For those of you taking the LSAT on June 8, best of luck and godspeed. If you are feeling nervous, take heart in the fact that everyone is nervous. Further, you still have some time to hit those practice tests hard and build those LSAT muscles. No matter what, keep practicing with actual LSAT questions.
Here are a few last minute tips which may be of benefit:
1. Make sure you know exactly where the test center is located. If possible, visit the test center and familiarize yourself with the room logistics. Even better would be to work a few practice tests at the center. If the test center is far from where you live, consider staying at a hotel nearby the night before. Make sure you have all of the requisite tools- #2 pencils, erasers, etc. Read the test center instructions.
At this point in your preparation, it goes without saying that you have already familiarized yourself with the actual test instructions.
2. The day before the test, work on practice tests no more than half of the day. Take the rest of the day off and do something fun. Eat a decent meal, get to bed early and get plenty of rest.
3. The day of the test, arrive at the test center an hour before the scheduled time. If possible, avoid other test-takers. The posturers and posers will want to make sure you know how prepared they are. Avoid them at all costs. Similarly, after the test, go home. Don't talk about the test with other people. No good can come of it.
4. During the test, remember to use "process of elimination" where it makes sense. Also remember to "bubble" your ansers periodically and make sure that your answers and your "bubbles" match up. Do not leave any unanswered questions- after you have eliminated the obviously incorrect answers, guess between the remaining answers.
Relax and try to enjoy the experience. Focus, read carefully and analytically and reason your way through the test. I wish you the best in this and your future endeavors.
As with almost everything else in law school, the answer is "it depends".
A repeated theme in my new book "Law School Labyrinth" is that, unlike your undergraduate studies, there are almost never entirely right or wrong answers. This is true on exams and it's true in determining your study methodology. In college, your studies are pretty straightforward- you go to class, do the work, take good notes, pay attention to what the professor is saying, regurgitate it all back on exams, and it is likely that you will do well.
In law school, it's all about learning the legal reasoning process (what so many people call "thinking like a lawyer"), and learning the law. At exam time, it's about being able to effectively identify legal issues presented in exam fact patterns, apply the law to those facts and articulate legal conclusions. And because the approach of first-year exams is so relentless (and generally, your entire class grade rests with that single exam), you have no time to waste, engaging in pointless dialogue with fellow neophytes.
So the question you have to ask yourself before investing a great deal of time in a study group is whether that investment will yield a good ROI (return on investment) at exam time.
Study groups can simulate law practice, in that students can offer competing views on the facts and law (similar to what occurs when several lawyers work on a legal problem). However, you should also understand that much of what occurs in law practice is "solo"- grinding through cases, statutes and regulations, in order to determine the current state of the law.
In other words, if a study group results in a lot of dialogue with a lot of people who don't understand the law, you will waste a lot of time. My suggestion is that if you do participate in a study group, it is only after you have invested enough solo time thinking through the issues and learning the law. You can then use the study group as a "check" on your thinking. Also, I suggest that your study group lay out ground rules for the process- what work is required individually before the group meets, how long can debates continue, assertions should be supported by facts or the cases read, and other rules intended to reduce time wasting. If you will follow these ground rules, many law students will find study groups an invaluable component of their study methodologies.
In my opinion, the answer for most of you is a resounding "yes." I entered law school following a twenty-year hiatus from what were at best mediocre undergraduate studies. If I can survive it, then rest assured, you can as well.
I think that, despite all of the lore about how difficult it is, for most of you law school will be an absolutely exhilarating experience. You will interact with a group of incredibly bright and motivated students. You will work with a group of accomplished professors, many of who had substantial careers in law practice prior to teaching.
One of the keys to surviving, and thriving in law school is to have a solid plan of attack, regarding your studies. One way of thinking about this is as described in "The Law School Labyrinth", and specifically what I refer to as The Pyramid Outline Method. The purpose of this methodology is to provide you with a framework upon which to place the entirety of your legal studies- your case reading, information you glean from classroom discussion, your commercial outline reading and study groups.
Given the amount of energy, time and stress involved in law school, the last thing anyone really wants to do is spend a lot of time the summer before reading and thinking about it.
That said, a small investment of time before you start law school will actually reduce your stress levels and enable you to "hit the ground running", thus ultimately enabling you to study more effectively and efficiently. This will pay back in terms of the time and energy required for most 1Ls that first year.
The most important preparation is to try and understand the "big picture" of law school. Try and determine the mechanics of the process- what are the components of a good study methodology and what is the end goal. As I discuss in "The Law School Labyrinth", for most people grades are a key goal of your legal studies. This is because good grades result in good job opportunities. Grades are typically based on one final exam at the end of the semester. Therefore, much of your activity throughout the semester should be focused on one of three objectives: (1) developing your legal reasoning skills; (2) learning the law; and (3) developing your law school exam-writing skills. Each of these tactics should be used to accomplish the overall strategic objective- good grades at exam-time.
I have read or reviewed most of the law student "success books." I recommend that you include the following three books in your law school strategic arsenal. Read all of these before you start law school:
1. "The Law School Labyrinth- A Guide to Making the Most of Your Legal Education". Obviously, I have a bias(since I wrote the book); however, the goal of this book was to enable students to accomplish the above-described objectives. First, the book describes the legal reasoning process and provides tips and techniques on developing your own reasoning skills. Second, the book provides good recommendations, via the Pyramid Outline Method, which will enable you to learn the law well in advance of exams. Third, the book will help you understand the law school exam process and provide you with a methodology to attack law school exams. Finally, this book will give you a good overview, through stories and information, of what law school is really like.
2. "Getting to Maybe" by Richard Fischl and Jeremy Paul. This book provides an excellent overview of a core component of the legal reasoning process and exam writing. The authors discuss in great detail the "on the one hand/ on the other hand" methodology so essential to law school exam success.
3. Either "The Paper Chase" by John Jay Osborne or "One L" by Scott Turow. Both books give an excellent "slice of life" view of what law school is really like.