On Combining the Things You Have to Make Stuff Work: Creating a Study Group That Has the Greatest Impact
By Shayna Lewis • February 15, 2012•Writers in Residence
I started the year by sharing my thoughts on self-promotion and concerns that perhaps spoke more to second, third and beyond-years, but now I’m going to take a step back for the 1Ls (and pre-1Ls, congrats to the incoming classes!). Specifically, this month we’re talking study groups. It’s what life is all about really: cliques; the hard hitting stuff that makes everyone love high school. I mean law school.
I’m sure we all remember those moments in Legally Blonde, One L or the Paper Chase (pick your poison) where boundaries became indefinitely defined as each character locked down his or her future place in the world by becoming a member of one of these oh so necessary groups. And important and indefinite these relationships may be, so use broad strokes and pick carefully. Your sanity and brunch intake likely depends on it.
Start with your section. These people have the same schedules and professors; they know your stressors and time constraints as well as you, sometimes even more so. You need them; you want them/their notes, etc. etc. Make outlines together and endlessly obsess over the formatting instead of the content (I’m pretty sure I spent hundreds of hours putting hyperlinks into my outlines. And then never looked at them again). Relish in the fact that these three people now find Restatement § 43 just as hilarious as you (it is not).
BUT! Before you get too caught up in that, take a full step outside the law school to see who else you have in your life (that you want to remain in your life) and make a study group with them. Scholastic and social lives bleed into one another and the people in these groups become the ones who drink with you, cry with you and who you invite to your wedding. Thus, make a point to include a couple of non-lawyers in on the fun. My personal favorites included medical and MBA students since they also lived by semesters and loved chai and waffles as much as I, but even already-employed friends were great too, so long as they were willing to sit with a crossword while I poured over a casebook. Grab lunch and let them explain pathways to you, then take your turn at teaching hearsay to them. There are intersections and analogies that can be made in all disciplines, and you’ll likely never feel prouder than when your boyfriend is able to throw out a random joke referencing Ollie’s Barbecue at a party. Capitalize on these things and not only will your relationships be stronger and your life a little more balanced, but your grades might even improve too.
No matter how you cut it, these groups, lawyer-limited or otherwise, are important for all the obvious benefits: they're places you can commiserate, share tips, fill in gaps from missed days or messy notes; they keep you up to date with a study schedule that hopefully leaves you fully prepared come exam time. For a law student thrown into a world colored by a rainbow of highlighter hues, a study group can be a saving grace. However, your experience, thus your education (i.e., tuition dollars!) will be so much better spent if you can expand the impact of this opportunity. Broaden these groups (and later your networks) to include people who don't live in a world run by the FRCP and whose jokes don't revolve around the Chevron two-step. You’ll thank me later.
Oh and flash cards. Live and die by them.