Now that you have made your decision to attend law school in the Fall, you may be asking is there anything I should do to prepare? Aside from signing up for parking, student housing, and the typical stuff that comes with going away for school, there are somethings that you can do before coming to law school to set yourself in the best position possible to hit the ground running.
- Update your Resume: This may not be the first thing that comes to mind when preparing to start your first semester of law school. You may be thinking, “wait a minute, I’ve got to get through law school first before I start worrying about the job search.” True, you do have time. However, the 1L job search starts your second semester. It helps if you already have a solid foundation to work with and references handy, so you are not reinventing the wheel when the time comes. Also, this puts you in the position to set up a resume review with Legal Career Services early on before everyone rushes to their office in the spring.
- Get a Suit: So, again, you may be thinking this is too soon to be thinking about this. Or you may be thinking that you already intended to get a suit to wear the first day of class. I would caution against both of these reactions. One, no one really tells you this, but you are not required and most people don’t wear suits to their law school class. If you prefer to, no one will stop you. However, it is definitely not required and likely not practical. You’ll be in class and the library studying a lot, so you want to make sure you are comfortable. Second, you will definitely need a suit for if you choose to participate in Closing arguments competition, Mock Interviews, etc. Go for something black, charcoal, and classic. Make sure it is well fitted and tailored. Also, keep an eye on the sales. Your suit doesn’t have to be expensive to look great!
- Read that Novel you’ve been holding back on: If there is a novel or a book series you have been wanting to read forever, go ahead and read it now. Once you are in law school, you will constantly be reading and may not have as much time for leisure reading. Even your summers will be consumed with school or internships, so go ahead and get all of that out of your system while you can.
- Get a Portfolio: You will not use these in class, but these will be invaluable as you begin to do mock job interviews, actual job interviews, try out for closing arguments competition, moot court, mock trial, negotiations team, etc. I suggest getting a simple and classic black one from an office supply store. Note: Highlighters and tabs are also invaluable. Go ahead and stock up on these. I never used these in undergrad, but now find myself burning through them on a daily basis.
- Do your Research on Programs/Extra-Curriculars you definitely want or are interested in getting involved in. By no means do you have to have everything figured out. However, try to educate yourself on some of the awesome extracurricular, study abroad, or joint study programs we have here at UGA Law. Having a goal and knowing what you are interested in before you begin will help you remain focused. It is easy to get overwhelmed with the amount of opportunities we have, especially in the beginning when you are just trying to figure out how to study and prepare for law school classes. With that being said, keep an open mind to new opportunities and be flexible.
- Get in a Routine: Go ahead and try to get into a healthy eating and exercise routine before you come to law school. If you do, it will be easy to maintain these habits later. Law school can be stressful, and sometimes personal care can take a back seat if you aren’t careful. In order to ensure you are leading a balanced lifestyle and will continue to do so in school, go ahead and cultivate these good habits. You’ll thank yourself later.
So, you’ve just gotten your acceptance letter or maybe you are considering choosing UGA Law. Now what? One of the first major decisions you’ll make is where to live. If you’ve never been to Athens, this can be quite daunting. Things you should consider and questions you should as you begin your search:
- Do you want to live alone or with people?
- Cheaper to live with people, but can be stressful as a law student. You should weigh whether or not you prefer to live with people and save money or need peace and quiet for studying.
- Do they offer individual leasing or are you joint and severally liable for the rent?
- If your roommate moves out, you could get stuck fronting the whole rent if your complex doesn’t offer individual leasing.
- Do they offer individual bathrooms?
- Is it quiet and will be conducive for studying?
- How far is it away from the law school? Do they have a shuttle?
- Can save money by not having to buy a parking pass, which is generally in the $450 range for the year.
- If you have a dog or pet, are they pet friendly?
- Can be a great stress reliever. However, need to be sure that you will have time to attend to them. Law school will demand a lot of your time, so if you are nervous, leave the dog at home until you get settled into your routine.
- Do they have an accessible gym?
- After a long day, you may not want to drive all the way to Ramsey. Nice if you need a quick study break.
- Is it in a safe area of town? Is it gated?
- What style of living are you interested in? (Do you want to be downtown near the nightlife? Are you looking for a family friendly area? Are you apathetic if it is cheap and safe? Are you looking for a complex that offers a lot of great amenities?)
