Your success in law school is the first and most important factor in your success as a lawyer.

Whether you want to be a corporate lawyer or a public defender, you are much more likely to achieve your goals if you do well in law school.

Law students with top grades earn top salaries in their first year out of school. Even if money is not a concern (and as tuition debt mounts, it might become one), your academic performance will profoundly affect your employment options after graduation. Only law students with great grades have opportunities to obtain coveted judicial clerkships, teaching positions and government jobs.

Here are some strategies that will help you succeed…

Successful law school student taking notes

1. Prepare before you arrive

Law school is rigorous. It requires a level of diligence and organization that was not necessary in college. A reliable routine for classroom preparation and a consistent method of outlining are very important to navigate the massive workload you will encounter.

2. Hit the ground running

Your first year of law school is critical. Law firms generally hire summer associates at the beginning of their second year of law school, when only first-year grades are available.

First-year grades will also heavily influence your eligibility for law review, other law journals and moot court. These credentials are considered the most significant signs of law school achievement, even more than your GPA in many cases. Many of the top private and public employers seek out young lawyers who've served on law journals or excelled in moot court.

3. It's all about the exams

Academic success in law school means one thing—success on exams. Your grades, particularly during the first year, will be determined almost exclusively by the scores you receive on your final exams. Most exams are a three- or four-hour written test given at the end of the semester.

The amount of material you must master for each law exam will dwarf that of any exam you took as an undergraduate. You will not be able to cram a semester's worth of information into a one-week reading period, so you should prepare for your final exams beginning on day one. Don't get bogged down in class preparation if it will not result in some discernible improvement in your exam performance.

4. Don't forget class time

Your first law school class can be an intimidating and frustrating experience. They will get easier once you get a few under your belt. It's important to go to every class and be prepared to discuss the reading material. If you skip class, you'll miss hearing the professor's perspective (which will probably be on the final exam). Don't write down what other students say in class—there's only one person who's being paid to be there. Finally, you'll study hundreds of cases, so don't get bogged down in minutiae. Keep your eye on the big picture!

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