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Black Law Students / Re: Widener University- TAP Program
« on: March 15, 2008, 06:49:00 PM »

Here is a link,, to another discussion board in which there is a long discussion regarding special admit programs.

If you are very serious about going to law school, my suggestion is to do well in this program because if you don't they may not accept you.  Evidently they saw something in your application that has interested them, but they are concerned with your ability to do well in law school.  This program is a great, and maybe your only opportunity to show them that you have what it takes.  Over the next few months take the time to build your writing skills because writing is the most important skill for law school.  The ability to write does not mean you write well, or that you write on the level that is expected of law students. Most entering law students are too overconfident regarding their basic writing skills. 

Good luck!


Black Law Students / Re: Bad First Semester, What Now?
« on: March 15, 2008, 12:05:59 PM »
There are two things that you can do to improve your grades.

First, understand that IRAC is much more formulaic than many students realize.  Not only is it important to write in IRAC, but each section of IRAC has its own structure.  For instance, in providing the law for IRAC it should be provided in three specific steps.

Second, once you really understand IRAC, you should look at your professors' practice exams so that you can learn how each professor expects his or her answer written and tailor your writing.  For instance a Torts professor I worked with wants every important fact in issue statements, while a Contracts professor I worked with wants answers that are three or four lines.  This means that one professor wants 60 word issue statements and another professor wants complete answers of about 100 words.  This puts tremendous pressure on students to adjust to what each professor desires, and the only way for students to do that is to understand IRAC well.  If you understand the sub-structure of IRAC then you can engage in a conversation with a professor regarding exactly how the professor wants things written. Otherwise, you are writing a general IRAC answer that puts you in the ball park, but does not give the professor exactly what the professor wants.  This results in a student not receiving an “A” even if the student’s answer is correct because the quality of writing in the answer is not as strong as the writing performed by ten other students who also have the correct content.   

Hope this helps and good luck.


Incoming 1Ls / Re: Legal Writing and Research
« on: March 15, 2008, 11:33:06 AM »
Let me say upfront that I teach legal writing for a law school prep course.

One of my main suggestions to someone who wants to work on legal writing prior to law school is to work on basic writing skills.  Most entering law students are too overconfident regarding their basic writing skills.  There is a major difference between the grading done in law school and the way it is done in undergrad that makes writing important.  In undergrad, if you provide the correct content to a question you will receive an “A” grade, but in law school grades are based on both content and quality of writing.  So in law school, a student may not receive an “A” if the student’s answer is correct, but the quality of writing in the answer is not as strong as the writing performed by ten other students who also have the correct content.   

One book that many law school legal writing courses use in the first semester is Plain English for Lawyers by Richard Wydick.  This book focuses on things like active/passive voice, nominalizations, and topic sentences.  It is a short book, so when you complete it, try to buy other books that provide similar exercises and answers.

I realize my suggestion is simplistic, but it is based on my experience of working with hundreds of law students.  To be able to get top grades, you need to write well AND more effectively than your classmates.

Good luck in law school!


Incoming 1Ls / 10 Must Dos To Succeed in Law School
« on: May 02, 2007, 02:40:54 PM »

10. Regularly re-charge your batteries.  (Don’t worry if you re-charge too hard, there is time to take cat-naps during class.)

9. Break up with significant other.  (Anyone dating someone with a six-figure debt must be crazy.)

8. Ignore your classmates.  (They will be clueless and stressed out.)

7. Make friends with the third-year students. (They are the only ones who really know what is going on, and in the near future they will be interviewing you for an internship or job.)

6. Wait two weeks to buy your text books.  (They will be a lot cheaper.)

5. One week into law school email the following message to your classmates:  “Are you dropping out?  Will buy your text books for 50% of retail.”

4. Make sure not to injure your back carrying heavy textbooks.  (Get a doctor’s note informing the school you need to reserve the closest parking spot available.)

3. In class, never respond that you don’t know to a professor’s question.  (Instead, begin asking the professor questions such as “How is that relevant?” or “Can you re-state the question?”  Ask enough questions and the professor will never come back to you again.)

2. Don’t date a classmate.  (See Rule #9.  Exception: classmate is getting a free ride.)

1. Attend every social event the law school and the local bar association put on.  (This kills two birds with one stone because you will be able to network yourself into future employment while getting free food.)

Michael Santana,
Legal Writing Prep

Incoming 1Ls / Grades
« on: March 29, 2007, 10:25:47 AM »
A common complaint among first-year law students is that the grades they receive do not accurately reflect their understanding of their courses. Many of these students are correct. This inconsistency between the understanding of a subject and the grade received for that subject is usually because a student does not possess strong writing skills.

Law school grades are only partially based on how hard you study. 90% or more of all first-year law students study hard for their first semester's final exams, but 10% or less of these students receive A grades.

Most law school first-year classes are graded on a final exam only. This means students cannot truly gauge how well they understand what they are attempting to learn during the semester.

