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Author Topic: Advice for a 0L hell bent on being near the top of his class?  (Read 38731 times)

YeShallBeGods

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Re: Advice for a 0L hell bent on being near the top of his class?
« Reply #40 on: June 14, 2007, 04:49:35 PM »
FWIW, here are the steps I, personally, took to get to the top 10% as well as a few musings.


1. Like it or not, there is some degree of luck involved in the grades. To this day, I have one very low grade amidst a pile of high ones... and for the life of me, I can't tell the difference in the exams. Almost everyone of my peers that I've spoken with is in the same boat.

2. Outline from the very beginning. First semester, I would do all of my reading for the coming week over the weekend. Then I would take notes, by hand, and update each of my outlines, for every class I had that day, in the evening. That approach was very good because I was always caught up on my reading, outlining, and always reviewing. By taking notes by hand, it also made me focus on class, rather than chatting away on IM like most people did within a matter of days. The down side was that it was a huge time waster. In the spring, I started taking notes via computer, and outlining while in class. That worked, b/c I already knew what I was aiming for in an outline, and I could make notes as I went for research when I had more time.

I found that people that waited to outline were almost always slammed when they finally started in the final month before exams. I on the other hand was always refreshed, and played videogames even during the exam period.

3. Find a study partner you trust. Not a group, but a single individual who likewise wants do their absolute best. It was great to have a strong ally to run hypos with. Speaking of which...

4. Start doing practice exams LONG before you think you need to. My study partner (who also ended up in the top 10%) and I began taking exams together and individually over a month before exams started. By the time exams rolled around, I'd say that we had each outlined or written out full answers to twenty-five exams. Several schools keep public databases of exams (Harvard has an amazing one)--use them! By the time you've seriously worked through that number of exams for a subject, it's hard for it to not be second nature. And make sure you practice your typing as well! Typing 100+ WPM helped me out a great deal, I'm certain...

5. Finish your reading earlier. This is doomed to be controversial, but one thing that worked well for my partner and I was that we finished ALL of our reading for ALL of our classes four weeks before exams. It makes you a sitting duck for being called on in class, but it freed up our time to take those ~100 exams (two dozen, or more, per subject). And besides we had already...

6. Schmooze the professor. And not (just) for your grades! They are amazing people and have become some of my best friends after my first year. If you build a relationship with them, and occasionally volunteer in class, you'll find you rarely get called on, at least with tougher questions.

7. Try to seriously debate the law at a policy level, especially with your partner. Even if you do not have a policy professor, you'll find that if you intimately know the policy arguments underlying a law, you'll grasp the blackletter law extremely well. And don't content yourself to just recite the textbook justifications--create your own.

8. Relax. Though I sometimes felt guilty, I would spend up to half the day during the exam period playing videogames, watching movies, whatever relaxed me. It's worth its weight in gold.

9. Never underestimate your peers. Even the craziest of them have just as much reason to be there as you, and you might be surprised who ends up on top (grade wise) at the end of everything.

10. Have fun. Honestly, the one true thing for everyone I know who ended up at the top: they ~loved~ learning law. We'd gab about it in the whole, muse about it at night, and sadden at the thought of missing out on class. If you are truly someone excited about learning even the most boring laws, it will be very hard NOT to do well.

p0six

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Re: Advice for a 0L hell bent on being near the top of his class?
« Reply #41 on: June 14, 2007, 05:18:55 PM »
100 practice exam?  That's craziness.  And I had classmates that thought *I* was crazy b/c I did every single one.  Don't freak the guy out.  I think it's unlikely that most professors release more than 4 practice exams.

I also don't think that doing practice exams a month before the end of the class is very helpful.  You can't answer 1/4 of the question, because you still have 1/4 of the class left.

The rest I don't disagree with, although some of them like his policy tidbit I think isn't strictly necessary.

jarhead

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Re: Advice for a 0L hell bent on being near the top of his class?
« Reply #42 on: June 14, 2007, 06:19:22 PM »
don't mean to be a pain but can i just get some clarification on the practice exam thing. I know that i'm supposed to study for the exam not for class, and that practice exams are important i've heard that from several sources and don't need to be sold on that aspect. but i've heard everything from, start practice exams as soon as possible to it's not necessary until a month before exams etc.. is there a consensus? my plan was to outline as i go (not everyday but as each "block" or particular area of the law was covered) and to begin my exam writing practice around October once i got into the swing of things.
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jd06

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Re: Advice for a 0L hell bent on being near the top of his class?
« Reply #43 on: June 14, 2007, 06:59:30 PM »
don't mean to be a pain but can i just get some clarification on the practice exam thing. I know that i'm supposed to study for the exam not for class, and that practice exams are important i've heard that from several sources and don't need to be sold on that aspect. but i've heard everything from, start practice exams as soon as possible to it's not necessary until a month before exams etc.. is there a consensus? my plan was to outline as i go (not everyday but as each "block" or particular area of the law was covered) and to begin my exam writing practice around October once i got into the swing of things.

