How To Improve Your Law School Grades
Law school is notoriously tough. For those who’ve studied hard, but didn’t get the grades they were expecting, it may be time to consider changing their strategy.
Kerriann Stout is a millennial law school professor and founder of Vinco – a bar exam coaching company. Stout recently wrote an Above The Law article outlining steps law students should take if their first-semester grades were unsatisfactory.
Look Back to Move Forward
While people often hear “don’t look back,” in the case of law school, Stout says looking back serves as a strategy to moving forward.
“The key to effective reflection is to perform a helpful fact-finding mission rather than a self-defeating shame spiral,” Stout says. “There is a thin line between being open and honest about where you need to improve and being flat out mean to yourself.”
Stout advises students to review their final exams as soon as possible. Understanding their mistakes can ensure that they learn from them properly for the future.
“Finals tend to be a blur,” Stout says. “And after they are over, it is almost impossible to remember what happened during the test. Reviewing them now allows you to revisit the exam, and the choices you made during it, in a less stressful situation.”
Meet With Professors
After reviewing the exam, Stout recommends that students meet with their professors to ask questions and learn how to improve. Still, it’s important to go in to the meeting with an open mind to constructive criticism.
“Remember, the reason you are having the meeting in the first place is to discover how to do better in the future,” Stout says. “Don’t allow yourself to be closed off to the answers.”
Reflect Study Habits and Know How to Improve Them
Study habits have a huge influence on how well students study. Stout says students should examine their current approach and understand how they can be improved. She advises students to ask themselves the following questions:
- Was my study environment conducive to my learning?
- Was my study schedule productive?
- What were my biggest “time sucks” (i.e., Facebook, Netflix, Snapchat, etc.)?
- Were the resources I used helpful?
- Did I make effective use of study groups?
- Did I take advantage of the resources made available to me by my school (i.e., workshops)?
In addition to general study habits, it may also be helpful to understand specific study habits for tasks like reading cases. Chapman University advises law students to take notes while reading.
“For each assigned case, write down the legally significant facts, the holding of the case, and the rationale for the court’s decision,” Chapman’s website reads. “This is what is referred to as ‘briefing’ cases. Your case briefs should be just that – brief.”
Reach Out For Help
While your professor should be your main source of help for the course, it may also prove helpful to reach out to other resources that are available. Stout recommends that students seek out academic support departments at their law school on strategies to improve.
Similar to seeking out your professor, Stout says students should come ready with questions and self-reflection.
“Having spent some time in your own self-reflection will show the person you are meeting with that you take your legal education and success seriously,” she says. “It will also give the conversation a jumping off point so that he or she can make recommendations about your study, writing, and exam-taking skills.”
Stout says the most difficult, but important step is letting go of one’s fear. Part of letting go of fear, she says, is listing out what you need to change.
“I challenge you to make a list of both the changes you wish to make this semester and the habits you have vowed to break,” Stout says. “Keep these lists somewhere visible as a way to stay accountable to yourself and to be able to recognize when you are getting off track.”
Sources: Above The Law, Chapman University