If you haven’t heard of impostor syndrome yet, Alex really summed it up well here
I’m not sure what it is specifically about law school but for some reason it makes us lose our minds and forget all of the lessons we learned over our MANY years of previous schooling. Should we do book briefs or write out full case briefs? Should we type our notes? No because some study somewhere says computers and the Internet are evil. Ok so hand write everything? No because your law school best friend of two weeks says writing takes too long and you’ll never get through all of the crim reading at that pace. Do I need a study group? But I hate people! But my friend’s cousin’s uncle who’s a D.A said I’ll fail without them. Should I make a LinkedIn? Should I calendar every bar review and networking event here? Law Review? Moot Court? JOBS!? What about outlining!? What even is outlining??? WHY DO I NOT HAVE AN OUTLINE FOR EVERY SUBJECT AND EVERY UTTERANCE THE PROF HAS MADE ABOUT PROMISSORY ESTOPPEL AND TRESPASS TO CHATTELS? Don’t outline now because it’s too early! What do you mean you aren’t outlining yet? You’re behind! Might as well drop out!
Take a second to remember how you got here in the first place. Clearly it’s because you did somewhat well enough in grade, middle, high school, and college. And how did you do well? Perhaps it was because you figured out the perfect combination of note taking and studying that worked for you and got you through. So why, now that you’re in law school, does all of that strategy go out the window?
Maybe it’s because we’re all crammed in a (beautiful) law building for 99% of our days/nights surrounded by all the same smart students that made it here too. And, maybe, because we’re all smart, educated, independent, and opinionated individuals, we feel the need to comment on each other’s study habits and strategies and perhaps interject our own. And, maybe, we’re also listening to each other’s feedback while simultaneously questioning and comparing ourselves. Cue self doubt and impostor syndrome.
Here’s the thing. I may have been in law school for all of a hot minute but if there’s one major lesson I’ve learned so far, it’s that we’re all really freaking smart in our own ways, we all have our ways of doing things, and we all need to shut up and tune each other out every once in a while. My crim professor, Prof. Ball, made a great point the first week of school that truly stuck with me; Don’t make outlines because some book about law school told you to. If you’re not an outline kind of person, then don’t feel like you need to become one now. Maybe flowcharts and algorithms are your thing (as a programmer, I certainly relate to that method of note taking). Or maybe you’re an outline guru -GO WITH THAT. But whatever you do, make sure you’re doing it because it’s what works for you and not simply because “you’re supposed to.”
And remember, we’re all in this together (as cheesy as that is). I may be the “contracts girl” but I’ll have you all know that civ pro and crim are my weakest subjects (Shout out to Mas v. Perry for upending my entire understanding of diversity jurisdiction. Also, could someone please explain to me why we have the model penal code IF WE’RE NOT ACTUALLY SUPPOSED TO USE IT NOR REFER TO IT FOR ANY REASON WHATSOEVER EXCEPT IF WE’RE RESIDING IN “MODEL PENALIA”!?)….The same goes for everyone else here. You may think the guy next to you who shouted out that amazing answer in crim has their whole life figured out, but maybe it was a lucky guess, or perhaps he studied that one case religiously five minutes before class in anticipation of the cold call. We’re all new to this. We’re all confused. We’re all figuring it out. And we’re all going to be just fine. No, you’re not doing law school wrong. If the answers were as easy and clear cut as you think they are wouldn’t everyone be a lawyer?
The point is there’s no “correct” way to tackle law school. Just as there’s many ways to argue a case, there’s many ways to take notes, study, and be productive. You know what works best for you because you did it for so many years before coming here. Yes, your peers and professional network are great sources of advice, but don’t forget about the best source out there: