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Author Topic: Overwhelmed - Seeking Advice  (Read 6999 times)

cooleylawstudent

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Re: Overwhelmed - Seeking Advice
« Reply #40 on: April 03, 2010, 11:56:10 PM »
So your a prof posting students emails?  :P


*  Recently I had a student who said, in so many words, "I don't understand this assignment. Can you explain it?"  Mind you, they didn't say "This part of the assignment is unclear.  Does it mean x or does it mean y?"  Professors are, generally, willing to help.  But they are also quite sensitive to simply giving the answer.  They are even more sensitive to giving the answer to someone who has no intention of actually working for it.  In this, their response is exactly what it will be in the world after law school.  (Much kinder, actually.  Try this even once in law practice, and your next loan payment will likely not match up with the missing paychecks.)


While this might no doubt get me into trouble, here's the student's email:

A question what is our individual assignment I think i am missing out on something on the understanding what needs to be done. Because I am use to writing A paper if you could help me under stand the individual assignment due ? Please help!!!!!

Any thoughts out there?  

Tell me how y'all would have responded, and I'll post the actual response.  = :  )

Thane.

PS:  This email was sent the day the assignment was due.

Thane Messinger

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Re: Overwhelmed - Seeking Advice
« Reply #41 on: April 04, 2010, 12:55:43 AM »
I think a lot of kids act like that because they still didn't fully understand the difference between law school and college. Many just assume that professors will spoonfeed them all the things they need to learn.
To Thane: what is your opinion about schools with high attrition rate? Some of the newly ABA-approved schools have ridiculously high rate, some 30~40 percent of their first year class. How do you explain then the smaller, less well-known state schools that have very low attrition rate? I am really curious what you think about these matters.


An excellent question, and an interesting history.  In the dark ages (prior to, say, the 1970s), most law schools had a sizeable attrition rate.  As law became more attractive, as more students attended college and then law, the relative and absolute quality of students rose in nearly all law schools, to the point that the top half of law schools could choose from among a large selection of qualified students.  As a result, the attrition rate fell, to the point that most law schools saw attrition rates in the single digits, soon the lower single digits.  In essence, attition was nearly entirely a self-selected factor.

To your question . . . and sorry if this strikes anyone in the wrong way . . . but a school that has been only recently ABA accredited, while "accredited," will likely have a much different dynamic.  Thus, for anyone not yet in law school, be very, very careful before applying to and starting in a law school with a high attrition rate.  This can, of course, be correlated for specific schools with bar passage rates, employment rates, and so on.  For all, be wary with any school, but especially so with such a factor as this.

Thane Messinger

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Re: Overwhelmed - Seeking Advice
« Reply #42 on: April 04, 2010, 01:01:12 AM »
So your a prof posting students emails?  :P


Not quite, and res ipsa loquitur.  This is an actual communication, but obviously not with any identifying information, and not for a program directly applicable to anyone in this forum.

I have to laugh, however . . . profs have been most upset over student evaluations (which in online forums are, with regard to the professors, anything but anonymous).  In some cases profs have tried to take measures to close them down.  (As it happens, it is my belief that profs should be exposed to the opinions of students.  Not necessarily in the ways that these are used now, but certainly with regard to honest feedback and reasoned critique.  I might, moreover, be one of the few in disagreement with tenure in this regard as well, placing me WAY outside the norm, prof-wise.)

Following the reasoning of Judge Posner, it seems fair to open the field both ways, don't you agree?

byebyeny

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Re: Overwhelmed - Seeking Advice
« Reply #43 on: April 05, 2010, 04:26:55 AM »
so would you say that one person who would have passed and did okay in one school could possibly fail out due to harsh grading curve in another school? you say the applicant pool has been changing (they are better qualified to study law) but how do you justify measuring one's ability to study the law by their LSAT score? I mean, LSAT is purely logic and reading comprehension stuff, and I don't believe most law students find these parts very hard about law school. The hard part, like many of your comments explain, is making sense out of what you learn and 'understanding what is going on', right? I understand the author of PLS feels very strongly about these matters. Heck, I would have felt the same way if I had to quit law school due to the grading curve.

