By Sidharth Mohanty, University Law College, Utkal University, Bhubaneswar.

Law student consults books

A law student carries some obligation on his shoulder, which includes a moral obligation towards the professors, classmates and self.

The term moral obligation has a number of meanings in moral philosophy, in religion, and in layman’s term. Generally speaking, when someone says of an act that is a “moral obligation”, they refer to a belief that the act is one prescribed by their set of values. Obligation being a set code by which a person is to follow. Moral obligation can be better understood as a course of action imposed by one’s conscience by which someone is bound or restricted.

Moral obligation can be divided into two parts:

1] What should be done, and

2] What should not be done.

Let us now critically analyse what a law student should do.

Attend classes: Attendance is crucial for success in law school. We must be in class to learn and we must be on time. We must give our professors and classmates the respect and courtesy they deserve by showing up on time and avoiding the disturbance of a late entrance.

Participate in class discussions: Our participation in class is a key component of the learning process in law school and may be a factor come grading time. When we are prepared and actively participate in class, we enhance the learning experience for ourselves and our classmates. We should ask questions and pay attention to the questions asked by others. We should volunteer an answer or response when a question is put to the entire class.

Keep up with your assignments: Keeping up with assignments may seem like an overwhelming task at first, but it can be accomplished with some careful planning, hard work, and determination. Playing catch-up is worse than steadily putting in the hard work.

Regular study and study group: Creating a study schedule is highly recommended! This study schedule should designate daily study sessions. Timing the sessions to occur at the same time each week will help to reinforce positive study habits through repetition. Planning ahead to cover times is good when we know we will be busy with outside activities and distractions.

Study groups can be extremely rewarding. However, involvement in a study group is a matter of personal preference. These groups are usually composed of four to five students who meet on a regular basis throughout the semester.

Legal thinking: Legal thinking and analysis is the key to success. This idea of “thinking like a lawyer” is so important, yet it is so enigmatic that many law students do not understand it. It can be defined in different ways. Delaney calls it an interweaving of facts and law. A Southwestern professor calls it using creative arguments to tie the facts to relevant laws. LEEWS calls it nitpicking the facts and arguing both sides. Getting to Maybe describes it as “forks in a road.” I think that legal thinking encompasses all of these. It is really just attention to detail. Some smart people get this naturally, but the rest of us have to practice.

“Thinking like a lawyer” will greatly help us both in legal writing class and in legal career.

The Socratic Method: The Socratic Method is the teaching and discussion method most often used by professors in the law school. This teaching method involves the solicitation of case facts and legal analysis from one student in the class at a time. The student is essentially in the “hot seat” for a portion of the class. The purpose of the Socratic dialogue is for students to learn from one another and to facilitate our development as a counselor and an advocate.

So it is highly advised to drag more from this type of method. By this, the professor lead the students through the experience with a bunch of questions.

Briefing cases: In our legal writing class we are taught how to “brief” a case. Briefing lays out the fact pattern and holding of a case and helps us to pinpoint the principle of law that’s in issue. We should practice to brief each case which will help us to prepare for class discussion. Briefing each case is a great tool for understanding.

Briefing cases will empower us to discern issues from complicated facts. It is a skill required to succeed, both in exams and as a lawyer.

Review your notes after the class to make sure you understand what you’ve recorded. If something is unclear either conceptually or factually, we should clear it up either with our classmates in a study group or with the professor.

Write down important concepts, rules of law, and lines of reasoning. These things may be difficult to pinpoint at first, but we’ll get better at this as our law school years go on.

Let us now discuss what a law student should not do.

We shouldn’t wait until the last minute to address administrative needs, academic requirements or personal questions. The rigorous schedule of law school is challenging and intimidating for most of us, timely completion of task will leave no room for unexpected situations or emergencies. Avoid the temptation of spending all summer days leading up to the semester relaxing or socializing. We should dedicate a few hours out of each week reviewing your law school documents and organizing your schedule.

Don’t decide to take on any new habits or responsibilities immediately prior to the start or during the semester of law school. Breaking bad habits are always a good thing, but we shouldn’t occupy our mind with unnecessary challenges that may prevent us from utilizing the skills that got us into law school in the first place. Making time to stay healthy and in shape is important for surviving the long study hours, but starting a new diet or heavy workout schedule may have unattended consequences on our body that will keep us from our studies.

Don’t stress! We should try not to take ourselves too seriously. As an admitted law student, we can take pride that our educational background and unique personality is on par with professionals that completed the challenge you now face. The fact we are in law school shows that we are working to improve and enlighten ourselves. We shouldn’t let the shock of bad grades or confusion of unfamiliar topics stress us out. It is all a part of the learning process. So, we need to embrace the fear and use it as motivation to study harder, not an excuse to quit! We must understand that seeking higher education is for our benefit. We shouldn’t look at it as a punishment.

Don’t write down everything the professor says verbatim. This holds especially true if we’re using a laptop. It can be tempting to transcribe lectures if we have the typing ability, but we’ll be losing valuable time in which we should be engage with the material and group discussion. This, after all, is where learning takes place in law school, not simply from memorizing and regurgitating rules and laws.

Don’t write down what your fellow law students say. Yes, they’re smart and some may even be right, but unless our professor puts his explicit seal of approval on a student’s contribution to the discussion, it’s most likely not worth a spot in our notes. We will not be tested on our fellow law students’ opinions, so there’s no sense in recording them for posterity.

Don’t spend every minute studying! In reality, leading a balanced life is crucially important.  There are many people around us spending every minute in the library and generally stressing everyone out.  However, if we keep up throughout the semester, there’s no reason to overdo it.  We’ll just end up frustrated and burned out. We should review our materials, ask questions to the professors, and shouldn’t let other people’s habits get to us!  We must to the gym, see a movie, read a novel which will keep us from losing sight of the rest of our life.

Don’t waste time writing down facts of the case. All the facts we need to discuss a case will be in our casebook. If particular facts are important, highlight, underline, or circle them in the textbook with a note in the margins to remind us why they’re important.

Don’t forego taking notes because you can get the notes of a classmate. Everyone processes information differently, so one is always going to be the best person to record notes for his future study sessions. It’s great to compare notes, but ones own notes should always be his primary source for studying. This is why commercial outlines and those prepared by previous law students aren’t always the most helpful either. Throughout the semester, our professor gives us a map of what the exam will be like throughout the course; it is our job to record it and study it.

It would be wise for the law students to follow the above Do’s and Don’t inorder to achieve success during studentship as well as a Lawyer.