Law School Discussion

Law Students => Incoming 1Ls => Topic started by: Thane Messinger on June 24, 2010, 03:45:27 PM

Title: To Prep or Not To Prep
Post by: Thane Messinger on June 24, 2010, 03:45:27 PM
This is the second of three posts (the other two being “Setting the Stage: Or, How to Do Law School Wrong” and “To Prepare or Not To Prepare, Part II,” both in Law School: Getting In, Getting Good, Getting the Gold).

Again, this is from the manuscript, so there might be slight changes in the book itself:

To Prep or Not To Prep

One debate of sorts that rages--well, simmers--among advice-givers is whether a student should prepare before starting law school, and, if so, how. One camp, which might be labeled the Don’t Worry, Be Happy school of jurisprudence, argues that it’s pointless to study and that it’s more important to be fresh and ready for the adventures to come. The other camp--filled with Type-A overachievers (which includes much of law school populations)--proclaims the opposite: “Goodness, you have to prepare! You’ll be lost!! Why aren’t you done yet!!! Where’s my Prozac!!!!”

The first camp is not the camp to be in. If you decide not to prepare you will be way, way behind and lost. It might be useful, however, to discuss why this is true, so that the importance of preparation will make sense, and so that you’ll know what and how to prepare, in a way that is manageable and beneficial. You should enjoy your summer before law school (as you should enjoy all summers). But you absolutely should not blow off preparing for what’s to come.

Advice-givers of this camp assert, often strenuously, that any pre-study is pointless. “You won’t know what to study!” “You’ll study the wrong things!” “Everything you need to know you’ll learn when you get there!”

Wrong on all counts.  First, you will know what to study. How? Because that is the way of the law. Any good attorney can tell you at least the main points of every first-year subject. Look at the table of contents of any commercial outline, hornbook, or casebook, and you will see…exactly the same major concepts, for every course. The law, to be the law, must be predictable. It must be structured. This is (or should be) the essence of the study of law too.

So, as to points one and two (“You won’t know what to study!” “You’ll study the wrong things!”), you will know exactly what to study, and you will not study the wrong things. If, for example, we look at Contracts, you will find that every single contract undergoes the same basic tests: formation, legality, breach, damages--leading to the insight that, gee, wouldn’t it be useful to begin thinking about these topics, at least in the most overarching of ways.

To those who say, “…But your profs might focus on different areas of the law!”  First, no they won’t. Law professors are not only uniformly trained at the top law schools, they are expected to cover the major areas of each discipline. Second, these major areas are “well-settled,” a term of art in the law meaning that everyone knows what’s what, and everyone also knows what is to be covered. They are the legal “canon,” or near-sacred text of what is accepted as basic among the profession. Third, might a professor deviate on one point or another? Sure. The answer? It doesn’t matter. Even if they do deviate, it’s not likely to be more than a minor difference of emphasis. Actually, even this doesn’t go far enough: especially if they deviate, “pre-study” becomes more, not less, valuable. The more you know about the general framework of that area of the law, the more you will recognize the differences--and deviations. It is the difference between a novice and intermediate player. Not yet expert, but a world of difference between the two.

So, in short, you should begin preparation in a careful way: you should begin laying out the major headings for your master outlines. You will have six: Contracts, Property, Torts, Civil Procedure, Criminal Law, and Constitutional Law. Even if there is a difference in your first-year courses, which is unlikely, it would be highly unlikely that any of these will go to waste. Even if your law school pushes one to the second year, let’s say, you’ve “wasted” perhaps a few dozen hours’ time. We’re not talking about a huge amount of work. It’s less time than you’ll spend on the LSAT, by far.

An example of a first-level heading for, say, Contracts is Formation. Once you have the first-level headings, you should being the process of delving into the second-level headings, which begin to flesh out the subject. So, under Formation you might have Offer, Acceptance, Consideration, and Legality. The third-level headings under Offer will run through a number of tests, such as (1) Commitment (2) communicated to an (3) Identified Offeree with (4) definite terms. Each of those terms will be fourth-level headings, so, for example, a commitment is an objective test in which the question is whether a reasonable person hearing words under similar circumstances would believe the sender intended a contract.

Notice what is happening. In just a few minutes you’re laying the groundwork for an understanding of black letter Contract Law. As you move forward in the course, you will add detail to explain each of those phrases and terms. Moreover, when you define the term objective test, for example, you will be defining a term that applies across legal disciplines. You will, to put it bluntly, be learning a foundational definition for dozens of exams.

Yeah. Preparation is important. And what you are learning in class will make far more sense because it will fit within a framework you have already built, and have re-chewed a few times. Before your very first class, you already know, for example, there’s a basic question in Contract Law of how a contract is formed. So, if your professor delves immediately into a discussion of, say, Texaco v. Pennzoil, you won’t be lost wondering what on Earth an oral contract has to do with a billion-dollar dispute. Instead, you’ll be saying (silently!) to yourself, “Of course! How could they have been so dumb?”