Thane Messinger

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Re: Overwhelmed - Seeking Advice
« Reply #44 on: April 05, 2010, 05:22:11 PM »
so would you say that one person who would have passed and did okay in one school could possibly fail out due to harsh grading curve in another school? you say the applicant pool has been changing (they are better qualified to study law) but how do you justify measuring one's ability to study the law by their LSAT score? I mean, LSAT is purely logic and reading comprehension stuff, and I don't believe most law students find these parts very hard about law school. The hard part, like many of your comments explain, is making sense out of what you learn and 'understanding what is going on', right? I understand the author of PLS feels very strongly about these matters. Heck, I would have felt the same way if I had to quit law school due to the grading curve.


"Passed" might be the wrong word.  There are several factors operating at once.  Grade curves can and do vary in their specifics from law school to law school.  And the pool of students also varies from law school to law school, both as to specific individuals (of course) and as to generalities.  Whatever we might think of the LSAT or its methodologies (and our thinking as pre-law students is generally misplaced), there are differences among law schools and their student populations.  Big differences.  So, to take the easiest examples, a student competing with other students from Chicago or Yale (to pick two at the top) will almost certainly perform "differently" in terms of grade than that very same student taking exams in a T4 law school. 

Adding to this is, arguably, a more important factor:  what one actually brings to the academic table.  A student who reads Planet Law School (or, ahem, my book Law School: Getting In, Getting Good, Getting the Gold) and who follows either of them (not just read, but follow) is likely to do better than one who reads the [sorry, editorial interjection here] pap or who listens to the common wisdom drivel among pre-law students and who does not take the differences of law school seriously . . . is likely to do much worse than could otherwise have been true.  This isn't exactly pass-fail, but it's close.

It's almost as if it's easier to give up and rail against the fates than it is to go against the popular grain and actually learn the law as an experienced practitioner would advise.

I graduated from UT, which at the time had a horrendous grading curve . . . into a horrendous market.  My heart went out to fellow students, who did not deserve their fate.  Still, the challenge is two-fold: to understand law school and how professors think, and to side-step, as necessary, the awful job market if one doesn't place in the top 10% (which, of course, a majority will not).  It can be done.

And for all, there's still time to correct the pointless make-work of the month before exams.  Take a serious look at what has actually helped you to understand the legal concepts you are digesting, and re-focus on applying those techniques to taking actual (practice or sample) exams. 

byebyeny

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Re: Overwhelmed - Seeking Advice
« Reply #45 on: April 05, 2010, 08:00:49 PM »
Thank you for the comments. I still have some doubts though. If what you are suggesting is THE approach to be followed, why don't so many law students know about them? Why do so many professor discourage students from studying law before law school/ using supplements? Is this some kind of conspiracy or what? If a professor can expect a lot of students are left guideless, why don't they ever try to help these students by explaining things a little more (not the substantive law, but perhaps how we should approach these materials)?

Thane Messinger

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Re: Overwhelmed - Seeking Advice
« Reply #46 on: April 05, 2010, 10:44:47 PM »
Thank you for the comments. I still have some doubts though. If what you are suggesting is THE approach to be followed, why don't so many law students know about them? Why do so many professor discourage students from studying law before law school/ using supplements? Is this some kind of conspiracy or what? If a professor can expect a lot of students are left guideless, why don't they ever try to help these students by explaining things a little more (not the substantive law, but perhaps how we should approach these materials)?


Excellent questions.  I have to laugh, as I've had a running disagreement with the author of Planet Law School for some ten years now.  I don't believe it's a conspiracy.  I think it's something better . . . or worse, depending upon one's view.  I think it's simple vested interest and laziness.

It's a vested interest in terms of both professors and firms.  They simply don't care, and the history and operation of law school is to separate the bottom 90% from the top 10%.  Firms care only about the top 10% . . . and so do law schools, to a large degree.  (Who is most likely to be a future contributor?)  

Paradoxically, this is roughly correct, but not because students are unworthy.  Rather, it's because they're simply misled.  That's what get's me upset.

