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Messages - Thane Messinger
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« on: February 18, 2010, 02:54:26 PM »
cases offered in law school so can understand reasoning of case. it inefficient way to learn black-letter law, as that actually not what being taught.
Exactly right, and sorry if I glossed over that. It's important not to get tripped up on all the window-dressing in a case--and most cases have lots and lots of dressing. The crucial matter is the reasoning: the why. Why did that fact make the difference? What was the test (i.e., the rule of law)? Is the reasoning flawed? If so, why? Do other jurisdictions have better reasoning? From there, what would happen if a fact were different? The jurisdiction? And so on.
It's also important as the second points (inefficiency and exam bait-and-switch) are very much the things that trip up most law students.
Julie right. Thane glad could respond Julie.
« on: February 18, 2010, 02:44:13 PM »
If that's the case, then I suggest maintaining a low profile. Then they won't see you coming some years down the line.
A low profile is indeed a good default setting, for most. Good call, Peter. (And every class has faces of shock as star classmates come from seemingly nowhere.) As hard as it is for us, after 16 years of ingrained habit, it's crucial to recognize that the dynamic in law school is different. Not just the what--what we're supposed to learn--but the how and why: how we're supposed to learn it and how it will be tested, and why we need to get it at a far deeper level of understanding. Different, different. So, yes, when in doubt it's *much* better NOT to flop around, striving to impress all.
This depends, of course, on the natural inclinations of the individual. Some of us just can't help being likable. = : )
« on: February 18, 2010, 04:11:01 AM »
I really couldn't believe how my classmates were so consumed and caught up in their in-class performance. CLASS PARTICIPATION DOESN'T COUNT TOWARDS YOUR GRADE. WHO THE F*** CARES WHAT YOUR PROFESSOR THINKS? YOUR EXAMS ARE GRADED ANONYMOUSLY. STOP WORRYING ABOUT WHAT YOUR PEERS THINK AS WELL.
Make better use of your time. And don't get stressed out about being unprepared in class or what not. All that matters is your performance on the final exam (and possibly midterms). I wish that I would have spent more time outlining than worrying about the readings and briefing for class.
Thank you, Peter. I suspect you wanted to shake readers up a bit (as I sometimes do as well), and your points are very much on point--especially about the importance of outlining over, well, just about everything else. (I would add practice exam upon practice exam no later than two-thirds of the way through the semester.)
A related caveat that sounds contradictory, but isn't: A law student DOES want to care what profs and fellow students think . . . but not because of grades. Rather, important information and, sometimes, contacts and recommendations come from professors. And, as to peers, these are your future colleagues. You can't imagine how insigificant law school worries become when it's time to actually practice.
Grades are key. Yes, true. But they're "merely" a necessary but not sufficient condition. For a good (and lucrative) career, you will also need the respect and support of your peers. In even the largest of cities, the legal world is a small town indeed.
So, with that written, Peter's main points are quite right. Thank you.
I hope this helps,
« on: February 17, 2010, 02:22:53 PM »
You only need to brief cases for the first few weeks of law school or for however long it takes for you to be able to recognize how to read a case, dissect it into its components (procedural history, facts, issue, rule, reasoning), and take from it whatever it is you are looking for. Once you are able to do that STOP BRIEFING!!! Get a case brief supplement or look up the cases on lexis or westlaw or whatever and call it a day.
Absolutely right. Case briefing was designed in a simpler age for a simpler purpose: to put all the law student ducklings in a row behind the mama prof duck. (Who was then the papa prof duck, come to think of it, although I'm not sure papa ducks spend all that much time worrying about whether their ducklings are in a row, behind them or elsewhere.)
In law school, cases exist for one purpose and one purpose only: to highlight a point of law. It could be a rule. An exception. An exception to an exception.
So, focus first and primarily on that point of law. USE the case, sure. Know the case and know why it's there. But don't spend more than five minutes scanning it. Then and only then do you read it--and only the parts that are relevant to the point of law. Absolutely don't spend more than five seconds on procedural history, etc., unless that is the point of law at issue. (If, for example, it's in Civ Pro.)
