Law School Discussion

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Messages - tortNretort

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11
More excellent quotes  from this thread:

No. That's the fundamental fallacy that confuses law students and kills their grades. What I have prescribed is the recipe for success in all American law schools, b/c they all use the same crappy pedagogical method (socratic lectures followed by a giant issue-spotter exam which accounts for 100% of your grade). A torts exam at harvard looks the same as a torts exam at podunk u; it will be a giant fact-pattern, and you will need to apply black-letter rules to the facts. Maybe, and this is just a maybe, the harvard exam will have a teeny-tiny policy question that's worth 15% of the grade or so (they're usually only 30 minute Qs on a 3-hour final; so 1/6). So, if one of these Qs shows up (and chances are it won't), that means that 95% of what you learned in class accounts for only 15% of your grade. Again, chances are you won't even get a policy Q on the exam, and if you do, knowing the black-letter law cold will prepare you for that stupid question anyway.

People like to say "you're not learning torts...you're learning professor X's torts." That's extremely misleading. All this means is that (1) your prof will not cover every conceivable topic in the law of torts, and (2) if and when your prof thinks the rule is different from what the study aid says (not often, but sometimes) then use his rule. What it certainly does NOT mean is that what your professor bs's about in class is wht you will see on the final. Bottom line - the law of torts is the law of torts is the law of torts. there's a goddamned restatement which spells it out, and that's why it can be tested on a multi-state bar exam. that's the poo you need to know cold, regardless of how much class time you spend on 'loss spreading' or 'efficiency vs. fairness.'

I just graduated and was at or near the top of my class every semester.  For what it's worth, here's what I did & didn't do:

1.  I went, prepared, to every single class.  I used a simplified Law School Confidential book-briefing method.  In class, I took typed notes in the form of a short brief of every case:  Facts, Issue, Rule, Holding, Analysis, Policy considerations.  Once you get the hang of it, you're learning the rules and practicing IRAC at the same time.  Get this info from the professor if he gives it, from the book if he doesn't. At the end of the semester, you should be able to make a comprehensive outline from your notes alone--no casebook or supplements.
2. I removed my wireless card and got rid of my computer solitaire game. Seriously--class is too boring to resist those distractions.  Without them, you'll have no choice but to occupy yourself with #1 above.
3. I formed a study group with two very dedicated people who weren't good friends of mine.  At the very end of every semester (even 2L and 3L), we had a marathon 1- or 2-day session in which we went over everything in the class in excruciating detail. 
4.  I started outlining 3-4 weeks before exams started.  I started with a massive, comprehensive outline incorporating all of the information from my notes.  Then I'd make a second, shorter outline.  Then I'd make a third outline in the form of a flow chart for analyzing exam questions.  If it was a closed book exam, I'd come up with mnemonic devices to memorize the topics in my flow chart.
5. On exams,
     a.  I always followed IRAC.  Also, I made it very easy for my professors to grade, using headings and liberal paragraph breaks.  And don't forget the A.
     b.  I was wishy-washy!  This is super-important.  My friends with low grades were my friends who were too confident.  On a contracts exam, they'd read the facts, decide that A and B didn't form a valid contract, explain why in beautiful IRAC form, and then stop.  Well, they were probably correct about the contract validity issue.  Unfortunately, the professor's rubric had allotted 50 points for analyzing the issues that would arise IF the court found that A and B DID have a contract.  Try not to cut off any large branches of discussion.
     c.  I never once finished an exam early.  Write more--you will get more points.  If you are finished and other people are not, you are missing something. Go back and be more wishy-washy--what if you were wrong about one of your conclusions?  What additional issues would that raise?
6.  I didn't use study aids (except the occasional Examples & Explanations).  I found them a waste of time.  They give you the rules, yes, but you understand the rules better (and remember them more) if you extract them from the cases and classes yourself.
7. I didn't take tons of practice exams.  I half-assed a few.  I'm not saying it would have been a waste of time to do them, but my experience suggests it's not essential.

I totally loved law school.  Good luck, everyone!

On the outlining in September vs. waiting until near the end of the semester, it's all about what you're comfortable with.  If you have free time, and it's eating at you that you haven't started outlining in September, then start your outline.  Just remember, you're going to have to spend some time editing and refining it because there will be connections between the material at the beginning and end of most classes.