For students, I'd say we open this up for the collective answers of your colleagues.  I have my suspicions, and lay several of those out in the book, but am all too aware of how easy it is to form incorrect opinions.

So . . .

Why do students gravitate toward highlighting, case briefing, voluminous notes, etc., despite the nagging and continued suspicion that it's just not working?  (And despite professors' sometimes direct, sometimes oblique references to what is actually tested in exams?)  Moreover, why do 2Ls and 3Ls persist in these beliefs?  Finally, why can't we simply ask those who have actually scored in the top 10% . . . or those who grade them?

I'll share my thoughts if you share yours.  = :  )

lovelyjj

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Re: Overwhelmed - Seeking Advice
« Reply #47 on: April 06, 2010, 11:53:49 PM »
Hello Thane! I just had few general questions.

1. This may sound repetitive, but would you say that it's possible to ace law school exams without ever cracking open your casebook? I don't doubt that using supplements to learn the BLL is the best approach, but the reality for me, and everyone else still is, that we have to read and be prepared to answer questions when called on. How would you, as a lawyer and professor, advise a student to deal with these seemingly contradicting approaches? (How much time should be spent with studying cases? Also, you mention the danger of using canned briefs in your book. But isn't this contradicting to what you say earlier about ineffectiveness of doing your own case briefs?)

2. We often learn both the common law approach and the modern approach regarding specific application of doctrines. I often read something like 'CL approach is so-and-so and is different from the modern approach because....' But isn't common law different from one jurisdiction to another? How can all the CL approach be the same? Does this mean the CL approach that was used in England was all same in the entire country at the time?

3. I am thinking about buying the Planet Law school book. Before I order it, I just wanted to ask you what would be the difference between your book and PLS?

As always, your comments are extremely helpful for all of us. I really appreciate it. and also, you can be verbose in answering questions. We could always listen to more words of wisdom coming from a law sage like you.  :)

Thane Messinger

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Re: Overwhelmed - Seeking Advice
« Reply #48 on: April 07, 2010, 04:39:29 AM »
Hello Thane! I just had few general questions.

1. This may sound repetitive, but would you say that it's possible to ace law school exams without ever cracking open your casebook? I don't doubt that using supplements to learn the BLL is the best approach, but the reality for me, and everyone else still is, that we have to read and be prepared to answer questions when called on. How would you, as a lawyer and professor, advise a student to deal with these seemingly contradicting approaches? (How much time should be spent with studying cases? Also, you mention the danger of using canned briefs in your book. But isn't this contradicting to what you say earlier about ineffectiveness of doing your own case briefs?)


It's possible, but not likely.  Part of the answer might be in seeking a balance.  The world of most law students is a world that is highly imbalanced.  Most students struggle, in vain, to keep up with a mountain of cases, assuming that that's what law school is all about.  Yes, law is about cases, but that's just the "play" part of the law.  The real law is what's underneath the cases.

So, to your questions, it is important to understand the cases.  The key is to understand, as well, that what's important in the cases is not the thousands of words, but in the interconnections between the facts and law.  And "the law" is, in turn, the interconnections among statutes, cases, precedent, philosophy, and so on.

So, if it helps, the answer is "All of the Above."  Neglecting cases is no more the answer than obsessing over them.  As mentioned in the book, the real challenge is to read the cases in light of the operant law . . . the relevant rules.

As to canned briefs, those can be fine to use . . . but only in the context above.  Relying on canned briefs as a shortcut to "learning" the law in a vacuum will do little good.  It will be bad learning done faster.

Cases are important in light of the law, just as the law is important as seen through cases.

Does that help?


2. We often learn both the common law approach and the modern approach regarding specific application of doctrines. I often read something like 'CL approach is so-and-so and is different from the modern approach because....' But isn't common law different from one jurisdiction to another? How can all the CL approach be the same? Does this mean the CL approach that was used in England was all same in the entire country at the time?


