"2) Teachers can go to the dean to get your ass booted out if they notice your not doing what they ask and require"
Seriously? Pretty sure Thane wasn't advising folks to flip their professor the bird when asked a question in class.... and if you even skimmed the cases, you should be able to give a competent answer without having read each case three times, highlighted in 7 different colors, taken notes, and practiced your questions in front of the mirror. Thane doesn't advise people NOT to participate in class, but just says that if it takes you that much effort to be prepared to say something in class, then you're putting your effort into the wrong activities. If you like to waste your time, have fun. But the advice was for a OP who is overwhelmed, so clearly this method isn't working for them.
"but at least at my school the Profs call on briefs like clockwork and mostly random in the class."
Maybe that's at your school, but most people I know quit briefing after week 2 of 1L year. Briefing is to help you learn to identify the important parts of a case; if you can already do that, there's no point in writing a brief or using crazy highlighters and sticky tabs. You don't need a photographic memory, just basic reading comprehension.
Many thanks, S.Y.N, and indeed so.
(Excellent interpolation of my statements. One reason law exams are disorienting is that there is little either/or thinking in the law. The facts are, individually, usually either/or, and the result is often either/or, but the reasoning? Almost never. And S.Y.N.'s post gets to the meat of why law students struggle so. (No, I don't know S.Y.N., but I do like his (or her) handle.))
To all, this thread had me thinking. Dangerous, I know.
Here goes . . .
It's now late February. That means, what? Ten weeks or so before exams? Ten weeks. Most are stressed even thinking about this . . . a stress that is bound to get worse. This stress is normal, and there's not much that can be done to alleviate it. What can be done is to use this stress, and one's time, more effectively.
If you're doing the following . . .
1. briefing cases with more than 2-4 lines about the holding, facts, and rationale;
2. taking extensive notes;
3. color coding;
4. asking lots and lots of "clarifying" questions;
5. asking *any* questions designed to impress the professor or, well, anyone else;
6. sabotaging the efforts of any of your classmates, including attempting to psyche anyone out; or
7. playing just about any other type of game
. . . you will almost certainly fail.
Sorry to be brusque, but, as the saying goes, mark my words. This is the truth from the prof's (and hiring partner's) perspective.
"Fail" doesn't necessarily mean "F" . . . but it does mean your dreams of a big law job (or the type of job you would like, or the choice of a job you would like) go bye-bye. In this market, that's what, a "B" or even an "B+"?
So, what to do? First, think about what the prof needs to ascertain. They must test students' ability to reason through a complex fact pattern. A hypothetical. Note: not "test knowledge." Not award points for brown-nosers. Not anything we have grown used to for 16 years. THE reason this is so stressful and disorienting (and even worse in the summer when grades come in), is that everything we learned about how to please a prof is tossed out the window in law school. Moreover, everything we learned about how to learn was downright sloppy. It only worked because . . . sorry . . . your competition was so relatively light. Not any more.
Truth be told, law professors love blind grading . . . because it insulates them from these traps, and because it's a chance to safely separate the attorneys from, well, everyone else. In a nutshell, your final exam should read as if written by a practicing attorney. These are surprisingly easy to spot.
Alright. What to do? After you have stopped doing any of the above, you need to re-focus on what will help with what it is that profs are testing for. An ability to reason through a hypothetical. Hint: This is EXACTLY the skill that a lawyer needs; thus law firms are happy to go with profs' assessments.
Okay. How to build a lawyerlike analysis? Learn black letter law. Not just "learn" it, but LEARN it. That means that when someone is talking about x, in your mind you can practically waltz through the various prongs of the outline in that area. This is not something you will gain through memorization. It is not something you will gain through notes. Nor color-coding, nor any of that nonsense. You will gain it ONLY through internalizing it, which in turn requires that you WORK THROUGH what it is that jurists past have worked through. You must re-create the law. An outline. You must then cement that internalized knowledge by USING it. Hypotheticals.
Everything else is bunk. (Note: Nowhere does this imply that one is rude, or disrespectful, or slovenly, or any other negative descriptor.)
Participation in class? That's not talking, or at least not talking much. What it is doing is ACTIVE listening. This is listening so intense that you're nearly falling out of your chair. You're hanging on to each word, and are in a blazing contest with each statement. True? Not true? You will challenge everything. And in so doing you will do FAR better than anyone who has actually briefed the case. Why? Because that's how the law is really lived. You will be *tired* after each class . . . but you will immediately update your outline to reflect what you have learned.
Never borrow an outline. (In first year.) That is work YOU must do. Once you've done your outline (no later than, say, mid-March), you need to create a second, condensed outline, of no more than 1-2 pages. (This will come in handy for the bar exam.)
Then you need to spend as much of the remaining weeks working hypotheticals. Many, many hypos.
Dozens and dozens of exams. Every one of these hypos and exams will cause you to go over and over and over your outline, again and again and again and again and again. You will KNOW it as well as you know 2 + 2. The law? And how.
Take LEEWS if you can. But don't just take it. Live it. (And, no, I don't receive a penny for this endorsement.)
Take more practice exams. Be strict. Time yourself short. Take more practice exams. Eat, breathe, and sleep hypos. Eat, breathe, and sleep hypos with your team. Eat, breathe, and sleep hypos with your dreams. THAT is law school. (And, believe it or not, the law becomes fun.)
Be courteous to everyone. No one wants to share clients with an a**hole. No one WILL share clients with an a**hole.
* * *
To all, this really can be done. And it can be done with less work. And it can be done with less stress.
Be well, hang in there, and study wisely, not spastically. Don't be overwhelmed. Be just the right amount of whelmed.