Transitioning to Law School—Learning How to Study

Transitioning to Law School—Learning How to Study
Alyssa Giordano

A law school education teaches students “how to think like a lawyer.” This ultimately teaches students how to maximize success in a given set of circumstances. Law school cultivates discipline, consciousness, and a constant desire to improve. The benefits of working towards a J.D. degree have been substantial and give me a competitive edge over those not exposed to the curriculum and demands of law school.

Law school has added to my perception of what constitutes knowledge. I spent my undergraduate years studying psychology and biochemistry, which required me to memorize and subsequently regurgitate scientific terms and math equations. I was advised not to question rules such as the Pythagorean theorem and facts such as human physiology because these subjects were backed up by undisputed “scientific proof.” Therefore, in class, students are taught there is a single correct answer. There lacked a spirit of debate wherein concepts and ideas were questioned. Accordingly, I spent most my time studying and completing coursework alone.

My notion of knowledge expanded when I began my first semester of law school. On a law school exam, I was no longer able to memorize and apply a math equation to get a “correct answer.” Some areas of U.S. law are not comprised of black and white law; in many cases, there is not a strict rule that is applied to arrive at a “correct answer.” For example, what constitutes a “search” under the Fourth Amendment? Law school teaches students how to frame such an issue in a way they can articulate an answer to serve their client’s interests. Ultimately, for many legal questions law students face, there is no single answer. Instead, the student researches and analyzes case after case to integrate a variety of concepts into a coherent argument furthering her client’s cause. Accordingly, it is beneficial to study in group settings.

Sitting down with a few classmates once a week to discuss the topics covered in class helps me better understand the material. The beauty of argument is, there is no single answer. Having an open discussion about a topic arms each student in the group with multiple perspectives on a single legal issue, which each can discuss on their final exam. A law student that only studies alone, does not have the advantage of racking up multiple arguments of her classmates in addition to her own. As a result, her arguments are often limited and less comprehensive than her classmates that studied in a group setting.

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