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Messages - Thane Messinger

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471
General Board / Re: How do you think like a lawyer?
« on: March 01, 2010, 02:45:57 PM »

I think this point needs emphasis. Ignoring one side of the issue at the preference of another is probably the most fatal mistake new law students make in their pursuit of a "right" answer. Lay people typically judge one side correct before they even begin analyzing the issue, and their prejudice misleads them. It's important to overcome that.

BTW, Thane, your replies are absolutely exceptional. I haven't read anything like them before.


Thank you, Soren.  As it happens I've had the, ah, luxury of thinking about this for some years now, in both the practice and teaching of law.  The writing and editing projects--which started as a hobby of sorts--have caused me to think about, and re-think, how students go about the study of law.  So, it's not so much me as it is this unusual circumstance, as most attorneys forget about their law school travails practically the day of the last law exam.  I started working literally the week after my last law exam, and the bar review course that same week.  So, if nothing else, as a pro bono matter of sorts I'd like to help the next generation, and perhaps correct some of the more egregious excesses of the law school and law practice worlds.

When I was in law school I was destitute.  I scrounged in the several Half-Price Books in Austin for whatever I could find.  So, I understand.  But I also cheated myself.  In many ways, I was penny-wise and pound-foolish.  If you can pick up even one good tip from any source, it's worth its time.  If money is tight, as it usually is as a student, then ask your library to buy a copy for you.  Chances are they might.

At the risk of getting into (more) trouble, I'd like to suggest resources depending upon where one is in the process.  I've had a role in many of these, so you'll know whom to blame.  

Here goes . . .

If you're still in college (or even before), I'd recommend Planet Law School and, in immodesty, my own book (Law School: Getting In, Getting Good, Getting the Gold).  It's fine and expected to read the other pre-law books, but be wary about advice that sounds formulaic.  Law school is simply not the same as college and before.  Thus, an approach based on what worked before will, at best, not be the optimal approach.  (As I argue in the above book, the "formula" for successful college study wasn't actually even good, but it worked for you for a reason having nothing to do with its usefulness--or lack thereof.  You were smart, and so the tools . . . any tools . . . were useful.  That doesn't mean they were good.)

If you've not yet taken the LSAT, I suggest devoting a LOT of time to that.  It will be the most important exam you take.  Yes, more important than the bar exam, and, in some ways, all law exams put together.  Plan on spending AT LEAST six full weeks.  Twelve is a better target.  Plan on spending a mimumum of eight hours per day for six days of each of those weeks.  It's that important.  Plan on using multiple sources, starting with several commercial and the LSAC's test booklets, and going on down the line.  Two hundred dollars' worth here will be the best effort yet.  (And don't write in the books, for goodness' sake.)

If you're an older law student, or have spent even a year or so in a job (Peace Corps, military, etc.) after college, take a look at Later-in-Life Lawyers.  Non-traditional students face numerous differing obstacles, so it's good to hear from those who have gone before.

If you're too easily stressed, scan The Slacker's Guide to Law School.  While I wouldn't suggest his approach in total, his is a good antidote to the insanity that takes over many in law school.  His anecdotes are quite funny, and his personal story is an important one to hear, especially given how his story ends.

If you're a 1L now and are smack in the middle of that insanity, I would get Planet Law School and Law School: Getting In, Getting Good, Getting the Gold . . . BUT read ONLY those parts that focus directly in study and exams.  Now is the time to focus.  The author of the former has a list of pages to study, while for my book, the middle sections will be most helpful.  In one sense there's not much time.  In another sense, wasting another five hours on case briefs is time much better spent figuring out how to spend time wisely.  A mid-course correction is among the most important functions in navigation.  And it's a skill every good lawyer learns to perfect.  Never cry over time wasted.  Dust yourself off and move on.  With equal force, insist of yourself that you re-focus and re-dedicate at any moment to that which is better.  This is much of what law practice is.

If you can, attend LEEWS or a similar exam seminar.  If you cannot, buy the LEEWS material, and take it seriously.  Again, I do not make a penny on LEEWS.

