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Author Topic: ADVICE for Incoming-1Ls  (Read 2876 times)

InRetro2093

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ADVICE for Incoming-1Ls
« on: January 16, 2009, 04:41:09 AM »
I'm going to give what I believe is valuable advice for incoming 1Ls. A little background, I attend a pretty good law school on the east coast, I'd rather not mention the specifics.  The advice I give here is not necessarily a reflection of my actions in law school, in part or whole, and it should be taken skeptically, as all advice should be.

First--School Selection

Please visit the school.  I understand rankings matter but visit the school so you can the type of students who go there and the professors; basically, all the specifics incoming-1Ls don't check out because they're too involved with "general reputation" and rankings.  The importance "General reputation" and ranking should by no means be understated, but these are also factors that are incredibly important.Some schools have high attrition rates which you may not like (i'm sure all of you will be top 10%) but still check it out. 

Factors that aren't important:
-Specialty areas (especially in the way they're ranked by the US news).  Do not fall for this trap.  Technically McGeorge School of Law is tied with Stanford University for International Law.  It's completely meaningless and many schools offer their specialty certificates to visiting law students so a school's specialty rankings should rarely be considered as an additional significant factor.

DO NOT TAKE LAW PREVIEW...it is the biggest waste of money on the planet.  They have several professors give you a general lecture on each subject.  They show you how to brief.  That's it.  First of all, you have to learn the material the way YOUR professor teaches it so the whole general lecture is pointless.  Secondly, you learn it all with ample time to master it during law school so its really really pointless if not slightly detrimental.

So you select a law school...On having the right mentality

Forget this idea of being top anything in your class.  It's a pointless, unproductive, and anxiety-inducing fixation.  However, I will disagree with those who say grades are random.  If you learn everything correctly, understand what the professor wants, you should be able to manage at least a B.  Sometimes however, you can't depend on this.  This is because in addition to knowing the material, you also need to be a good issue-spotter and you need to be able to recall relevant information quickly.  No one can come into law school thinking "i'm going to be top 10%" It's fanciful and naive. 

On a related note, it doesn't matter if you're not top 10%.  Don't get into this top 10% or kill myself mentality.  Although first year grades are very important, they are only important because of the 2L summer job.  Usually top firms hire in this manner and the basis for their selection is the 2L summer.  The 2L summer is decided based on the 1L grades.  So you can see why its important.  However, you can still get a job your third year or even after so make sure to not freak out and just try harder.  All you need is someone to give you a job, once they do your grades don't even matter anymore.  You're now a professional and in a whole new world.  So if you want to be a laywer, don't listen to people who say "Oh you're bottom of the class, better drop out"  Cs get degrees and The bottom of the graduating class is still a JD. 

STAY AWAY FROM PEOPLE WHO SAY THESE TWO THINGS

1) Law school grades are random
2) Top 10-30% or Drop out

Now, the interesting part...what gets good grades

You need the relevant facts out of each case and you need the rule out of each class.  Any given case is either dishing out a bright-line rule or a fact-sensitive rule.  If its a fact-sensitive rule then you need to know the facts out of the case, if not, then you don't.  If you follow this sort of advice and you know just that much, you can get an A.

So why read?

You don't need to.  You don't need to read the casebook.  You don't need to brief.  But go to class. 

1) Get former outlines (which typically have the facts and rules of each case)
2) Take these outlines to class with you and edit them on location.
3) Study outlines/glannons
4) Take practice exams
5) Do something fun with your free time (sports, whatever)

Anyway, if you guys need to know more or have specific questions, let me know.  Peace.

noumena

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Re: ADVICE for Incoming-1Ls
« Reply #1 on: January 16, 2009, 05:03:30 AM »
What a great inaugural post.

vap

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Re: ADVICE for Incoming-1Ls
« Reply #2 on: January 16, 2009, 10:19:06 AM »
Good advice overall, but "boo" to this:

You don't need to read the casebook.  You don't need to brief.