As long as you understand what an outline is supposed to be, a personalized summary of the information in the class which mostly gets its value from its creation, you can start it anytime you like.  Just make sure you start it early because it will lose some value if it's simply a list of shortened notes.

I don't know if they were at the bottom of the class, but none of the big-time gunners in my class were in the top 10-15%.

My theory: if you spend class looking for an opportunity to say something, thinking about what brilliant comments you're going to make, and listening to yourself talk, you're not really paying attention to what the professor thinks is important.  Your focus should be on the black letter law and the professor, not on yourself or your fellow students' comments.

my advice would be to befriend a lot of upperclassman, particularly the ones who have taken your professors.  They can provide valuable insight and outlines for the class.

12
Excellent quotes from this thread:

I did nothing over the summers.  I relaxed over my summer.  I only do work during the week and Sunday evenings.  I never, except during exams, did work on Saturday or on Friday evenings.  I know, including myself, several people in the top 10% of my class.  Most of them never took a course before school, but each of us kept up the entire semester.  I have never been unprepared for class.  I am about to enter my third year.  I have never passed when called on.  I think this is the key to doing well.  Be prepared all semester long.  Keep up with your reading.  I also didn't go out during the week.  I came home when classes ended, got right to work, and I was usually done by 6pm so I could relax the rest of evening and get a good nights sleep for the next day.  I treat law school like a job.  I get up at 7, I am at school in class by 8 or 9.  I work all day until 5 or 6.  This kept me on a routine, and keeps me disciplined. 

The other thing I did was wait until the end of semester to outline.  I know people who outline all semester.  They tend to be in the middle or bottom of my class.  I believe that if you outline all semester you are missing the big picture.  If you wait until November to start outlining, you are far better able to put things together in a manner that is logical and allows of easier reading.  Also, the act of typing out an outline forces you to learn it as you type it.  Things you are not sure on, you can spend more time on.  Things your know well, you can type it and then move on.  I think this helps you more at the end of a semester rather than all semester. 

Lastly, I keep things in perspective.  I largely believe that law students are drama queens, and enjoy playing the role of the stressed out student.  Can it be stressful? Hell yes.  But, it can be managed.  Most of the time it is going through the motions.  This outlook has worked for me.  Will it work for everyone, no.  My best advice is do what you feel is necessary.  Listen to no one else but yourself.  Pay no attention to how much time your classmates spend on doing things.  If 2 hours is all you need, good for you.  If you need more time to study, great then do it.  Don't change how you do things because your classmates may have spend 3 hours on two cases, while your spent an hour.  If you feel you know it, then you are fine.  But, also don't be afraid to be flexible.  If something isn't working, change what you are doing until it works.  Most of all, learn to relax.  I believe that alone will help you more than anything.         

I agree with  much of what was said here. Don't sweat things so much.

I wasn't always prepared for class. In fact, most of the time I wasn't. I just didn't let it bother me. If I had to pass or couldn't fake it, so be it. I know so many people who focused solely on looking good in class and knowing the details of every case, but they were stupid when it came to the application of the law and would do poorly on the exam. Whereas, I got A's (and usually finished my exams earlier than others.)

Know exactly what your professor wants on the exam. Know how to take an exam. This requires following directions as to the question being ASKED and being confident enough not to throw in the kitchen sink. You'd be surprised how many people waste tons of time throwing in every possible defense, even when it's clear several of them don't at all apply. Or, how many people insist on throwing in counterargument and policy even though the professor said she doesn't want it.

Rather than reading a case so closely you know every single factual detail, first hunt for the RULE. Then skim the facts to see how it relates to the rule. Make sure you know how the RULE works. (The NOtes at the end of each case are often heplful). Use supplements, but obviously your professor's rule trumps it.

PRACTICE, Practice, Practice writing an exam. From the get go, practice doing little IRACs on every rule. Itll really help you so that at exam time the rule & application just flows rather naturally. Lots of people get to the exam and it's the first time they're ever writing out an answer and crafting their language.  The language should flow from you automatically.

