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Messages - Duncanjp
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« on: June 12, 2011, 02:45:37 PM »
Just a word of caution: the point of case briefing is not to do the brief. [!] It is, instead, to understand how a single point of law fits within a broader context of that area of law. So, be careful. Some students all but kill themselves trying to do briefs, never realizing the real goal of briefing. Many of these realize that spending 40 hours a week briefing (which is what is needed to do them the way they're often shown) is unsustainable, so they give up. This leads to the worst of both worlds.
I would second that. There's a line of demarcation that can be crossed from productive to pointless reading. Some students advocate blowing off the cases entirely as useless time-wasters. I don't. But formally briefing each case is definitely too time-consuming to be productive. Still, I see value in reading the cases and doing at least some of your own briefs. Cases show how the law is applied and doing your own briefs teaches you how to apply the law in IRAC format. I try to do at least one or two formal briefs a week, and the rest of the time I book brief. Seasoned law students might get by without even reading every case word for word. That said, there were people in my first year courses who never read any of the cases, and it really showed up in their grades. They had memorized the black letter law as well as anybody, but hadn't learned how to apply it to the facts. After you've read 200-300 cases, you start developing a certain intuition for how to apply the BLL. And since your analysis is where all the money is, not just recitation of the rules, there is certainly value in studying how judges have applied the law from the casebook.
« on: June 12, 2011, 01:43:58 PM »
This is how part-time students can actually do better than full-time ones . . . and much better, on an hour-for-hour basis. Work smart, not (just) hard.
I don't disagree with a word of your post, Thane. You're absolutely correct on every point. If a student can find ways to be more efficient with his or her study time, working harder for the same results would be myopic and wasteful. I've found ways to make my own study time more productive, and every little bit helps. (Disconnecting this infernal internet is a biggie!) Learning how to play the game quickly is a critical part of the law school experience. I had to figure that out the hard way myself. At the same time, I would simply caution against relying too heavily on the "smarter, not harder" (SNH) theory. In my experience, students often use the SNH mantra as an excuse to be lazy. These are people who are chronically looking for shortcuts at every turn, who have been to LEEWS seminars and have purchased Flemings — doing everything except the reading. I tend to believe that there is no holy grail out there to learning this material. You have to do the reading. You should write your own outlines and most importantly, you must do practice exams until you can write them in your sleep. And by all means, you need to get feedback on your practice tests from your professors. Certainly, some people will get there with less effort than others, but it amazes me how much time and energy some students spend in their quest for shortcuts when applying that energy to simply doing the work would give them a better payday.
« on: June 11, 2011, 04:04:48 PM »
I just finished my first year of attending law school in the evening while working 8-5 M-F. If I were not in law school, I would be at work 8-6, and sometimes on weekends as well. Fortunately, I'm in a position where a law degree will serve my employer's interests, so they're forgiving if I leave for class rather than staying around to work overtime. But I must say, to do well in school while working requires extraordinary commitment. If you want better than a C average, be prepared to abandon your friends, your family, and all recreational activities because you will not have time for any of that. Forget about watching TV and relaxing, too. Law school must become your recreation and relaxation. Part-time law school is a second full-time job. Success requires strict attention to time management. When I started last year, I took a calendar and divided every day of the month into morning, afternoon, and evening. Then I blocked out all of the areas where I would be at work and in class. The remaining white space was where I would do my studying and try to fit in some time for my wife. I made every effort to devote Saturday mornings to my wife, but the rest of the time I studied. I read cases, worked on my outlines, and wrote practice exams. I did not get to take a vacation to New York or Lake Tahoe. The only vacation time I've taken over the last 12 months has been to stay home and prepare for exams. Even during the winter break, I spent my time trying to get ahead on the reading for the spring semester. As they say, law school is a jealous mistress. But the commitment has paid off for me in my GPA.
Again, if you're satisfied with a C average, then maybe you can take it a little easier than I've described. If you aren't afraid to hear your friends and acquaintances ask, "Weren't you in law school awhile back? What happened?" then by all means, make it to that concert. But to excel, you really have to take your medicine and make the sacrifice.
« on: June 05, 2011, 04:39:47 PM »
IrrX is correct. By "first time around," I meant the midterm. By the time I sat my crim final, I had a much more savvy understanding of law school exams. My crim midterm was the first graded law school exam I had ever taken, and while I knew the black letter law as well as anybody, my approach to the exam was utterly naive. I anticipated making points by showing my in-depth understanding of every nuance of homicide, for instance, whether it was relevant to the discussion or not. In so doing, I wasted valuable time and failed to discuss every possible crime the fact patterns disclosed. In my naivete, I thought it was neither possible nor expected by the professor that we should discuss every incidental larceny that appeared. Wrong on both counts. It is possible if you practice and yes, they expect you to see and discuss everything. Okay. Lesson learned. Unlike some of my classmates, I did not take any pre-law classes. I had to learn it the hard way. But that's nothing I haven't done before. Law school reminds me of my parachute jumps in the Marines: I never knew where I was going to land when I jumped. I had to figure it out on the way down.
« on: June 03, 2011, 11:27:53 PM »
Happy to report that I crushed my crim final. Kicked butt. I just made some rookie mistakes the first time around that I didn't make on the final.