I think it depends on the person.  As a 1L, all I did was read the case book, go to class, outline, and take practice exams; no supplements.  Those things were enough to get good grades.  I think you need to figure out what works best for you.  Some people prefer learning via casebook method; others want a commercial outline or case summaries.

Tetris

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Re: ADVICE for Incoming-1Ls
« Reply #3 on: January 16, 2009, 03:21:10 PM »

No one can come into law school thinking "i'm going to be top 10%" It's fanciful and naive. 

On a related note, it doesn't matter if you're not top 10%.  Don't get into this top 10% or kill myself mentality. 

I can't stress enough how true this is.  My advice is this:  go into law school EXPECTING to be in the bottom half of the class, and work as hard as you can to stay in the middle 33%-66% range.  Even people who went to prestigious undergrads tell me that prestigious law schools have a far higher quality of a student body.


 Although first year grades are very important, they are only important because of the 2L summer job.  Usually top firms hire in this manner and the basis for their selection is the 2L summer.  The 2L summer is decided based on the 1L grades.  So you can see why its important. 

Yes.  1L grades are important.  Take them very seriously.  I would personally recommend picking up one or two of the best books on "how to perform well on law school exams" and at least skimming them to get a feel for what to look for going into your first classes.  A brief read on the wikipedia entries for each of your classes wouldn't hurt either, just to form a preliminary structure of the subject in your mind.


Now, the interesting part...what gets good grades

You need the relevant facts out of each case and you need the rule out of each class.  Any given case is either dishing out a bright-line rule or a fact-sensitive rule.  If its a fact-sensitive rule then you need to know the facts out of the case, if not, then you don't.  If you follow this sort of advice and you know just that much, you can get an A.

So why read?

You don't need to.  You don't need to read the casebook.  You don't need to brief.  But go to class

1) Get former outlines (which typically have the facts and rules of each case)
2) Take these outlines to class with you and edit them on location.
3) Study outlines/glannons
4) Take practice exams
5) Do something fun with your free time (sports, whatever)

Anyway, if you guys need to know more or have specific questions, let me know.  Peace.

I can't stress enough how terrible this advice is.  EVERYTHING is potentially useful; and the usefulness of different "sources" (lecture, outlines, supplementals, textbook readings) depends on the user and how the user, well, uses the source.  While the lectures were slightly illuminating for me and kept me "on track", I found that paying careful attention to the textbook helped me out the most.  When I studied for exams, I went through the textbook cover to cover looking at each note and case and asking myself what the case or note was trying to tell me.  I then wrote this "main point" on an outline that I compiled at the end of the semester.  This worked well for me in cementing all the main points and little nuances in my head.  I hardly looked at my class notes during my outlining, studying, or test-taking and found useful almost nothing my professors told me.

Also, I don't think that facts of the cases matter AT ALL.  My exams were all essays were I applied the general rules and principles of the law to a specific fact pattern the teacher created.  This style is used by many law schools.  While the fact pattern sometimes bore resemblance to cases we read in class, the teacher did not expect us to cite the cases and wanted us only to apply the principles of the case to the hypothetical.  On my outline, I had one sentence for every case (which summarized the holding and facts) and one or two bullet points, as needed, to capture specific rules or "big ideas" contained within the case.

I tell you all this not so you adopt "my style" of studying, but so you realize that there are different styles out there and you should never listen to someone who says they know "the way" to study.
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Blue08

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Re: ADVICE for Incoming-1Ls
« Reply #4 on: January 16, 2009, 04:54:31 PM »
How do you get your hands on former outlines?

vap

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Re: ADVICE for Incoming-1Ls
« Reply #5 on: January 16, 2009, 05:03:59 PM »
How do you get your hands on former outlines?

