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10 Study Tips for Paralegal Students


Having recently completed the Paralegal Certificate program, I thought that I may be able to give future students a few tips on how to make studying the program a more productive experience and help you to make the most out of your study time.


1. Make sure you take the courses in the suggested order. At least the first few classes. Later when you are accustomed to legal jargon you can take the classes out of order. It is important to understand the components that make up each of these classes, you don’t want to take Evidence as your first class because there is vital information taught in the initial classes you will be missing to complete this course.


2. Print all your assignments out on paper. I used to print the assignment page and all attachments on the back of recycled paper from my office (so that I wouldn’t waste paper) and if I was at the doctor’s office or in the cafeteria, I could read thru some cases (some of the cases are 30-50 pages long). It is important to print them out so that if you are not close to your computer you can still review the materials. I found that printing the assignments out really helped and was better than flipping from link to link online.


3. Write the due date on the top of each assignment and how many other assignments you have due that day (i.e., “due 12/21/07 with assignment 21 and Quiz M”). That way you won’t let any assignments/quizzes slip through the cracks.


4. Get a study partner. Put out a general email in etudes messages and also when you type up your introduction to the class, list your email address and let people know you are interested in working with someone.


5. It is important to set guidelines and expectations with your study partner right away. You don’t want to carry someone the entire semester, or do work for anyone. Indicate to each other the boundaries of appropriate times to call (midnight questions in most cases are deemed unacceptable). Exchange email and cell phone numbers so you can keep in touch and can bounce questions off of each other. Read the chapter and/or assignment materials and make time to discuss any questions with regards to how to complete the assignment with your study partner.


6. Before reading the case materials, read and review the questions to the assignment first. That way when you read through the case you will already have in mind the questions you will be asked and you will have the answers you need to complete your assignment.


7. Use a highlighter when reading the case. Highlight the answers to the questions and any other relevant information you think you may need to complete your paper. This will prevent you having to flip thru a 50 page case looking for the information you need. I have literally been near tears trying to find 1 sentence in a case and wasted hours re-reading each page trying to find the info.


8. Buy a pocket law dictionary. I was given a small law dictionary and it saved my life more than once. I read a whole case about consortium and I “thought” I knew what that word meant, although I couldn’t explain it. After reading the entire case, I still had no clue what the case was about so I looked the word up and when I understood the meaning, the case made sense. Although I had to re-read the case in its entirety to make sure I fully understood correctly, which wasted valuable time. The law dictionaries also have Latin phrases so if you are given the word “de novo” you can find it in the law dictionary whereas it may not be listed in the regular dictionary. Online law dictionaries are good resources too, but I found it easier to flip through my little law dictionary rather than having 10 different windows open on my desktop.


9. Work on the assignment immediately after reading the case if you can. Otherwise it will take some time to refresh your memory as to what the case was about. If you take more than 1 law class, you will be reading multiple cases a week, so its best to get to work on the assignment while the information is still fresh in your head otherwise it will take some time to reacquaint yourself with the key players and issues in the case.


10. Use a thesaurus. When you are typing out your paper in word and you find it hard to articulate a sentence or are having difficulty putting your thoughts into words, type a key buzz word that may fit in (i.e., if you are trying to say that the court “determined” a certain ruling, type the word “determine” and use the thesaurus in word by hitting shift and F7 at the same time). Many words will come up that you can use instead of “determined” such as “decide, settle, resolve, establish, agreed on, etc”.


Hope you find the above helpful. Denise Gonzales 1-09-07

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