- North: Low key, on the fringe of downtown and the rural sector.
- The Lodge of Athens
- East Side: Is more family friendly, suburban, close to grocery stores, the loop. Relatively light traffic.
- The Summit, Woodlands
- West Side: Farther from the law school and campus in general. Lots of great restaurants and stores.
- Downtown: Eclectic vibe. Law students live here to get the full Athens experience. In walking distance of nightlife, food, shops, and the law school. More expensive to live downtown.
- 755 Broad, The Eclipse, 909 Broad
1L is stressful in itself. The reading is rigorous, you are learning a new method of thinking and studying, you find that you do more work preparing for class than you have ever done in your life. You may be wondering what is best way to study for exams There is no right or wrong way to study. You must find what works for you. Without a doubt though, there are certain tried and true methods law students swear by. This is a 1L’s guide to studying for exams.
Questions to ask yourself before diving in:
Step 1: Are you a Lone Wolf or a Group Studier?
- This is the first important step in figuring out how to study for exams and law school in general. In undergrad, I was a Lone Wolf. I did not like studying in groups because I would get too easily distracted and there was always a difference in motivation or styles when I got in groups. However, when I got in law school, I realized that my style changed. I needed and still do need to talk through these concepts with other students in order to adequately prepare for exams. I recommend testing out different methods, even if you are certain you are a Lone Wolf, try studying in a group once.
Step 2: Ask your teacher’s policy on Group Studying and Outlining:
- Some professors allow you to take outlines into exams, some do not. Some say you can take outlines into exams if only you has contributed to it. Some say you can take outlines into exams that you generated as a group so long as you majorly contributed to it. Some professors say you cannot take any outlines into exams at all. You should approach your teacher to ask what their policy on outlining is. If they don’t allow you to take outlines into the exam, then there may be no harm in group outlining because you can’t take it into the exam anyway. However, if you can take an outline into an exam, but it must be only your work, you need to outline on your own. This is an important step before you start studying for finals because it will dictate how you approach studying and how you plan to prepare for exams.
Step 3: Get Your Notes Together/Outlining:
- Stay organized and keep good notes. Once you have your notes relatively neat and organized, you will be in a better position to begin the outlining process and will put you in the best position to maximize your study time.
- Outlining is the main way law students study. This is definitely important, but it is also important to not rely solely on creating an outline. It is a building block, but it is not the end all be all best way to study.
- Supplements are awesome because they take a course such as Civil Procedure, and break down the concepts topic by topic. So, lets say you really struggling with the concept of Minimum Contacts. You can pull out your supplement and go to the chapter on Minimum Contacts. It will give you an overview of the subject and some example problems to work through. Every example problem generally has a model answer. If you are still confused and don’t understand why you got these wrong, you can take the examples to your teacher and have something concrete to talk through. This is more helpful than going to your professor and saying, “I don’t understand the difference between mens rea and actus reus.” If you can point ot a problem and say, “why was this mens rea and not actus reus?” then you will maximize your time and get the most out of meeting with your professor.
- Practice Tests: The single most invaluable study method for law school is taking practice tests. Most teachers offer sample exams from over the years with model answers. One teacher once told me that if you want to play baseball, it isn’t enough to sit and watch the game and then going on the field to play in the World Series. You have to practice-practice hitting baseballs. Same concept here. It isn’t enough to just passively sit and absorb information and reread over outlines a billion times. You should practice taking a law school exam under testing conditions. Then compare your answers with the model answer and see what you missed. If you have questions, take these to your professor and have them talk you through them. This will give them an idea where you are and how to best help you.
Not as Helpful:
- Traditional study techniques like making flashcards were not as helpful for me. For some people, this was extremely helpful in classes like Torts to remember the elements of each tort. If it helps you-do it. It may be harder to use flashcards in other classes though.
As a new or prospective law student, there is a ton to look forward to. One being that you will enter into the legal culture. Like any culture, there are norms, values, and inevitably a whole new group of words that will end up in your lexicon and a part of your everyday speech. Unfortunately, no one ever bothers to explain what these terms mean and you may be too shy to ask. Look no further, your ultimate guide to law school lingo will hopefully shed some light and give you some insight.
- Is basic rule or principle of law that one takes away from a case or dispute. Think of this as the “so what?” after each lesson.
