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September 28, 2020

Dean's Fellow Digest Issue #16 - How To Effectively Utilize Office Hours

Issue: 2020-09-28

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. 


  • How To Effectively Utilize Office Hours

How To Effectively Utilize Office Hours
By: Brynn Bodair* 

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Office hours are essential to fully understand substantive material, determine a professor’s preferences in organization, as well as build confidence in your ability to question and craft hypotheticals with class material. Yet, as students we often feel strained for time, so logging into office hours may slip your mind. Still, there are several useful techniques you may use to incorporate office hours into your study routine. I find the following process extremely helpful in not only my review of class materials, but also in naturally nudging me to attend office hours because it narrows my focus when visiting a professor's office hours and, as a result, makes office hours an effective use of my study time.

1. Questions that Arise While Reading

Image - Open Book ExamThe first step to formulating questions for office hours begins with your reading assignments. As you read, be sure to highlight or underline any concepts that you may not fully comprehend after you've read your assigned materials. Then, take a moment with the material you find confusing to formulate questions that could deepen your understanding or clarify the topic. Next, form a list of these concepts and questions that need clarification.

2. Questions that Arise During Lecture

Once you are in lecture with your list of tricky topics and/or questions at hand, be sure to indicate whether the professor’s lecture clarified those topics you extrapolated from the reading assignment. After class, it is a great idea to review your class notes and list in an attempt to answer your questions without assistance. If you still find yourself struggling with certain topics on your list, highlight or star these as items to address with your professor in office hours.

3. Questions that Arise During Review

Image - Note takingNow it is time to review your lecture and reading notes! In whatever fashion seems fit, whether it be re-typing notes, attempting multiple choice questions, visiting your respective TA, or adding to your outline, there are bound to be additional questions related to your office hours question list. This list of office hour questions is a non-exhaustive, living document. Accordingly, keep this list close as you review and be sure to add more discussion topics to the list. At this point in your study and review system, you may find yourself diving deeply into the material and formulating your own hypotheticals. This is a wonderful opportunity to track these thoughts on your office hours list and include them in your discussion with your professor.

This process can easily integrate into your study and review schedule, making those essential office hour sessions habitual. Sometimes office hours can feel intimidating as students face anxieties over the impression they may make on the professor, the ‘adequacy’ of their questions, or even their peers’ perceptions of their struggles with certain concepts. This process, which can smoothly fit into your reading and reviewing of class material, filters out any topics you may be able to work through with the lecture and reading. As a result, the topics that remain at the forefront of your list are those you definitely need to address with your Professor in office hours. You can ask your question, confident that others are also confused on this point—or may not be aware of their confusion yet!

Lastly, remember that your professors are passionate about their respective legal fields. If you go to office hours to chat or ask general questions about the material covered in class, you will be warmly met with a positive discussion. This forum also allows you time to express your personal interests and law school goals so as to develop and strengthen your professional relationship with your professors.

*About the Author:


Image - Brynn Bodair

Brynn is a Traditional Day 2L student who graduated from Loyola Marymount University in 2019 with a dual degree in Dance and Political Science, minoring in Screenwriting. Currently, Brynn works as a law clerk at LeFan Law and, on a project basis, at Lowe and Associates. Upon graduation, Brynn intends to practice within the field of entertainment law.

In addition to having the honor of being a Dean’s Fellow, Brynn is a member of Law Review. Brynn is excited to assist your transition into law school, so please do not hesitate to reach out to her! 


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