indeed, stepping away from the crowd may not be a bad thing.
Ms. Ashley Heidemann graduated as the number 1 law student out of over 200 students in her class of 2011 at Wayne State University. She, along with a team of tutors, tutors for law students and the bar exam. She also offers a Law School Preparatory Course for students interested in learning the skills necessary to achieve a high GPA in law school.