« on: May 28, 2011, 03:00:49 AM »
Officer O'Toole is strolling down the sidewalk one afternoon when he sees a commotion ahead. He arrives to find two lawyers in the gutter, gripping each other in mortal combat with fists flying while a little boy dances around them crying, "Daddy, daddy, daddy!!" O'Toole wades into the fray and siezes the two furious men.
"A'right, sonny," he says, " which of these two is your daddy?"
"I don't know," says the little boy, dabbing his eye. "That's what they're fighting about."
« on: May 13, 2011, 03:35:10 AM »
Yo, fo. I have a full-time career position and I'm going to law school at night. It is an exhausting but exhilarating experience. Since matriculating last fall, I have had absolutely no life. I work, I go to class, and I study. If I'm not at work, I'm in class. If I'm not in class, I'm studying. If I'm not studying, I'm squeezing in my mandatory nightly 5½ hours of sleep. I think about law constantly. I listen to CDs of myself reading the rules that I need to memorize while commuting. No more sports radio or ear candy. I have a 50-minute commute and I use every minute of it to study. Fortunately for me, I have a wife who is behind me, but she hasn't gotten to see much of me since last August. It's a fabulous experience, though. I love every minute of it. I haven't seen most of my friends in almost a year. The main thing is, if you work full time, you have to really want to be a lawyer. It's a sleep-depriving grind like I've never experienced since getting out of the Marines. Makes college seem like a laugh. But if you like it, it can be done. I'm doing it.
« on: April 28, 2011, 11:34:49 PM »
Cpl, USMC, 2nd FSSG, Camp LeJeune, NC, 1978-1982. Semper fi, brother veterans of all branches (and genders).
« on: April 25, 2011, 01:51:22 AM »
I'm tearing myself away from writing practice exams in preparation for my contracts and torts finals, but what the hey. I need a little break. I'm a 1L at a night law school with nearly 100 other 1Ls, and there are several of us attending who are 50-52. In fact, there are even a couple of people who appear to be crowding 60. Most of the students average around 35 years old. Age does not seem to matter in the greater scheme of things. There's a certain camaraderie that compels everybody to help each other out, regardless of age. People judge you on how well you perform in class and on the exams. Be ready to share your outlines and notes with everybody, and never miss a class. Excel and others will want to get to know you and learn how you do it. Be lazy with the reading, stay home with every case of the sniffles, come unprepared to class, do poorly on the tests — you'll find yourself going it alone. Nobody in law school wants to hang with the losers, and age has nothing to do with it.
That said, I think a fabulous education at a top tier law school when you're over 50 is a waste of money — at least for many people. At this age, the only thing that matters is to get the license. It's too late in life at this point for the prestige to pay off, and the cost of an ABA school can be staggering. Just my opinion, mind you. That doesn't mean you should settle for the Fly-By-Night Law School and its McJ.D. program. Those grads don't pass the Bar in high numbers. But you might find a reputable, state-accredited school that will give you a decent chance to pass the Bar without costing the price of a second house. And you'll study the same subjects and use the same textbooks as the ABA schools use. Once you pass the Bar, at this age it isn't terribly important where you went to school. The people who would care about where you got your J.D. won't hire you anyway. They want young lawyers with bright futures ahead of them. Age discrimination may be illegal, but they're attorneys themselves. They know how to handle the law.
It is absolutely true, however, that a 50-something student is not going to be invited to the local bar with the 20-somethings for pre-class shots of tequila. But honestly, who gives a rip? I can't deny, drinking in the service and college was fun when I was in my 20s, so I don't blame them for a thing. But I have no interest in watching younger people get liquored up before or after class. Being old enough to be their father would make me feel terribly out of place anyway. If you're 52, you're going to look for people with whom you share some common interests. You'll probably gravitate toward the older students first, then you'll find people who work in fields related to yours. I know all the veterans in my class because I was a Marine, and it's a bond that transcends age. Beyond that, I've made numerous friends who are maybe 15 years younger than I am, and we're getting close simply on a fellow-classmates level. Everyone wants a support network. So as previous writers have said, your acceptance by other students will depend more upon how you conduct yourself socially and what you bring to class than how old you are. But if you're looking for a date, a photography class is a better bet.
« on: January 30, 2011, 10:31:38 PM »
I totally blew my crim law midterm, which was my first "real law school exam," and the shock of it took the wind out of my sails for awhile. But in reviewing my test, I realized that I had made some serious errors that were founded more on my naivete regarding how to take exams than with my knowledge of the law. I know the rules as well as anybody else. But I wrote my essays like I was Herman Melville, which made me run out of time before I had finished the third question. For some odd reason, I was under the impression that I would make more points by showing a thorough, in-depth knowledge of the major, obvious crimes than I would by showing a succinct, sufficient understanding and applying it effectively to every possible issue that the fact patterns contained. In the process, I neglected to address some of the issues that should have been discussed. But I learned my lesson, and I did not make that mistake during the midterms for contracts and torts. A number of my classmates expressed the same sort of dismay when they saw their first grades. While I was still stewing over my crim law exam, one of my company attorneys told me that law school is a game and a big part of the game is to put you in your place. That was obliquely encouraging. Very few people make the attempt to get into law school in the first place if they didn't do well in undergrad, so the competition is full of people who are used to getting straight As. I think it's just a matter of learning to stop thinking like we do and start thinking like attorneys. Keep slogging through. Quitters never get anywhere.
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