Indeed. A billion-dollar dispute (and a billion-dollar bankruptcy) because a roomful of bigwigs forgot a first-year law school lesson in what makes a contract. That is the level of comprehension you should aim for, and your outlines--which you should start before law school--are a key to getting there.

Also, isn’t this more fun? Isn’t it better to know what the professor is talking about, and to be able to appreciate it…rather than slinking from class to class in a fog? If you neglect your outlines for even a few days, a fog it will be.

Note from a Top 2 [Yale Law School] reviewer: “And a fog it was. Boy do I wish I had done this.”

Note #2: there is not a single right way to build your outline. You might, for example, have Consideration as a first-level heading, or another second-level heading Termination Before Acceptance?, or some such. That doesn’t matter. It’s on a computer. You can switch it around if you don’t like it. And your professor will appreciate the sophisticated structural question you’ll ask if you do need to ask.

How to get started? Follow the primers and commercial outlines. Note #3: Your job is not to simply copy it. Commercial texts will have lots of detail that won’t make sense (such as cases and tertiary rules). Skip that, for now. You need, instead, to build the framework, into which you will later add the wiring, walls, outlets, paint, and so on. This isn’t so much “getting a head start” as it is getting ready to start off right. Once law school starts, you’ll have very little time to backtrack. And, by definition, backtracking is a poor use of time.

I will recommend, again, that you read Planet Law School. In fact, I feel so strongly about it that this is one of two sources I will recommend you use multiple times. For your preliminary work, focus on chapter 16 (especially pp. 432-42; 452-56; and 458-468). Follow the advice there and read, or ignore, whichever parts of the book don’t apply (yet). This advice--to go to another book for advice--might be viewed as a bit odd (and, no, I’m not the author of Planet Law School), but that misses the point. This is part of a broader lesson of efficiency: take advantage of the best of what is already out there. The materials recommended in Planet Law School are the materials you should have--and read; it would be pointless to simply restate them and the points he makes, less well, here. (Not to mention unethical.) The broader point is that Planet Law School is correct: preparation is important. It need not and should not be extreme, but it should be substantial, and concerted.

One other source you might look at, and this one I did have a hand in, are the Great Law Books pages at www.fineprintpress.com. These include a number of references that you might find interesting or useful as to prepare for the LSAT, application process, or law school itself. In most cases, I suggest you borrow these books from the library--there’s no point to waste money better spent on future pizzas, yes?

Okay then. Ready for law school?


Copyright: Thane Messinger, Law School: Getting In, Getting Good, Getting the Gold.  All rights reserved.
Title: Re: To Prep or Not To Prep
Post by: trudawg on July 13, 2010, 01:10:24 PM
I have been preparing by spending my summer reading. I try to read 1000 pages a week, it was advised by a professor when I visited the campus
Title: Re: To Prep or Not To Prep
Post by: Thane Messinger on July 15, 2010, 03:50:24 PM
I have been preparing by spending my summer reading. I try to read 1000 pages a week, it was advised by a professor when I visited the campus

trudawg & All -

This can be fine, but it's important not to focus on "reading."  Law school is not (just) a volume event.  There is no credit for number of pages read.

So, if I might add to the prof's advice, what's most crucial is to understand the concepts that will be covered in class (and on exams).  This often comes with relatively modest reading, taken in bites, rather than a "slogfest" approach.  Once you're in law school, if it's just about the drudgery of reading 100,000 pages over the semester, it will be (a drudgery that is), and it won't help nearly as much as most assume it will.  Law school is about quality of thinking, not quantity of seat time, drudgery, or anything else.

Thane.
Title: Re: To Prep or Not To Prep
Post by: trudawg on July 15, 2010, 06:18:57 PM
Good Point Thane!
Title: Re: To Prep or Not To Prep
Post by: bigs5068 on July 19, 2010, 06:48:14 PM
I don't know if I agree with that 100%. It is very possible you could learn something the wrong way and be set in it before it is introduced to you. For example RAP is extremly complicated and you could study that for hours and learn it wrong somehow making up rules that are completely wrong. I think without the guidance of a professor you can hurt yourself. 

Some concepts are pretty basic consideration, negligence etc. Those basic things might be worth exposing yourself to just to have a grasp of it, but I think some of it could be learned the wrong way if you do independent study.  That is just my opinion, but you make good points like you said it is a controversial issue and I am sure there are people that succeed using that method and others that don't. 

I personally think the most important thing you can do is learn the IRAC formula before starting school and how important issue spotting is.  I think so many people focus on learning the law and not how to properly answer a question that sometimes the brightest people don't get the highest grades. IRAC and Issue Spotting is not even very complicated, but learning to properly organize your answers and just writing a law school exam is the most beneficial thing you can do in my opinion.