If you're struggling with finding a job, get The Insider's Guide to Getting a Big Firm Job.  Its information is helpful for all job-seekers.  (In a way, even moreso for those not in the OCI pageant.)

If you're seriously considering changing law schools and are following the above advice (and thus more likely to get top grades), read The Art of the Law School Transfer.

Before you start your clerkship, read Jagged Rocks of Wisdom: Professional Advice for the New Attorney and also Jagged Rocks of Wisdom--The Memo.  Especially read the Memo book.  But you MUST read both, really.  (These are the first two in a series of four books.)  They're like having a senior partner right next to you for your first year.

And when life is too dull (or you need help sleeping), try my original, The Young Lawyer's Jungle Book: A Survival Guide.

I hope these help.

With aloha,

Thane.



472
General Board / Re: Overwhelmed - Seeking Advice
« on: March 01, 2010, 02:01:07 PM »
Distilled: work smart, not hard. Nobody cares about your effort; they care about your results.


Indeed so.  To all, the danger in law school is that it's easy to fall into an extreme.  Either extreme is a trap.  On the one side is the sense that, because it's "hard," one has to slog through case after case.  In this view, law "study" is more like a grueling rite of passage akin to genital mutilation (but perhaps not so much fun as that).  Spending 80 hours a week reading cases will not lead to the desired result: Top grades.  (Not to mention: actually learning the law.)  If you're a 1L and you doubt this, don't take our word for it.  Ask a 2L.  Ask a 3L.  Ask a prof.  This is not a system where time in equals reward out.  The correlation is FAR below +1.0.  On the other side, when grades do come out, a substantial percentage of law students--burned out and, well, just burned--tune out, sometimes drop out, and all too often act out.

Both are bad outcomes.  Both are bad ways to "study."  There is a better way.  One must work hard.  One must put in the effort.  But that effort must be focused.  That focus must be in ways that help with learning the law, and learning how to use it.  As Soren writes, one must study smart.

Thane.

473
General Board / Re: Taking a break from school.
« on: February 26, 2010, 09:52:01 PM »

I was actually pleasantly surprised by my grades because I honestly spent about 5-10 hours a week studying outside of class. This isn't undergrad where it's cool to talk about what a slacker you are though, right  ;)



As it happens, a book I edited (and almost vetoed) was The Slacker's Guide to Law School: Success Without Stress.  It has probably the best section on "Should You Go?" of all the pre-law books.  You comment reminded me of the second part of that book that is important: the disconnect between study (which most law students measure, masochistically, as raw effort) and grades.  The law students with the best grades do work hard, but probably not the hardest.  And some who work uber-hard end up with mediocre grades, or worse.  This goes to the difference between what we assume law school tests and what law school actually tests.

So, consider that, with a bit more focus and effort, you might actually place very well indeed.  Then, the ranking of the law school, while important, won't be determinative.  (Not least because, if you do especially well, you might be able to take a break and then transfer to another law school.  If you're at all so inclined, another book you might find useful is The Art of the Law School Transfer.)

Whatever you decide, best of luck.



474
General Board / Re: Taking a break from school.
« on: February 26, 2010, 03:15:13 PM »
If you do something law-related abroad for the two-year stint (volunteer with the Int'l Criminal Tribunal in Rwanda, for example) then it will probably help your resume for public interest employers.



Exactly right.  If you do decide to return to law school, a law-related break would clearly be better.  (Even firms won't mind a break, provided it's not too far off the mark.  Also, if you learn a language during this time, you open up a new set of options, branches of big firms as well as numerous other offices in need of bilingual talent.  Careful, though.  Many expatriates end up staying for decades.  = :  )

475
General Board / Re: Taking a break from school.
« on: February 26, 2010, 03:01:12 PM »
I'm sure I'm just like many law students - we get humanties degrees, don't know what to do, our lawyer-filled families suggest we go to law school, we say 'what the hell?' and do it.

I'm in the second semester of my first year. I don't like it; I dislike most of my classmates, find much of the material mind-numbing, and .. just don't really want to be a lawyer at this point. Then again, I've still got the same problem I had when I walked out of the auditorium with my philosophy and english BAs in that I have no earthly idea what sort of career I could go into other than law.

