By Adam Eckart
Many students dislike group work, but group work is a key aspect of law school. Group work provides many benefits, such as learning from others, hearing different perspectives, and challenging your own ideas. Although law students are prohibited from working in groups on independent projects or assessments, group work can aid student learning and prepare students for practice.
Successful lawyers are required to work well with others, so all law students must learn to work well in groups. Those who engage in group work will reap its many benefits, including:
- Group work facilitates “active learning.” Research indicates that active learning (such as leading a group discussion) is more effective than passive learning (such as re-reading assigned text). By actively learning, students retain more information because they must fully engage with the material. Group work helps facilitate active learning when students use groups to understand key concepts, important case law, or difficult lecture material.
- Group work helps find the correct answer. In addition to helping students engage in active learning, group work also helps students find the correct answer more often. Research shows that students working in groups, on average, are more likely to arrive at the correct answer than students working individually. Gathering multiple people together with different backgrounds allows groups to troubleshoot problems, work collaboratively, and build off each other’s concepts.
- Group work fosters good networking. The learning benefits of group work are complemented by long-lasting networking value. Upon graduation, 1L classmates will become law clerks, junior associates, and entry-level lawyers. Ten or twenty years later, many classmates will be judges, partners at law firms, general counsel at companies, and senior attorneys elsewhere. These individuals will be your first call when you need something from a lawyer – advice, a referral, a new law firm, a new client, or a new employer. The relationships forged in law school group work will benefit the entire group for years to come.
In order to learn effectively and leverage your law school relationships, don’t forget the power of group work. Seek to form helpful and meaningful groups among your peers – you’ll be glad you did.
Adam Eckart is an Assistant Professor of Legal Writing at Suffolk University Law School. Prior to Suffolk, Professor Eckart practiced at Ropes & Gray LLP as an associate in the antitrust mergers and acquisitions practice and taught in the Lawyering Program at Boston University Law School.