Ask upperclassmen or your classmates (who have already asked upperclassmen).  If I'm ever chatting with a 1L, I freely offer my outlines and old exam answers.  I think most people will do this if you ask; sometimes unprompted.

EDIT:  But actually, I've never found old outlines extremely useful.  Sometimes they're OK to determine how to structure your own outline, or if you really don't understand a particular area of law.  But the "outlines" I tend to get from upperclassmen are usually the super-outline that's 40+ pages long and has every rule of law and every policy consideration and mini case briefs from the beginning of time.  This isn't really an outline that is useful.  Further, there will probably be very few times in law school when you don't understand the law.  After reading the casebook and attending class, the rules of law are usually pretty clear.

Slumdog Lovebutton

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Re: ADVICE for Incoming-1Ls
« Reply #6 on: January 16, 2009, 07:00:34 PM »
How do you get your hands on former outlines?

Columbia has a shared folder on the school network with past outlines from all of the courses offered, sorted by professor and by year.  As a result, you generally have a few outlines to pick and chose from, and you don't have to bug upperclassmen.  However, there's no way of knowing what grades the folks got who posted their outlines, so that's certainly something to think about.

But it helps :)
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Tetris

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Re: ADVICE for Incoming-1Ls
« Reply #7 on: January 16, 2009, 07:24:21 PM »
At Michigan, there are three ways to get outlines: (1) ask an upperclassman, such as myself; (2) send an email to lawopen; or (3) ask your friends if any of them have come across an outline.

Personally, I don't find them to be particularly useful.  Since they are written in "note form" by someone else, I find they are almost cryptic at times and I exert an annoying amount of energy just trying to decipher the outline.  Also, I never fully trust the outline... maybe they got the rule down wrong, or the professor/textbook maybe taught a different rule not originally included in the class.  Furthermore, if you have to consult an outline to understand a principle or rule of law, then welcome to the bottom half of the class.  I found the actual process of outlining to be immensely valuable, however, because it really cemented all the ideas from the course into my head.  But you'll probably want to acquire them anyway, to judge for yourself whether they are helpful. 
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RobWreck

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Re: ADVICE for Incoming-1Ls
« Reply #8 on: January 17, 2009, 11:47:55 AM »
Here's four simple tips to doing well in law school.
1) Do ALL the reading. The teacher is assigning the material for a reason... and if you're a FT student without a job, then there's no excuse for not getting the reading done.
2) Make your own outline. Making your own outline forces you to incorporate all the material yourself and figure out how it all goes together. You can use someone else's outline as a guide, or as a 2nd outline, but you need to really assemble the material for yourself.
3) Don't rely on unassigned supplements. I've seen far too many people rely on Crunchtime and E&E and other supplements rather than actually putting in the work on the assigned material. If you want an explanation of something you didn't understand, then maybe a 'Mastering Torts' will be helpful, but remember... these are SUPPLEMENTS, not REPLACEMENTS for the actual cases.
4) Pay attention to the cases listed in the notes section of the differetn casebooks, or any footnoted case that's more than just a citation. I've seen professors grab the facts from a footnote case and use that as the basis for an exam question.
Good luck,
Rob
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clairel

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Re: ADVICE for Incoming-1Ls
« Reply #9 on: January 18, 2009, 09:50:49 PM »
i'm on board with tetris' advice. i agree that fact patterns aren't particularly important, but i do NOT understand how someone can go to class without at least skimming the reading consistently and not make the professor hate you when you're called on...ESPECIALLY in those classes where professors actually ask you details about each case (i.e. looking it over as they call on you doesn't work). once is embarassing for you, but probably forgiveable if you do well next time. twice, and a vindictive professor might actually dock your grade (yes, class participation counts in some lectures; i don't know if anyone's actually been docked but i imagine it's possible). yeah, sometimes after i'm called on, i'll slack off on reading for a while until i know i'm on deck again (and for classes where i know socratic is rarely if ever used), but at least start law school doing all the reading.