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Helpful Tips

  • Stress Busters

     

    Exams begin very soon.  The stress level is increasing by the minute.  Many of you are handling the stress well, but some of you have become so stressed that you are not able to get a perspective on how to help yourself.

    Students sometimes think their stress comes only from studying itself, but stress can also come from friends, family, and personal responsibilities.  By dealing with both the law and non-law stress, you can cope more effectively.

    The following list of stress busters should help those of you who are looking for quick and easy solutions for decreasing your stress:

    • Tackle your most onerous task for the day as early as possible in your schedule.  That way, it won’t “hang over” you all day long and add to your stress.
    • Tackle your hardest study tasks when you are most alert.  Your brain will absorb material more easily for greater understanding and retention.  Consequently, you will feel better about your study session and lower your stress. 
    • Decide whether you study better for exams by focusing on one subject or several subjects per day.  Some students need the variety to stay focused.  By working with your own style, you will be less stressed than trying to study the way your friends study.   
    • Read through your outlines cover to cover each week in addition to any specific topics you are studying.  By keeping all of the material fresh, you will feel less anxious about forgetting things.    
    • Take short breaks (5-10 minutes) every 90 minutes and longer breaks every 4 hours (45 minutes).  Your brain will keep filing information while you relax.  You will stay more focused by allowing some down time to de-stress.
    • Explain to your family and non-law friends why you need to focus on preparing for exams.  Schedule some fun activities for after exams so they know you will make it up to them after this last push.  If you do not feel guilty about family and friends, you will be less stressed. 
    • Exercise for 30 minutes at least 2-3 times per week.  You may not have time for your usual long workout at the gym.  However, taking time to go for a walk or jog will help defuse stress.
    • Eat three balanced meals a day.  Resorting to junk food deprives your brain of much needed fuel and contributes to stress.  Cook large quantities over the weekend or in a crock pot so that you have meals for the week.
    • Avoid caffeine overloads, including energy drinks.  High doses of caffeine can have serious health side effects: increased blood pressure, panic attacks, increased anxiety, insomnia, and more.  Drink ice water instead.   
    • Avoid sugar highs and crashes from too many candy bars and sodas.  Too much sugar will add to irritability which will cause you to feel stressed.   
    • Get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep per night.  Shirking on sleep means your brain cells do not work as well, your productivity goes down, and your ability to cope with stress decreases. 
    • Stock up on all of your exam essentials now: pens, pencils, ink cartridges, healthy snacks, healthy beverages, foods with long shelf life.  Fewer errands to run as exams approach will lower your stress. 
    • Complete a “whirling dervish” clean of your apartment now.  Then just pick up and spot clean for the remaining weeks.  Finding time for major chores every week can be very stressful. 
    December 5, 2018 | Tags: stress 
  • Anxiety over being called on in class

     

    I vividly remember the first time I was called on in law school.  It was Contracts class.  I do not remember anything about it other than which class it was, and the fact that my anxiety was so sky-rocket high, that it seemed like I was called on for the entire class.  The reality?  He probably asked me two questions at the most. 

    But the anxiety of being called on in class and the stress over “sounding stupid” in class can take on a life of its own and literally take over your purpose in preparing for class.  Now that almost all of you have been called on in at least one of your classes, remember this: you survived.  Let go of the anxiety about being called on in class.  Replace as your purpose for preparing for class learning the meaning of the subject matter. 

    Here are some tips to help you become more confident in class:

    • After reading and briefing (or taking notes if material other than cases is assigned), take a few minutes to synthesize your reading.  Then out loud explain the reading to an empty chair, your pet, or an understanding friend.  Think of the professor’s usual questions and answer them out loud.  You can practice your answers and gain confidence by this recitation step.
    • When the professor asks a question in class, answer silently in your head.  Then compare your answer to what another student says.  Listen to the professor’s feedback.  You will probably find that you would have answered the question well.  Again, your self-confidence should get a boost from this exercise.
    • Gain additional practice voicing your opinions, questions, and answers by talking in your study group more than usual, talking with a classmate about the material, participating in student organization meetings, or asking the professor questions in office hours.  The more you talk, the less apprehensive you will be.    
    August 28, 2018 | Tags: Academic Support, anxiety 
  • Better Case Briefing

    Here are some tips for avoiding common mistakes in briefing your cases:

    • Think about the pattern of your professor’s typical class.  What questions does your professor usually ask about the cases?  In reading and briefing the cases, use these questions as a guide.
    • At the end of reading, spend time analyzing the case as a whole before you write your brief.  Why did you ultimately need to read the case?  What did it teach you about the major topic you are discussing in class?
    • Most professors use hypotheticals with changed facts to get students to think about applying the law in situations that are different from the case.  If your professor does so, then spend some time thinking about how variations of the facts would change the outcome.  Include your thoughts at the end of your brief.  
    • Include in your brief the essentials, not everything in the case.    
    • Synthesize cases on the same sub-topic after you read them.  Why did you have to read each case?  How are the cases in the series similar or different?  How does each case fit into the sub-topic and larger topic?  Include the synthesis insights in your brief. 
    • Use bullet points, numbered lists, abbreviations, and symbols to save time in writing your briefs.  Use phrases instead of sentences when possible.  Avoid including long quotes from the case in your briefs. 
    • Try to put the brief into your own words.  Do not look at the language of the opinion to write your brief if at all possible.  If you cannot put the gist of the case into your own words, then you did not understand the case.
    • Remember that briefs are usually for your eyes only.  Therefore, brief in a method that is most useful to you.  You may need to vary your briefing for different professors’ classes.
    • Recognize that your professor may have a different slant on a case than the casebook editor, a study aid, or editoral notes from a case reporter.  If you have a pattern of missing your professor’s perspective, ask your professor for some guidance.
    • Use canned briefs only to check your own briefs.  You need to learn the legal analysis skills yourself rather than depend on a canned brief.  Canned briefs can be wrong, may not cover all of the points in the case, or may miss your professor’s view of the case.
    August 28, 2018 | Tags: Case Briefing 

 This page will be updated with tips and helpful suggestions for your 1L year. Please check back after orientation for updates.