Title: Re: To Prep or Not To Prep
Post by: Thane Messinger on July 20, 2010, 04:19:07 PM
Big -

You're right.  Attempting to "learn" the Rule Against Perpetutities is an example of poor preparation, because that's not what preparation should be.  We often focus on the details--assuming the big picture will emerge--when we should instead be focused on understanding the big picture, first, and then delving into the details.

As to waiting until we hit that in law school, what I've seen is the worst of both worlds:  students overwhelmed and *still* not getting rules such as RAP down right, even when it does come into play in the classroom.  This is not an either/or proposition.

As to IRAC, there have been many criticisms of this.  Suffice it to state that IRAC should not be the end-all of one's exam preparation.   Issue-spotting is indeed important, and intelligence (or even quantity of study) have a low correlation with grades . . . which should be reason enough to challenge our preconceptions.
Title: Re: To Prep or Not To Prep
Post by: Morten Lund on July 21, 2010, 09:56:42 AM
I'll add a plug for Thane's "Getting In, etc." law school book. 

Most of the law school guides I have read (after law school - it didn't occur to me to read one before going) assume that the reader already has a clue.  As it turns out, many incoming law students (and I was one of these) don't have a clue, and even a discussion of IRAC will be useless unless preceded by funda-fundamentals.  This is one of the things I like about Thane's book - it is helpful also for those who truly have no freaking clue what they are in for.  And he still manages to come up with a meaningful approach to law school that can benefit everybody.

I think many people underestimate the extent of the ignorance of many incoming law students - including the law students themselves.  Unfortunately, the specific nature of the ignorance varies among students.  We all have different backgrounds, and ought to prepare based on what we are missing.  The trick is figuring out exactly what that is. 

The same applies to books.  All law school guides are not the same.  They recommend entirely different approaches to law school.  You should read many, and go with what works for you. 
Title: Re: To Prep or Not To Prep
Post by: kenpostudent on September 22, 2010, 11:26:59 AM
I'm a big advocate of having a good outline of a course before you start. Having all of the BASIC legal rules mapped out gives you the ability to read the cases more for nuance than to glean a rule. This allows you to focus on the contours of the rules, which are most likely to be tested on exams, during your basic reading and class prep.

I would not recommend reading cases or treatises prior to law school, though. Get a good commercial outline like Emmanuels or a the Examples & Explanations. Even the Glannon Guide is great. You basically want a broad overview of a subject with some hypos to show you how the material is applied. Make a basic course outline of major themes or rules from this material. This way, you can modify the outline on a weekly basis to incorporate what you actually study in class. The prime advantage of this is that by exam week, you will have memorized your outline from periodic review and the intense review during dead week. I think that is your best prep strategy. By November of your first semester, you want to be working mostly on practice exams. Dead week should be spent almost exclusively on practice exams. If you can do ten practice exams per final, you'll probably get an A or very close. It's just a matter of seeing all the different ways a particular question can be tested and getting practice at analyzing those fact patterns.

Law school exams are alot like fighting: you can know everything there is to know about boxing, but if you don't actually get into the ring and spar, you'll never be a good fighter. Think of class prep as speed bag, heavy bag, or road work. Those things don't make a fighter, but you can't be a fighter without them. They give you the skills necessary to succeed at sparring. Sparring is where you learn to fight. Class prep helps you get the tools to do well on an exam, but class prep alone won't help you on an exam. You'll need to get lots of practice exams in. So, you're prep before a semester should be geared to allowing you to get the most amount of time during the semester to work on practice exams. Having a good outline beforehand will help. Memorizing that outline as you go will help. If you can spend the majority of time in November, outside of what is absolutely necessary for class prep and/or legal writing assignments, on practice exams, you'll be in the best position to succeed on a final exam.
Title: Re: To Prep or Not To Prep
Post by: allyk on December 02, 2010, 03:53:50 PM
 ;D obvv its probably different going into yale than swls like I did, but i highly believe quality preparation is the key in all cases. the amount of material at any law school (especially at first when you're not used to it and towards the end when you start studying for the bar) will seem immense  >:( >:( >:( >:(.

But the bottom line is that what is going to get you through the trials and tribulations of law school and the bar (which i just did this novemberrrr!!!! 8) 8) 8)) is to remember that you have to pace yourself-and just like in university-do the absolute minimum you have to in order to ascertain the key information. A case in point of this is that the first time i studied for the bar i prepared by using BarBri outlines which were long and toooo fuckinnggg convoluted for me to really grasp. The end result was a lot of time studying-too muchhh in fact, and even more time stressing over how much information i haddd to cover. The 2nd time around on the MBE in cali (this last november) I used tony breeden's attack sheets. They were a lot simpler and more concise covering the key information and creating links between the disparate outlines. The end result was i passed-narrowly, but peopppleeee-remember that is a minimum competency exam. That should dictate how you prepare for the test, and for that matter-your approach throughout the full 3 years of law school-which again, if you think about it guyssss  ;D ;D ;D ;D, is just a build up for the bar  ;)

xo,

ally

Title: Re: To Prep or Not To Prep
Post by: MAJ. Lee, Awsome. on December 23, 2010, 10:43:50 PM
So its ok to almost fail if its to prove minimum ability? Isn't that like saying its ok to almost drown as long as its in a kiddy pool? ???
Title: Re: To Prep or Not To Prep
Post by: kenpostudent on October 19, 2012, 11:24:35 AM