Reverse the process: know WHY you're reading the case before you do. In law school it's easy to think of cases as the donut. Nope. They're a hole, or more specifically a black hole, into which an entire semester can be sucked--with absolutely no benefit. Focus instead on what is important: learning the rules of law (just one or two per class, usually) and on how to apply those rules to new facts.
If you get called on and don't know the procedural history, etc.--and I'm trying to think of any time this ever happened outside of The Paper Chase--just say you don't know. Don't worry about it. It WON'T affect your grade (as long as you're not obnoxious about it). Don't worry about being embarrassed. Really. Who cares? Focus on the rule of law, instead.
« on: February 17, 2010, 02:09:31 PM »
Many reading this might be saying "just drop the damn class," but for me this is really difficult because I feel like that is admitting failure. On the other hand, I may literally fail if I stay in all of my classes. But still, it is very hard for me to swallow that other people seem to be able to handle much more than me. Any suggestions about what I should do would be greatly appreciated. Thanks again
To add to the points EarlCat and BikePilot make, it is very true that what you're describing is a common feeling among all, or nearly all, law students.
Maybe this will help:
We hear repeated again and again words like "drudgery," workload," "overwhelming," and so on. If this is the approach, it would be extraordinary not to feel as you do. What's worse, none of these will help. There's no extra credit in law school for time served.
There might be a different solution: Learn more and better, with less work.
One of the problems, if not *the* problem, is not law school. It's us. The study habits and "techniques" that were successful in college and before simply won't work, or won't work well, in law school. Why? Because law school is not college. That sounds obvious, yet how many law students look at how they are supposed to learn the material? No, instead most simply plow through, hoping against hope (and against advice of nearly everyone who has gone before), that the prof will *somehow* see through their exam to see all the work they've put in. That's not how it works.
BikePilot has just the right advice in his take on reading law review articles. Namely, don't. Or, more correctly, don't "read" them. Slogging through an 80-page law review article is not just an incredible waste of time, it won't help. Will you know what you need to know after reading it that you didn't know before. I can almost guarantee you that you won't get what you're looking for in this way. The real challenge is to stop racing, and start learning in a much more efficient way.
Let's start from the beginning. Why do profs assign reading. Sadism? Well, okay, maybe a little. The main reason, however, is right there. They assign materials to convey a handful of points. That's it. The objective as a student is not to READ. The objective is to LEARN. The challenge is to learn with the least amount of wasted effort. So, reading ANYTHING that doesn't help in that understanding is wasted.
Don't read everything. You can't. You shouldn't. And no attorney does that. What to do? First, confirm every scrap of paper for one thing: its relevance. Figure out why you're reading it. If you cannot state, in a simple sentence, why you're reading it, then don't.
Never, never spend hours reading cases, or anything else for that matter. Instead, try this: Five minutes confirming the rule at issue. Ten seconds confirming the relevance of the document before you. IF it's relevant, five minutes scanning for the essential facts. If it's relevant and valuable, twenty minutes reading--really reading--through what is relevant and valuable. (If it takes longer, fine, but it shouldn't take much longer. This is exactly the same standard in practice.) Now for the important part: You're not done. Spend five minutes updating your outline, and another five minutes pondering a hypothetical or two with the rule you've just learned and facts you've just sifted.
If you're spending time briefing cases, stop. Waste of time. (Do profs check? No? Waste of time.)
If you're highlighting, stop. Waste of time. (Will this be graded? No? Waste of time.)
If you're taking notes, stop. Waste of time. (Do they help? No? Waste of time.)
Brown-nosing? Gunning? Subterfuge? Stop, stop, stop.
The study of law can be truly engaging, and can be done, well, in less time than most now take, slogging about frantically from one source to the next, understanding almost none of it and getting more and more confused with each new stack. Rely on those who've gone before to re-confirm what will actually make a difference, and focus ONLY on those aspects that will make a difference. Unfortunately, this means challenging what has worked for 16 years . . . because it WILL NOT work for law school.
For all, law school is about learning the law, backwards, forwards, and sideways . . . and, just as importantly, learning how to apply those rules to a new set of facts, cold. It is not about brown-nosing, all-nighters, highlighting, note-taking, or any of that nonsense. Re-focusing can lead to much better results, with much less wasted effort. And, of course, to just the right amount of stress. No more feelings of being overwhelmed.
