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,.,.,.;.,.,.

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Re: Is issue-spotting a skill that can be learned?
« Reply #10 on: January 14, 2009, 07:35:26 PM »
Would you mind if I posted a practice exam portion (only a few paragraphs) and you analyzed it for us?  Abstract advice WILL NOT help you.  You need to get down and dirty and practice.

Stole Your Nose!

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Re: Is issue-spotting a skill that can be learned?
« Reply #11 on: January 14, 2009, 08:01:23 PM »
- First of all, answer the question that is actually asked. Make yourself slow down and read it carefully.  Do not "issue spot" haphazardly unless the question asks you to "spot ALL the issues."  I've never had a question like that on my exams. So not every question is a throw-it-all-on-the-page "issue spotter."
- If it asks you to argue both sides, then do a quick list of all of the issues you have spotted.  Then circle the BEST issues for each side and concentrate on those first.  Be sure to do justice to both sides.
- If it asks you to evaluate the arguments, then you should take a side. You don't have to entirely dismiss the other side, but say which one is more likely to succeed or fail and why.
- It seems like you are perhaps not strong at evaluating the relative merits of the arguments.  Normally, I'd say that creative arguments should be included.  But it sounds like maybe your "creative" arguments are either not strong arguments, convoluted, or irrelevant.  I heard some people prepping for an exam talking about "issues" that I had never even thought of, seizing upon some tiny possible fact in the pattern and blowing it out of proportion to argue minutiae that had nothing to do with the main question.  That is not something a good lawyer with better arguments would do. And doing what you're doing is yielding bad results.  So don't get creative.  I'm not suggesting that every argument is an obvious one, but I am suggesting that sometimes just because you see it doesn't mean it's there.
- You may be missing out on a key part of law school exams.  For essays, you should always mentally insert the question "and why?" or "Explain." if it is not there. A lot of people just write down the issues without developing the arguments.


jacy85

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Re: Is issue-spotting a skill that can be learned?
« Reply #12 on: January 14, 2009, 08:19:57 PM »
I think you said something about "creating" issues.  I'd say that THAT right there is your problem.  If you have a checklist and you're damn sure what you've done in class, what your prof focused on, then you shouldn't have to create issues.

The big ticket issues, worth the most points, will be obvious.  They should scream out to you.  And then it comes down to your analysis. You must keep it complete, well organized, and cover ALL sides of an argument.  After you cover your big ticket items, you should have time to go back and hit more of the minor issues.  For example, in a contracts exam, the big ticket items are often whether there was even a contract - offer, acceptance, etc., or what are the terms (the battle of the forms, etc.)  Whatever the "major damages clause" was or whatever seems minor compared to those issues.

Aside from this, I have 2 other points/suggestions:

First, if you used supplements during studying, you may want to stop.  Study ONLY from the assigned reading and class notes.  If you don't understand something, try going to the prof first.  And resort to a supplement only if you really are having trouble understanding.  It doesn't sound like you didn't know the law well enough; its that you knew too much and put too much time into minor details.  Limiting your study materials may limit what you focus on.

Second, I know you said it was a summary, but were you writing conclusions throughout your exams like the example you ave (no contact, no battery)?  Because if so, that's a HUGE problem.  I might even go so far as to say that you should never, never write anything even approximating that type of conclusion on a 1L exam.  If an issue warrants a discussion, you should phrase it as "Plaintiff will argue X, Defendant will argue Y.  This is the rule; this is the rule applied to the facts here.  Therefore, the court will likely decide that Defendant wins.  However, if the Plaintiff prevails, he will have to next prove issue 2 to establish that the Defendant is liable for breach/battery/etc."  If you're totally dismissing all sides and stating a hard and fast conclusions, you're missing half the points.

Now, if something is SO obviously frivolous that you can't even begin to set up an argument like the above for it, then perhaps it's not an issue that you should be devoting any time to.  If it's just an element or two of an issue that you can't really argue, that is something that you can likely make a more conclusory statement about, and then focus more or your time on the big issues (like in negligence, if it's 150% clear that duty was owed, but the other issues aren't clear, then spend your time there).

So sorry for the long post myself.  Hopefully you can get something worthwhile out of it that hasn't already been said by everyone else. 

vap

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Re: Is issue-spotting a skill that can be learned?
« Reply #13 on: January 14, 2009, 09:14:39 PM »
Would you mind if I posted a practice exam portion (only a few paragraphs) and you analyzed it for us?  Abstract advice WILL NOT help you.  You need to get down and dirty and practice.

I second this.

Really, your profs told you that you MISSED issues.  In this thread, it sounds like you said you got spotted every possible issue from the facts but didn't write enough about the important ones.  So, I'm confused by your problem.  The best way to understand where you went (and will go wrong in the future) is to get feedback on your own work.

scoundrel

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Re: Is issue-spotting a skill that can be learned?
« Reply #14 on: January 15, 2009, 02:04:16 AM »
I sucked my 1L first semester. My GPA over the next 5 semesters was equivalent to summa, and I graduated magna.

I read a book about law exams that explained it this way: your job is to set 100 placesettings at a picnic, 10 each at 10 tables (the 100 points or so available on an exam). You have just enough time to clean up the site (spot issues, outline the question into a framework of analysis, etc., before writing), staple paper tablecloths to each wooden table, and lay out chinette paper plates, paper cups, plastic cutlery, napkins, etc. Another person across the picnic ground from you has the same job for his 100 guests. If, when your guests arrive, you're polishing fine china and silver goblets at the first table, and the other 9 tables haven't been set, you get a C. If the guy on the other side of the picnicground has a paper plate, paper cup, and plastic cutlery for all 100 guests, he gets an A+.