But the bottom line is that what is going to get you through the trials and tribulations of law school and the bar (which i just did this novemberrrr!!!! 8) 8) 8)) is to remember that you have to pace yourself-and just like in university-do the absolute minimum you have to in order to ascertain the key information. A case in point of this is that the first time i studied for the bar i prepared by using BarBri outlines which were long and toooo fuckinnggg convoluted for me to really grasp. The end result was a lot of time studying-too muchhh in fact, and even more time stressing over how much information i haddd to cover. The 2nd time around on the MBE in cali (this last november) I used tony breeden's attack sheets. They were a lot simpler and more concise covering the key information and creating links between the disparate outlines. T

xo,

ally

Preparation for the Bar Exam and law school exams are different.  However, the one aspect of this post that I agree with is that you need to somehow ascertain the limits of testable information and try to predict the types of issues that come up on the exam.  Review past exams is a good way to do this.  Sometimes you can review you prof's writings to get a clue of what he/she is passionate about.  Ultimately, you want to get as many practice exams as possible and see what issues have come up.  The good news is that there are only so many ways to test each issue.  So, you can determine which type of fact patterns signal which type of issues.  By exam week, you should have an attack outline that is one to two pages which contains the major rules that you will likely use on the exam. 

As for basic class prep, just read your cases.  I always did briefs, but they where very short by my third year, maybe a few sentences, mostly bullet points.  Don't be afraid to interact in class.  The most important thing is that you must condense the universe of information down regularly.  I never took copious notes in class.  My goal was to continually reduce my briefs and notes into an outline on a weekly basis, so by exam week, all I had to do is focus on practice exams and memorizing an attack outline.  Less is more.
Title: Re: To Prep or Not To Prep
Post by: Thane Messinger on October 20, 2012, 10:35:51 PM
As for basic class prep, just read your cases.  I always did briefs, but they where very short by my third year, maybe a few sentences, mostly bullet points.  Don't be afraid to interact in class.  The most important thing is that you must condense the universe of information down regularly.  I never took copious notes in class.  My goal was to continually reduce my briefs and notes into an outline on a weekly basis, so by exam week, all I had to do is focus on practice exams and memorizing an attack outline.  Less is more.


A few thoughts, in reverse order:

1.  Outlines are crucial, and should follow a constant condensation of secondary sources, cases, and class interactions (in that order).

2.  Outlines *must* be personal.  You cannot prepare for a law exam in first year by using someone else's outline.  (Second and third year, yes, because the task is different then.)

3.  Do not take copious notes in class.  They're a waste of time and a distraction. 

4.  You should already know what the professor will say, before it is said. 

5.  Don't be afraid to interact in class, but don't get anxious (or too anxious) about it.  Classroom performance does not matter.

6.  Briefs are mostly a waste of time, how they're usually done.   


Thane.

Title: Re: To Prep or Not To Prep
Post by: kenpostudent on October 26, 2012, 03:24:07 PM


6.  Briefs are mostly a waste of time, how they're usually done.   


Thane.

While I agree that case briefs can be a waste of time, I think it is useful to be able to summarize a case into bullet points, or a sentence or two.  Otherwise, how will you remember the case and refer to it on an exam.  Some of my professors did not care whether or not cases were referred to on an exam so long as black letter law was applied.  However, some professors required thoughtful examination of cases and direct fact-to-fact comparisons on exams to get above a B.  So, I don't know of any way to summarize the relevant facts and holdings of cases than to brief them.  Albeit, my case briefs were always very short.
Title: Re: To Prep or Not To Prep
Post by: Thane Messinger on October 30, 2012, 11:56:58 PM


6.  Briefs are mostly a waste of time, how they're usually done.   


Thane.

While I agree that case briefs can be a waste of time, I think it is useful to be able to summarize a case into bullet points, or a sentence or two.  Otherwise, how will you remember the case and refer to it on an exam.  Some of my professors did not care whether or not cases were referred to on an exam so long as black letter law was applied.  However, some professors required thoughtful examination of cases and direct fact-to-fact comparisons on exams to get above a B.  So, I don't know of any way to summarize the relevant facts and holdings of cases than to brief them.  Albeit, my case briefs were always very short.


Quite right.  This depends, of course, on the subject.  Civ Pro or Constitutional Law will involve cases more extensively than other subjects, and of course some professors want more cases while others want a case name + an analysis that shows you know why that case name should be there.

