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September 2, 2020

Dean's Fellow Digest Issue #13 - Ideas for Setting up an Effective (and fun!) Study Group

Issue: 2020-09

Dean's Fellows consistently strive to support students in realizing their full academic potential, leading ultimately to success on the bar exam and in the workplace. To support all Southwestern students in this goal, the Dean's Fellows created this Digest as a way to check-in at critical times throughout the semester with helpful tips, strategies, and encouragement. 


  • Ideas for Setting up an Effective (and fun!) Study Group

Ideas for Setting up an Effective (and fun!) Study Group
By: Alexandra Christensen and Antonino Patti*

Image - SW Students Studying

Study groups can be a great tool in law school. They provide an excellent opportunity to review material, learn from and also help other classmates, and make great connections with future friends and colleagues.

Ultimately, a good study group is whatever you would like it to be. The below are meant to be ideas for your own study group.

When setting up a study group, try to find like-minded students who are “on the same page” in terms of study approach, level of seriousness, and amount of available time they can dedicate to studying each day. Some groups like to meet and study an entire day, while others may only have limited time and must streamline their group study experience. Some students prefer to read alone, so reading material for the first time in a group can be distracting. On the other hand, others may learn better together and use the group to stay focused.

In terms of your learning style preferences, ask yourself: Do I want something more structured, with a predetermined agenda where the group reviews specific material in a certain order, or would I prefer an open environment where we all just bring questions and answer them together?

Try to find people that complement your learning style preferences. Sometimes groups work well when there is a sort of “specialization” of the group members. For example, a group with a “big-picture” thinker, a black letter law expert, and an excellent writer can provide an environment where everyone benefits from each other’s strengths and covers potential challenging areas. It also helps to have members who are stronger in one subject-matter, while others in another, or for some to be more-proficient at multiple-choice questions so that they can help those who are better at writing out essay responses (and vice versa).

A group study session provides an opportunity to hold each other (and oneself) accountable. This is perhaps one of the greatest benefits of a group for those who might procrastinate or struggle with time management.

Once you have a group formed that suits your goals, here are some ideas to make your group really effective:

  • Bring questions to your study group and be prepared to answer some, as well. Work as a team.
  • Have outline checks. Decide on a date with your group and the amount of material you plan to have outlined. On that date, review each other’s outlines and flag potential gaps in knowledge or misstatements/misunderstandings. This helps keep everyone on track with their outlines during the semester and can really help clarify rules or doctrines.
  • Break down portions of a class or doctrine and have each person in your study group take a section and explain it to the others. The others should ask any questions they have, and you should try to answer—or if you are unsure—it’s a good place to stop and have everyone look it up. If, after searching, no one can answer the question, bring it to office hours with your professor.
  • Pose hypotheticals to each other. Work through them as a team. Then check them in office hours.
  • Have each person in the group create flashcards based on their outline. Then quiz each other. (Have questions regarding creating flash cards? Make an appointment with a Dean’s Fellow!)
  • Grade each other’s practice exams. Agree with your group which question you will all tackle. Prepare your answer outside of the group. If your professor has provided a cut sheet, use that to grade your peer’s essay. Be professional in tone and constructive, but honest. If something is phrased oddly, or doesn’t capture the full rule, comment on it politely.
  • Tackle a practice exam as a group. Read the prompt, spot the issues, and outline an answer with rule statements and pertinent facts.

 cute cartoon of monitor with four cartoon creatures studying and the words ZOOM STUDY GROUP a the top of the monitor


Your study group will be as effective as you make it, and following these tips and developing what works best for you all will deepen your understanding of a subject. Use each other for support and try to have fun with it.

 *About the Author:


Image - Alexandra ChristensenAlexandra is a 3L evening student. She completed her B.A. in Liberal Arts with a concentration in Political Economy at The Evergreen State College. Originally from Montana, Alexandra moved to Los Angeles because she was tired of being cold. Over this past summer, she had the privilege of serving as a Judicial Extern with the United States Bankruptcy Court. Prior to her externship, she worked in higher education as the Operations Manager for a small college. She looks forward to working with incoming students and helping them adjust to law school life.  

When not working or in school, Alexandra likes to travel with her husband, watch movies, and play with her dog, a corgi-mix named Hudson. Hudson will likely make occasional appearances on Zoom calls because he is loud and likes attention. 


Image - Nuccio PattiNuccio is a 2L Evening student who graduated from U.C. Berkeley with a B.A. in Political Science in 2005, and from C.S.U. Northridge with an M.B.A. in 2011 and an M.A. in Urban & Regional Planning in 2018. Nuccio works as a nonprofit real estate developer building homeless and special needs housing. Recently, Nuccio joined the Moot Court Honors and Dean’s Fellow Programs. 

Nuccio is very excited to be a Dean’s Fellow and would love to chat with you about your law school experience. In his free time, Nuccio enjoys spending time with friends and family, reading, cooking, cycling, Formula 1, and learning on YouTube. 


Southwestern Law School Dean's Fellows | Scheduling and Booking Website

Dean’s Fellows are upper-division students with strong academic skills who go through a rigorous application and training process. They are an integral part of the Academic Success and Bar Preparation Department. They are carefully selected based on their academic excellence and ability to teach other students best-practice study methods that will help them become acclimated to the study of law. Dean’s Fellows meet with students as academic mentors.

Please click HERE to make an appointment with a Dean's Fellow.