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Author Topic: My take on the first year of law school  (Read 31006 times)

vap

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Re: My take on the first year of law school
« Reply #80 on: June 25, 2008, 12:32:53 AM »
At what point in the semester should we start doing practice exams?

Whenever you want.  I started 4 weeks in the first semester and about 8 weeks in the second.  The delay in the second semester was solely because I only had two profs who made past exams available.

scaredandafraid

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Re: My take on the first year of law school
« Reply #81 on: June 25, 2008, 12:34:43 AM »
Vap, sorry if this seems like a silly question, but how do you know enough to do a practice exam on the whole semester when you're only one month in?

TexasLawGuy2010

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Re: My take on the first year of law school
« Reply #82 on: June 25, 2008, 01:24:39 AM »
Hi all. Long time reader, but first time poster. I saw this thread really take off and I wanted to offer my thoughts.

First of all, as the original poster did, allow me to establish my credibility. I just finished my 1L year at UTexas. We don't rank, but I'd have to imagine I'm in the top 2% of my class, possibly as high as #2 overall (I've heard about one guy who for certain has a better GPA than mine). I received 5 A+'s between the two semesters (which are limited to only 5% of the class on our curve), and my GPA is well above a 4.0.

Now to the substance. Having read over the advice of the original poster, I think his general points are absolutely spot on.

But I'm going to have to disagree with him on some of the more detail-oriented matters, both in the specific substance of what he suggests, as well as the fact that he suggests those things in the first place. First of all, I firmly believe that black letter outlines (i.e. Gilbert's, Emmanuel's, etc.) are just about the most useless thing a 1L student at a top school can spend his or her money on.

Before I elaborate on that, let me dispel a misconception. A lot of people will say, "Don't use black letter outlines because exam success isn't about memorizing black letter law." That's simply not true. Each of your 1L exams will probably have at least one (if not more) massive issue spotter question which will necessarily test your knowledge of the black letter. Contrary to what some snooty professors might tell you, law school absolutely IS about memorization. Memorization is the foundation upon which all of your nifty legal arguments can be built.

Given that, my distaste for black letter outlines does not stem from the falsity that "law school isnt' about memorization." My issue is this: there is absolutely no reason why anyone at a top law school should need a black letter outline to memorize legal rules. I'd estimate that 95% of all law professors at top schools are not going to expect you to know any legal rules that aren't represented in your casebook (or in class discussion). If the rule isn't apparent from a case you've read, it probably won't be tested. Don't waste your money and time on a bunch of outlines that have TONS of extraneous rules (hell, those Gilbert's outlines tend to go down to like the 7th or 8th indentation level sometimes). Instead, go over each case you read, carefully, and either find the sentence that explicitly states the rule, or glean the rule that is implicit from the court's opinion. This latter process will also develop your skills for your 1L summer associate position. Remember that as a practicing lawyer, the legal rule you need for a particular set of facts must usually be abstracted from what the court actually says. Very rarely is authority explicitly on point.

Also, more generally, allow me to say this: there is very little that anyone else can suggest that will help you do better in law school.

To be quite frank, law school -- at least at a top school -- is not about how much you study, how you study, what kind of notes you take, what supplements you read, whether you study in a group, whether you outline, or any of that. The difference between the top sliver of students and everybody else at a top law school is simple: some people have "it," and some people just don't.

Now, that is not to say that preparation and dedication are unnecessary, because they are. However, that stuff only puts you at the starting line, because EVERYONE ELSE (for the most part) is also preparing diligently. The reason I did better than so many people wasn't because of what I did, but because of how I think. The same is true for the original poster here, whether he realizes it or not. His grades are a result of some intangible qualities he possesses, not which books he read or which tapes he listened to. And this is not some blanket assertion that we are "smarter" than our classmates, because intelligence exists in many forms. I go to school with people who had significantly worse grades than me but who also hold PhD's in hard sciences. I would absolutely consider those folks "smarter" than me, by a longshot.

