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The COVID pandemic has caused many people to feel isolated; unable to spend time with friends and loved ones and having to spend their workdays alone. The attenuating lack of a support system can be acutely felt by law school students, who frequently rely on “study groups” to get through course readings and especially exams.

Becca Brennan, a Toronto attorney who recently moved from the United States, shares how she coped with studying alone for the first time while preparing for her accreditation exams law required to move her practice to Canada. Many students were in problem because the pandemic cost them through higher tax bills, and they were not prepared for that situation. However, she says many solutions can help students out with their financial situation, such as grants to help get out of debt, that her home country of Canada is offering to their citizens.

Becca Brennan Shares How Students In Law School Can Study During The COVID Pandemic

Working With a Study Group

One of the first recommendations for any student in law school is to find a study group. Reviewing lecture notes with others can reinforce information from class, answer questions that may come up, bring up questions that may appear on exams, and help students strengthen their learning generally. Students with a wide variety of personal learning styles can get together and share their strengths with their study group.

Study groups also to avoid procrastination. Members of study groups expect everyone to attend regularly and make contributions to the group. If you are not contributing to the group, you are not only letting down your group but also not taking advantage of invaluable resources you won’t find in any horn book.

Studying in groups also allows students to stop spending time on the wrong answers. Misunderstanding a concept from class can lead to wasted time and poor performance. When you come together to discuss principles and concepts you will more likely find solutions in a comprehensive and cohesive manner.

When the COVID pandemic hit, many law students suddenly found themselves cut off from their study groups. While study groups continued on Zoom and other video chat programs, many students found these solutions unsatisfying and decided to study independently.

Studying for law exams on your own is a much different experience than having a study group to rely on. It is necessary to create your timelines and deadlines and stick to them, which require a discipline not necessarily or easily achieved. There will be no around to keep you accountable when you find yourself taking a 5-minute break that turns into an hour.

How to Adapt to Studying Alone

Many law students like Becca Brennan found it difficult at first to adapt to studying alone during COVID. In the past, they were able to rely on their study groups for support. COVID made it impossible for these groups to meet in person.

Here are Brennan’s five essential tips for law students who find themselves studying alone:

  1. Set A Schedule That Works For You

No matter what schedule you choose, whether you get started in the early mornings or at night, be sure that you choose a time where you can devote a solid block of time to focus without distractions, and build that study time into your routine. For Becca Brennan, this meant 5 am alarms, which may sound extreme, but she says she chose 6 am to noon because she was able to accomplish a full day’s worth of studying by lunchtime and had the rest of the day to focus on building her website, holding Zoom meetings with clients, or getting tasks done around the house without cutting into her study time.

  1. Create a Dedicated Study Space

Setting up a devoted workspace in your home can positively impact how you learn and retain information. If you study away from the distractions of a kitchen, living room, or other spaces around the house where you typically do other activities, you’re more likely to get distracted by those activities. Creating a makeshift office, clear of any materials other than what you need to study, allows you to treat studying like a job, which will help keep you focused and organized.

  1. Read Decisions That Cite the Cases You’re Studying

Becca Brennan admitted what she missed the most about studying in a group was the in-depth discussions revolving around key cases and their principles. She says this especially helped her in crafting exam answers, which ask you to apply case law to hypotheticals. When she found herself simply memorizing laws, but at a loss when it came to actually applying them to scenarios, she found that researching decisions that cited the cases helped her see how to successfully apply the concepts in a coherent manner so that she could confidently address them when it came to writing exam answers.

  1. Take Appropriate Breaks

Many productivity experts recommend the Pomodoro Technique, which involves taking a 5-minute break for every 25 minutes of work. Brennan recommends using this method if it is helpful to you, but she personally found that 5 minutes could easily turn into 15 or 20 if she remained seated and didn’t give her the mental boost she was looking for. Instead, Brennan suggests taking a quick walk around the block whenever you need a break or find your mind wandering. The fresh air helps you to reset and refocus, getting the blood flowing helps you recharge, and the planned distance acts as an organic timer without adding stress.

  1. Get Absorbed in Something Outside Work

It is a good idea to plan fun and relaxing activities to take your mind off work when you are done for the day. Brennan says she likes to get into a long-running TV show when she starts studying so that she has something to look forward to afterward. She also likes to find recipes to try the next day and help her meal plan for the week. Scheduling Zoom happy hours are also a great way to catch up with family or friends while also having something to look forward to after a long day of studying alone. It is impossible to spend all of your waking hours thinking about work without losing your sanity, but it is also very difficult to stop thinking about work once you’re officially “done” for the day. Having scheduled rest and relaxation is just as important as scheduling your work or study, especially when you can’t rely on socialization to help break up your days.

Succeeding On Your Exams

Law students, like everyone else, are learning to adapt to the isolation that has resulted from the global pandemic. Losing study groups and other forms of in-person support has been detrimental to students and studying professionals alike. Becca Brennan has provided her blueprint for studying alone in hopes that it helps other law students and other professionals studying for exams succeed.

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