What Should You Be Doing to Prepare for Class as a Law School Upperclassman?

What should you be doing to prepare for class as a law school upperclassman?

Today we welcome Christen Morgan, guest writer and foreclosure attorney, to discuss what you should be doing to prepare for classes as an upperclassman.

During law school I remember how excited I was to begin 2L year. I was excited about the fact that I was no longer a lost 1L, unsure about how I would navigate law school. Now don’t get me wrong, I did experience some anxiety about the upcoming school year, however, this was by no means the same level of angst I experienced throughout my entire 1L year. As I came upon my first 2L semester, I felt like I had finally found my footing. I figured out a schedule that allowed me to fit in time to prepare for class. Also, during my class preparation, I was completing my case readings in about half the time it took me during 1L year. Despite this strong sense of confidence, I was quickly knocked off my horse. As I began 2L year, I quickly realized that my law school experience would be completely different than what I experienced the year before. As a 2L, I was in control of selecting my classes and although I chose classes that piqued my interest, these were not all traditional classes that had case reading assignments. Additionally, I was now a member of the Moot Court Society and had to jump straight into researching for my moot court competition brief. I also had to juggle a three credit externship in addition to two on campus part time jobs. I now knew that having all these responsibilities on my plate meant that I would need to change my class preparation techniques.

So how does one adequately prepare for class during their 2L or 3L year?

If you’re a 2L or 3L, the reviewing process may be a bit different for you. All your classes may not be the traditional law classes that you took during your 1L year. At this point, you may be enrolled in more practical classes such as: an advanced trial course, a contract drafting course or even a writing seminar. Therefore, considering this new context of classes and the additional responsibilities that you may have as a 2L or 3L, adequately preparing means that you should: carefully schedule your preparation time, review your class notes daily, begin early outlining and also use your preparation time wisely. You cannot afford to waste a second of your day!

1. Schedule Your Time

Between completing classes, journal assignments and your law school externship, you may feel like there’s just not enough time in the day to prepare for class. Don’t fall into this trap! By not preparing for class, you’re only hurting yourself. You’re inevitably making your finals preparation more difficult because you’re leaving all the hard work until the end of the semester. Also, you risk embarrassing yourself and probably even getting booted from class because of your lack of preparation for the cold call. So if you’re a 2L or 3L, it’s important for you to schedule your class preparation. You may think that the time isn’t there, but even if you don’t have the big three hour blocks of time in between classes like you did during 1L year, you need to take advantage of the 20-30 minute breaks you have during the day. These breaks may be ideal for reading a case and perhaps completing a quick book brief or even fine tuning your answers for an assignment.

If you’re taking traditional law classes, schedule your time appropriately to complete reading assignments. However, if you’re taking practical or writing classes, instead of getting reading assignments each day, you may be given practical assignments that may be graded and contribute to your final grade. Therefore, it’s crucial that you take these assignments seriously. When scheduling your time, be sure to review your syllabus and determine your assignment due dates well in advance. Even if you don’t have a presentation or a first draft due until three months into the semester, it’s important that you begin working towards these deadlines from as early as possible.

2. Review your Class Notes and Begin Early Outlining

Before jumping into review for your upcoming classes, if time permits, you should start your session by reviewing the class notes you completed that day. Read through carefully to ensure that you understand everything and make any notes you may have missed that you need to get from a friend. Reviewing your notes will help you to understand and begin to internalize the material even more. By doing this, you will likely be able to get through your class preparation a lot quicker. Understanding the material from the outset means that less time will be spent sitting dazed and confused. Also, be sure to use this time to put together a list of clarifying questions you have for your professor. Once you’ve done so, schedule some time during your professor’s office hours to clear up any misunderstandings.

Another benefit that you have as an upperclassman is actually understanding how to outline for finals. Now that you’ve perfected this skill, how about beginning your outlines from much earlier in the semester? As you review your class notes each day, you can begin the process of plugging the important points into your finals outline. As a busy 2L or 3L, you may not have as much time at the end of the semester to create an outline from scratch. Therefore, you will certainly spare yourself a lot of time and undue stress by beginning this process from early on in your class preparation.

3. Use your Preparation Time Wisely

If you’re in a practical/writing class, your preparation will likely take a much longer amount of time than it took you to read a case for your traditional classes during 1L year. Depending on the length of the assignment, it could take several hours or even several days to complete. If it’s taking you a long time, don’t be dismayed. If you’ve scheduled your time like I’ve discussed above, you should be able to stay on top of all of your assignments.

However, scheduling your time is only half of the battle. You need to actually use the time you’ve set aside to complete the assignment. Yes, I know you’ve finally gotten used to this whole law school thing. You have a ton of friends and an active social life that helps to keep you sane, but this can also be a distraction. You can’t allow these distractions to bring down your grades, so it’s important that you use your allotted time to complete the first draft of that contract you have due, or the first draft of your 30-page seminar paper. I remember taking a legal blogging class during my 3L year and upon returning from spring break in Miami, learning that the first draft of seven blog articles would be due in exactly a week. Needless to say, if I had stuck to my scheduled preparation time, I would not have faced the intense levels of stress that I did in trying to meet those deadlines. Please don’t let this be you!

I hope these tips are helpful!


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About Christen Morgan

Christen Morgan graduated magna cum laude from the University of Tampa where she received her B.S. in Criminology. She earned her J.D. from Emory Law School where she competed and served as an executive board member for the Emory Law Moot Court Society. Christen also served as a student representative for LexisNexis and also as a mentor for several 1L students offering them advice and a variety of resources to help them through their law school journey.

Christen previously practiced as a Foreclosure Attorney for a Real Estate law firm but has since then transitioned into a Real Estate Specialist role at a wireless infrastructure company.


  1. […] and consequently, the tool is not as useful. The purpose of the outline is to help the law student organize and summarize all of the material from the semester, in a way that is manageable, logical and concise. Waiting […]

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