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How to Succeed in Law School

by CLAY RANKIN — Practicing Attorney & Inventor of Cognito

January 4, 2022

Solid Advice from an Experienced Attorney

When I first arrived at law school at the University of Alabama, I was focused on the goal of maximizing my career opportunities by making the best possible grades. The idea that my course grade for an entire semester would depend on a single final exam was—to put it mildly—intimidating. So I decided to take the advice that I'd received from my professors and from the smartest upperclassmen I could find. They told me to:

  • Prepare thoroughly for every class by reading and briefing all assigned cases and other materials

  • Attend every class and take thorough notes

  • Carefully preserve all briefs and notes as raw material for studying for final exams

I was committed to consistently following their advice, and did so by identifying simple—but adequate—work habits in all my courses. These boiled down to:

  • Maintain a complete list of all classes, key events, and deadlines for all courses

  • Include blocks of time adequate for pre-class study

  • Write a thorough brief of every case and other study source for each class

  • After each class, add to a course-wide subject matter outline and annotate it with the essence of the case briefs

  • Finally, plan for and spend enough time to study the outline for final exams

My plan worked! Carefully following these methods during my time in law school resulted in top grades and the opportunity to join a first-class law firm upon graduation. However, my civil litigation law practice soon proved to be even more demanding than law school. As the years went by and new legal technology emerged and advanced, the sheer volume of relevant information also increased dramatically.


Why We Created a Digital Solution

I explored and utilized the most powerful and easy-to-use software tools available, but managing legal documents and the increasing amounts of digital data became ever more challenging. This was especially true of trying to work with other lawyers and clients who often used different software systems—or none at all.

When I retired from my large law firm and entered into solo practice a few years ago—an experience that felt almost as scary as law school—I had the advantage of decades of experience, strong technology know-how, and a clean slate to implement legal software that fit common work processes in one easy-to-navigate application .

After an unsuccessful effort to find a "silver bullet" among commercial software solutions, I decided to develop my own new application from scratch. I envisioned a single web application that would be accessible to me and others working with me. It would contain all the tools and functionality we needed in one place, with no more clicking between half a dozen browser tabs or multiple computer screens.

That app eventually became a commercial reality in 2021. Today, Cognito's simple-to-used commercial application enables lawyers, paralegals, and other professional users to do the vast majority of their daily work within one cloud-based application. And now Cognito is also available to all law students!

I urge you as future attorneys to take my advice about how to succeed in law school. What begins now as a determination to succeed and build good work habits in law school will come full circle when you graduate. I created the cutting-edge software that is Cognito to enable students like you to master your law school experience and to graduate with the tools that will serve you throughout your future professional law practice.


Cognito Helps Law Students to Thrive in School

Just as Cognito helps practicing attorneys manage their schedules, tasks, and the piles of information that they accumulate about individual cases, it can also help law students:

  • Keep track of due dates and test schedules

  • Stay on top of class assignments

  • Prepare for class by creating case briefs

  • Take class notes side-by-side with case briefs in one accessible, organized location

  • Coordinate with study groups, monitoring group progress through a shared view

  • Build class outlines effortlessly

  • Study for final exams effectively, with all the details at their fingertips

  • Manage extracurricular activities with ease

  • Provide a detailed "to do" list covering all of pending work and the work of classmates in group projects

For task management, Cognito provides students with one list containing every class in every course plus non-class deadlines. It also provides one list where you can:

  • Take and draft notes

  • Gather and review cases and other documents you need to study

  • Locate and save key verbatim quotes and summaries from cases and web sources containing factual and legal information

  • Add text of key emails

  • Maintain and access your list of contacts

  • Provide a subject outline of all collected task-related information, and relate quotes, summaries and drafts to the each outline point

  • Use your task outline and associated information to build new documents required by the task

  • Share with task collaborators the ability to add to the same list and to see additions in real time

  • Enable rapid powerful searches of other tasks and details for importing directly to your current task list

As we built Cognito, we realized that this approach had other huge advantages. These functions are all done without having to lose focus, because you don't have to open another program or browser tab. You aren't going to be distracted, which allows your mind to remain cognizant of the tasks at hand.

Additionally, it is easy to duplicate an entire task and all related materials into new tasks, mining your knowledge base of completed work in the past. This means you won't be reinventing the wheel when you're faced with similar work in the future.

Finally, the instant sharing of all task-related work with every worker eliminates the need to for intermittent texts, emails, calls, and meetings just to share your work and keep up with the work of others. Team members literally stay on the same page in a collaborative environment.

Law school—like the practice of law—is hard enough. Cognito offers you a way to make it easier and more manageable. That's why we're offering students currently enrolled in law school a hugely discounted rate of just $4.99 per month. But if you sign up before January 15, 2022, you can use Cognito for free for the Spring 2022 Semester! Click below for details.


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