One key is to think of case "briefs" in the same way that attorneys do.  These are not 1-2 page monstrosities that law students are told to do, but are *very* short statements of the legal rule of the case.  Wentworth Miller, of LEEWS, has written about the "2-4 line case brief," which he graciously allowed me to include in Law School: Getting In.... 

Actually I think it *is* good at the beginning of first year to spend 1-2 hours on a case brief . . . to understand how pointless it is.  From there, move to a statement of the legal rule, asking "why is this case here?"  If you can answer that, you'll understand why it's important and be able to use that to practice your exams (which you should do much, much more extensively than briefing).

Thane.
Title: Re: To Prep or Not To Prep
Post by: NavyLaw2016 on December 02, 2012, 12:54:54 AM
I'm a big advocate of having a good outline of a course before you start. Having all of the BASIC legal rules mapped out gives you the ability to read the cases more for nuance than to glean a rule. This allows you to focus on the contours of the rules, which are most likely to be tested on exams, during your basic reading and class prep.

I would not recommend reading cases or treatises prior to law school, though. Get a good commercial outline like Emmanuels or a the Examples & Explanations. Even the Glannon Guide is great. You basically want a broad overview of a subject with some hypos to show you how the material is applied. Make a basic course outline of major themes or rules from this material. This way, you can modify the outline on a weekly basis to incorporate what you actually study in class. The prime advantage of this is that by exam week, you will have memorized your outline from periodic review and the intense review during dead week. I think that is your best prep strategy. By November of your first semester, you want to be working mostly on practice exams. Dead week should be spent almost exclusively on practice exams. If you can do ten practice exams per final, you'll probably get an A or very close. It's just a matter of seeing all the different ways a particular question can be tested and getting practice at analyzing those fact patterns.

Law school exams are alot like fighting: you can know everything there is to know about boxing, but if you don't actually get into the ring and spar, you'll never be a good fighter. Think of class prep as speed bag, heavy bag, or road work. Those things don't make a fighter, but you can't be a fighter without them. They give you the skills necessary to succeed at sparring. Sparring is where you learn to fight. Class prep helps you get the tools to do well on an exam, but class prep alone won't help you on an exam. You'll need to get lots of practice exams in. So, you're prep before a semester should be geared to allowing you to get the most amount of time during the semester to work on practice exams. Having a good outline beforehand will help. Memorizing that outline as you go will help. If you can spend the majority of time in November, outside of what is absolutely necessary for class prep and/or legal writing assignments, on practice exams, you'll be in the best position to succeed on a final exam.

If I have the Law in a flash cards (also Emmanual products) do I need to get the Outline book as well. I feel like the material will be the same.
Title: Re: To Prep or Not To Prep
Post by: Thane Messinger on December 03, 2012, 06:17:55 PM
If I have the Law in a flash cards (also Emmanual products) do I need to get the Outline book as well. I feel like the material will be the same.


Yes, the materials will be mostly the same, and you don't need to buy duplicative materials . . . but you do need to *do* your own outlines.  From scratch.  Relying on secondary sources, to be sure.  But do your own.  That, plus lots of practice exams (well before exam season), is where the grade mileage is.

Thane.
Title: Re: To Prep or Not To Prep
Post by: eric922 on December 08, 2012, 08:53:09 PM


6.  Briefs are mostly a waste of time, how they're usually done.   


Thane.

While I agree that case briefs can be a waste of time, I think it is useful to be able to summarize a case into bullet points, or a sentence or two.  Otherwise, how will you remember the case and refer to it on an exam.  Some of my professors did not care whether or not cases were referred to on an exam so long as black letter law was applied.  However, some professors required thoughtful examination of cases and direct fact-to-fact comparisons on exams to get above a B.  So, I don't know of any way to summarize the relevant facts and holdings of cases than to brief them.  Albeit, my case briefs were always very short.


Quite right.  This depends, of course, on the subject.  Civ Pro or Constitutional Law will involve cases more extensively than other subjects, and of course some professors want more cases while others want a case name + an analysis that shows you know why that case name should be there.

One key is to think of case "briefs" in the same way that attorneys do.  These are not 1-2 page monstrosities that law students are told to do, but are *very* short statements of the legal rule of the case.  Wentworth Miller, of LEEWS, has written about the "2-4 line case brief," which he graciously allowed me to include in Law School: Getting In.... 

Actually I think it *is* good at the beginning of first year to spend 1-2 hours on a case brief . . . to understand how pointless it is.  From there, move to a statement of the legal rule, asking "why is this case here?"  If you can answer that, you'll understand why it's important and be able to use that to practice your exams (which you should do much, much more extensively than briefing).