Being at the top of your class in law school, simply put, is about a very specific kind of natural, innate talent that can't be taught. Anyone can buy an outline, anyone can study a lot (and most people do), and anyone can take 100 practice exams. What separates the top group of students who did all those things from the rest of the students who also did all those things is something far more intangible. And while perhaps that special "it" is something that you can develop and refine, if you don't have it, you're probably not going to be at the top of your class no matter what you do. That doesn't mean you won't be a good lawyer, or that you won't get a great job. It simply means that you won't be one of those select few who get "summa cum laude" written on their diploma.

I apologize if this comes across as bleak or cynical. But I really felt that it needed to be said. Please don't waste your money on a ton of crap to try and do well in law school. Just show up, be diligent, be social, and keep your head on straight. If you've naturally got what it takes, you will be at the top of your class. If you don't, you will still end up doing just fine.

familyman

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Re: My take on the first year of law school
« Reply #83 on: June 25, 2008, 01:42:46 AM »
How would you define the 'it' that you mention? To be honest with you, your post makes alot of sense to me and I am wondering if my own inate talents and abilities fall within the realm of the 'it' you describe. Of course, the only way for me to find out will be to attend law school, but you seem to have a pretty good grasp on 'it' and I also have a pretty good understanding of what I am and am not good at.

just Trev

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Re: My take on the first year of law school
« Reply #84 on: June 25, 2008, 01:54:34 AM »
bumpers

vap

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Re: My take on the first year of law school
« Reply #85 on: June 25, 2008, 02:36:26 AM »
Vap, sorry if this seems like a silly question, but how do you know enough to do a practice exam on the whole semester when you're only one month in?

Definitely not a silly question - I didn't know enough to do the whole exam.  Given the nature of fact-pattern exams, I could read through a question and try to spot all issues on topics that we had already covered in class.  I would then meet with a group to go over the issues we spotted (less so with groups the second semester).  We only covered about one exam per week on average and called off the group meetings about two weeks before the exams.  I then went over some more practice exams myself a few days before the exam, but I feel as though these were less useful because I didn't talk about the issues in a group (so I had no idea if I missed any).

It helped progress my learning of a new topic.  All of a sudden, I would be able to spot an issue that I didn't see before.  As the semester went on, it also helped reinforce my understanding of old topics because I could see how they would fit together with new topics.

It was particularly useful for me in Torts, Property, and Conlaw.  Wasn't as useful in Contracts, Civ Pro, and Crim.  These distinctions are probably based more on the type of exams and the professors rather than the subjects, though.

pig floyd

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Re: My take on the first year of law school
« Reply #86 on: June 25, 2008, 02:42:27 AM »
Also, more generally, allow me to say this: there is very little that anyone else can suggest that will help you do better in law school.

Agree x10.  You'll figure out what works for you within about 2 weeks.  I promise.
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flyaway

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Re: My take on the first year of law school
« Reply #87 on: June 25, 2008, 05:18:12 AM »

And I stopped studying and did something relaxing by 8 pm at the latest the night before every exam! Sleep and calm are important!


Definitely!!!
Michigan Law Class of 2010

flyaway

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Re: My take on the first year of law school
« Reply #88 on: June 25, 2008, 07:57:51 AM »


Is there more to cases than identifying the rule?


Yes, because there often is no "rule."  The next case in your book will often have extremely similar facts but a different outcome.  It's more important, in my opinion, to understand the reasoning each judge used.  And then on your exam if you have a similar hypothetical, you can talk about both of those approaches and why one is superior than the other in this case.
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pikey

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Re: My take on the first year of law school
« Reply #89 on: June 25, 2008, 08:32:16 AM »


Is there more to cases than identifying the rule?


Yes, because there often is no "rule."  The next case in your book will often have extremely similar facts but a different outcome.  It's more important, in my opinion, to understand the reasoning each judge used.  And then on your exam if you have a similar hypothetical, you can talk about both of those approaches and why one is superior than the other in this case.

I totally agree with this, which is why I don't agree with TexasLawGuy that black letter outlines are useless.  I didn't use them very often, but sometimes you just need to clarify a confusing concept.  Not all casebooks are straightforward or easy to read, so it may be difficult to clarify the rule or figure out what's the majority rule based on a bunch of case excerpts.  Once again, yymv, but I don't think it's good advice to say that bll outlines are useless for everyone.
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