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For law students: How to read

If you're a law student interested in making good grades, read on. In Legal Reading and Success in Law School: An Empirical Study, Prof. Leah Christensen describes a study showing a correlation between how students read legal texts and the students' grades. Here's the abstract:

Does the way in which law students read legal text impact their success? This article describes important new research on how law students read legal text. This study examined the way in which first year law students in the top and bottom 50% of their class read a judicial opinion and whether their use of particular reading strategies impacts their law school grades. The results were significant: even when students had gone through the same first-semester classes, the more successful law students read a judicial opinion differently than those students who were less successful. In addition, there is a correlation between the reading strategies of the top law students and their first-semester grades. This article describes the results of the study using both empirical data and actual student transcripts to show how the most successful law students read legal text. This article also offers practical suggestions for legal educators to help students learn to internalize the most useful and efficient reading strategies.

Does this mean you can improve your grades by changing your reading strategy? Prof. Christensen suggests so in her conclusion:

Minimally, the results of this study support that legal reading is very important to a law student’s career. Law schools need to invest time and energy into teaching this skill. Although it is often tempting to assume that students come to us either intellectually equipped or unequipped to study the law, this is an oversimplification. We can teach students how to read and analyze the law more efficiently and effectively. The challenge is to guide our students by teaching them the strategies used by their successful peers. In the end, we will produce not only better law students, but better lawyers as well.