I've been itching to get out of the country for a while, perhaps with some foreign aid work - peace corps, etc - or maybe teaching english as a secondary language (TESL).

Let's say I went with either after this semester and spent 2-3 years overseas.
If I felt like coming back to law school, how would potential employers view a 2-3 year break between the first and second years?

I assume it would be with skepticism and they might think it shows a lack of dedication, comittment, seriousness (and it probably does).

I realize most of yall will say that I really should drop out anyway, and that's probably true, but I am curious anyway. I don't have any other idea what to do. I had some hopes of being a philosophy professor once, but the job market in academia is shakier than even that of lawyering.

Thanks.


Aloha, Stylee -

First, congratulations.  Really.  We often think that "finding ourselves" means justifying a path we've already taken, but the fact that you've expressed serious reservations (albeit in the heat of the semester) is important.  You're quite right that many law students fall into law school as much as they choose it.  Paradoxically, this isn't always bad.  But it's certainly cause for the sort of circumspection your question exemplifies.  So, thus the congratulations are genuine.  (I'd bet 92% of your classmates are thinking exactly the same thing.)

To your question:  employers won't care (usually), as they WILL care about two things: (1) school + grades; and (2) personability.

Believe it or not, taking a year or two off will not usually be determinative.  Clearly it presents logistical challenges (depending upon the school and OCI process), but again, legal employers are looking at the world rather differently than law students.

However . . . it seems that your perspective is not likely to be conducive to a big firm job (to which the above is generally directed).  Anyone seeking a stint in the Peace Corps is likely to find more comfort taking a job as counsel in the Peace Corps (or like organization) after the stint, rather than an 80-hour-a-week highly paid legal sweatshop. 

(Note:  I am NOT commenting on the wisdom of this, as that's really the question for each of us.  It's easy . . . too easy . . . to assume that the six-figure job is the way to go.  The truth?  It is, but only for some . . . and not based just on grades, but more importantly on the soft factors you mention.  Some people are happy in a big firm; most are not.  Will YOU be?)

A thought:  whether you decide to teach English abroad, join the Peace Corps, VISTA, or some such, there's really no impact in terms of your current options.  In other words, completing your first year or not is unlikely to make a difference.  It IS, however, likely to make a difference in terms of your asking the nagging "What ifs" years later.

My suggestion?  Complete your first year.  If you plan to take a break thereafter--perhaps a permanent one--you'll have a different perspective on law school.  Chances are, you'll have a healthier perspective, and chances are almost as good that you'll actually perform better than had you stayed in your (dis)stressed mode.  Why?  Because the way most law students study and act is inefficient and, usually, counterproductive.  This is because the world of the law student is viewed as a student, not as a future professional.   Etch this in your mind: while you might find discomfort in how law school makes certain people act out in hypercompetitive and negative ways, ALL of that will be irrelevant.  The ONLY thing that is relevant (to employers especially) is how one learns the law.  For employers, this is viewed through the prism of the law exam.  So, as much as you can, ignore the bad and do NOT succumb to this.  It is absolutely essential, regardless of what you decide (and, if you do continue, how you place) to stay true.  Presumably, this means staying honest and cheerful--or at least honest and pleasant.  I know this sounds outrageously chipper, but it really, really will make a difference.  For all, remember that you will be WORKING with these people for decades.  Even if you move elsewhere, you'll be surprised at how many times your colleagues' names come up.

I hope this helps,

Thane.

PS:  For thoughts on what employers will care about, there's a book I read that might be helpful.  It's "The Insider's Guide to Getting a Big Firm Job: What Every Law Student Should Know About Interviewing."  Your question reminded me of the foreword to that book, by Morten Lund, who wrote the two "Jagged Rocks of Wisdom" books.  His books are excellent.  (Better than mine!)  Morten is a partner in a big firm, and he tells it straight.  I highly recommend all three, regardless of what you do.  (Seriously, even if you decide to join an ashram, Lund's two books will be invaluable.  Okay, maybe not an ashram.  But an MBA and nearly everything in between, yes.)

