3 Tips for acing your law exams
From a law student who has been there, done that.
Welcome! My name is Josh. I'm 23 years old and I'm a law graduate working in a full-service commercial firm in Melbourne.
My law school journey was a bit different. I'll explain a little more about that later - but for now, know that I had to do things in a pretty unique way to get to where I am. One of those things, was that because I went to a smaller school I pretty much had to have a high GPA in order to get noticed. So I decided pretty early on in my law school journey that I was going to work hard on my grades.
Did I get it right straight away? Definitely not. There were a tonne of learning experiences along the way and that is what I want to write this article about.
So - chances are - if you're reading this you're ether in law school, thinking about going to law school, or down a rabbit hole you're not sure how you ended up in...but hey - either way I'm glad you're here. And before I jump into this, i just want to say that everyone does things differently and you shouldn't feel stressed just because you don't work well with some of the tips in this video. But, with that said, there are certain productivity hacks that work well for everyone and which I sort of tailored to law exams - which I think you'll get some use out of.
Anyway, let's not waste anymore time...lets just get into it! Here are 3 tips to help you perform well in your law exams.
1. Organise your notes during semester
This one might sound obvious but believe me - no where near enough people do this.
As you're going through semester and you're learning new content that is unfamiliar, it is so important to create little mental cues that you can refer back to when it comes time to study for your exams.
Sure, it seems like more work now but if you want to maximise your potential around exam time, organising your notes as you go is so important.
And the beauty is - it's 2020 and note taking doesn't have to be a boring, arduous task comprised of frantically scribbling notes on paper while your lecturer talks. With improving productivity apps, cloud storage and word processing you can organise notes pretty much however you like nowadays.
One of my favourite note-taking apps (which I didn't use in law school but wish I did) is Notion.
Notion have mobile, MacOS and windows apps and it is a clean, easy to organise and easy to navigate interface to help you maximise productivity. You can set up different workspaces, share them if you like, and can structure your notes however you like. I use notability a lot to organise my thoughts, notes and just general creative outlet stuff while I'm busy at work.
But you can use anything to do this - whether its google docs or Microsoft Word or even the notes app on your phone. Taking notes and organising them during semester is so important because it creates mental cues which - even though you might not know it yet - will be essential for your ability to recall information when you're sitting in your exam.
Another reason this is so important is because law exams are open book. If your notes arent well organised (or even complete) before you get into the exam then you'll waste WAY too much time flicking through them looking for an answer. If you've created those mental cues and have well-organised notes, you'll be well on your way to acing your open book exams.
2. Read judgments (or at least parts of them)
Believe me I know I get it law students get way too much reading as it is. I know what you're thinking. How can you expect me to agree to do **more** reading!?
Well...here's the thing. I'm not. All I'm saying is, text books are set out to convey information about the law to you in an easy and understandable way. And that is great for while you're learning new content and trying to understand the principles. But law exams aren't usually posed in a way as a text book style of writing would necessarily answer the question well. Law exams are hypothetical situations that you're being asked to apply the law to. The masters of doing this simply and clearly are judges (especially High Court and Supreme Court judges).
What you'll get from reading judgments is a concise and real-world understanding for how a complex principle can be easily distilled to just a few lines. What you then do with those few lines is about your application skills. But being able to condense a complex statement of law into a few lines and then apply it is so key for your law exams and it will help clarify your thinking too.
I don't know how many times I sat in exams bumbling over the wording in my answers, trying to set it up correctly so I could dive into the application and actually start answering the question. I would scribble out entire pages while I fumbled over the best way to word a statement of law. Reading judgments helps refine that skill and provides you with a template for the perfect exam answers. As an aside, for any Australians watching this video, Justice Edelman on the current High Court (and previously in the Federal Court) provides some awesome examples of concise statements of law for you to learn from in his High court and Federal Court decisions.
Okay and before we dive into tip #3 if you've enjoyed this video or you've learned something new please leave a like and subscribe if you're new! I appreciate the support!
3. Don't try to do it alone
Some people study better on their own, I get that. I was one of those people. Sometimes you just need to put your head down and focus or else you'll get distracted by people around you.
But that's not what I'm saying you should avoid. I'm telling you to avoid actively trying to do it on your own. Deliberately refusing help from others because you have your own way of going about it. Whilst everyones study and exam prep might be different, that is all worthless if you don't understand the law. And the thing about the law, especially in common law jurisdictions like Australia, UK, USA, Canada etc is that the law is slightly refined every single time a new decision is made. And it is constantly changing. It's naive if you think you're going to be able to understand complex legal principles on your own without taking about them with your peers, lecturers, tutors or anyone else who might be able to provide you with some useful insight. Especially if you're learning it for the first time.
Anyway, there you have it! Good luck with your exams, Counsel.