After a semester of being a law student, I'm still very confused about law school classes and what they demand from me. Is reading case after case going to help me think in such way? I understand that on an exam, you need to issue spot and IRAC each issue, but then again, the things we had on our exams were so much different from what we covered in class...How do professor separate students who get A's from others who don't do as well? I wish someone could just teach me what I should do...
Thank you Thane for sharing your insight. Reading your comment clears much doubt, but it still leaves me with questions. For instance,
1) if law school isn't there to teach you the law, then how do you learn the law? By reading supplements? case briefs? Why do law schools then require students to read casebooks if this isn't going to help them to learn the law?
2) What is the law? I understand knowing the statutes and 'important cases' are essential, but how do you draw the big picture? After all, isn't it just knowing the rules in detail and applying it when a particular situation arises?
3)According to what you say, lawyers are people who have mastered these skills of seeing the big picture. Does that mean a lawyer would always end up getting the highest grade if she re-took the first year law school class? even without listening to the lecture(because she KNOWS THE LAW?) Isn't grading subjective to a certain degree? Don't professors issue spot when they grade exams? Doesn't that mean lawyers who do not know what the professor thinks important wouldn't do so well even if she knows the law?
Thank you so much Thane. It is amazing how I, just by taking couple minutes to read what you wrote here, learned more than by talking to so many different people at school for an entire semester. I really think you should get paid for providing such excellent advice (I already ordered your book btw I just have few more questions regarding what you said...1)What exactly is Rule of Law? Is it just a trend created by compilation of statutes and case decisions? and how do I learn them? by reading books like E & E? Wouldn't study aids ever give conflicting information regarding the rules?
2) What is legal reasoning? I know this sounds awefully general, but I did not really understand what you meant by what you said regarding my last question in the answer you gave me.I have nothing against the school or traditions. But it is really frustrating if I think about it because I believe many students, like me, are confused about what is true and what is not. We hear so many different things that conflict with each other, sometimes these things we are confused about are the very basic studying method or how to approach class discussions. Yet, when I discuss these problems with others, many tell me some strange things, even the academic advisor at my school. (Like I may not be for law school or I might have some learning deficiencies or whatever). I know this sounds very emotional and not logical, but really, people who are not doing so good now may improve if they are given proper directions. (After all, how can you judge whether someone is for law school or not after only 1 semester of studying the law? assuming that person never studied law in her life?)
We can go about this in two ways. We tend to think that law school is about the law. Not exactly. Clearly there is law in law school. One would be shocked otherwise, yes? But that's not all it is. In reality, law school is about the law in light of fact patterns. So, simply knowing a rule is nice ("in the majority of jurisdictions a plaintiff's recovery is limited under comparative negligence to the net of its non-negligence") . . . but that's not enough. To simply write that on an exam does nothing. (Or, more precisely, it's a "C" response.) What is needed is to understand how that rule affects a claim for a person in a set of facts, and defenses for the other side. So, if Plaintiff P does a, b, and c, and Defendants D, E, and F have done x, y, and z, you'll reason through (i.e., conduct a lawyerlike analysis) what happens with that claim. Or, more correctly, those claims (and defenses, and counterclaims, and counter-defenses...). Legal analysis is the process of separating all of those potential claims and counterclaims and sifting them through the sieve of the rules.
I think this point needs emphasis. Ignoring one side of the issue at the preference of another is probably the most fatal mistake new law students make in their pursuit of a "right" answer. Lay people typically judge one side correct before they even begin analyzing the issue, and their prejudice misleads them. It's important to overcome that.BTW, Thane, your replies are absolutely exceptional. I haven't read anything like them before.