476
LSAC and LSDAS / Re: General question - maybe asking a stupid question.
« on: February 24, 2010, 02:50:03 PM »
Ok, would English being my second language give me any edge in admissions? (Like schools considering my LSAT score)


There's a saying that "There's no such thing as a stupid question."  Actually, that's not quite right, but . . .

This is not one of them.  It's a fair question.  = :  )

The answer is that a second language CAN be an important soft factor in an application, especially if it's worked positively and convincingly into your reasons for wanting to attend.  (For example, parents experiencing difficulties navigating through a foreign culture or bureaucracy, or hoping to bridge a gap between two cultures, etc.)  Don't make something up, and don't stretch the boundaries, and don't make it appear to be more than it is.  But don't neglect it either.  Knowledge of a second language IS a powerful advantage.

English as the second language is likely to be a reasonably strong (soft) plus, because that means that the LSAT score and GPA are, if anything, under-reflective of your potential; while English as a first language plus fluency in another language is a somewhat less strong (still soft) plus.

Such a factor won't make a huge difference, but it often will make a difference.  This can be the crucial difference in an application to a reach school.

I hope you hear good news, in any language.

477
General Board / Re: Michigan FEB 2010 Bar EXAM Essays
« on: February 24, 2010, 02:17:25 PM »
I am transferring my 153 MBE score to Michigan for this February 2010 exam. I just took the essay portion yesterday and was wondering what I need on the essays to pass. Anyone familiar with the curve/formula?

Aloha, SuziQ & All -

First, congratulations.  That's quite a process, yes?

Don't worry.  You did great.

For all and at the risk of creating a firestorm, I'd like to offer a glimpse into something a friend did, once upon a time.  I had taken (and passed) the bar the prior year.  Later, I continued to get a lonnnngg series of messages along the above lines, with fantstical caculations of just how low he could score on each section and still pass.  I mostly ignored these, as they seemed quite irrelevant.  Just take the *&%$! bar, was my thought.  Why the story?  Because that was the first of FOUR times he sat for the bar.  (One of those times he was mad . . . mad! . . . at the bar.  No.  The bar exam is not to be railed against.  Nothing in law school, or after, is to be railed against, at least not seriously.  When you're Chief Justice, that's the time to change it.  Until then . . . )  

The answer is not to "min run" it.  (A military term, meaning to do the absolute minimum required in a task.)  With bar exams, as with law exams, there is no such thing as a minimum.  Yes, it's pass/fail.  But as to the individual . . . it's PASS/fail, or pass/FAIL.  

The ONLY way to think of the bar exam is to think of it exactly like your law exams, times fourteen.  You need to ace it.  If so, you'll never need to worry about merely passing.

If it's already done, then there's no point in thinking about it.  Yes, we obsess.  But once it's over, it's over.  Is there anything else you might find to obsess over?  (This no doubt seems more than a little flippant, but, humor aside, this is serious.  If working, THAT'S something to obsess over.  If not, then finding that job is.  Seriously.  It's a much, much better way to spend the weeks after the bar.  This is an important time.  If your efforts and thoughts are not directed positively, ask whether they are helping or hurting.)

For all, don't even THINK about minimums.

And, for good karma, fingers crossed for you.  Don't worry.  You did great.  = :  )

Thane.

478
General Board / Re: How do you think like a lawyer?
« on: February 23, 2010, 09:37:32 PM »
Thank you so much Thane. It is amazing how I, just by taking couple minutes to read what you wrote here, learned more than by talking to so many different people at school for an entire semester. I really think you should get paid for providing such excellent advice (I already ordered your book btw  ;) I just have few more questions regarding what you said...

1)What exactly is Rule of Law? Is it just a trend created by compilation of statutes and case decisions? and how do I learn them? by reading books like E & E? Wouldn't study aids ever give conflicting information regarding the rules?



Aloha, Lovelyjj, and thank you.  

[If you'd be willing to share your comments (after the year is over), I would be happy to send you the other book.  I would be most interested in areas that were unclear or might use revision, correction, or wholesale shredding.]

