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  • Writer's pictureTommy Sangchompuphen

New Year's Resolutions for Law Students

It’s the start of 2018, and the spring semester is quickly approaching for law students. So here are five New Year’s Resolutions they might want to consider for the upcoming semester (aside from the obvious ones like study more and procrastinate less):

1. Take time to reflect each week.

Each week, students should set aside some time to self-reflect on the prior week’s materials, their class preparation, and their progress in the courses. Appropriate self-reflection helps students develop a deeper understanding of why they do what they do, how they do what they do, and whether or not they are succeeding. In other words, self-reflection is an effective way for students to get to know themselves better and to evaluate their actions so that any necessary changes in study habits can be made before it's too late.

2. Become a self-regulated learner.

Broadly speaking, self-regulated learning refers to learning that is guided by metacognition—or, thinking about one’s thinking. Studies have shown that students who are self-regulated learners believe that opportunities to take on challenging tasks, practice their learning, develop a deep understanding of subject matter, and exert effort will give rise to academic success. By becoming a self-regulated learner, students will become more cognizant of their academic strengths and weaknesses and, thus, be able to turn their weaknesses into strengths over time.

3. Create a specific study plan—and adhere to it.

A study plan is an effective way to help students navigate through their semester in an organized way. But instead of simply blocking off times on a weekly calendar labeled “Study,” students should identify their learning goals for each study session in order to maximize these scheduled study times. So, instead of “Study” or “Review Torts,” students should consider identifying time slots with more specific tasks such as “Review Different Theories of Products Liability” or “Review Differences Between Common Law and U.C.C.” And, needless to say, once students create a more specific study plan, they need to follow it so that the creation of the plan is simply not a waste of time.

4. Take advantage of professors’ office hours.

Students not attending their professors’ office hours aren’t alone. Most law students know office hours exist, but for various reasons, don’t take advantage of them. Whether students need extra help or just want to learn more about what they have discussed in class, office hours can be beneficial in a variety of ways. And keep this in mind: Even though office hours are free, students are actually paying for them through their tuition. A smart law student-consumer would take advantage of their professors' office hours simply based on a financial perspective.

5. View the semester as a building block to passing the bar exam.

Some students seem to compartmentalize their legal education. They take a Torts course, then another course, and then another course. Then, after enough courses, students earn a sufficient amount of credits to graduate from law school, at which point they take a bar review course to prepare for the bar exam. Students should view every course as a building block to their bar preparation. Even in courses where the subject matter is not tested on the bar exam, important skills can be carried forward to their bar preparation. So, as I always tell my students, don’t treat first- or second-year courses like Las Vegas. In other words, what students learn during their 1L or 2L year should not stay in their 1L or 2L year. What they learned during that time—whether it’s doctrine or skills—will be tested later on the bar exam.

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