Your plan sounds reasonable.  Don't get yourself bound up by what "everyone else" is doing.  Over time you'll develop a system that works for YOU.  Start with YOUR plan this semester and make adjustments as you see fit. Own the process, don't let it own you!   

jarhead

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Re: Advice for a 0L hell bent on being near the top of his class?
« Reply #44 on: June 14, 2007, 07:15:02 PM »
well im not worried about everybody else but if something works it works you know  :)...but i understand i'll probably just have to figure out what works for me and hit my stride. just want to make sure im on the right rack.....thanks for the input
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jacy85

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Re: Advice for a 0L hell bent on being near the top of his class?
« Reply #45 on: June 14, 2007, 10:34:02 PM »
One thing about LEEWS vs. IRAC.

They are NOT the same thing.  In fact, LEEWS is sort of a larger structure in which to apply IRAC, in my opinion.  IRAC is how to apply the law.  That's fine.  LEEWS is about covering all your bases, and applying the law CORRECTLY for exam purposes.

LEEWS teaches how to cover both sides of an issue.  Technically, you can follow IRAC by stating the rule, saying that applying the rule to the facts means party A wins.  And that will get you maybe a C.

You get As by saying the rule is X.  Now, A will argue that X means he wins b/c [facts here].  B will counter with a factual argument, or perhaps assert a specific legal defense.  It is likely that A will prevail on this issue b/c  blah blah blah.

IRAC does not teach you this, and while you can learn this on your own, LEEWS helps you understand this out of the gate.  Doing it before law school is the best idea.  I used it early during first semester of 1L.  I did pretty well, but second semester I really hit the ball out of the park.  Makes me wonder if I would have started out just as strongly if I'd done the program and "got it" a little earlier.

As for other advice, here's some stuff that worked for me, but might not work for everyone:

1.  Only actually brief cases by typing stuff out for as long as you have to.  Once you find that you're pulling out the right facts, succinctly stating the rule of the case, etc., formal briefing might be a waste of time.  Once I reached this point, this is what I did:  I book brief extensively, but I also type up the important rule(s) from the case in my notes.  Very rarely do I need to take a ton of notes in class, because I already have all the rules down.

2.  Try to stay 1 class ahead in the reading.  Reading more than a week in advance is worthless, and I don't htink you get much out of it; by the time you discuss it in class, things will probably run together.  Staying at least one class ahead gives you some freedom though; if something comes up, you get sick, some other assignment takes longer than you anticipated, etc. means you won't fall behind.

3. Don't fall behind.

4. Get your legal writing assignments done EARLY and edit, edit, edit.  NO ONE is a good legal writer at first.  You can't just pull one all nighter and turn your memo in and get an A like undergrad.  You need to write, rewrite, reorganize, scratch sections out, start parts over, re-work your research, take it to your professor for advice, ask questions in office hours, etc.  Legal writing was a grade for me, but even if its not, I wouldn't slack off.  First year property is something you may only think about ever again for the bar exam; you'll potentially be doing some sort of researching and writing almost every day of your professional life.  Those skills will be who you are as a lawyer, and they're not something to slack off on just because it shows up as a P on your transcript rather than an A.

5.  I would agree with the poster that said outlining in sections is best.  Outlining isn't much help if you don't have anything to put together.  The natural breaks in the syllabus are how the professor thinks of his or her course, and its how she'll approach it in the classroom and on the exam.  YOu will comprehend more, sooner, if you try to see the bigger picture while outlining, instead of just doing 1 class at a time.

6.  Don't fall behind.  Can't stress this enough.

7.  Remember to take some time off.  While there are some people who are sick, and think working 20 hours a day is fantastic, odds are you are not one of them.  You will be more relaxed and more able to rise to the task at hand if you take time to recharge with a movie, dinner out, drinks with friends, etc.