- This isn’t the Kelly Blue Book. This is the citation guide all lawyers use in practice. It is a required book for all 1st year legal research and writing students. Don’t stress if you don’t know how to do this yet. This is a fundamental skill 1Ls learn in their research and writing class. Good bye MLA and APA.
Closed Memo vs. Open Memo:
- First off, a memo is merely a formal communication that is written in a law firm that explains an area of the law. In practice, your boss will likely come to you on multiple occasions and say, “Write me a memo about x area of law.” Students are taught how to write these the first semester of 1L in their legal research and writing class. The closed memo is different than the open memo because you do not have to do outside research for the closed memo. Your professor gives you a packet of material to use to acclimate you to how to write a memo and ensure you are formatting them correctly. Also, the closed memo is typically ungraded. It is your first shot at legal writing and this is a way your professors let you practice this form of writing in a low stakes environment. When it comes time for the open memo, you will have to conduct your own research to write about an area of law based on the problem and specific facts they give you.
- The single most terrifying aspect of 1L other than finals. Also known as the socratic method. Law School Professors don’t generally ask for volunteers in 1L classes (this may vary by teacher to teacher). They will randomly call on students throughout the semester to go over the reading and talk through cases without warning. Initially it is intimidating because it is on the spot, and you are being called on in front of all of your classmates. It does get less intimidating with time and will eventually not be a big deal, but initially, it can be daunting to say the least. If you have read the case and have prepared for class though you will be fine.
- Some say it is your best friend, some say it is your worst enemy. The curve is scary for 1Ls because they are not used to this new system of grading. Basically the professors grade the class in comparison with how each student did versus the rest of the class. It is a blind grading system, so every student will get a private grading number assigned to them so the teacher does not know who’s paper is who’s. Whoever does the best covering the legal issues gets the top grade and then the rest of the students are ranked in line. The top students get As, a vast majority of students get Bs, with a few students getting lower.
Hiding the Ball:
- Professors will say, “I’m not trying to hide the ball” when there is a particularly confusing concept and the student can’t seem to grasp the right answer or the professor’s point. They just mean that they aren’t being intentionally difficult or tricky.
The Forest and Trees Metaphor:
- Professors use this to describe the importance of the big picture. Each day in class students are taught individual concepts (like the elements of negligence), but it is the student’s job to put together the individual pieces to see the big picture. The big picture is applying all of these concepts you have learned over a semester into one big fact pattern or situation. Trees = individual concepts & Forest = Big picture. Students unfortunately sometimes get caught up in a tough individual concept that they lose the big picture. That is when your professor will say, don’t lose the forest for the trees!
- A student run journal that issues student generated articles as well as articles from teachers and other experts in the field. You are invited to be apart of journal upon successful completion of the write on process. The write on process happens after 1L spring exams are completed. You complete a series of citation practice exercises and write a mini note (persuasive piece) based on the legal issue they give. The mini note has a 10 page maximum. This gives them a feel for how you write and what your style is. Law Review and the other two Journals here also take your 1L grades into consideration when determining who they chose extend membership to.
Law School is a Marathon, not a Sprint:
- The notion that one must pace themselves in law school so they don’t get burnt out. All nighters do not work in law school because the work is consistently rigorous. You will eventually need to learn how to balance your classes, reading, extracurriculars, etc. Law school has a ton of great opportunities to get involved through student organizations, Negotiations Team, Moot Court, Mock Trial, Law Review, Clinics, study abroads, etc. I highly encourage every student to get involved in several of these. However, the fact of the matter is that at some point you will have to evaluate what extracurriculars and clubs are most important to you and make value judgments. Make sure you are balancing accordingly and not getting burnt out mid way through the race.
- One of our highly successful advocacy teams here at UGA. Students write a persuasive piece known as a brief that argues for or against a certain issue in the law. Moot Court mirrors what appellate advocacy lawyers do. It is not like Mock Trial where there is a full on simulated trial with a judge, jury, cross examination, etc. As a member of Moot Court, students argue before a panel of judges. The judges will ask complex questions about the position you are arguing for, and it is the student’s job to address those questions and persuade the Judges that their position is the winning position. All 1Ls get an opportunity to try out and join Moot Court through the Russell Competition in the Spring and the regular tryout process Fall of 2L. It is a two year commitment, but highly rewarding, giving students the opportunity to cultivate their writing and advocacy skills while competing across Georgia, the Nation, and the globe.
