Smarter Law Study Habits: An Empirical Analysis of Law Learning Strategies and Relationship with Law GPA

Document Type

Law Review Article

Publication Date



educational psychology and metacognition, study methods, bar passage, knowledge barriers


Non-empirical law school study advice that emphasizes reading and briefing cases, memorizing rules, and outlining without frequent self-testing and formative self-assessment is contrary to cognitive science and leads to a "law school learning trap." Law students fall into a "law school learning trap" by focusing on memorization of cases and rules for "class prep," putting off practice application of the law as "exam prep." Law students and legal educators misjudge the power of testing as a learning tool, instead relying on non-empirical, anecdotal resources to guide law student study methods.

Empirical research from a Law Student Study Habit Survey shows that practice application of the law through self-testing, self-quizzing, and elaborative strategies positively correlates with academic success in law school, while reading and briefing cases, weak critical reading skills, and rote memorization of rules without practice applying the law negatively correlates with academic success in law school.

Both legal educators and law students need to incorporate testing and formative assessment as a study and learning strategy to learn each new topic, not just exam prep. Self-testing and formative assessment are not only critical for success in law school, but help students develop successful learning strategies for the bar exam and as lifelong learners in law practice.