2.5 – Learning from Your Peers
Learning from Peers
We've been talking a lot about what you should be doing and how you should be relating to the class with regard to what your professor wants from you. I want to talk a little bit about how you should think about your peers in law school, because you're in law school with a bunch of other people. It's not just a solo endeavor, and that can be one of the greatest parts of law school. You can make some of your best friends in law school. You will maybe meet your future spouse or your future partner in law school. It can be a really great part of the experience.Peers as a source of stress and anxiety
Your peers can also be a source of stress and anxiety. I think that one thing a lot of law students go through is the feeling of concern, the worry that other people are understanding material better than you are. I think the cold calling process, the Socratic method can really encourage this because, as I said, you're going to have the tendency to think your answers that you're giving to cold calls are not very good and that they show your lack of understanding. Then you're going to listen to what other people are saying and you're going to think, "Gosh, those people are really brilliant. They're really getting it and I'm not getting it."Everyone is in the same boat.
I want to encourage you to not do that and to try to put everything in perspective and just look around you and recognize a few things.
First of all, recognize that everybody else feels the same way. All of your peers really are worried. They're not sure they're getting it. Even the people that are acting super confident, they're probably acting that way because they're really not confident at all.Learning from peers and building peer networks are valuable.
The other thing to recognize is that you can learn a lot from your peers and they can enhance your learning. That's a really positive thing about the experience. Finally, developing peer networks is one of the reasons why professional schools like law school are so valuable, because you're not just getting the degree. You're not just learning things. You can exit law school with a network of people who can be your friends but also can be your professional contacts and can help you in your career in the decades to come. I can't tell you how many times I've had random professional dealings with people I went to law school with.
Developing good relationships with your peers, being friendly with them, being the kind of person that they like, and you don't develop a bad reputation with them, I think is really really important and valuable and far more important than you might realize it is in your first year. Whatever you do, be kind to other people and be nice to them. Try to have a good reputation.
In the short term, you really can learn from your peers as long as you can do the mental work you need to do to not let other people psych you out. One way that you can learn from your peers is something called a study group. I'll talk about that in a little bit more detail later in the class when we talk about exam prep, but this might be a group of peers, people that you trust, that you get together with to study with.Important to identify peers you can trust, seem like good people
There's different forms that this can take. I think that having at least one other person or several other people that you get along well with, who are struggling through the material the same way that you are so you can ask questions, even questions that feel dumb. I think that is going to be a really valuable source of learning because there's lots of situations where something might seem obvious to you but it isn't obvious to the other person, and vice versa, and you can really help each other out. Try to identify other people in law school who seem like good people, who you trust and you can be comfortable with talking through the material.
Talking something through can really help you gain understanding in a way that just sitting in your room by yourself and reading it doesn't. You can also help each other in other ways. Let's say you have to miss class because you have a job interview. You can get notes from somebody else and you're a lot more likely to get someone else's notes if you share your notes with them when they miss class.
Be generous. It could help you in the short term, but it's very likely to help you in the long term when you're developing your career. Ten years from now, the person who you shared notes with might be a hiring partner at a firm that you want to go lateral to if you're in private practice. Gosh, you're going to feel glad that you were generous in sharing your notes back when you were in law school.
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