- The primary way most law students study for exam. Outlining is basically taking all of your notes from the semester, reading through them, and pulling out the important legal principles and take-aways from every class. This all goes into one word document. Think of this as a master study guide of the whole course. Actually creating the outline helps you study because it forces you to review everything you have learned and choose what is important. As you begin studying for the exam and taking practice tests, the outline will be invaluable in helping you review the key legal principles.
- The week before final exams that students are given to study. There are no classes during this week, allowing students to read, outline, review, take practice tests, and prepare to take exams. This semester, reading days will take place on November 26, 2014-December 1, 2014. Thanksgiving unfortunately will fall within this time frame. Many students are tempted not to go home for the holiday, but I strongly advise against this. Students should maximize their study efforts during this time and not take the whole week off, but there will inevitably be moments when you just need a break and can’t study for a few hours. Taking a few hours to have dinner with your family will be good for your personal well being and perhaps remind you why you chose to be a lawyer in the first place.
Thinking Like A Lawyer:
- This was one of the most frustrating statements for me beginning law school. Everyone drops this phrase, but no one know actually explains what this means. When you first enter law school and you read your first case, you read it from the perspective of a public citizen that has never really studied cases from a legal perspective. Generally, you may have a visceral reaction to the case, and your gut suggests that one person is right and one person is wrong. Thinking like a lawyer means that you see an issue or read a case and you don’t allow your mind to drift to one side of the spectrum. It is ok to have an intuition that one side is the more correct side, but thinking like a lawyer means that you consider the complexity of the legal issue. You weigh and consider both sides before making a judgment. Your mind ceases to operate in merely black and white, good and bad, right and wrong, and you start to realize that there are areas that are a little gray. Perhaps both sides have a point. That does not mean you cannot have a personal belief that one side is more right, but thinking like a lawyer is just acknowledging the legal complexities in an everyday problem. There is no specific time when you should or should not acquire this skill. For some people, it happens midway through first semester, some it is second semester of 1L, and some don’t get there until 2L year. The goal is that before you graduate, you begin seeing the law in a different light and from the perspective of a lawyer.
- *Note: a tell tale sign that you have started thinking of a lawyer is when you start seeing tort liability everywhere. Seeing a child swinging on a swing before you come to law school is sweet and cute. When you begin to think about a lawyer though, this situation takes on a whole new meaning. Is that swing safe? Is it old and rusted? Who owns that swing? What if the swing collapses while the child is on it? Is she being supervised? Does the owner of the swing have a duty to supervise her? Have other children been hurt on this same swing, putting the owner on notice that the swing is dangerous?
Now that it is roughly a month into the semester, and we are currently 1/3rd of the way through, you as a 1L may find yourself wondering…
- How do I know if I am doing this right?
- How much should I study each night?
- Am I doing everything I should to maximize my study time and get the most out of it?
- 1. What is outlining?
2. When should I start outlining?
3. Where do I start?
- Are there any additional resources to help me?
- Which supplements will best prepare me for the final?
First off, relax. Find comfort in knowing that everyone, and I mean everyone, has felt the same way their 1L year. The fact is that it is scary and daunting, and despite the fact that everyone tells you it will be fine, there is a major part of you that is still unsure. This is ok, and utilizing this timeline will help you keep everything in perspective and know how to get the most out of your first semester.
- Ensure that you are fully reading the material, absorbing it, and understanding the major concepts. It may take a few tries, especially the first semester. Some say you should read everything 4 times though. I personally feel like 2-3 times is sufficient, perhaps 4 if it is a particularly challenging case.
- It may help to take notes on your cases and brief for class. This is especially true while you are getting used to cold calling. It is easy to get disoriented because you are so nervous. Having something in front of you with a brief summary of the facts, the holding, and the reasoning the court gives may be helpful in the beginning.
- Do not let yourself get behind on the reading-the load is rigorous but manageable. If you get behind though, it is very difficult to catch up.
- Go to class. It goes without saying, but this isn’t undergrad. Missing one 50 minute lecture in law school like building a house and forgetting to put in a support beam. The concepts build on each other, so if you miss regularly, then you will have a harder time understanding the subsequent concepts.