Thane.
On the topic of case briefs, I find them extremely tedious. I'm taking constitutional law and criminal law in the political science undergrad department and I loathe case briefs.  My Con. law professor is the best professor I've ever had at my university, but the way he requires us to make briefs is extremely tedious.  It takes me an hour for a single case.  He says it was the way he did it at Vanderbilt in the 60's, but I really can't see it working for me.  My criminal law professor was just recently in law school and he has a much more streamlined way to make briefs, but I still find it a bit tedious.  Oh, and don't get me started on appellate briefs.  I've done one and it made me want to scream.  I love the law, but I hate briefing cases.
Title: Re: To Prep or Not To Prep
Post by: J.Wilder on January 05, 2013, 12:48:03 AM
"For those of you thinking about exams, you might be interested in this book: http://lnkd.in/-BWnUa It's called Open Book, and it's a book for 1Ls written by a Harvard prof and NYU prof. They give lots of test-taking tips and tell you what professors want to see on exams.
Open Book: Succeeding on Exams From the First Day of Law School
aspenlaw.com
Wolters Kluwer Law & Business Law School Resources - Open Book: Succeeding on Exams From the First Day of Law... Also, you can go to the book's website ( http://lnkd.in/_HjAf5 ), which has lots of free videos and excerpts of practice exams"


Title: Re: To Prep or Not To Prep
Post by: J.Wilder on January 05, 2013, 02:17:30 PM
[“Goodness, you have to prepare! You’ll be lost!! Why aren’t you done yet!!! Where’s my Prozac!!!!”

The first camp is not the camp to be in. If you decide not to prepare you will be way, way behind and lost. It might be useful, however, to discuss why this is true, so that the importance of preparation will make sense, and so that you’ll know what and how to prepare, in a way that is manageable and beneficial. You should enjoy your summer before law school (as you should enjoy all summers). But you absolutely should not blow off preparing for what’s to come.][Thane]


Exactly!  Even a genius would prepare for what it is he will be tested on.  To not study is to deny oneself of knowledge.  I am not saying to overexert you self with reading an studying but it is imperative to me to set the highest standards for myself and to exceed those.  I just don't want become a Lawyer, I want to be one of if not the best at it!
Title: Re: To Prep or Not To Prep
Post by: Thane Messinger on January 05, 2013, 10:55:05 PM
[“Goodness, you have to prepare! You’ll be lost!! Why aren’t you done yet!!! Where’s my Prozac!!!!”

The first camp is not the camp to be in. If you decide not to prepare you will be way, way behind and lost. It might be useful, however, to discuss why this is true, so that the importance of preparation will make sense, and so that you’ll know what and how to prepare, in a way that is manageable and beneficial. You should enjoy your summer before law school (as you should enjoy all summers). But you absolutely should not blow off preparing for what’s to come.][Thane]


Exactly!  Even a genius would prepare for what it is he will be tested on.  To not study is to deny oneself of knowledge.  I am not saying to overexert you self with reading an studying but it is imperative to me to set the highest standards for myself and to exceed those.  I just don't want become a Lawyer, I want to be one of if not the best at it!


Wild -

Absolutely right, and exactly the right attitude.  At the risk of being over-the-top annoying (or condescending), and for all, if this is not your attitude, consider whether the law is right for you.

Abraham Lincoln is much in vogue of late, yet just how different he is from our contemporaries is often missing from comparisons.  He had a grand total of one year of education.  (You read that right.  One (1) year.  And available only when there was someone in the county who was a "teacher," meaning someone who knew how to read.)  The rest was self-taught.  Lincoln taught himself how to read; taught himself the law; and worked far harder and for far less than nearly anyone would tolerate today.  One of his first jobs, chopping firewood, was paid in cloth (few had actual money at the time).  This became his first real shirt.  Again, this is about attitude and perseverance far more than brains or money.  Paradoxically, this same skill is still very much in demand in law school: you must go about learning the law *very* differently than you approached college (or anything else).

Of course, what we really need in a president is someone who can slay vampires, yes?

Thane.
Title: Re: To Prep or Not To Prep
Post by: Thane Messinger on January 05, 2013, 11:05:11 PM
[“Goodness, you have to prepare! You’ll be lost!! Why aren’t you done yet!!! Where’s my Prozac!!!!”

The first camp is not the camp to be in. If you decide not to prepare you will be way, way behind and lost. It might be useful, however, to discuss why this is true, so that the importance of preparation will make sense, and so that you’ll know what and how to prepare, in a way that is manageable and beneficial. You should enjoy your summer before law school (as you should enjoy all summers). But you absolutely should not blow off preparing for what’s to come.][Thane]



PS:   Wow, whoever wrote that must be really on the ball.  = :   )

Thank you.
Title: Re: To Prep or Not To Prep
Post by: NavyLaw2016 on January 06, 2013, 08:01:26 PM
What does prepare mean?

Outline the entire course?
Learn to brief a case, spot the issue, use IRAC method?

I'd love to outline the entire course and feel that would be the best course of action because you can adjust it as you progress through the course, but how much detail should be involved in that initial outline.

