When I was in law school, I heard a rumor (which I'm pretty sure was true), that one of my classmates was forming a study group. Great, right? What's not to like. However, this study group was special - you could only join if you'd gone to Harvard for undergrad!
After I finished cracking up (particularly since this story was conveyed to me by a Yale undergrad), I decided to stay away from study groups, if this is what there were about.
Was that a good decision? Maybe not.
Ways Law School Study Groups Can Be Useful
Law school study groups can be useful in a number of ways:
Ways Law School Study Groups Can Be Harmful
On the other hand, law school study groups might actually be harmful.
Is There a Middle Ground?
If you're not sure an official study group is right for you (and that's a totally valid decision!), but you still want the benefits of having a study group, what can you do? One option I liked was to have various mini-groups that formed around specific projects. If I wanted help studying for a specific exam, I'd ask a couple of people from the class to come over a few times and compare notes. Ditto if we had a written assignment due.
This less formal approach made it more likely that we'd actually focus on the task at hand, since we were only there to work on one project. It also enabled me to work with different people, so I had a better idea whose working style matched my own the next time I wanted a study partner. Finally, it broadened my social circle, so I had lots of people to ask for notes if I had to miss class!
How to Form a Study Group
If you think a study group would be helpful, here are some tips:
One Final Tip
Finally, if you do form a study group, or even if you take a less formal approach and occasionally gather some classmates together, try to be nice to each other! Recognize that everyone's under a lot of pressure, and that most people are doing the best they can. Try to be considerate, show up on time for meetings, and give a little bit more than you take from the group.
If all goes well, you might find that your 1L study group members are your best law school friends. At graduation, you can all look back and laugh at how little you knew when you started, and how far you've come since!
Alison Monahan is the founder of The Girl's Guide to Law School and a co-founder of the Law School Toolbox. A 2006 graduate of Columbia Law School, she was a member of the Columbia Law Review, a Civ Pro Teaching Assistant, a Kent Scholar, and a Stone Scholar. After law school, she clerked in the District of Massachusetts and was a BigLaw patent litigator for two years. Now she helps other aspiring lawyers get into law school, get through, and stay true to themselves in the process.
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