I hope this helps,
« on: February 16, 2010, 05:02:18 PM »
After a semester of being a law student, I'm still very confused about law school classes and what they demand from me. Is reading case after case going to help me think in such way? I understand that on an exam, you need to issue spot and IRAC each issue, but then again, the things we had on our exams were so much different from what we covered in class...How do professor separate students who get A's from others who don't do as well? I wish someone could just teach me what I should do...
You are not alone. Nearly everyone feels this way, and unfortunately the results are disappointing (or devastating) for most law students. This is why grades *appear* to be random. (They are not. Or, at least, they're not random in the way most would think they are. They *are* random if the measurement is the amount of time one spends "studying." That is a dead end, and one that many students persistently take.)
To answer the question, no, reading case after case will not help. Neither will briefing case after case, which is a massive waste of time. The key is in being able to put the fact at issue (or, sometimes, a set of facts at issue) into a framework. That framework is "the law." That might sound odd, or just insulting, but it's actually THE key to this, and it's how a good lawyer thinks. (And it's why exam grades appear to be random.)
The Catch-22 of law school is that law school is not designed to teach us the law. Rather, law school is designed to provide a way to test whether we know the law. This in turn requires that we internalize--not memorize--what that law is. This is in much the same way that a chemist internalizes--not memorizes--the periodic chart. Why? Because simply memorizing x prongs of a defense won't be good enough on an exam. The facts must be interwoven so that the right rules (which, ah ha, have been internalized) are placed into context, highlighted in just the right way. In short, an "A" exam is something a lawyer would write.
Circular definition? To a degree. Yet the truth is that most exams deserve not a B or a C, but an F. In the practitioner's (and professor's) mind, this is more binary than it is a forced curve: There is legal reasoning. And there is everything else. And firms do not care to (re)train anyone who has not proved they have mastered this skill. This is why firms are so hypersensitive, especially now, about grades.
There's still time. Forget briefing (at least in the 1-2 page format most are bullied into thinking is the way to brief). NO lawyer briefs that way; neither should you. Forget color-coding. Forget notes. (Absolutely STOP writing notes.) That is all a grand waste of time.
Instead, craft and fine-tune a master outline of 30-50 pages per subject. Then reduce that to 1-2 pages, per subject. And spend the rest of the semester taking practice exams. Dozens and even a hundred of them. It doesn't matter whose exams. (Although it's good to take your profs', of course. But save them for the end.) It helps but is not essential to practice them in teams. (With the right team, it *really* helps. Why? Because a team can force better analysis.) A dozen practice exams, per subject, will make a 1-2 letter-grade difference.
Take these seriously. No cheating. Time yourself. And time yourself short. (2 3/4, then 2 1/2 hours, for a 3-hour exam.) Then spend an equal amount of time dissecting what you did right . . . and, more importantly, what you missed.
Why exams? Because that's what the law is. The ability to dispassionately sift through bits of facts and law and produce a cojent LEGAL analysis. That is "thinking like a lawyer."
[John is correct in the need to lay out ALL the various facts and rules on an exam--unlike in practice--to show that you know why something must be discounted . . . but it's thus even more important to understand how to build the proper framework, with the most important aspects highlighted and the less-important and irrelevant ones properly discounted.]
See? You've gotten the middle of a certain book for free. = : )
Hang in there. It *will* make sense. The challenge is for it to make sense prior to the exam.
« on: February 16, 2010, 04:19:29 PM »
This applies to practicing attorneys as well as to law students. It might seem cagey or just downright unfair, but there are simply too many variables that can make the difference in your case. Even if an experienced criminal law attorney were to post a response, the ways in which that "answer" might not be helpful to your husband's case are numerous. Thus, you really should seek an attorney licensed in your state and familiar with the courts and procedures you're writing about.
I agree with the advice to check with your local public defenders' office. That's a good place to start. At the very least, they should be able to give you the names of other offices that might be able to help, such as the right court clerk to ask to confirm your husband's status.
