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Messages - tacojohn

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Incoming 1Ls / Re: Legal Writing
« on: April 11, 2009, 07:29:40 AM »
Legal writing is probably the worst course to prep for. If it's graded, your grade is going to be based on matching what you do with that the instructor expects. So even if you learn a great way of doing things, if it's not the instructor's way, it can lead to a poor grade. And if it isn't graded and you're that committed to doing prep work, doing it for something that's graded.

The grammar, structure, and spelling advice is best. There's a ton of law students who are starting out with high school or lower writing skills. If you're a college level writer, you can rest easy. The legal writing skills will come.

Incoming 1Ls / Re: Getting Married while in Law School?
« on: April 11, 2009, 07:25:25 AM »
If you're considering having the wedding the summer after 3L, do it after the bar, and make sure you can basically get the vast majority of the work done by the end of the school year. Then during the bar study period you're just tying up loose ends. This will work significantly better if your finance is not also in law school and/or you have family members will to help out.

Things that I would recommend:  (Maybe common sense, but a lot of people forget about the basics)

-Find a hobby that doesn't take much time that you can use to break up the studying. 

-Maintain or start a good exercise program that you won't fall off of when school starts.  A good run is a great way to unclog your brain when you get in a rut.

-Learn to cook.  Learn to do it really well, fast, and cheap. 

I guess my point is that if you aren't doing something now, chances are you won't start doing it in law school.  In my experience, well rounded people who work extremely hard tend to be more satisfied than complete library rats.  Reading law-related stuff might be useful, but I doubt it will improve your end performance.  Just do whatever you can to increase the likelihood that you will be healthy, happy, and excited to learn and work. 

All three of these are dead on. The cooking thing especially. Being able to whip up a relatively healthy and tasty meal in a short time will make the exam periods a lot less stressful.

The problem with learning black letter law is you very well might have to unlearn it, or it won't be useful. You might get the professor that says "There is no such thing as black letter law, it's all arguments" (I had three or four during law school) or you might get something like the Contracts professor who doesn't teach the UCC that you spent some time learning.

I don't know about the newspaper thing. That's less about helping you in law school and more about fitting in.

I'll second that any prep work should be pretty "meta." Read something like Law School Confidential, PLS, 1000 Days, Slacker's Guide to Law School, whatever. Just pick one and don't fret making decisions when one book disagrees with the other. I would say Getting to Maybe is almost required reading. You don't need it until you start taking exams, but if you're not going to read during the fall semester, read it now.

Current Law Students / Re: Does briefing cases as a 1L = waste of time?
« on: August 26, 2007, 07:18:57 AM »
My advice is before you go to law school, think about how you learn.  I would just recommend to people to do what they used to do in undergrad, but just do more.  However, most law students are smart enough that they can succeed in undergrad with poor study skills.  When the stakes are higher, and the work is harder, they can't do that.  Law students need to have individually tailored effective study skills.  So when some 1L asks "What should my outline look like?" or "When should I start taking practice exams?", I can't give the advice.

Trouble is, building individualized study skills isn't stressed in any level of education, and there's no service, or book, or method for finding out what your's are, except working with a learning specialist, which are not widely available and can be very expensive.  A diagnosed dyslexic student has many disadvantages in law school, but one big advantage: extensive work with people who taught the student the best way he or she learns.

So what are we left with?  Trial and error.  The problem is, you don't get a chance for a trial until any error is going to be really serious.  If someone reads LSC, PLS, or posts like your's, how are they supposed to know if they are ahead or behind?  Assuming they are behind, what are they supposed to do?  Work harder?  Lower expectations?  Quit law school?  There's plenty of students who get taken in by systems not right for them, and when it doesn't work, they decide to just work harder, like pounding their head against the wall with more force is going to make their headache go away.

And come on about the "notes are the most important thing" advice.  By the end of week 1, every 1L knows that there are as many different ways to teach a class as there are professors.

If you want my suggestion, which is an important question, no doubt, I'll offer this.  Incoming 1Ls should start off by either doing what they did before, and/or doing some very basic "law school" techniques, like writing out briefs for instance.  After a few weeks, say 3-5, they should think critically about how well it seems they are learning the material.  Do they just read something and then get it immediately?  Do they read something, then only really get it when the professor explains it in class?  Do they only get it when they see some sort of diagram?  What works better, prose or bullet points?  Do they get a lot out of writing out hypos and answering them, or discussing cases with a study group or friends? 

If it truly seems something isn't working, they should quit doing it.  If it seems something is working, they should incorporate more of it into their studying.  Exams are arbitrary, but you can get some insight out of them if you're willing to do some post-mortem, just do it right.  This includes talking with the professor if at all possible about your answers, and see why you got the grade you did.  Combine all the answers of all your professors and you should get a general idea of what you did well and what you need to work on.

But if any law student just weds themselves to any system, they are rolling the dice with one of the few things they can control.  They are essentially betting that the system is the best way for them to learn.  Some of them with have great success, while others will hate law school after the first semester because they worked so hard and got so little out of it.  And when the next crop of 1Ls ask them how to do well, they should always start by saying "Here's what I did..."

Current Law Students / Re: Does briefing cases as a 1L = waste of time?
« on: August 24, 2007, 05:23:55 AM »
1. All law schools tell their new students to brief cases.  It's the best way to learn how to spot issues, see how a court states a legal rule, applies the rule to the facts, and draws a conclusion.  This is how most exam answers are written, and how basic legal arguments are developed. 

