How to Get Your Law School Study Group to Actually Study

law school study groupToday, we’re happy to welcome attorney Jennifer Warren to talk about study groups. Some people swear by them, others find them a waste of time. Here are some tips on making sure your law school study group (should you decide to have one) is as effective and efficient as possible!

Law school study groups can be incredibly beneficial: they give you different perspectives, expose you to new learning styles, and often provide some much needed social support. Unfortunately, many study groups, although well-intentioned, end up doing more gossiping (or complaining about professors!) than actual studying. To help ensure that the time you devote to your study group is time that you actually spend studying, there are a few factors that you should keep in mind.

Composition

Ideally, everyone in the study group will have the same level of motivation and commitment. It may sound harsh, but if there are members who aren’t doing their part or who are constantly sidetracking the group’s work, it’s probably time to part ways. Sharing a similar philosophy on work ethic will be more important than a person’s GPA in forming a cohesive, productive study group. Additionally, a good study group should expose you to new learning styles and study techniques, so make sure your group has a diversity of opinions, backgrounds, and strengths. Your study partners don’t necessarily have to be your best friends at school, just students who will work well together.

Size

“The more the merrier” should not be your mantra when forming a study group. You have to limit the size of the group to ensure that everyone has an equal chance to share their thoughts and get feedback. Aim for your study group to have three to six students – enough to give you a diversity of views, but not so many that it’s difficult for everyone to contribute equally.

Goals

A shared set of goals is essential to having an effective study group. Will you focus on a specific class or multiple classes? Will you review material or also work on outlines, study aids, and practice problems? Having clear expectations for the study group will allow you to create useful study activities for each meeting and give you a way to gauge your success. Being upfront with all members about the group’s overall goals or purpose will also help set the right tone, which will hopefully be one where all members contribute, take the activities seriously, and encourage each other.

Scheduling

Having a consistent meeting time will ensure regular attendance and promote a sense of professionalism at your study group. While most study groups will want to meet once a week, you may need to meet more frequently or less frequently depending on your specific objectives. Whatever the case, just make sure you’re meeting at consistent, regular intervals. Meetings should start and end at the same time and take place on the same day (or days) each week. A firm start and end time can often make it easier to focus on getting something done because you simply don’t have time to get sidetracked by other topics.

Location

On a similar note, it’s usually helpful to have your study group meet in the same location each time. Put some care into selecting where your group meets. Convening your study group in the school lounge, where you can easily get distracted by other students and events, is probably not the most productive location. If your school has private study rooms, you may want to take advantage of those spaces. But the best place to meet might be at someone’s house or another location off campus, where you’re less likely to run into other students or get distracted by various law school events.

Activities

A productive study group will plan specific activities or tasks to accomplish at each group meeting. Group meetings that lack specific objectives have a tendency to get sidetracked or to lose focus. Scheduling specific activities for your group to accomplish will ensure that the time you devote to a meeting doesn’t end up being a waste. Activities can be as simple as reviewing a specific list of cases, drafting a portion of an outline, or discussing a practice problem to prepare for final exams. When everyone in the group is on the same page about what needs to be accomplished that day, you’re much more likely to get some actual work done.

Guidance

Finally, consider seeking some guidance on your group’s progress from a law school mentor. Reach out to a professor, an academic support professional, or even an upperclassman to get advice on the topics your studying and learn new strategies for tackling the material. Someone who has expertise in the area you’re studying or who has been through the course can give you objective feedback on whether your group is reaching the correct conclusions and give you advice on how to excel in that particular area.

The social support and encouragement a study group provides can be invaluable during law school, so long as you remember that study groups are primarily there for studying. With the right group members, a clear understanding of your goals, and an understanding of the specific tasks you hope to accomplish at each meeting, your study group can help you make real academic progress. The more you’re able to keep your study group on track, the more time you’ll have for real socializing after the work is done!

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About Jennifer Warren

Jennifer received her B.A. in Politics cum laude from New York University and her J.D. with highest distinction from the University of Oklahoma College of Law. She has several years of experience in the areas of juvenile law and civil litigation and is the Academic Achievement Coordinator at Oklahoma City University School of Law.

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