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lovelyjj

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Re: How do you think like a lawyer?
« Reply #10 on: March 04, 2010, 07:47:05 PM »
Thank you Thane. I got your book yesterday and spent the entire day reading it. It was a truly amazing book. It brought tears to my eyes. Knowing the reality and why things are the way they are, and the fact that I was not aware of what was truly going on and what was expected of me as a student, I was so ashamed of my ignorance. It is amazing how I did everything that you mentioned were ineffective- spending first few weeks being buried in casebooks, being frustrated at the professors and classes, trying desperately to read the supplements without actually absorbing them, and constantly telling myself that I will be okay while I KNEW I was not. The fact that I found out everything just now, after a semester is over, really hurts. I wonder why anyone at my school, including the person who has an academic advising job, could not tell me what you wrote in the book. I did not realize just how much anger I have built within myself over the past few months. (I know this sounds very immature) I want to blame others, but then again, it is all my fault for not knowing.

As for the good and bad of the book, here is my personal opinion.

the good: I could feel that you, as the author, really wanted to connect with the reader and send a message. Reading your book was like having a long, meaningful conversation with someone. The repetition of some important parts of advice, really worked, because it constantly reminded me of important things, and I totally agree with you that without repeating those things, a reader would easily forget what she just read. Usually, I feel like I read a really good book if I felt 'the connection' while I was reading it, but this time, the content of the book was also very good- as they were nothing but the truth (the truth many may not know, especially in their first year).

the bad: It is hard to say anything bad about the book that I really liked, but I think you could have thought of your audience in broader ways. Maybe not everyone who picks up your book is not someone, by your (or anyone else's) standard, a fine student at a reasonably good school. Maybe that person might not be making B's, maybe that person is failing. Maybe that person might be attending tier 4 school and would be discouraged to read your book when you mention stories about Harvard law or students who are getting only 'average grades'. I know that a person who would stop reading your book simply for reasons like these did not really try to understand what you were trying to convey, but that is also how many people are like. For instance, and this may sound contradicting because I just praised you for this, I feel like there could have been a better way to emphasize (to a pre-law student) that college studying habits won't work than simply being repetitive about it- or maybe there isn't a better way, and one should just go through a semester of law school and find out for herself. If you could come up with a better way to do this, that will be a huge plus.

One thing that I felt a little confused about was the part about how to fit your knowledge of black letter law together with what is going on in class.

Anyways, I do not know how to thank you for writing such a wonderful book. This book will save my lives.

Thane Messinger

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Re: How do you think like a lawyer?
« Reply #11 on: March 05, 2010, 02:50:04 PM »
Thank you Thane. I got your book yesterday and spent the entire day reading it. It was a truly amazing book. It brought tears to my eyes. Knowing the reality and why things are the way they are, and the fact that I was not aware of what was truly going on and what was expected of me as a student, I was so ashamed of my ignorance. It is amazing how I did everything that you mentioned were ineffective- spending first few weeks being buried in casebooks, being frustrated at the professors and classes, trying desperately to read the supplements without actually absorbing them, and constantly telling myself that I will be okay while I KNEW I was not. The fact that I found out everything just now, after a semester is over, really hurts. I wonder why anyone at my school, including the person who has an academic advising job, could not tell me what you wrote in the book. I did not realize just how much anger I have built within myself over the past few months. (I know this sounds very immature) I want to blame others, but then again, it is all my fault for not knowing.



You are most welcome, and thank you.  One reason I became active in these discussions again (after a rather frustrating first attempt last semester) is that I realized what part of the year it was, and that law students would be feeling much as you did.

In any event, your reaction is not immature at all.  Further, I don't believe the blame should be on you, or on any law student.  Your reactions--and the reactions of any new law student--follow the educational pattern that was simply expected for the prior 16 years.  Notebooks open, pens out, regurgitate.  Next.  It would be surprising if the transition were much different, given the unfortunate set-up.  Despite repeated sayings that "Law school is different," it is very, very hard to actually change how one goes about learning.

Also, while some out there reading your note might think you quite foolish for spending a day reading a book about law school, exactly the opposite is true.  It has been said that insanity is defined as doing the same thing again and again, with repeated failure, yet expecting different results with each new try.  This is the world of most law students.  The "failure" is that sense of frustration, pent-up anger, hopelessness, and senseless doom.  This is the horrible life of most first-year law students, stuck in a rut of attempting to memorize and, in class and with no notice, vomit up case facts, procedural history, etc., without knowing the underlying purpose of those cases, facts, procedural posture, or indeed of the law.  That is the tragedy.  And it is completely unnecessary.  (Or at least mostly unnecessary.)