Does anyone have any 1L Outlines they would like to share?
Title: Re: To Prep or Not To Prep
Post by: Thane Messinger on January 07, 2013, 11:12:36 PM
What does prepare mean?

Outline the entire course?
Learn to brief a case, spot the issue, use IRAC method?

I'd love to outline the entire course and feel that would be the best course of action because you can adjust it as you progress through the course, but how much detail should be involved in that initial outline.

Does anyone have any 1L Outlines they would like to share?


NavyLaw: 

You're not outlining the course, you're outlining the subject.  (The distinction is important, as what will be tested is the subject; what is covered in class is often tangential and plain irrelevant.)

How much detail?  Surprisingly, not that much--or certainly not as much as most assume.  As students we twist ourselves into knots, but the truth is that excellent exams use basic principles . . . very, very well.  That's the key.  Outlines are a tool, they're not the donut.

Do NOT use someone else's outline.  You must do your own.  In fact, you must do two. 

You *can* use another outline to confirm points of law--and you should and will use commercial outlines for this purpose.  But the work must be your own, and the main effort is not the outline, but in what you do with it.

Thane.
Title: Re: To Prep or Not To Prep
Post by: Thane Messinger on January 07, 2013, 11:15:40 PM
Do NOT use someone else's outline.  You must do your own.  In fact, you must do two. 


I should have specified "Do not use someone else's 1L outline."  Different rules apply after first year.

I know I'm . . . against the wind, but for first year you MUST do your own outlines.  All of them.  It will make a big difference.  (But the outlines are only the starting point.  They're not the goal.)

Thane.
Title: Re: To Prep or Not To Prep
Post by: Thane Messinger on July 14, 2013, 03:51:25 AM
'Tis the season for students to get serious about their first-year adventure about to begin. 

Charles Cooper, author of Later-in-Life Lawyers and swell guy, and I recently wrote a new Book, Con Law: Avoiding...or Beating...the Scam of the Century (The Real Student's Guide to Law School and the Legal Profession).  In Con Law we argue that most students should not attend law school.  Both Cooper and I came to this conclusion after many years and much thought.  We even waited a year, to see if things would change.  They have, but not for the better.

On the one side are those who protest that no one should go to law school, ever; on the other are those who dismiss these concerns out of hand--the "special snowflake" defense mechanism.  Obviously both "sides" in the above debate are dangerous if taken alone.

Here's why this is important, and why Cooper's and my earlier advice fit in to the broader advice elsewhere:  Many law students fall into law school, for a variety of personal and family reasons.  Yet the market now is--there's no nice way to put this--horrendous, and it's not likely to improve significantly within three years.  A lucky few will do fine.  This worsens the Snowflake Syndrome.  It's hard to realize that a forced curve WILL impact many students, and one of them could be you.  The market is unforgiving, so you should be especially sensitive to advice of those who've been there, survived that, and care enough to hang around to warn others.

The bottom two tiers of ABA-accredited law schools--one hundred of them--could disappear tomorrow, and the result in the job market would be . . . zero.  If anything, a healthier balance would be struck.  Then (and only then) could law graduates reasonably assume a reasonably good law job would be waiting.  (I was excoriated for stating something along these lines in GGG, written before the Great Recession took hold.  If anything, its warnings are too mild.)

This is worsened by two factors:  (1) the rise of tuition to exorbitant heights, resulting in extraordinarily heavy debt burdens that are nearly certain to limit one's future; and (2) structural changes within the legal profession (for obvious reasons not well disclosed to law students), making the above trends worse.

The point is not to dissuade, or not merely to dissuade.  If one absolutely, positively wants to be a lawyer, and is willing to do the work (and to work throughout law school), and can get accepted to a good law school, at least, with some scholarship options, and is willing to be a very different student in law school than ever before . . . that is the student who should go.  If any of the above qualifiers apply in the negative to you, however, beware.

Choose and read any one of the following:

Con Law (Cooper & Messinger); or Don't Go to Law School (Campos); or Failing Law Schools (Tamanaha); or The Lawyer Bubble (Harper). 

Which one(s)?  It doesn't matter, just as it doesn't matter which commercial outline you buy. It does matter that you read it.

Con Law is priced at $2.99 on Amazon.  http://www.amazon.com/Con-Law-Avoiding-Beating-ebook/dp/B00D2YJZM0/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1373793370&sr=1-2   

The others should be available in a library, or you could ask them to buy a copy.  Often they will.


