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Author Topic: Advice for a 0L hell bent on being near the top of his class?  (Read 38950 times)

tortNretort

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Re: Advice for a 0L hell bent on being near the top of his class?
« Reply #150 on: May 26, 2008, 04:57:16 PM »
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.


tortNretort

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Re: Advice for a 0L hell bent on being near the top of his class?
« Reply #151 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.

tortNretort

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Re: Advice for a 0L hell bent on being near the top of his class?
« Reply #152 on: May 26, 2008, 05:02:37 PM »
More more excellent quotes from this thread:

Cases used in casebooks are usually great basic examples of how to apply a rule of law to a set of facts (as long as the judge is competent, that is).  It's a good starting point, at least.

For me, after 2 years of law school, I have taken only ONE exam where an A meant memorizing case names, and most students in the class agreed that while the professor was very nice, he was not a very good teacher nor did he really understand how to write a good exam.  Earning an A typically requires good legal analysis, not proof of a good memory for case names.  Knowing the ins and outs of the law you learned in class is obviously important, but that is a baseline.  Being able to "fork" your answers is what gets you an A - which is essentially arguing for BOTH sides of an issue, then saying which side is likely to win.  That's half the battle - you should always address what would happen if you were wrong, and the other side won.  This is where you cover your bases and clean up points.  People who only argue one answer, one side get Cs.  People who argue both sides, choose a conclusion and run with that w/o considering that their conclusion might not be "right" get Bs.  The people who cover all angles and show that they understand how to argue the law every which way from Sunday get the As.

It all depends on what's on your final exam. Too many people lose sight of the end game - which is the exam. Your goal is to get an A on the final. If your prof's finals require a detailed analysis of the assigned cases, then obviously you should spend your time reading those cases. But if - as was the case in most of my 1L classes - your prof only tests on issue-spotting and applying/analyzing blackletter law, then you're better off learning the legal concepts and spending a lot of time on hypos and practice exams. It varies from person to person and there's no one "correct" way of doing anything in law school, but this approach worked very well for me.

Good luck trying to do legal research on your own in a few years if you don't read the cases in law school. Reading cases trains your mind to analyze the facts and determine what's relevant. You'll find a lot of what you do as a starting attorney is taking an issue the partner gives you to research and finding cases on point. Facts are very important for that. And the skill takes practice. You have plenty to time to read the cases! Why not do the reading assigned by the professor and recognize they might actually know a little something about how to teach law?



My advice is to ask them whatever you want to know.  If it's something that will give you an unfair advantage, they won't tell you. 

Exam-related questions that have brought concrete answers for me:

-How will the exam be structured?  (They'll almost certainly tell you this anyway as it gets closer.)
-Do you want us to mention or recognize cases by name?   
-Do you want us to draw conclusions about the issues we discuss? (I've had some who didn't)
-How do you want us to deal with splits in authority (assume majority rule vs. discuss majority and minority rule)
-Do you want us to discuss policy issues?  Will there be a separate policy question?
-What do you think is the best way to study for your exam?
-Is there anything you see when grading exams that irritates you?  (One prof responded that he HATED it when people brought up things we hadn't discussed in class that they clearly had gotten from commercial outlines)




First off, don't necessarily count on hard work getting you anywhere near the top of your class.  Iit really depends on how close you and the instructor are in terms of views and approaches.  I've seen students with a firm grasp of the material fall flat on their ass because they and the instructor differed on interpretations of the law or formatting of exam responses or whatever.

Given this, my number one piece of advice is to visit your professor as often as possible.  What I did was write down a list of questions from the day's reading assignment and take them to the professor in office hours.  Not only does this help you clarify the more confusing points of the material, but you can see how the professor approaches the subject.  My property professor, for instance, was focused heavily on policy implications.  I made sure I studied up on those aspects of her class, and sure enough I got the only A+ on the final.

As for outlining, there's no harm in starting the outlines early provided you rework what you've written as the term goes.  If you choose to start the outline at the beginning of the term, be willing to reorganize it whenever you add new sections.  I found the constant exposure to the material combined with the need to try and fit whatever I'd just learned into the structure of my outline really helped me understand and remember things when finals came.

Other than that, just do practice exams and see if you can get your professor to look over your answers.  Again, its really all about understanding what they want to see on an exam and giving it to them. 

