« on: May 26, 2008, 04:57:51 PM »
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.