« on: March 08, 2010, 04:00:58 PM »
Planet Law School is a decent book, but I'm not sure how much it really helps in the long run. I don't know you (OP), so take my advice for what it's worth.
First, I was on Law Review and I knew a lot of kids in the top 20 percent. My only true skill in life is my talent for observation. This is unscientific, but success in law school seems to come from the following:
1: The ability to smartly outwork your classmates in the first 2/3rds of the semester. 25%
Most law schools run on a bell curve, so your grades are drastically affected by your peers. Most people, especially those students toward the top of the class, work insanely hard for the last 4 or 5 weeks in each semester. If you want an edge, be smart in the first two months of the semester. This is where books like planet law school can help.
You should also consider your energy level. If I could go back in time I would have spent the summer playing and reading good (recreational) books.
Make sure you take good notes in class and work hard, but also focus on test prep as soon as you feel comfortable. Glannon's Examples and Explanations book for Civil Procedure is a great supplement. If you have civ pro, I'd recommend picking it up early on.
2: Raw Intelligence 25%
Not much you can do about this. I know some people will tell you differently, but it's obvious to me that brain power makes a big difference in law school. (And LSAT scores aren't really the best indicator).
3: Exam Taking Speed. 15%
Sometimes the difference between an A and a B is very small. Start looking at practice exams after a few weeks of law school. You won't know all the material, but you need to get familiar with questions and figure out how you want to approach them. Also, keyboarding can make a difference. I know my 90 wpm typing secured a couple of my A grades.
4: Writing Ability. 15%
Of course this goes hand in hand with numbers 1 and 2, but this is important. Pay attention to your legal writing classes, and read a couple writing books. Good writing makes you more efficient and faster, which helps you get more points. Remember, most tests are timed and you don't have enough time to talk about every single issue. So that can diminish the importance of knowing everything.
5: Memory 10%
Most tests I took were open book, but outlines and books slowed me down. Create notes and outlines with the purpose of learning the material. Many people just try to organize everything in a brilliant way so it will be readily accecible, and usually they either get bogged down or they just know the crap well enough to not need an outline on the test.
6: Luck 5%
Sometimes your classmates will be geniuses. Sometimes the teacher will focus on your one weakness on the final. Sometimes you'll misread a question. Very few people get anywhere close to straight As. But some people are very consistent, so luck is very low on this list.
7: Friends 5%
This one is tricky. Sometimes study groups can make a huge difference, but it's a gamble. That's why I don't think the impact is very significant. I don't think study groups are very effective until you and your friends all have a decent handle on the subject. Otherwise you'll just be slowing each other down.
So what does this have to do with anything?
The point is that some books and some strategies just focus on one or two of the things above. Some people even believe that hard work is everything. I just think most of your top competitors will work insanely hard in the first year. Try to find advantages in the other areas.
Finally, the top 2 law student's I've ever known didn't do any advance preparation. They had fun and made sure they were ready to commit when the game started.
Incredibly helpful post, thank you very much. This is some of the stuff I was actually wanting to get into, the "meat and potatoes" of law school.
Speaking to your first point, "The ability to smartly outwork your classmates in the first 2/3rds of the semester.", when you speak about prepping for a test as soon as I feel comfortable, how do you recommend? Do you mean through class notes, legal briefs, or other supplements like practice exams?
Also, can I begin studying any of the applicable materials for each course I may be taking in advance so I can be ahead of the game or does that have to wait until class begins? If I can start in advance, can you lead me to any preferred books, for example like the book by Glannon that you mentioned, Civil Procedure? And in regards to energy level, do you mean relaxing in the summer in order to “recharge the battery” for the coming fall semester?
Also, as I understand it, what I gleaned as the underlying message of the post was that if you truly immerse yourself in the study of law, meaning you study with the intent of understanding the law not just for the grades or ranking, the positives will just come naturally? Am I correct in that assumption?
Also, as I mentioned earlier, any books o courses you can recommend that would allows me to get a leg up on school before it starts is very much appreciated. Thanks.