- I note that it is ok to miss for extreme occasions and there are absences built into the semester for this reason. Just be mindful that the law school attendance policy is strict. 6 absences makes you ineligible to take the final exam.
- Take good notes-these will be invaluable to you as you prepare for the exam. Even if you generally aren’t a note taker, become one.
- Meet before class with other classmates to discuss the material and compare notes. One of my professors last year told me that, “the law is meant to be discussed, not to float around in your brain.” Point being, if you are confused about a case, talk it out with other classmates. Use those hours wisely to debate about the case. No doubt they will have picked up points that you never saw because they have a fresh perspective.
- Make the most of your breaks in between classes. Some days you need a brain break to get a coffee and chat about something mind numbing. However, the hour breaks, when used efficiently can help you maximize your study time. Take those breaks to go over the cases before class, meet with a study group, or read and prepare for the next day!
- Pace yourself and don’t let yourself get burnt out. Again, this isn’t undergrad. You may have been able to pull all nighters to crank out a ton of work the night before and then rest for a week, but the difference with law school is that the pace is continuous. There is never a period where things slow down so you can recoup. With that in mind, keep perspective by taking an hour a day to yourself to call your mom, go to the gym, play x box, watch your favorite TV show, or cook a decent meal.
- Study Groups: Now is the perfect time to start networking with people in your class to form study groups. Take a look around and be sure to pick people who are similarly motivated as you and that you know you can work with and be productive.
- This may not be your best friends. You should choose people you can work and be productive with.
- Get a Game Plan/Get Organized: You’re a month in, you keep learning new material, and the open memo is about to be released.
- Start thinking about getting your notes together and coordinating a regular meeting time with study groups. Once the open memo hits, much of your time will be crunched and you may not have a lot of time. You do not want to get behind, so get organized now.
- Make sure your notes are how you want them. Everything is organized, including your apartment. Anticipate for the possibility that you may not have time to do laundry, get groceries, cook, etc. Plan for this now, before the big assignments hit so you aren’t caught unprepared.
- Order those Supplements Now: Speak with your teacher and consider getting some of the Examples and Explanations books for each of your classes. These are invaluable for studying. They break down subject by subject and concept by concept into chapters. They give you example questions and a model answer to ensure you fully understand the concepts. Order now though because they take time to ship. I wouldn’t recommend actually working through these though until before finals. Your regular reading for class is priority. You have to learn the material first before you can review it.
By Midterms/Open Memo:
- Have your notes up to date.
- Your study groups formed.
- Your study schedule set.
- Supplements ordered
*This will put you in the best place to devote the most time on studying for the practice exams (which don’t actually count for a grade but you should treat them like they do) and your Open memo. Once the open memo is turned in, you are practically finished with the semester. That is why it is good to ensure that you are in a good spot with your notes and your study schedule before the madness ensues.
Mid October/Early November:
- Start outlining for exams. Outlining is just a law school term for taking your notes from the semester and creating a master copy of the major concepts you have covered this semester. This is vital, but I’ll explain in another post exactly how to do this.
- Keep up with all major deadlines and continue to go to class, read, take notes, etc.
- By this point you should have your outlines complete.
- You should be doing practice exams made available by your teachers on Gavel.
- You should be supplementing by working through examples and explanations for concepts that confuse you.
- You should go home for Thanksgiving Day with your family if at all possible.
-That is not to say use the whole break to do whatever you want. One day will not make or break you though. Remember, it is important to keep perspective and pace yourself.
Anonymous said: Do graduates of UGA law typically feel confined to the legal market of Atlanta or the surrounding area, or are there plenty of opportunities to network and earn opportunities in Washington and other major markets?
We also have a semester in Washington program that is particularly popular with those seeking jobs in the D.C. market.
Anonymous said: Why choose UGA over Emory?
Student who choose Georgia Law (over any law school) frequently cite a few common reasons:
- Cost: As a public university, tuition at Georgia Law is incredibly reasonable at $16,506 for an in-state student this academic year. And an out-of-state student may qualify for in-state tuition after her first year.
- Caliber: The 2013 incoming class had a median GPA of 3.69 and learn from a faculty that includes 5 former clerks to the U.S. Supreme Court and 2 Fulbright Scholars.
- Collegiality: Students at Georgia Law want to be here, and that desire is evident in the friendly and collaborative nature of each class. Acquaintances made in 1L sections are frequently best friends at graduation.