Best of luck to you both,
« on: February 15, 2010, 02:40:49 AM »
Please weigh in, but also consider i'm aware of the issues at the schools (ex: golden gate previously on probation), and the prospects of coming out of a tier 3/4 school. Thanks in advance.
This might be out-of-place, but have you considered Vermont? With a background such as yours, that might be the perfect fit. And, uniquely, in that area and with your expertise, the school's ranking becomes relatively less important. (This is true both going in and coming out. If one is applying with a genuine expertise and interest that meshes with the faculty's, that will often make the difference in a marginal--and sometimes less-than-marginal--application on the numbers. Likewise, in a job hunt a school with a known expertise will draw nationally, even if it's not otherwise a national school. Beware, however, many of those jobs are going to the defense side.) Vermont is known nationally for its environmental programs, and almost certainly punches above weight.
There are others, but I'm afraid that exhausts my knowledge in that area. (And the specialty lists can be only marginally helpful there too. To have this sort of pull, a law school needs to have devoted a LOT of time and money to a specific area. At least a decade and several endowed chairs, plus several more brilliant newcomers, adjuncts, and extra staff and clinics. Few law schools can do or have done this, so avoid being pulled in by a "flash in the pan" with just a handful of specialists.)
If you've already deferred a year and are on the fence, it might be worth a visit to South Royalton, conversations with the dean and as many faculty as you can find, and another year.
« on: February 15, 2010, 02:26:17 AM »
I understand what you are saying. I do want to go to law school and become a lawyer. I have expensive options in T10-T30 range and much less expensive options in T70s. The bottoms line is that I am looking to get a good legal job upon graduation. In case I do not get a good legal job I would like to work in accounting for a while to be able to pay my mortgage and save for my kids' college. If I go for an average accounting job with JD on my resume, they wil lquestion my commitment for industry and qualification level (they might feel I am hard up for cash and will quit any chance I get). That is the summary of my dillemma. I understand that is not easy and might have many alternative solutions.
Indeed it is a dilemma, as there's no easy calculus. While some will protest that there's no question but to go to the best law school one can get into, the very real issue of cost makes that a dicey proposition, depending upon other factors and especially depending upon personal factors.
Disclaimer: what follows ia a bit of heresy, as what most think of as a ranking system (in the form of a linear assginment of prestige, value, job-getting-ability, etc.) is that only in the most superficial sense. If that's the way ranking is used in a personal decision, it's likely to lead to a bad decision if that's all that's used and if other factors should be of significant importance.
Among those factors is a consideration of where one wants to live. (As in live for the rest of one's life, or at least for most of one's life.) If one is certain to want to live in, say, the mid-Atlantic, then what is nominally a difference between a West Coast #20 and a mid-Atlantic #50 is almost a wash. Indeed, it can be easier in some ways from the lower-ranked school, especially if one is a top-placed student there as compared to the higher-ranked school. (While hardly a certainty, there is a modest chance that that's what will happen.) If, conversely, one wants to "get outta' Dodge," then numbers take on a greater importance--but are *still* likely to determine one's initial (and final) resting place, except at the top schools.
Grades are, without question, a prime determinant. A top-5%'er is likely to have opportunities anywhere, while a top-15%'er will likely have *far* more opportunities at the higher-ranked school. The dropoff, especially now, can be dizzying.
Also to money: the higher the school, the better the chances to recoup money in school and after. This ties directly with grades, of course, but the key is twofold: the grade requirements rise *steeply* with each notch lower in ranking. And they disappear pretty quickly except for the top handful of students (in numbers, not percentages) at all but the top schools.
State schools are, as a whole, a much better deal, although state schools have become rather more expensive of late. (When I write "better deal," this means as between public/private schools within a few notches of each other. Do NOT believe that a private school is "better" just because it's private.) Also, while Duke and Cornell are certainly schools to consider, they're not schools to consider because of their names (or at least not just because of their names). Any school in the top 14 or thereabouts is going to provide a significant boost to a larger percentage of its student body, and one Hell of a morale boost when getting that Yes letter. So, don't look at School #11 as different from School #14--or at least not based on ranking. That's not the way it works. Within a half-dozen places, other factors are more important.
I hope this helps,
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