On a slightly different, as a transfer student to my current university my advice on that is to apply early and don't give up hope if your first term grades aren't what you'd hoped.  I was only top 40% my first term, but I managed to up my GPA substantially the second term and now I'm going to a top 20 school.  Hell, even if you're not near the top of your class you can still likely transfer.  I had a friend who was barely top 50% and she's now at Cardozo.

Hope that helps, and good luck to ya!

vjm

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Re: Advice for a 0L hell bent on being near the top of his class?
« Reply #153 on: May 26, 2008, 06:24:00 PM »
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Re: Advice for a 0L hell bent on being near the top of his class?
« Reply #154 on: May 26, 2008, 06:57:38 PM »
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dsetterl

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Re: Advice for a 0L hell bent on being near the top of his class?
« Reply #155 on: May 26, 2008, 08:04:35 PM »
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esqprep

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Re: Advice for a 0L hell bent on being near the top of his class?
« Reply #156 on: May 26, 2008, 09:45:56 PM »
Just relax... Law school isn't that difficult.  Try to look past all the details of each case and see the big picture.  The cases are like pieces to a puzzle.  A puzzle piece, on its own, means nothing.  But when you put it into the correct place, wonderful things can happen.

If you need some specific advice, ask me.  I'll be glad to offer my $0.02
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wilson77

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Re: Advice for a 0L hell bent on being near the top of his class?
« Reply #157 on: June 01, 2008, 10:53:31 PM »
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ZooLander

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Re: Advice for a 0L hell bent on being near the top of his class?
« Reply #158 on: June 04, 2008, 11:14:38 PM »
Alright, since this thread is still going...

Just finished my 1L year, and had significantly different grades last semester than this one.  1st semester I had an A on the high side and a C+ on the low side.  This semester I have an A+ on the high side and  B+ on the low side.  I learned a few things about how to get ready for exams that I thought I might share.
1.  Get your outlines done before the study period, if possible. 
        There are many reasons to do this.  For example, this semester I had an exam 5 days after that period 
        started,  then another 4 days later and the next (civ pro) 1.5 days after that.  Since I had my civ pro exam
        done before the study period commenced, I could spend a half a day here or there actually just studying civ 
        pro.
2.  Knowing your prof's style is key
        This cannot be emphasized enough.  One of my profs wanted virtually nothing but policy.  Some like all law.   
        It depends on the prof and you need to be efficient with time on an exam, so know what you should be writing.
        If you can prewrite anything (for example, I sketched an outline of exactly what to write when a warranties
        question was presented), so much the better. 
3.  Practice.  A lot.  And have something to compare it to.
        Yes, practice your practice exams.  And do it, when possible, with full outlines.  This will tell you what
        strengths and weaknesses exist in your outlines or guides and allow you to change course if need be.  For 
        example, in Contracts I found that a checklist was much finer than the larger outline.  Although I used both,
        my checklist was my go-to device.  Also, see what the 'A' answers did that you should do.  Really analyze 
        these, don't just read them.  Compare them to the question and think about what you can use in your answers.
4.  Law + Policy + Persuasive Writing + Answering the Right Question = A
        This seems easy.  But your goal should be to know exactly how much you need to know about the law as well as 
        possible.  You don't want to search for answers during exam crunch so much as you want to compose them.  Now
        some profs don't do policy (my contracts prof didn't), but lots of them will consider an answer that has the
        law plus the policies behind it to be the shining answer.  My crim prof says that this is your chance to
        explain how much you know- write it as if you are teaching the prof about the reasoning behind your answer.
        Write well- this always helps, particularly where most people are writing poorly.  Practice this.  Answer the
        right question!  If you are the judge, you don't have to waste time analyzing both sides necessarily.  Figure
        out what you are being asked to do, spend time thinking about how you would act in this situation, then
        write. 

Anyways, nothing is guaranteed to get you in the top 10%.  But you can go in with knowledge and try your best.  It will get easier and the learning curve is insane.  Just make sure you concentrate on the task at hand and utilize all of the resources available to you.  From my perspective, if there are resources that I don't utilize, and I get a bad grade, I can only blame me. 
 

The Artist

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Re: Advice for a 0L hell bent on being near the top of his class?
« Reply #159 on: June 05, 2008, 01:38:03 AM »
Hey Zoolander, just curious what is your class ranking and where (or what type) do you go to law school?