Georgia is fortunate to have a number of solid law school options, including Emory and Georgia. More than a handful of students at both schools have certainly found themselves choosing between the two. At the end of the day, an in-person visit is the best way to find out which school fits you best.
Georgia Law offers two tours daily at 10:30AM and 3:30PM, and class visits are available through April 18th. If you would like to register for a visit, call our Admissions Office at 706-542-7060. We hope you’ll come to see us!
Anonymous said: As a student that isn't from the beautiful state Geogia ..what are the chances of being accepted to UGA law?
We have a substantial number of students every year that come from out of state. In the class of 2016, there were 23 states represented.
If you have questions about your application in particular, feel free to contact Ramsey Bridges in the Office of Admissions at firstname.lastname@example.org or 706-542-9173.
Anonymous said: Once my application is under review by the Admission Committee, how long until they issue a decision?
Applications and decisions are made on a rolling basis. Depending on application volume and other factors, it can take anywhere from two weeks to two months for a decision to be finalized. The Admissions Committee will continue making decisions from now through the early summer.
If you have questions about your application in particular, feel free to contact Ramsey Bridges in the Office of Admissions at email@example.com or 706-542-9173.
By Jennifer Stakich
As a rule, first year students at Georgia Law cannot get onto the moot court or mock trial teams. If you’re interested in Georgia’s advocacy programs, there are still a few ways to get some exposure as a 1L.
Your first opportunity is to volunteer as a Witness in the England Mock Trial competition for 2Ls and 3Ls during the fall semester. I participated as a Witness for a 2L team, and it was a great learning experience as well as a lot of fun. Basically I memorized a script of answers to my counsel’s questions, and we rotated between prosecution and defense each round, so I was essentially playing a few different characters throughout the competition. The challenging part is responding to the cross examination questions from the other team! The England competition comes pretty early during the fall semester, so it was a good way to meet some upperclassmen. My team was co-led by a teaching assistant for one of my classes, so I got an opportunity to spend time with him and get his advice outside of the classroom setting. As a Witness, you won’t receive any feedback from the judges and are merely viewed as a volunteer, so no one except your team will offer you constructive criticism.
Second, the 1L closing argument competition kicks off at the beginning of spring semester. This competition is open to just 1Ls, and you receive a mock trial problem and must draft and present a closing argument, like you would give to an actual jury. Each competitor will complete two rounds, one for defense and one for prosecution, before any eliminations occur. After each round, the judges will give you feedback about what you can improve on and what you did well. At first, I was nervous to get critiqued by the upperclassmen judges, but they were really nice and understood that we were all nervous! One main reason I participated in closing arguments was to settle my nerves of public speaking for the one mandatory event of 1L year….
…the Russell moot court competition. Every 1L is required to participate in two rounds of the Russell competition as part of your Legal Research & Writing class. In late February, you will turn in your Appellate Brief for your writing class, and then you will orally argue that brief before a panel of judges. In the second round, you will argue the opposite side which you did not write about in your brief. The most intimidating part of the Russell competition is the fact that the judges will interrupt your argument to ask you questions! Even though they ask questions, the judges still understand that you are nervous and will help you stay on track if need be. I’ve completed one of the two mandatory rounds, and it was a lot of fun even though I wasn’t sure what the judges would ask me. One big criticism I received from my judges was that I didn’t smile enough during my argument, so I’m working on that for round two! In the preliminary rounds, the judges are members of the moot court team, so they all had to participate in the same process and understand what you’re going through.
Participating in all three events is a great way to get involved, settle your nerves, or give you a tiny taste of what the advocacy programs at Georgia Law do on a regular basis. If you are interested in advocacy, I really recommend that you participate in these opportunities. I’ve gotten great feedback so far and am excited to be more involved!
Anonymous said: Normally, how long is does it take to receive an admissions decision?
Decisions are made on a rolling basis as files become complete beginning in late fall and continuing through late spring.
If you have questions about you application in particular, feel free to contact Ramsey Bridges in the Office of Admissions at firstname.lastname@example.org or 706-542-9173.
Anonymous said: What are the best places to live in Athens for a law student?
We’ve got a new post up that should help answer that question. There are a lot of choices, so we’ve included some links that should help out.