Furthermore, these finals exams are essay exams and exam grades are often based on an answer's content and writing. Unlike undergrad, on law school exams students cannot write everything they know about a topic and expect to receive a good grade because the right answer is there somewhere. That is the fastest way to receive a B or lower grade. The best graded exams are written clearly and concisely, precisely answer the question asked, and in the writing structure the professor wants to see.

Also, don't assume you write well because you received high grades on essay exams and papers as an undergraduate. Not only do law school professors grade harder than undergraduate professors, the level of writing of your law school classmates will be much better than the level of writing of your undergraduate classmates.

What was once near top of the class work in an undergraduate setting, is middle of the class work in law school. In law school you are competing against and being compared to the best students. Remember, the best and brightest from thousands of colleges and universities nationwide are funneled into approximately two hundred law schools.

The websites below provide additional thoughts on law school grades.

Good luck in law school!

Michael Santana
Legal Writing Prep

Incoming 1Ls / Re: Law Preview - Anyone Else Going?
« on: March 28, 2007, 03:34:37 PM »
If you are interested in a legal writing prep course consider Legal Writing Prep (  It provides actual first semester law school assignments and extensive feedback on your work.  Writing is best learned by having someone review your work, and not by sitting in a classroom for one day with no opportunity for feedback.

Michael Santana
Legal Writing Prep

Incoming 1Ls / Not the End of the World
« on: March 22, 2007, 02:30:12 AM »
Have your dreams of being a successful, big-money-making attorney been crushed because your top-tier law school choices rejected you? 


One day a pre-law advisor told me about the time she was speaking before a class of students about how not being accepted to a person’s number one choice was not the end of the world.  One student in the back (the smart asses are always in the back) yelled out, “Yes it is.”  To this she firmly responded, “No, it isn’t.  The end of the world is when the doctor tells you if your baby survives until the morning then we will operate.”

While the pre-law advisor’s statement may not have been appropriate, she was correct.  During this time of acceptance and rejection, keep things in perspective.

I am sure some of you are thinking about what happened to former White House counsel Harriet Miers.  To that I once again respond, SO WHAT!

Don’t get me wrong, go to the best school you can possibly go to, but if you can’t get into your first choice it is not going to have any long term detrimental effect on your career.  There are many highly successful attorneys who did not go to top tier law schools.  For instance, Johnnie Cochran attended Loyola Law School, Gerry Spence attended the University of Wyoming Law School, and current Vermont Supreme Court Justice Marilyn Skoglund did not even attend law school. 

These three attorneys have been involved in historic, famous, and important cases; Spence was the lead trial attorney in the Karen Silkwood case that went to the U.S. Supreme Court, Cochran was the lead attorney in O.J. Simpson’s murder trial, and Justice Skoglund was involved in the first decision that established civil unions in this country.

By any measure these three attorneys are and were successful.  Furthermore, these three attorneys are not the exception; they are just the tip of the iceberg of motivated people who did not graduate from top tier law schools and became successful attorneys.

Michael Santana

Incoming 1Ls / Speed Reading Courses
« on: February 22, 2007, 07:14:49 AM »
Periodically on the law school discussion boards, entering first-year law students mention that one of the ways they are preparing for law school is by taking a speed reading course. A word to the wise: this is not an effective or efficient way to spend your time and money preparing for law school.

In all the time I have been associated with law schools I have never heard a student or professor mention that a certain speed reading course is a good law school preparatory course. In fact, the only and first place I have come across speed reading courses as a way to prepare for law school is on law school discussion boards from individuals who have yet to enter law school.

Effective legal reading is not only about speed, it is also about understanding what you are reading. You can read as quickly as you want, but if you do not understand the legal terminology then there is a great likelihood that you will interpret the cases incorrectly or miss a subtle, but important point.

Reading is a skill, and like any other skill it can be improved with the right practice. As an article at points out; "Typically, the average first year law student reads only three pages an hour in their first month of law school. By the end of the first semester, most students read ten pages an hour and keep at that pace until the end of their second year."

The article mentioned above and another good article about law school reading can be found at:

Even if you consider yourself just an average student, you should not worry about your reading skills prior to arriving at law school. As you become familiar with how to read cases your speed will improve. Within the first four to six weeks of law school you will probably read at least 100 cases, if not more, and it is very likely you will become competent quickly at anything done so much.

Michael Santana

Incoming 1Ls / LSAT Second Time Seeking Suggestions
« on: February 16, 2007, 12:48:39 PM »
I am interested in finding out from those people who took the LSAT more than once and significantly improved the second time.

Below are some questions to considering in answering my request.

What was the difference in the scores?

What did you differently the second time and why do you think you did better?


Michael Santana

Incoming 1Ls / LSAT Self Study Seeking Suggestions
« on: February 16, 2007, 12:46:03 PM »
I am interested in finding out from those people who took the LSAT without using a prep course.

Below are some questions to considering in answering my request.

How did you do on the LSAT?

What kind of study schedule did you set up for yourself?  How many weeks?

Where did you get your resources?

How could it have been better?

If you had to do it again, how would you do it differently?


Michael Santana

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