The Rule of Law, like law itself, is both majestic and minute.  Broadly, the rule of law is the idea that society has organized itself so that its affairs will be handled by a commonly-accepted set of, yes, rules.  Whether these are constitutional, criminal, civil, or commercial, these rules are the road signs for civic life.  We rarely stop to think about these, and we more rarely stop to appreciate them.  We tend to ignore them until, as the saying goes, they're no longer there.  So, life in a slum in a Third World country (sorry to be stereotypical, but in this case, it's true) is life without the rule of law.  In such a world (think "Slumdog Millionaire") there are no rules that apply, other than the rules of survival and power.  This is what Hobbes writes about in the "state of nature"--an apocalyptic, nightmarish landscape in which life is "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short."  This is why the law is important.  Without it, that apocalyptic nightmare is our future.

Okay.  Enough philosophy?  The practical end of the rule of law is the body of actual rules, from constitutions through statutes and cases and on down to regulations, ordinances, and letters of interpretation.  These are all part of the rule of law.  The irony in practice is that the *lower* one is in the hierarchy, the better.  In law school, however, we spend our time on the "big picture" rules.  This too is misleading, especially come exam time, because the rule of law is more than just what a judge said, or many judges said.  It is everything.

Among this "everything" that will be useful in the exam is a framework: just how do these rules fit together?  (Much of the section on "Getting Good" in the book is about this framework.)  

This is, broadly, the outline of the law.  (Sound familiar?)  So, if were were to look at a commercial outline in, say, Torts, we would see the very same topics in every one.  When we drill down to, say, negligence law, we will see something interesting.  Old outlines will have a "majority rule" for contributory negligence, for example, plus all the ancillary doctrines (assumption of risk, last clear chance...), and also the "minority rule" for comparative negligence.  We fast forward to a modern outline and what do we see?  The very same doctrines . . . except they're now reversed.  As a society, we didn't like the old rule; it was too strict.  So, we developed a new rule.  Over time, the minority rule became the majority rule, and the old majority rule became the exception.  But the specific rules within that structure remain steadfastly consistent.  This is why it really doesn't matter what source you use; they're all pretty much the same.  It is absolutely crucial, however, to understand that framework.  Without that understanding, it's all gibberish.

This is why the law exam is the law exam is the law exam.  It seem crazy (and scary), and it is.  But every exam is going to test the basic concepts, because it has to.  (The "basic concepts" includes ALL of the rules, exceptions, and exceptions-to-exceptions.  Thus, it's a combination of general and highly technical . . . just like the law.)  

It also thus draws upon all the skills of crafting your own outline and working through hypotheticals (including practice exam after practice exam).  This is why the conventional means of "study" in law school are inefficient at best, and often counterproductive.  They're certainly exhausting and highly frustrating and quite likely to lead to burnout and excruciatingly unlikely to lead to that "A" grade.



2) What is legal reasoning? I know this sounds awefully general, but I did not really understand what you meant by what you said regarding my last question in the answer you gave me.

I have nothing against the school or traditions. But it is really frustrating if I think about it because I believe many students, like me, are confused about what is true and what is not. We hear so many different things that conflict with each other, sometimes these things we are confused about are the very basic studying method or how to approach class discussions. Yet, when I discuss these problems with others, many tell me some strange things, even the academic advisor at my school. (Like I may not be for law school or I might have some learning deficiencies or whatever). I know this sounds very emotional and not logical, but really, people who are not doing so good now may improve if they are given proper directions. (After all, how can you judge whether someone is for law school or not after only 1 semester of studying the law? assuming that person never studied law in her life?)

It is general, but in fact this is an excellent question and concern.  This is one reason law students are so miserable, and misled.  Hour upon hour without a real sense of what it is they're supposed to be doing, and never quite sure if what they are doing is in fact right.

Okay.  "Legal reasoning" is the process of thinking through a fact pattern in light of the law.  

Alternatively, "legal reasoning" is the process of thinking through the law in light of a fact pattern.