YeShallBeGods

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Re: Advice for a 0L hell bent on being near the top of his class?
« Reply #46 on: June 15, 2007, 06:50:19 AM »
100 practice exam?  That's craziness.  And I had classmates that thought *I* was crazy b/c I did every single one.  Don't freak the guy out.  I think it's unlikely that most professors release more than 4 practice exams.

I also don't think that doing practice exams a month before the end of the class is very helpful.  You can't answer 1/4 of the question, because you still have 1/4 of the class left.

The rest I don't disagree with, although some of them like his policy tidbit I think isn't strictly necessary.

Just to comment.

I did indeed do a total of 100 practice exams, but that was spread out across all my classes (so really on about two dozen per class). Most of my professors provided NO sample exams, and so the ones I was working from came from the public online databases I mentioned. And I wasn't trying to freak anyone out--I'm just saying that here is what I did to get into the top 10%.

And note that the 1/4 problem did not exist for me, because it tied in with having finished all of the reading a month in advance. Even if we hadn't covered the issue in class yet, I was still able to get practice spotting them and applying what I believed to be the law based upon the reading (and it was always easy to tweak if the professor wanted a different approach). Professors almost always rush at the end of the semester, and so it was nice for all of that material to feel like old hat by the time I arrived in the final week.

p0six

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Re: Advice for a 0L hell bent on being near the top of his class?
« Reply #47 on: June 15, 2007, 08:36:15 AM »
I'm just afraid you're going to freak the poor guy out.  I'm in the top 10% (maybe the top 5%), and so are members of my study group.  We did not do 100 exams.  We *did* do every exam we could get our hands on, but it couldn't have been any more than 20 over the course of both semesters.  Obviously, what LilOneL did worked, but don't think that you *need* to do it. 

But while we're on the subject of practice exams, I want to again stress how important I think it is that you not only do the exams, but that you *study* any sample answers or going over the exam with your professors.  Why?  This gives you insight into what answer your profs want.  And you'll be amazed how many of your classmates won't do that extra step (which I consider to be the most important step).

kilroy55

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Re: Advice for a 0L hell bent on being near the top of his class?
« Reply #48 on: June 15, 2007, 09:25:29 AM »
100 practice exam?  That's craziness.  And I had classmates that thought *I* was crazy b/c I did every single one.  Don't freak the guy out.  I think it's unlikely that most professors release more than 4 practice exams.

I also don't think that doing practice exams a month before the end of the class is very helpful.  You can't answer 1/4 of the question, because you still have 1/4 of the class left.

The rest I don't disagree with, although some of them like his policy tidbit I think isn't strictly necessary.

Just to comment.

I did indeed do a total of 100 practice exams, but that was spread out across all my classes (so really on about two dozen per class). Most of my professors provided NO sample exams, and so the ones I was working from came from the public online databases I mentioned. And I wasn't trying to freak anyone out--I'm just saying that here is what I did to get into the top 10%.

And note that the 1/4 problem did not exist for me, because it tied in with having finished all of the reading a month in advance. Even if we hadn't covered the issue in class yet, I was still able to get practice spotting them and applying what I believed to be the law based upon the reading (and it was always easy to tweak if the professor wanted a different approach). Professors almost always rush at the end of the semester, and so it was nice for all of that material to feel like old hat by the time I arrived in the final week.

I think the real question is was doing that many necessary.  Obviously it was for you, but I think most people are better served by not worry about 100 practice exams.

galex

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Re: Advice for a 0L hell bent on being near the top of his class?
« Reply #49 on: June 15, 2007, 01:09:12 PM »
Just to comment.

I did indeed do a total of 100 practice exams, but that was spread out across all my classes (so really on about two dozen per class). Most of my professors provided NO sample exams, and so the ones I was working from came from the public online databases I mentioned. And I wasn't trying to freak anyone out--I'm just saying that here is what I did to get into the top 10%.

And note that the 1/4 problem did not exist for me, because it tied in with having finished all of the reading a month in advance. Even if we hadn't covered the issue in class yet, I was still able to get practice spotting them and applying what I believed to be the law based upon the reading (and it was always easy to tweak if the professor wanted a different approach). Professors almost always rush at the end of the semester, and so it was nice for all of that material to feel like old hat by the time I arrived in the final week.

Aren't there old exams from every professor available in the library?