One of the burning questions for first year law students is whether they should join a study group. The answer to the question is highly personal, but what follows is some information to help you decide what's best for you.
What Is a Study Group?
A study group is just what it sounds like: a group of law students that studies together. Generally students do their reading assignments and then come to the group ready to discuss what might be discussed in class, what has already been covered in class, or both.
Why Should I Join a Study Group?
Some of the best reasons for joining a study group include the following:
- A great way for you to delve deeper into the material and make sure you really understand what is going on in class. Having to rephrase things in your own words and deal in peer-invented hypotheticals will help you process what you're learning and really engage with the material.
- A study group can be useful for getting to know your fellow students; having friends in law school can enrich your experience by connecting with people going through the same things, likely with many of the same questions and concerns not only about reading assignments, but also about career placement, clerkships, and more.
- If you take your study group seriously, it will give you even more motivation to keep caught up on your readings and work to understand them.
- When it comes time to study for finals, you'll already have a trusted group in place to work on a collective outline if you so choose.
Why Shouldn't I Join a Study Group?
Generally, it's a good idea to at least try out the study group set up, and at least with a few different sets of people if your first or second group doesn't work out. You'll learn quickly if the concept doesn't work for you, and chances are it will be because of one of the following reasons:
- You have found a study group who gossips or otherwise wastes time instead of doing schoolwork.
- You already understand many concepts, and you're spending your time teaching others; this can be useful for you to an extent, but if you feel like you're wasting your time, you probably are.
- Whenever there are concepts you don't understand, no one else does either. This is especially dangerous if other students in your study group actually think they have understood and try to convince you to come to their way of thinking. If you have a gut feeling that their interpretation is wrong, be wary and ask your professor for help instead.
- Your study group members are generally unprepared.
Weighing the Pros and Cons of a Study Group
Overall, the decision is yours as to whether to be a part of a study group. Not everyone takes to study groups, so if you don't feel comfortable in one, don't worry. You can still have a great law school experience (and get excellent grades) if you go it alone -- just be sure that you're truly understanding the material, and if you have questions, consult a friend, study aid like a commercial outline, and/or go to your professor.