Legal Reading and Success in Law School: An Empirical Study

48 Pages Posted: 17 Aug 2006 Last revised: 8 Dec 2012

Date Written: August 17, 2006


Does the way in which law students read legal text impact their success? This article describes important new research on how law students read legal text. This study examined the way in which first year law students in the top and bottom 50% of their class read a judicial opinion and whether their use of particular reading strategies impacts their law school grades. The results were significant: Even when students had gone through the same first-semester classes, the more successful law students read a judicial opinion differently than those students who were less successful. In addition, there is a correlation between the reading strategies of the top law students and their first-semester grades. This article describes the results of the study using both empirical data and actual student transcripts to show how the most successful law students read legal text. This article also offers practical suggestions for legal educators to help students learn to internalize the most useful and efficient reading strategies.

Keywords: legal education, legal writing, legal education pedagogy, legal texts

Suggested Citation

Christensen, Leah M., Legal Reading and Success in Law School: An Empirical Study (August 17, 2006). Seattle University Law Review, Vol. 30, No. 3, p. 603, 2007, TJSL Legal Studies Research Paper No. 924650, Available at SSRN:

Leah M. Christensen (Contact Author)

Thomas Jefferson School of Law ( email )

701 B Street
Suite 110
San Diego, CA 92101
United States
619-961-4264 (Phone)


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