The anger you write of is, unfortunately, something that most law students go through.  For nearly all, however, this happens in the second year, when it's effectively too late.  Moreover, there's little incentive at that point to figure out what really went wrong, as to do so is to challenge their assumptions and actions of the prior year, making the reality all that much more painful.

In any event, while anger is natural and, in moderation, healthy, the real challenge for you now is to re-focus in ways that will be helpful.  As should be clear, internalizing the framework (as seen in an outline for each subject) and beginning the process of seriously connecting that framework with an ever-changing set of fact patterns (practice exams) will set you on the right path.  It will make sense, and it will take less time.  

There is still time.  Don't panic.  The time spent over the past six months has not been wasted.  That knowledge is there; it just needs that framework to make sense.  You'll be amazed at how quickly it does make sense once you stop fighting the law (i.e., all the nonsense of the first semester) and start loving it (i.e., realizing how much FUN it is to play with fact patterns and the legal rules).

I'll take the next sections out of order to connect these points:

One thing that I felt a little confused about was the part about how to fit your knowledge of black letter law together with what is going on in class.


Briefly, we (understandably) miscontrue "participation" as meaning "do a good job in responding to the professor's questions about a case."  Nope.  There's no mileage there, literally and figuratively.

In truth, we should be focused on participation . . . but not what is said.  Rather, this participation is in what is heard.  When in class, listen intently.  Joust with your professors, mentally.  When they say a statement, ask the What If questions, silently yet rapid-fire.  Challenge their statements, silently yet rapid-fire.  This is intense--just like the practice of law.  If something is unclear, jot that down . . . just one line! . . . and confirm its meaning within your outline.  Do so immediately.  Waiting even an extra day will mean that much of that meaning is lost (as you have other classes to keep up with); you'll have a harder time refreshing your mind as to that point; and you likely will never get to it at all.  This is one reason it's so easy to be overwhelmed; there's simply too much to do.  This is another reason it's so important to focus on only that which is important.  Everything else (i.e., much of what law students assume law school is supposed to be about) is wasteful of time or even counterproductive, and must be pushed aside.

Stay absolutely on track in terms of the topics being covered in that day's class.  You MUST have gone through that section of your outline the night before.  This is not about getting a "head start"--that is the wrong path, and even if it were the right path, for reasons that should be clear from the book, it won't work.  It is about staying on track.  This is the hard (and easy) part: just one day at a time!

Cases are useful ONLY to the extent that they further your understanding of that framework.  That framework is the outline.  Thus, as you build and refine your outline (and then re-refine it to a summary outline), you are cementing that understanding of Black Letter Law.  From there, you are constantly testing that knowledge with fact patterns--in class and in practice exams. (Paradoxically, this approach will lead to better discussions with the professor when you are actually called upon.  This is because the facts will make sense, as will the rule under discussion.  Not just that, but you'll understand all the ancillary and competing doctrines, because they too will make sense.  They won't be gibberish in a quasi-legal vacuum.)  That is the type of in-class discussions professors hope for, and almost never get. 

And that is the connection between the two.  It is what happens in your mind, not in class.

Does that help?


the bad: It is hard to say anything bad about the book that I really liked, but I think you could have thought of your audience in broader ways. Maybe not everyone who picks up your book is not someone, by your (or anyone else's) standard, a fine student at a reasonably good school. Maybe that person might not be making B's, maybe that person is failing. Maybe that person might be attending tier 4 school and would be discouraged to read your book when you mention stories about Harvard law or students who are getting only 'average grades'. I know that a person who would stop reading your book simply for reasons like these did not really try to understand what you were trying to convey, but that is also how many people are like. For instance, and this may sound contradicting because I just praised you for this, I feel like there could have been a better way to emphasize (to a pre-law student) that college studying habits won't work than simply being repetitive about it- or maybe there isn't a better way, and one should just go through a semester of law school and find out for herself. If you could come up with a better way to do this, that will be a huge plus.


Thank you for this.  Your thoughts correspond with some of my concerns, and I've been keeping notes (yes, notes  = :  ) about these topics for an updated edition at some point.  When you have the chance, after exams, I'd be interested in your further thoughts of what might have been better presented.

As to Harvard, et al, your comments are apt.  The odd characteristic of law schools is that, even for those in T3 and T4 schools, the ways in which law schools are run are almost identical, regardless of the school.  Given who the professors are now, the irony of rankings is that one gets pretty much the same legal education in a T4 law school as they do at Harvard, et al.  Believe it or not.  

I'll think about how to address that point more carefully, and again, I welcome your further thoughts.



Anyways, I do not know how to thank you for writing such a wonderful book. This book will save my lives.


You are most welcome, and best of luck in all of your lives.   = :  )

Thane.

