How do law students stay awake to study?

May 10, 2016 4 min read

How do law students stay awake to study?

Some law students spend 60 hours a week studying. Those who’ve been through law school advise prospective students to leave the Xbox at home so they’re not tempted with potentially ruinous distraction. How do law students get energy to study so much?

One thing many law school students do not do is party and socialize a lot. This has a doubly salutary effect because the time spent not partying is time they can spend studying. And then they are not out of sorts, hung over or over-tired the next day from partying.

Chapman University’s Fowler School of Law has an article giving 20 time-management tips for its new students. No. 1 advises students to read the material assigned for their courses when they are most alert and not to read in a location where they will be distracted.

Energy to study

No. 18 says:

  • MINIMIZE YOUR STRESS.Law school can be stressful, but there are a number of steps you can take to keep stress to a minimum. Humor is a great stress reliever. Make time for exercise-carrying 100 pounds of law books every day doesn’t count. Eat fruit, vegetables, and whole grain foods on a regular basis-a diet Coke and a package of Ding-Dongs are not a balanced breakfast. Don’t overdo your caffeine intake; drink lots of water instead. Get at least seven hours of sleep per night. Maintain a life outside of law school. You don’t need to give up all of the things you enjoyed doing before you went to law school; you just won’t be able to do them as often. Finally, if you think that your stress level is getting out of control, talk about it with your significant other, a family member, a close friend, a faculty member …

In a forum from 2007 on the site, SpadesKnight wrote:

My first year, I believe we spent around three hours in class each day. Now, that doesn’t seem bad – but plan on also spending 3 hours studying for each hour you spend in class. Thus, I would say 60 hours per week is not a bad estimate – and you can break it up any way you want: either all during the weekdays with weekends off, or throw a lot of h/w onto the weekends (what I did) and have time to relax during the week.

Other people say you can get away with studying less, and it seems some people devote even more time to their studies in law school than 60 hours per week.

Full-time job

The site, in an article on time management tips, calls law school a full-time job to which students should devote at least 40 hours a week. They say a typical week is 14 hours of class time. At 40 hours a week, that leaves 14 to prep for class and 12 hours to outline and study class materials.

The article states:

And that is just doing 40 hours of work. What if you do 45 or 50? Wow, that is a lot of study time! But why doesn’t it feel like you have this much time? Because law students waste time. It’s okay — we all do it. We check e-mail, Facebook, or shop online. We talk on the phone, walk to get burritos down the street from school — you name it. But should that count as time we are working on law school? No.

The authors’ top tip for time management in law school is to turn off the cell phone, don’t read e-mail, don’t read or post on Facebook, Twitter or any social media. Schedule breaks, which they say are important, every hour. They also say a good way to manage time in laws school is to study efficiently to get the most out of the time spent studying—a tip that would work for students in any field, at any level.

Those times of 40 to 60 hours per week of study are optimal. Princeton Law School found students at some schools spend a lot less time hitting the books. Here is a chart from the TaxProf Blog that shows students’ study habits at different law schools in 2009:

Writing in the comments on that page, Bo stated something telling about the quality of education:

When I was at Campbell about 1/3 of our class didn’t make it to graduation. It is tough as hell. We also have a 90%+ bar passage rate every year and that speaks volumes about the quality of our graduates (consistently beating UNC and Duke). I am surprised the number is not higher. With the top schools once you get in you are graduating no matter what. I’ve seen some of the nonsense classes they take too. It is no wonder they do not study as much. They have their careers mapped out just because of the name of their school. That is how it is and it will never change.

The true secret

In a funny posting about the Stanford University Law School Library non-law student Chris Yuan seems to have stumbled across one way law students stay awake. He wrote that he and his group decided to explore the law school:

We walked around a little bit more before we found what was, in the eyes of sleep-deprived college students, the best discovery ever.

While walking down a dark hallway tucked away in a corner of the second floor, a glint of light underneath a door caught my eye. Taking a closer look, we noticed that the label next to the door was marked (in bright red) “RESERVED FOR THE EXCLUSIVE USE OF STANFORD LAW STUDENTS”.

Behind the door, in all its glory, was a full coffee bar. A large espresso machine dominated the center of a counter, with cups and stirrers stacked to the left and right. The machine made coffee, lattes, mochas, hot chocolates — you name it. Life made. And the best part? Completely free (As Kanye West would say, “the best things in life are free”). Of course, since the room was only for law students, I definitely didn’t have a cup. Or two.

Mark Miller
Mark Miller

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