You can't bullsh!t law professors with the type of verbiage a tenured English Lit professor, explicating Finnegans Wake for native Martian speakers, would use. Over the course of the semester, you're not just learning rules, you're fitting them into a logical framework of analysis. The professor is proud of writing an ambiguous hypo with no clear answer for any one issue, encompassing most/all of what you talked about during the semester. You're going to piss him/her off if you write "Clearly, the parol evidence rule requires...", or "Clearly, X's act implicates negligence per se", or "Clearly ANYTHING, so I don't have to analyze the legal alternative."

ALL the Note cases illustrate some elucidation of or exception to the rules/analysis from the principal case. They're ALL part of the exam. You can't polish a silver goblet on the philosophy of consideration or Learned Hand's duty formula. You have to engage EACH and EVERY fact in the hypo, affix to it a rule of law, and analyze accordingly. A short paragraph for each. Each side of the question. Nothing is CLEAR. Everything is ambiguous and double-sided and requires you to know and briefly hit on each side.

My 1L first semester exams in CivPro and Ks and Torts were 20+ page C and B- conclusory pieces of crap. My 3L A+ exams in Labor Arb and Admin and Corporations were 6-8 page, "brevity is the soul of wit" engagements of the facts of the hypo with the rules of law and analysis discussed in class and the casebook, with brief hits on alternatives from the note cases and on policy rationales, etc.

You can do the same thing. Everybody has their own advice. I would leave you with 3 words: framework of analysis. The logical structer of rule/analysis triggered by a given nugget of fact. "X will say that Y's conduct in (engage fact here) violated the statute passed by the state and was negligence per se. (Analysis, policy rationale, all on the surface, no goblet-polishing). Y will say, because of (engage ambiguous second fact here), the harm done was not that targeted by the statute, so it is not negligence per se (analysis, etc.)." ALL without getting BOGGED DOWN. Your professor is testing everything, or almos everything, you talked about for 3 1/2 months. It's all there in the convoluted hypo. That's why you HAVE to spend a good amount of time preparing to type: reading/re-reading the hypo an call, extracting issues from the fact pattern, fitting the issues into the analsis framework you've developed, etc.

Stole Your Nose!

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Re: Is issue-spotting a skill that can be learned?
« Reply #15 on: January 15, 2009, 09:09:44 AM »
I loved your advice on the "Clearly" statements.  Anyone who has taken legal writing should have already learned that we say things like "most likely" instead.

Quote
You have to engage EACH and EVERY fact in the hypo, affix to it a rule of law, and analyze accordingly.

A good chunk of professors also include extraneous facts, or facts that students think leads to an issue that is irrelevant for the purposes of the question.  Students who don't have a clear understanding of the question go off on a tangent or spend their time inventing issues that aren't there.  That's not polishing silver; that's spending your time polishing the styrofoam cups. Also, I think that my advice of ANSWERING THE QUESTION ASKED is important.  And NOT EVERYTHING YOU LEARNED IN CLASS IS ALWAYS COVERED.  Don't keep looking for something if it's not there. Also, if it doesn't ask you to name all the issues, then don't. A lot of professors want you to demonstrate that you're developing lawyerly judgment regarding the relative importance of issues and which arguments are most likely to succeed.

,.,.,.;.,.,.

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Re: Is issue-spotting a skill that can be learned?
« Reply #16 on: January 15, 2009, 09:38:57 AM »
Stole Your Nose! is correct.  My professors are all over the map in terms of desires.

My advice to the OP is to forget everything he ever learned in Grad School.  Generally, law professors are much smarter than your liberal arts college or grad school professors in the sense that they value relevance and understanding, rather than some amorphous "creativity" that ends up vomiting Critical Theory leftist nonsense from the 1970s.  Anyone can b.s. a paper about Ulysses ("The Other, Kristeva, and Sounds from the Room: An Analysis of Bloom's Judaism as it may or may not relate to Lacanian Psychoanalysis"), but, IMO, b.s.ing a law school exam is MUCH harder.

Sorry.  I realize I'm throwing an entire discipline under the bus, but I really really loathe English academia.  And I would be largely correct in saying that English academia and law school go together as well as egg nog and hot sauce.

However, just as English academia can (and should) be gamed, you can game Law School.  Your professors will respond to b.s. efficiency and property/liability rule arguments now, not Lacan.  So game it.  Sit down and game the hell out of it, you gamer, you.

Stole Your Nose!

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Re: Is issue-spotting a skill that can be learned?
« Reply #17 on: January 15, 2009, 09:56:28 AM »
Quote
Generally, law professors are much smarter than your liberal arts college or grad school professors
Unfortunately, law professors are also all over the map on that one as well.

,.,.,.;.,.,.

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Re: Is issue-spotting a skill that can be learned?
« Reply #18 on: January 15, 2009, 09:59:38 AM »
Quote
Generally, law professors are much smarter than your liberal arts college or grad school professors
Unfortunately, law professors are also all over the map on that one as well.

I meant on average.

I need to stop taking out my anger on my English background.  It's really counter-productive and tends to alienate people.

Stole Your Nose!

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Re: Is issue-spotting a skill that can be learned?
« Reply #19 on: January 15, 2009, 10:03:42 AM »
There's always the second half of the husband-wife professorial pair that doesn't deserve to be in front of a classroom.