Thane Messinger

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Re: How do you think like a lawyer?
« Reply #12 on: March 07, 2010, 08:58:35 PM »
Law school sucks that way. By the time you figure it out it's time to graduate. Just keep working and you will do fine. As for law school grading, it's super arbitrary in my experience.


Ncccippy & All -

Indeed so.  And since the other threads had me digging up books to find the various sections, here are the sections that might reduce that suckdom:

For those already in law school, in Law School: Getting In, Getting Good, Getting the Gold I suggest reading from page 168 ("Efficiency Versus Laziness") through 200, and then 239 ("What You'll Need") through 307. It's fine to skip the other sections, as those will be handy later and, well, just for fun.

The key is to achieve the maximum result with the least effort. Or, more carefully, with the least wasted effort.  Much of that is in thinking, really thinking, about how to spend limited time in a sea of law, cases, and distractions.

Best of luck to all,

Thane.

PS:  Grades really aren't that arbitrary, but they certainly seem that way.  [How about pages 298-302 ("Exams: A Secret") for more fun.]

Thane Messinger

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Re: How do you think like a lawyer?
« Reply #13 on: April 08, 2010, 04:56:45 AM »
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.


A question had me scratching my head, as I was sure there was a thread that had already been posted.  Found it.

To all . . .

As we're well into the exam-prep time, now is the chance to take a deep breath, take a serious look at what has been helpful in law school and what has not.  Do more of the former, and less of the latter.

I've ranted about (unfortunately) common law school habits, and won't do so (much) more.  The point is to ask, seriously, what is helping, and to focus on those activities that will help in the law exam.  Everything else has to go away. 

There is still time.  You can do it.  You're smart, you're personable, and gosh darnit, people like you . . . wait . . . wrong skit. 

Hang in there.  And don't let anyone (including me . . . or you) stop you.  Go get 'em.

Tetris

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Re: How do you think like a lawyer?
« Reply #14 on: April 19, 2010, 05:24:45 PM »
I found "Getting to Maybe" to be very helpful in this regard. 

Basically, you need to think with ambidexterity.  The goal of a lawyer is to come up with the best possible argument for each position (plaintiff/defendant, pro-1st amendment/anti, etc.), and recognize the weaknesses in both arguments. 

To form these arguments, you need to have a good general understanding of competing theories for the given area of law, competing interpretations of case law, competing judicial philosophies, and so forth.  Recognizing these competing principles is the same thing as issue (or ambiguity) spotting.  Once you spot the pivotal issues/ambiguities, you need to construct the best possible argument for each side and arrive at a judgment of (1) which is better and (2) which is likely to be adopted by your judge.
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lovelyjj

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Re: How do you think like a lawyer?
« Reply #15 on: April 21, 2010, 08:29:31 PM »
To Thane, a question...

So I understand what lawyers do is to try to establish each element of a claim, and since casebook (which is largely appellate decisions clarifying/explaining each element in detail) focuses on how each element should be applied under detailed circumstances, it alone wouldn't be effective in learning the BLL.

1.Would you say using someone else's outline (instead of creating your own) could actually hurt you more than help you? I already have an outline for the class I'll take next semester. I plan to use the headings and title of cases as guidance as to what I need to read on E&E. Do you think this is ok?

2.This girl I got the outline from claims to have gotten an A. When I looked at her outline (about 40 pages) it was filled with case briefs and bunch of rules. (Promissory estoppel, ___ v. ____, rule) If what I understand is correct, these rules (40 pages of info) are mainly to clarify/explain the elements of each law. So if I added information about the BLL (general rule about other elements of each law, history, rationale etc) I assume that will be A LOT of information. Considering what I need to do on an exam is legal analysis (prove each claim/ argue against it), making such outline is essential right? (I will of course try to trim it down and make it as set of applicable rules containing elements to be proven)

3.This may be a stupid question, but... does every law have its own elements? I figure primary purpose of most lawsuits is to recover and what lawyers do is proving each element of the law/doctrine. Could there be any doctrine/law that has no elements? or to put it more correctly, can a lawyer do something else in a courtroom other than proving elements? (please understand this question comes from a (legally) uneducated lay person  :()

4.What sources of CO would you suggest? What is good for laying out elements of each doctrine?

As usual, I am deeply grateful for your help. Thank you for enlightening me and many others.  :)


Thane Messinger

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Re: How do you think like a lawyer?
« Reply #16 on: April 22, 2010, 04:37:54 AM »
So I understand what lawyers do is to try to establish each element of a claim, and since casebook (which is largely appellate decisions clarifying/explaining each element in detail) focuses on how each element should be applied under detailed circumstances, it alone wouldn't be effective in learning the BLL.