If you like the details of life, try the former; if the big picture, try the latter.  See?  We can too have fun in law school.  

We can go about this in two ways.  We tend to think that law school is about the law.  Not exactly.  Clearly there is law in law school.  One would be shocked otherwise, yes?  But that's not all it is.  In reality, law school is about the law in light of fact patterns.  So, simply knowing a rule is nice ("in the majority of jurisdictions a plaintiff's recovery is limited under comparative negligence to the net of its non-negligence") . . . but that's not enough.  To simply write that on an exam does nothing.  (Or, more precisely, it's a "C" response.)  What is needed is to understand how that rule affects a claim for a person in a set of facts, and defenses for the other side.  So, if Plaintiff P does a, b, and c, and Defendants D, E, and F have done x, y, and z, you'll reason through (i.e., conduct a lawyerlike analysis) what happens with that claim.  Or, more correctly, those claims (and defenses, and counterclaims, and counter-defenses...).  Legal analysis is the process of separating all of those potential claims and counterclaims and sifting them through the sieve of the rules.  

The funny thing is that, for legal analysis, it doesn't matter if it's a real case or a made up one.  [!]  The process of thinking through the law in light of facts requires, well, facts to look at.  They can be real or fanciful.  But, like numbers to an accountant, they're just grist for the legal mill.  They're what we need to actually "do" legal analysis.  To a practitioner, that's called a client.  To a law student, it's a hypo . . . or an exam.

If we want to look at it in the reverse, Client P has a problem.  Something happened.  Defendants D, E, and F have done x, y, and z.  Okay.  What do we do?  Exactly the same.  We look at those facts and ask "What law applies here"?  (The difference in law school being that your prof will be kind enough to give you the facts, whereas in practice you have to find them out for yourself.)  In most cases, it's obvious.  After we think about it a while, we'll think of more possibilities.  From there, we're doing exactly the same:  evaluating those facts in light of the law.

That is legal reasoning.  And it really is fun.

 . . . And I hope that that has been helpful.

With aloha,

Thane.

479
Studying for the LSAT / Re: LSAT for transfer students
« on: February 23, 2010, 04:27:07 AM »
They do, UVA Admissions Dean literally says - "we discount LSAT score in favor of first year law school performance".

Quite right.  Grades, first year law school, and soft factors such as letters of recommendation by law profs are 90+% of the transfer application.  And, yes, they are quite difficult.  Except for lateral transfers, grades are *extremely* important.  Check out Art of the Law School Transfer for more.

480
General Board / Re: How do you think like a lawyer?
« on: February 22, 2010, 02:52:42 PM »
Thank you Thane for sharing your insight. Reading your comment clears much doubt, but it still leaves me with questions. For instance,

You are most welcome.  I hope the following helps . . .


1) if law school isn't there to teach you the law, then how do you learn the law? By reading supplements? case briefs? Why do law schools then require students to read casebooks if this isn't going to help them to learn the law?


Excellent.  This is exactly the right question to be asking.  

If you ask them, law professors will be the first to say that they're not there to "teach" the law.  What they are there to do is to hone students' skills in reasoning through the law.

To learn the law, first, don't flutter about.  When we talk about "the law," we're really talking about a whole bunch of rules.  But that's a mistake right there.  Each class is not there to cover "the law."  Each class is devoted to a NARROW area of ONE subject.  Usually, it's one or two rules or a handful of rules (including exceptions and exceptions-to-exceptions).  Sometimes, such as in Criminal Law where you might spend a week or more on mens rea, it will be just one rule.  That's it.

Thus, before you walk into each and every class, know what that rule (or those rules) are.  If you don't know why you're walking into that class, stop and think about that.  What rule is the professor talking about?  This should never be an unknown.  In a sense, this makes your job MUCH easier.  If you know the rule, you can then discuss the case with knowledge about why that case is important.  And the discussions will make sense.  More precisely, the discussions will make sense from the professor's side.  What you're in class to do is to spar, mentally, with the professor.  Joust with, around, and against your prof.  Prove every statement until it makes sense.  (If you were to go back to a freshman class and listen to a professor, it would be like elementary school, yes?  That's what you're shooting for here.  If you know the rule, it WILL make sense.  It will be like law elementary school. = :  )

How to learn the rule?  This is where your supplements come in handy.  Yes, you'll rely on commercial outlines (mostly) to focus.  You'll pay close attention to the syllabus (to the extent that the prof follows it) and anything else that provides the answer to the above question.  NOT briefs.  Those are not to learn the law, but to play with it.  They're a form of a hypothetical--that happens to be true--but their primary value in law school is expository, not normative.  

