It is not without good reason that law studies are considered one of the most demanding courses of all. Not only is the legal system an extremely complex matter from a scientific point of view, but it attempts nothing less than to capture and judge every conceivable type of human behavior from many angles. In addition to academic knowledge, mastery requires a whole battery of interdisciplinary skills in order to be able to even begin to cover the enormous range of possibilities. But that’s not all: the course is notoriously poorly organized; the subject matter is not very catchy and the grading criteria are not opaque and almost inhumanly hard. Under all these circumstances, lawyers can certainly put themselves on an equal footing with other high-performance subjects such as mathematics, medicine or physics. And those who successfully pass their exams can rightly consider themselves part of a small elite.
A course of study is usually more difficult than many other types of education, this is where Law Mind steps in to make law study easier. This is also due to the specific UK approach to university education, which grants a high degree of freedom but also places a great deal of responsibility on the student. This aims to educate the prospective academics to develop their skills independently, but conflicts in many ways with the methods of knowledge transfer practiced in school, so that many students have difficulties at first. In other countries, the university education is much more school-like, but there is usually great emphasis on cramming without requiring the students to take the initiative.
In law, the problem is even more serious. We already know that the matter is confusing, unmistakably large and complex, not very catchy and abstract. In addition, however, legal training is traditionally aimed at promoting independent thinking and acting characters who are also up to the traditionally extremely demanding requirement profile of a fully qualified lawyer. As a result, the study and the exams represent a brutal selection process. During your studies you are left alone by the trainers even more than usual. Only a fraction of the knowledge and skills required for the exams come from the lectures to the language, the grading criteria for exams and homework are hardly transparent and extremely hard, and the latent fear of the all-important exams is deliberately fueled so that only the strongest pass with good grades.
Therefore, studying law also occupies a special position when it comes to the question of how to learn correctly, effectively and in a goal-oriented manner. Extraordinary circumstances also require extraordinary measures.
How do you learn properly?
As is usual in jurisprudence, we start with the general and then work our way to the specific. Accordingly, we will first deal with the question of how to learn most efficiently in this course.
I. Learning by doing
An important aspect of law school is that the knowledge you acquire must be applied in order to be useful. There are two main reasons for this. It doesn’t make much sense to read up on factual knowledge without applying it, otherwise it would be – also due to the high degree of abstraction of the subject – quickly disappears again. You could compare it with the task of erecting a building: it doesn’t help much just to bring the building materials and have them ready, they also have to be formed into walls, doors, windows and roofs, plastered, painted, wallpapered, provided with water and electricity pipes and be set up to make a usable building that is not just a functionless collection of dead objects, but a homestead. In other words, acquiring mere factual knowledge without the knowledge and skills needed to put it into practice is likely to be a waste of time.
In the exam, knowledge is definitely also important. But it is even more important to be able to apply this knowledge – especially in the stressful situation of the exam and the exams. As explained elsewhere, writing exams is the supreme discipline of law studies. Only those who have mastered this skill at least to some extent can hope to survive the baptism of fire of the exam. The key skill per excellence for passing the exam is therefore writing exams.
Therefore, it is in the best interest of every law student not to just eat away at what is usually dry and abstract factual knowledge, but to make it part of something living. Only through application does knowledge become alive and useful. To stay with the image of the building: it is only by joining and connecting with other parts that the individual components become useful and form a larger whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.
A second key to legal learning is flexibility. Precisely because jurisprudence is such an immense field, one can hardly hope to always know everything by heart. Learning by heart complete case constellations is therefore almost automatically out of the question, because the possibilities for the examiner to conjure up new case constellations out of a hat are almost endless. So, it’s easy as pie to come up with something you’ve never seen before in retreats and drive those desperate to copy ready-made structures to despair.
It is much more efficient to learn the underlying structures, to apply them and to work through each case from scratch, as this way you can avoid many sources of error. Anyone who tries to copy ready-made solutions from other cases without fully understanding the structure of the case easily misses the point and gets bogged down.
III. The lazy must be cunning
Here it simply means that one should make the best use of the few resources available in the trials.
Due to the enormous expanse of the legal universe of regulations, doctrines, judgments and opinions, finding important legal and commentary passages quickly is an important key skill. This relieves the aspiring lawyer of the need to have everything in his head and to rely solely on his memory. This art is of great importance, especially during the legal clerkship and in the second state examination. Because the fact that you can use comments there to help can certainly prove to be a double-edged sword. Although you have a small and compressed library at your disposal, you can only use it to your advantage if you know how to extract the relevant information from it in the shortest possible time.
Time management falls into the same category. This affects both the daily rhythm and the timing of a learning plan for the exam, but also the efficient use of the few hours that are available for a potentially decisive exam.