Like the guy above, I rarely worked weekends (only during exam period) and was done every night by 7pm. (And worked too). I didn't let it bother me if I was a little unprepared for class - I knew the exam was what really, really counted.

Also - be strategic. Use your absences strategically. And, study for each class differently. There were some courses I knew I absolutely didn't need to do the reading b/c the professor spoon fed us. I used that time to study for other classes instead!

My advice is a little different than other people's and I've done well my first year of school.
1. do all the reading and never miss any classes, you learn the most from actually being there.
2. practice tests, as many as you can find. look to old bar exams, they're pretty helpful.
3. have some other hobby other than law school in the beginning. go out and party in the early months and actually try to enjoy your life. The last 6-8 weeks of school are miserable, you might as well enjoy the first 6-8 weeks.
4. have one study partner you trust, don't talk to anyone but that person about school for the last weeks approaching finals, DO NOT study in the library, go anywhere but there.
5. talk to your professors and have them look at your outline.
6. i did this but i don't know if it's recommended, I didn't start my outline until the last 6 weeks of the class. I do not outline as I go.
that's all i have.

1. No matter what anyone says (including your prof), it's all about the black-letter law. DO NOT worry about whatever bull you talk about in class. Your torts exam will make no mention of Calabresi's "The Cost of Accidents," and you will not get any points for applying law and economics principles to the case at bar. What you need to do on the exam is (a) Correctly state the issue(s), (b) Correctly state the law (the elements for a battery are 1,2,3,etc.) and (c) 'Apply' the law to the facts, which simply means picking out a fact or two from the question, and saying "here, [element x] is met because [fact y]," and finally (d) state your conclusion


That is what is meant by "IRAC." The 'A' part is supposedly the most important. IMO both the 'R' (Rule) and the 'A' (Analysis) are equally important. If you don't know the rule, you won't get the issue. You must state the rule
completely and accurately. Then, you just have to pick out a fact or two and say because of the stupid fact, the element/rule is met. That's it.

They key is to write as if both you and your ausience were morons. State obvious issues and rules. Even if it's clear that, say, defendant comitted a battery, state the issue (the issue is whether D committed a battery), the rule (the elements for battery are...), the analysis (element 1 is met because D...; element 2 is met because D...), and then your conclusion (because D met all the stupid elements, he has committed a battery).

Again, state the obvious. This is counter-intuitive, b/c normal humans only think of things as "issues" when there is a colorable argument that the claim could be in dispute. For example, say I punch you in the face for no reason. That's a battery. To a normal human, there's no issue about whether or not I have committed a battery; it's completely freaking obvious to anyone with even a passing knowledge of the law that I have. There's no way I could say I haven't.

But law school is not for normal humans. It is for morons. So, even though both you and your prof and everyone else already knows the answer, you must write as if the person you are speaking to has no knowledge whatsoever of the law (and is incredibly daft to boot). In the above example, you would lose points for not discussing why I have committed a battery, stupid as that may sound.

2. In light of #1, use study aids. Your prof will NOT teach you the black-letter law. Instead, he will prefer to BS about policy, government, fairness, his politics, his female dog wife, whatever. He doesn't care. He's clueless. That was how he was taught, and he's not an educator, anyway. He's a scholar. Scholars don't care about law, they all are policy wonks who want work in think-tanks (only problem is they're not prestigious enough for the prof's giant egos).

3. Learn how to write a law school exam (even though I have already told you). DO PRACTICE EXAMS. Maybe get LEEWS, whatever. But def look at old exams, and whenever possible, best student answers. This is extremely important.

4. Given 1 and 2, don't worry that much about class and the bs that spews out of your profs mouth. If he says the rule is 'X' then you say the rule is 'X' even if the study aid says the rule is 'Y.' Chances are he won't ever tell you the rule, given what I said in 2. But in the rare case that he does, make sure that you know exactly what he said the rule was. Write an email after class in you're not sure.

But, for the most part, he won't tell you the rules (that's the 'beauty' of the Socratic method - you're supposed to figure them out for yourself!). So get and use study aids from day 1.


13
Studying for the LSAT / ...
« on: January 30, 2008, 12:36:53 PM »
   ;D  >:(

14
Where should I go next fall? / ....
« on: December 17, 2007, 12:43:11 PM »
   ;D >:(

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