You should also read ALL of the following:

Law School Fast Track (Hibbard).  Short but important in its focus on building good law school habits.  http://www.amazon.com/Law-School-Fast-Track-Essential/dp/1888960248/ref=tmm_pap_title_0

Law School: Getting In, Getting Good, Getting the Gold (Messinger)  http://www.amazon.com/Law-School-Getting-Good-Gold/dp/1888960809/ref=pd_sim_b_4

Law School Undercover (Professor "X").  An insider's look behind the curtain.   http://www.amazon.com/Law-School-Undercover-Professor-Admissions/dp/1888960159/ref=pd_sim_b_12

Slacker's Guide to Law School (Doria). Good section on "Should I go?" and quite funny.  http://www.amazon.com/The-Slackers-Guide-Law-School/dp/1888960523/ref=pd_sim_b_26

Here's where I'll be a little old-fart-ish:  If you're not willing to read a measly half-dozen books, what on Earth are you doing in law school?  Seriously. A lawyer reads all day. Every day. You'd better damned well like it, and be good at it, and be able to glean what you need from any source, boring or not, and fast.


Then read three books by Morten Lund:

Jagged Rocks of Wisdom: Professional Advice for the New Attorney.  http://www.amazon.com/Jagged-Rocks-Wisdom-Professional-Attorney/dp/1888960078/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1373793817&sr=1-1&keywords=morten+lund

Jagged Rocks of Wisdom--The Memo: Mastering the Legal Memorandum.   http://www.amazon.com/Jagged-Rocks-Wisdom-Mastering-Memorandum/dp/1888960086/ref=pd_sim_b_3

Jagged Rocks of Wisdom--Negotiation: Mastering the Art of the Deal
.  http://www.amazon.com/Jagged-Rocks-Wisdom-Negotiation-Mastering/dp/1888960094/ref=pd_sim_b_3

You must read Lund. If you read just one page and can stand it, *that's* law practice.  If you can't stand it, that's an even better--and cheaper--lesson. It's written by a partner, as a partner will speak and think. (Think Drill Instructor but without bullets, or at least without physical bullets.)

If you're in the mood, The Young Lawyer's Jungle Book (Messinger).  It's a bit dated, but its author has his moments.

There's also The Curmudgeon's Guide to Practicing Law (Hermmann), but it's so expensive (ABA!) as to be ridiculous. (It's a good book, just not worth that relative to Lund's books. You can pretty much buy two of Lund's for the price of Hermmann's, and Lund's are better.)

I would recommend a few others, but I cannot. Most prelaw books are not just dreck, they're flat-out wrong.  Read them all, and decide for yourself.

Color code cases? Sure, waste your semester until just before finals, and realize you've no idea how to assemble and reframe what you've been reading. Brief cases? Do it just enough to realize what a waste of time it is, and better options to accomplish the same task. Piles of notes?  Yeah, those are bound to help you in May.  Be the best gunner there ever was, and a suck-up to boot? Join the ranks of former-gunner suck-up failures.

Law school does not have to be torture.  In fact, done right, it should be both stimulating and even fun.  It should be and it can be.  It's a lot of work, but not nearly as much as many proclaim.  And it is not make-work.

Law school also does not have to be a path to indentured servitude, as it is for far too many graduates today.  But, avoiding this fate requires serious effort and foresight.

Thane.

PS:  If anyone cannot afford any of the books above, please send me a note and I will buy you a copy.  I'll add a single request: that you share your views with others, and pay it forward. 
Title: Re: To Prep or Not To Prep
Post by: HomoHominiLupus on July 24, 2013, 04:56:25 PM
I suppose I'm one of your special little snowflakes. I am a full-time employee at the university where I am starting law school part-time ($45 a semester for classes, I can't afford not to go here and I have health insurance and a retirement plan!).  I have very little debt and I have no illusions that from a tier 2 school I will likely never be recruited by a large firm with beaucoup bucks. My aim with my education is earn a JD/MS in water and resource law so I can practice environmental law at a government agency or a non-profit. I have a strong understanding that I may end up writing wills and working at legal aid for no money. For me the fear that I will be trapped in debt and unemployable is a bit moot. The worst that happens to me is that I get a useless degree which I'll have to hide from my resume so I can be underemployed. BFD.

So, I've been preparing most of the summer by getting as much fun packed in as I possibly can since I will attend law school part-time and am staring down the barrel of a 5-6 year term. Now that summer is on the decline, I am starting to read the recommended books and finding that they aren't particularly helpful. I am an ABA certified paralegal and have experience in a public and private law firm setting so I have a bit more experience than the regular 1L but having been out of law for 2-3 years I'm sure I'm rusty at the  IRAC and CASE methods. My classes this year will be legal research/writing and civil procedure - I'm not sure how I can prepare if not by the actual classes I took in my paralegal and the work experience on litigation. Should I calm down and not worry so much? Should I familiarize myself with my outlines from my past classes? Look ahead at the textbooks they assigned?

My anxiety seems un-affected by reading the trite how to succeed in law school books. I know what it's like to sit in a law library overnight shepardizing cases to triple check it's the most recent case law, and exams are certainly stressful but not as stressful as knowing the strength/weakness of your arguments could mean a parent losing custody of their children or someone losing their home.