“So…what have you learned?”

Mariesha Keys is a 1L at the University of Houston Law Center

This question, among others, has been asked of me many times by friends and family. With the perfect amount of enthusiasm and genuine honesty, I reply, “A lot. I have learned a lot.” So, as a show of good faith (I’ve learned this term as well), I am going to share a few things I have learned as a first semester law student.

  1. Headings, Subheadings, and Outlines (oh my!)

Outlining is strongly encouraged in law school. Not only is this a useful technique to keep organized, but structured outlines function as personalized encyclopedias that can be updated as needed. In addition to having an outline in law school for reviewing and note taking purposes, structuring your outline to have headings and subheadings is extremely helpful. In law school, your grades are determined by essays, typically written in I.R.A.C. (Issue, Rule, Application, and Conclusion) form. As you address your issues, it is very useful to add headings. Headings function as guidelines for both you and the professor, and they make the writing process easier.

Think of headings and subheadings as friendly tour guides leading you on a trip. Imagine you have a tour guide for the University of Houston Law Center, and this tour guide is extremely general with directions. She says, “Just go through those doors, you can’t miss it” (whatever “it” may be). Guess what – you’ve missed it, and now you’re lost. Let’s change this scenario. You have a fantastic tour guide who knows the Law Center like the back of her hand, and she tells you, “Go through the first set of double doors, then make a right, and go down the stairs.” See the difference?  Specifics help! Similarly, guiding your professor through your final exam and guiding yourself through a personalized outline can only benefit you in the long run.

*Tip – I.R.A.C. is a great method to use for analyzing the cases you’ll read in class. Find those four components, in addition to writing a brief summary of the facts, and you’ll be good to go!

  1. Law School is READING

This should go without saying, but law school is mostly reading. You will have so much reading for all of your classes that you might forget you once had a life. Some classes have entertaining cases that remind you of short and sweet “Buzzfeed” articles. Other readings will remind you of the reading comprehension section on the LSAT. Don’t despair. If you feel like this is a lot to balance, know that you are not alone – I work at this every day!

*Tip – Try crafting a schedule for yourself; carve out a few hours on the weekend to read for the upcoming week!

  1. Remember your reason for applying

As time sails by, and the first semester comes to a close, I find myself focusing on why I applied to law school. Many people have different purposes for applying, but remember why YOU want to be a lawyer. Do you want to work for big firms, small firms, governmental agencies? Whatever your passion, whatever your reason, hold on to it as you go through this process. Remember your best motivation comes from within!

*Tip– this tumblr for some studying inspiration: http://studying-student.tumblr.com/

So, those are my three takeaways and tips! To those of you considering law school, I hope this post gives you a realistic perspective from someone just starting the journey. Until next time!