How do you learn the right way during your studies and how do you really learn law? Since you started your studies, you have received recommendations for reading about law studies in many events and you have probably obtained textbooks and scripts.

In lectures you sometimes write more and sometimes less. You have received many tips from advanced students, LNAT tutors, working group trainers, professors and mentors. The problem: Some things were contradictory. It is recommended:

… taking a lot of notes in events – no: not taking much notes, but listening better;

… definitely go to all the lectures that are offered – no: it’s better to leave out lectures that you just sit through and instead study intensively alone;

… definitely writing flashcards – no: it’s better not to write flashcards yet, because as a beginner you wouldn’t be able to decide what is actually important;

… reading large textbooks so that you gain a deep understanding – no: not to read large textbooks at the beginning, because you first have to understand structures and “simple” basic books are more suitable for this;

… to set up private working groups – no: it’s better not to set up one just yet, because it’s still too early in the first semester.

Two recommendations for law school

There was only agreement on two recommendations: 

  1. The course ends with the first legal examination and you should learn a lot for this.
  2. They should learn to solve cases independently and solve many cases because the exams only consist of cases. – So it is clear that you have a lot to learn, but what tips should you follow now?

So that you can decide this for yourself soon and can develop an individual path through your studies, the following is a small navigation aid: I recommend that you answer the question before you start studying: WHAT do I want to learn, HOW, WITH WHAT, and WHEN?

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What do you learn in law school?

The specific areas of law to be learned in a semester are determined by the curriculum of your faculty in conjunction with the examination regulations. It makes sense to create a list of these areas of law at the beginning of your studies, which you can then gradually “work through”.

Without going into the differences between the individual federal states (you have to check this specifically), there are around 26 areas of law for the state part of the first examination.

In civil law: general part of the German Civil Code, general part of the law of obligations, contract law (purchase law, tenancy law, law on contracts for work and services, etc.), law of enrichment, law of torts, property law, family law, inheritance law, labor law, commercial law, corporate law, international private law, civil procedure law.

In public law: fundamental rights, state organization law, constitutional procedural law, general administrative law, administrative procedural law, construction law, municipal law, police law, European law, possibly state liability law.

In criminal law: general part of criminal law, offenses against property, offenses against property, criminal procedural law. There are also basic subjects such as legal history, legal philosophy and legal sociology.

Why it makes sense to create an overview

You’ve probably heard that most students take about a year to prepare for the exam. A year has 52 weeks – this means (to put it simply and purely mathematically), you have (only) two weeks for each of these legal areas in the exam preparation phase. It is therefore a great “luxury” to be able to systematically work through a legal area in one semester, i.e. 13 to 15 weeks.

Unfortunately, many students are not aware of this “luxury” – because the exam seems so far away and until then there is so much time and you can still catch up on many missed learning days …

However, if you learn the basic knowledge of these areas of law in the respective semester, this will help you immediately in the next semester, make it easier for you to understand and you will enjoy your studies more. 

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Especially in the first year of study, there are three areas of law on the timetable, the deep understanding of which is extremely important for your further studies due to the many cross-connections to other areas of law: In civil law, these areas of law are the theory of legal transactions and the general part of the law of obligations and in public law the basic rights.

Many students only become aware of the great importance of the general part of the law of obligations, in particular the disruption of performance, and fundamental rights in later semesters. At many universities, both areas are read in the second semester – if that is the summer semester, some things fall by the wayside on hot summer days. Try not to create too big gaps here!

Why study in law school?

The aim of studying law is to be able to “grasp and apply the law with understanding” (§ 16 Para. 1 Bay; similar to the examination regulations of other federal states). So the point of learning in law school is to develop “understanding”, that is, not just knowing the norms (that’s jurisprudence, not jurisprudence), but understanding their functions (their purpose), knowing the interests they protect, and that to critically question the understanding of the norm.

This also includes understanding the legal system and the cross-connections between different areas of law. Your task is therefore to work through the individual areas of law systematically – with the aim that you have understood the norms and that the knowledge you have gained is anchored in your long-term memory.

Then you have grasped the right with understanding. But now you must also be able to apply it, ie another goal of your learning activity is that you can successfully use the knowledge in an exam to solve cases and problems.

Important: The aim of learning is not the reproduction of knowledge, but problem solving on the basis of your knowledge of the legal norms and their connections! On the other hand, many students have the goal of being able to reproduce the content of the textbook or the lecture (by heart) when learning.

In doing so, they concentrate on the material that seems urgent at the moment, for example because the scope of an exam was limited to this material. However, this is not the goal of your law school learning.