When I was a 1L, I tried to do whatever professors or 2 and 3Ls told me in order to prepare for exams. Many professors focused so much on creating outlines and upperclassmen shared with me the outlines of those who got A’s… I should have known better. Before coming to law school I taught math for 10 years and I know that what works some does not work for all. First semester, I outlined and then I took exams. I was disappointed with my grades so I asked to see my exams. I was amazed at how many little mistakes I made in the law. There were some concepts that I did not parse out very well. But that was the purpose of outlining, right?
Second semester, I was so focused on getting better grades that did flow charts and used every study aid that I could (logistically speaking). However, when I got my grades, my gpa was worse. So, I spoke with professors and learned that this time I got the law right. My issue was no longer understanding all the elements nor the ability to distinguish. I was essentially out written by my classmates. I am just not a good writer.
Now as a 2L, having worked for a judge over the summer, my writing has improved tremendously. I came to law school as a D writer and now…I’m probably a C+. There’s been a drastic improvement in my grades. I did not outline at all. I did not use flowcharts. I did however read ever case thoroughly; synthesize the concepts through conversation with classmates; spend the week before exams practicing with a practice series or Siegels; and participate fully thoroughly during the semester. I am still not at the top, however, having taken 15 credits and 3 of the toughest classes, yet I jumped a grade level from first year.
Not that grades speak to how much I know or do not know. But what it did signify to me was that outlining/charts is not the answer for every law student. Everything is not for everybody and I think the most important lesson learned was “know thyself.”