Life as a 1L: Supplements…Worth It or Not?

March 16, 2012
Justin Kade Hinderliter

This is what awaits you as a 1L

Its mid to late September, you have heard other people mention terms like Hornbook or Treatise.  However, the people you likely hear talking about them are other 1L’s that have a brother, or cousin that has gone to law school and finished in the top 5% of their class.

So you start to wonder is there any validity to this.

You see, you are a in your first year of law school, glad you got in, but somewhat confused as to what it means to “Think Like a Lawyer”, and are starting to hear horror stories about how “different” law school exams are compared to other test in different professional schools, or undergraduate programs.

The problem is, part of what you hear is correct.  So, the question is, now what?

You may be asking yourself:

Do I purchase an Examples & Explanations supplement for every class?  Do I purchase a bar review supplement for each class?  Maybe I should get supplement X over supplement Y.

These are all questions that many 1L’s consider about midway through their first semester.  The answer is…. It depends.  You see, there is no substitute for hard work.  Hard work in law school is learning how to read the cases.  You learn by breaking down the cases and seeing what is important compared to what is not.  There is just now substitute for this.  You must remember one key factor when preparing to take law school finals.  You are not taking Contracts, you are taking Contracts from Professor A.  You are not taking Torts, you are taking Torts from Professor B.

The point is, that supplements, with outlines included in them, can give you the “black-letter” law, but they don’t always help you develop the skills necessary to apply the law to differing fact patterns.  And that is what the tests will do.  I will expand on his principle in another blog title Got In, Now What?.

Supplements can be beneficial for small things, but they are supplements, not substitutes.  That is the trap many people fall in.  Students begin using the supplements as substitutes to the class because they are more direct, and require less time and sacrifice.  They take out the hard work.  This will do very little for you when it comes to the law exam essay tests.  What they will do, is help you further grasp concepts that can be difficult to articulate, or are difficult for you to understand.

So, if you use the supplements as supplements, then it can be useful.  However, it is a fine-line to walk, and you should remain disciplined if you choose to walk it.  If you being using supplements as substitutes, you will likely be worse-off for it.

Justin Kade Hinderliter

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