It's a bit deceptive to talk about the "common law," when in fact that simply means case-derived rules.  Naturally, this means that the common law will be different in different locales.  Notably, however, the colonies and then states drew from the English common legal tradition, and thus share far more than they differ.  As a result, there can be quirks and majority-minority differences, but the consistency is quite remarkable.

Here's what's important:  understanding the major themes of how code-based (often Model Code-based) laws differ from their common law antecedents.  In this, understanding the common law will often become, well, common sense in light of how the law developed.  To take an easy example.  Negligence under common law was extraordinarily strict: it was nearly impossible to win a negligence case.  Why?  Because the rules were designed to provide nearly every defense, and the plaintiff's burdens were quite high--and could be defeated in multiple ways by those defenses.  This is contributory negligence.  Look at the exceptions and exceptions-to-exceptions, and think about surly old judges, wigs and all, peering from on high with raised eyebrows as if to ask "You want to sue for what?!"

Now move to the 9th Circuit, home of our groovy friends in California, and ask the hip judges just why they can't be a little nicer to your client.  Sure, say they, why not?  After all, it's the Age of Aquarius!  We don't need no stinkin' defenses.  Along comes a new way of thinking about negligence, which overturns much of the prior multi-hundred-year history of negligence law.  As much of this developed from the Restatements--absorbed into the state codes--this is the distinction between the historical common law roots and modern law.  Knowing one will help you to predict the other.

[Note:  it is possible as well to note the impact that either set of rules has.  We see this in tort reform movements, and in the prior unfairnesses, sometimes severe.  In this, we choose our poison.  On an exam, mention both quickly, and move on.  A half a point is a half a point.]


3. I am thinking about buying the Planet Law school book. Before I order it, I just wanted to ask you what would be the difference between your book and PLS?


Hmm . . . lemme see how I can answer this one in an unbiased way.  = :  )

When I first (seriously) considered writing Law School: Getting In, Getting Good, Getting the Gold, I saw it as a companion to Planet Law School, which is far more detailed, extensive, and, dare I say it, dark.  So, as a general answer I think the answer is, yes, it is an absolute requirement.  Love it or hate it, there are many, many tricks and tips in PLS that will help.

Having written that, PLS is a rather heavy tome.  Given the timing, you MUST be careful not to waste time in any of these editorial sidebars (mine or others').  For anyone not yet in law school, absolutely get PLS.  (And, ahem, mine.)  But for anyone such as yourself currently in law school, get PLS but read ONLY those sections that pertain to outlines and exams.  Those should take just a few hours to read.  As with Law School: Getting In, Getting Good, Getting the Gold, while it might seem an extravagant use (waste?) of time, in fact it is essential.  One hour of focused study is worth more than ten hours of wasted effort.  [Not too hard, as ten hours of wasted effort is worth, what, a negative one-point-two million pesos and negative four bargs of emotional energy.]  For all, ask yourself: do you remember, really remember, what you learned the last time you spent an hour reading a case?  Spending that hour reading how to learn the law (and take exams) will produce real dividends.

[A final note:  PLS is rather radical.  I'll hold off on any opinions as to that, in large measure for the reason above; it is irrelevant, now.  This is hard, but part of success in law school is in FORCING yourself to study intently and with great precision.  If it is not relevant, it is not part of your mind or life. At least . . . Not. Right. Now.  Conspire later.  Focus now.]

And you thought you'd have no fun at all.



As always, your comments are extremely helpful for all of us. I really appreciate it. and also, you can be verbose in answering questions. We could always listen to more words of wisdom coming from a law sage like you.  :)

You are most welcome.

Say . . . is it good to be verbose?   = :  )

Thane Messinger

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Re: Overwhelmed - Seeking Advice
« Reply #49 on: June 03, 2010, 05:11:32 AM »
All -

I know I'm fighting against the current here, but in a recent post about "to prepare or not to prepare," and in talking with some long-out-of-law-school fellow professors and practitioners, the consensus is really quite clear (to us anyway): law students suffer, to a large extent needlessly.

In the hope that it will help, I'm going to bump a few threads up.  The point is to refresh these dicsussions about what law school should NOT be about for a new first-year student.

I hope this helps,

Thane.