I recently saw a question asking whether the amount of time spent studying in law school will make it easier for the questioner to rise to the top of his or her law school class. This is an interesting question. In college, most successful students are able to simply put in the time and study for hours on end in order to be successful in their classes.
Law School is Different
Ultimately, it’s not about how much you study in law school, but rather how you study. Sure, you’re going to need to know the names of certain cases and their associated rules. But ultimately, exams are more about spotting issues (focusing on the facts) and applying a complete, thorough legal analysis instead of simply dumping doctrine onto the page. Outlines among your classmates are fairly similar, so anyone can simply reference case law in response to a question. To separate yourself, you’re going to need to be comfortable identifying potential legal issues and applying the law to the facts in the question, all while facing strict time constraints.
Quality over Quantity
You’re going to have to work hard no matter what. But at exam time, you’ll have to think about what to prioritize with the limited study time that you have. Staying up until 2:00 or 3:00 am to memorize the nuances of some of the case law in your courses may not be as effective as taking old practice exams and going to sleep earlier. Quantity is not going to overrule quality here.
Maximize Your Chances
To maximize your chances of obtaining good grades, I’d generally advise that you join a study group, consult old outlines, and look at some commercial treatises. Joining a study group will allow you to leverage the collective manpower of the group when encountering difficult questions throughout the semester, including the crucial days before exams. Instead of starting from scratch as you prepare for each exam, you can divide the labor. You’ll obviously have to review the content prepared by your classmates, but it’ll give you a head start and a solid foundation as you begin preparing. Adapting old outlines can save you some time (so long as you confirm the old content is correct), and consulting commercial treatises can also be helpful, especially if you’re confused with a particular subject area. I found the Glannon Guide to Civil Procedure to be especially useful.