You'll also need to have drafted and gone over a few times that section of your outline.  BEFORE class.  This is absolutely essential.  You must prepare before class.  Not a week.  Not a month.  One day.  The discipline part of this is in a sense very hard:  you must stay on track, by one day ahead.

THAT is "participation."


2) What is the law? I understand knowing the statutes and 'important cases' are essential, but how do you draw the big picture? After all, isn't it just knowing the rules in detail and applying it when a particular situation arises?



One reason this is frustrating is that the law is everything.  It is the grand philosophical debates.  (How do we acquire an interest in property; should we relieve someone of criminal liablility for insanity; why should a party be held to a contract; etc.)

It is about social norms and transformations.  (Did we REALLY think it was okay to . . . ?)

It is also about the minutiae.  (What does Statute X say about that?)

And of course it's about the grand morass (which in law school is the bulk of how law is "studied"):  What are the collective opinions of the following ten thousand judges?

This is why outlines are so important:  you can have both.  The structure and main sections are the forest, and the lower-level structure can include any number and manner of details and philosophical nuance.  This is also why it's so important to build your own outline (twice): only then will the forest and trees (and leaves and silkworms) be clear to you.



3)According to what you say, lawyers are people who have mastered these skills of seeing the big picture. Does that mean a lawyer would always end up getting the highest grade if she re-took the first year law school class? even without listening to the lecture(because she KNOWS THE LAW?) Isn't grading subjective to a certain degree? Don't professors issue spot when they grade exams? Doesn't that mean lawyers who do not know what the professor thinks important wouldn't do so well even if she knows the law?

I had to chuckle, as I just finished a response (it's good to play hookey) . . . before I read yours . . .  on what happens if an attorney takes a law exam.

Yes, there is a subjective component to grading.  But it's not the crapshoot that many assume it to be.  Moreover, when reading an "A" paper and comparing it to a "B" paper, it might not be immediately apparent just why it's so different . . . until one has mastered the law.  That's when the essence of legal reasoning is clear.

First, there is zero room for the mushy, emotional thinking that is part of everyone's life.  Just listen to the talking heads sometime.  If we could have an electric shock for every unsubstantiated, misleading, or outlandish statement, we'd have a shortage of electricity (and, likely, a more civil society).  On a law exam, this is a trap.  If the prof sets up a sweet, innocent party, chances are many students are going to miss point after point because they WANT that person to win.  And so, they'll shade the analysis, thinking that they're getting to the "right" answer.  Nope.  Likewise, the bad guy will cause students to miss legitimate claims, and thus points.  

(Does this help explain why a lawyer would not miss issues, regardless of whether he had spent ten minutes in class?)

Second, a lawyerlike analysis requires structure.  A "B" paper (or worse) will meander.  An "A" paper will run through the tests with seeming mechanical precision.

Third, proper English can be a hindrance.  This is a hugely unfortunate side effect of law exams.  But it's important to condition oneself *in a law exam* not to write in full, flowery sentences.  An "A" exam is almost choppy, because it is precise.


I hope the above helps.  Law school is important.  Class is important.  Friends are important.  The key is to make sure each is given the proper weight and treatment.  Don't assume you're in class to "learn" the law; you're there to master what you've already learned (via your outline the night before).  Don't rail against law school, the system, professors, (me?), or anyone or anything else.  At least not yet.  It is what it is.  And enjoy the positive reinforcements and good karma of being nice.  (As you no doubt are by your posts.)  Take care of your friends, respond courteously and with genuine compassion, and know that everyone is experiencing what you are.

With aloha,

Thane.



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