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Secrets of Success at Law School Part-1

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The research available on the secrets of achieving success in law school isn't voluminous, and most of what is there contains issues and statistics quite incomprehensible to the uninitiated: However, in searching across the sea of data, I chanced upon a little research paper by Anne M. Enquist, called “Unlocking the Secrets of Highly Successful Legal Writing Students,” 2008, that took a practical approach and found facts that match reality.

Activities that Measure Real Performance Possibilities of a Law Student:

The mentioned research was done by pairing students who consistently achieved different grades and studied how the students spent their time at law schools with the following activity parameters:
  • Attending class
  • Researching/reading cases
  • Outlining
  • Reading textbook/class handouts
  • Drafting
  • Reading the packets
  • Note-taking/reviewing notes
  • Working on oral arguments
  • Working on class exercises
  • Revising, editing, and proofreading
  • Reviewing professor's comments
  • Discussing with others outside of class
Activities that Lead to Real Success as a Law Student:

The research found that successful students spent proportionately more time and effort in the following activities among those followed:
  • Note-taking and reviewing notes
  • Spending a significant percentage of one's time actually writing
  • Spending a significant part of the writing time in revising, editing and proofreading
  • Researching efficiently and having effective reading strategies
  • Managing time efficiently
  • Keeping one's research and briefs organized, often by outlining
  • Using the professor as a primary resource
  • Discussing the issues in the brief outside of class with other law students
The Template for Success:

The research found that interestingly the successful law students shared almost identical approaches towards their work: “'hit the ground running,' work steadily, and switch into an even higher gear as the deadline neared so that they could ‘finish strong.' Their approaches were so similar, in fact, that at times they seemed like templates for success.”

Surprisingly all successful students studied reported individually that they held in-class small group exercises as a “waste of time … when they were not led by the professor.”


Surprisingly LSAT scores and undergraduate GPAs were not found as reliable indicators of later performance in law school. Better predictors of academic success were the students' grades in the first-year legal writing course and especially their overall first-year grades in law school.

The legal writing faculty at Seattle University School of Law was stunned to find the difference in time management between successful and unsuccessful students. Successful students were found averaging between ten and a half to fifteen hours a week on a fourteen week course that held only three credits out of a fourteen to sixteen credit semester.

Learn the 10 Factors That Matter to Big Firms More Than Where You Went to Law School

Highly successful students were not only more organized and focused, but on an average they were putting twice as much time on each project as those who were marginally successful and at least twenty five percent more time than moderately successful students.

This article would continue as a series and analyze all the traits of success and failure found by the research applicable to students at law schools.


Anne M. Enquist, "Unlocking the Secrets of Highly Successful Legal Writing Students," St. John's Law Review 82, no. 2 (2008)

Seattle University School of Law


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