« on: January 09, 2009, 01:01:42 AM »
Putting in the "Right Effort" is by and large the most important factor in determining good grades, not intelligence, work ethic, or any of the other factors necessarily.
I know that people will say, "well, you have to be intelligent to know what is the "right effort" to begin with." That may be true to some extent, but personality is a big factor in discovering the right effort. Some people think that they are so intelligent that they can bulldoze their way through the material. The problem is that there is far too much material assigned in law school to do this. And even if they can get a pretty good understanding with the "bulldozing method," they are putting themselves at a severe disadvantage with their peers who are using better methods to study.
For example, one can be naturally gifted at running, but if he chooses to run on the side of the road with loose sand, rocks, litter, etc. instead of running on the clear pavement just to show how good of a runner he is, he will surely lose to the ones who are running on the pavement, even if he is slightly better than the other runners (and in law school I would posit that there is not too much difference in the students' intelligence). Then when he loses the race the psychological blow of it will most likely put him at a disadvantage for the next race (i.e., the next semester).
Some may ask, "Ok then, what is the 'right effort?'"
IMHO, there are several things that go into this.
Try to be as emotionally balanced as possible. The ability to filter out the noise and one-upsmanship concomitant to law school and just focus on what is important in class is crucial. Most of the stuff you read in cases is crap. It's important to read it so that you can pass the "Socratic Method Test." Yes. This is another test in law school. It is just a very unimportant one considering that it will not effect your grades, only the way you look to your peers.
I know the "Socratic Method Test" is important to 1Ls. It's really terrible to look bad in front of your peers. That's why you still need to read through the material assigned. Just try to do it quickly. You don't need to make huge briefs of every case. And no matter how much time you spend, you will still not know all of what the professor is asking you. Most professors, unlike a lot of students think, do not massage all the things they mention in class out of every sentence of those cases. They instead use the cases as a guide to get across the material they think is important, which they have learned from years and years of study of this material. The professors will give you almost everything you need in class to succeed on the exam; so it is really important to try to write down everything they say, and not to worry if you didn't know many of the things they are asking. If you can handle speaking in front of your peers, and are not the type who always wants to chime in to show how "smart you are," then you'll be able to focus on learning what the professor is trying to teach, and the material will sink in far better.
It is also vitally important that you continually review the material actually given in class. Don't worry about time. You'll have plenty of time to do this since if you're not WASTING so much time briefing every worthless sentence in the cases (i.e., you are not "running on the sand"), due to fear of the useless "Socratic Method Test." Also make sure to make outlines so that you can see how the material fits together. You have to know the outline down pat, because that is how to maximize your points on the tests when the professors throw the kitchen sink of facts at you.
What law students should be spending MOST of their time and effort in is practicing how to apply the facts, even if they don't know a lot of the substantive law at that point. Most students, however, do not do this nearly enough. When you see a fact, it should evoke one or more rules (from the outline that you have memorized cold); these rules are often inconsistent with each other (professor's love to do this), and showing that you know that they are inconsistent is one of the best ways to take yourself to the A pile. You can do this with almost every fact in most law professors' exams. If you practice application enough, with the law you do know as you learn it, at the end of the semester you'll be able to APPLY all the law you learned throughout the semester.
In summary, learning to run on pavement instead of on the sand is the best thing one can do to make sure they are successful in law school, not intelligence or pure work ethic or whatnot.