2. You should have learned the above skills within a month or so.  By the end of your first semester, you should be "book-briefing," i.e. just highlighting, underlining and making notes in your casebooks.  You'll learn to use Lexis or Westlaw to pull up the case, read a quick summary (which can often be misleading, or off-topic for given course), and see the rules espoused in the opinion.  I typically copied/pasted from Lexis onto a Word document to create my "briefs" (at least when I was still preparing briefs).  Many schools will admonish students not to book-brief, but that's just to ensure that students prepare fully for each class (and to further enhance the skills described above). 

3. You should obtain a good outline from a (successful) 2L or 3L in electronic form, which you can keep open during class to modify as needed.   

4. The most important thing in your casebook is typically the notes (and sometimes the problems) and the end of each chapter/section.  I would also keep another Word document open throughout the semester to note any hypos the professor spits out. 

5. Notice how the theme of points 1-3 above were about minimizing how much time and effort is spent on the cases, and how point 4 is about applying the rule(s) learned in each case to a problem?  That's because all of your courses will come down to one thing: the exam. 

6. You should be creating your outline (or touching up an old outline) on a weekly basis.  This is more important than having read all of the cases for class.  Of course, it is embarrassing to seem unprepared if called on, but this almost never affects your grade, and it almost never helps your grade to nail a case when called on.  At the end of the semester, you should already know the outliines well and, instead of spending countless hours preparing an outline, you can spend more time doing...

7. Yes, this one gets its own number...writing out practice answers! 

8. Wait, yes, that one is so important, it bears stressing: get your professors' old exams (if available), look at some E & E's, whatever, and write answers.  You're success will depend on your ability to quickly read a fact pattern, spot issues, then set about writing out rules of law and applying them to the facts (allowing time to draw lawerly conclusions or add any "policy" stuff you know your professor cares about). 

9. To put it another way, you can know the cases inside and out, you can know every rule by heart for the exam, but if you cannot write out rules and conclusions FAST, you won't do as well on the exams as you should. 

Good luck.

See, this is where I think Peaches has a point.  This is all good advice, but it's presented like gospel.  Setting bench marks like you should know how to perfectly brief a case in a month.  Saying stuff is so important that it deserves to be highlighted twice.  All of these are good tips, but it's possible to do very well in law school and not follow all or any of them. 

There are people where making an outline would be counterproductive.  Writing out practice answers is not going to help a perfectionist who is not all that confident in test-taking.  It's going to rattle his/her confidence.  That person is better off getting a couple friends and sitting around discussing a practice exam in a less threatening environment.

There are plenty of law students who did well by following one of 100 different strategies.  There are every students who got As after not reading anything until the very end of the semester.  There's no way to guarantee success in law school, all you can do is increase your probability of doing well on a test.  So to claim that doing X, Y, and Z are guaranteed to get you a good grade, which I know the post I quoted didn't do but happens a lot, not only misses the point that there are multiple ways to be successful, it's also very misleading.

Current Law Students / Re: Downloading music, and the Bar
« on: August 24, 2007, 04:50:05 AM »
I think that would be pretty funny to see someone list "every crime they committed" and admit to 1,000 federal copyright violations and list them individually.  It's a weird situation.  I might just say that I downloaded songs and leave it at that.  It'll delay my application when they ask for more information, but what else can you do?

Current Law Students / Re: 2L Haters:-)
« on: August 17, 2007, 04:00:01 AM »
Let me rephrase this another way:

Let's say you're at a bar with some friends, one of whom brings along a new guy.  Everyone is having a good time.  At some point, the bar's resident ice queen walks in.  Everyone in your group has tried to pick her up and failed, using every approach in the book.  New guys says "I'm going to try [insert line/approach that everyone has already tried]."  When the guys say "Dude, you have no shot if you try that, every regular in this bar has been shot down pulling that out," they aren't being haters.  And when the guy goes over there, if he thinks that they're not validating his approach, it's likely that he doesn't believe in it either.  So he has no confidence and gets shot down.

If your school has business courses, or you're on a campus with a business school, take a class or two if they offer some sort of small business/entrepreneur accounting, finance, or general business courses.  All the law in the world won't help you if you don't know how to run the business.  Of course, if you have experience or have taken these courses in undergrad, never mind then.

Current Law Students / Re: Law School Attire
« on: August 17, 2007, 03:22:35 AM »
Pretty much like undergrad, but without the most casual extreme of undergrad, IE pajamas and basketball shorts. However, those do come out during finals...woog, never seen so many smelly unwashed people as in those two weeks.
This is how my school is.  Unless it's crunch time for something, no one really goes this far.  So basically take the range of normal college wear, and make it like 10% nicer, since guys wear more khakis and button-ups and women will wear dresses occasionally, just because.

The only thing is you need a backup plan with law school libraries.  Law libraries tend to be notorious for stressing people out around finals.  Things happen like, someone asks you a question about something.  You explain half of it.  They are freaking out because it seems like you know everything.  You are freaking out because you realize you only know half of a subject.  A lot of people find it impossible to study at the library during finals.

If that happens to you, you need to know of a place you can go, like the undergrad library, a fairly quiet coffee shop, etc.  Or you have to bite the bullet and work at home.

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