1.Would you say using someone else's outline (instead of creating your own) could actually hurt you more than help you? I already have an outline for the class I'll take next semester. I plan to use the headings and title of cases as guidance as to what I need to read on E&E. Do you think this is ok?


Part of lawyering--and part of being an ace law student--is in sifting through the law to reach a set of conclusions as to a given fact pattern.  For the lawyer, the black letter law is a tapestry.  The case is a design in that tapestry, and the specific laws are threads connected with and affecting the contours of that design.  So, it's all very much related.  But, no, the lawyer confirms black letter law with the cases, not the other way 'round.  This is the reason I focus so much on this in GGG, and this is why law school is so frustrating: students are doing it backwards.  [I know I shouldnt' say this now, but for any pre-laws out there this might be helpful.]

As to using another student's outline, that's fine in years two and three, but not for first year.  The reason has little to do with the quality of the outline, and everything to do with the quality of what goes in and comes out of your brain.  To internalize the law it is essential to create your own outline.  Why is it okay in years two and three?  Because at that point you're not learning the basics; you're applying those basic elements to a higher-order legal area.  Importantly, after first year the law "sinks in."  This is another reason I focus on this process so much in GGG.


2.This girl I got the outline from claims to have gotten an A. When I looked at her outline (about 40 pages) it was filled with case briefs and bunch of rules. (Promissory estoppel, ___ v. ____, rule) If what I understand is correct, these rules (40 pages of info) are mainly to clarify/explain the elements of each law. So if I added information about the BLL (general rule about other elements of each law, history, rationale etc) I assume that will be A LOT of information. Considering what I need to do on an exam is legal analysis (prove each claim/ argue against it), making such outline is essential right? (I will of course try to trim it down and make it as set of applicable rules containing elements to be proven)

Absent an award or grade-on status, it's wise to take exclamations of grades with a grain of salt.  

Yes, you're quite right.  What's in the outline should flesh out the structure of the law.  Certain subjects are more case heavy--such as Con Law or Civ Pro--but be wary of too many cases, or of too much detail as to each case (with few exceptions).  A case is important for what it says about a single point of law.  Be careful to balance all those points of law with the larger structure.  Both are needed, and neither should overwhelm the other.  Balance.  Look at the forest.  Then look at tree clusters, figuring out the different colors, vegetation types, general contours of the ecosystem.  THEN look at the individual trees.

You know you're ready to ace the exam when you can zoom out to see and tell about the forest . . . and do the same for any of the trees therein.


3.This may be a stupid question, but... does every law have its own elements? I figure primary purpose of most lawsuits is to recover and what lawyers do is proving each element of the law/doctrine. Could there be any doctrine/law that has no elements? or to put it more correctly, can a lawyer do something else in a courtroom other than proving elements? (please understand this question comes from a (legally) uneducated lay person  :()

It's not a bad question at all, and it points to several issues.  Yes, it's possible for a law to be a single point, or to have multiple elements.  Part of the confusion may be that we use "law" either generically or to refer to a specific rule.  Either (and both) are true.  This is all "law"...and more.

Broadly stated, a law is what the legislature, executive, and judiciary say it is.  It is also what regulators within the executive (and checked, loosely and sometimes sharply, by legislatures and the course) say it is.  Lawyers drill down to whatever level of detail is needed to prove a point--or to avoid a point.  Often lawyers are working up, not down.  (From regulation to statutes to case law...)  Add to this that there are multiple possibilities in nearly every case.  This is life.  It's a contract dispute, but it might also be a tort.  And it of course involves property.  Law exams take the same principles, but actually make it easier as they focus on just one of those subjects at a time.  Happily, you need not worry about any of the extra stuff in an exam:  just the interrelationships within that subject, starting with case and statutory law (and usually ignoring regulatory law), and their impact given the facts presented.

To your deeper question, a lawyer is looking at the facts of the case and deciding which rules are implicated.  From there, it's a process of confirming those rules, anticipating objections, and then delving point-by-point into the case.  (The good lawyer is looking at positioning, and procedure, as well.)  Again, law exams in effect cut through much of that in a . . . believe it or not . . . simplified version of sifting through law to answer a set of legal questions posed by a specific fact pattern.

So . . . don't worry about the above.  Focus on the points of law and in practicing how to sift through those points in a series of fact patterns.


4.What sources of CO would you suggest? What is good for laying out elements of each doctrine?

To be honest, nearly all commercial products are going to include more than any law student will need.  This is another problem: knowing when to stop.  If you're digging so deep that you forget which part of the forest you're in, it's time to pull back and re-focus.  Add those finer points, sure, but don't let them dominate.  Law school is about the big picture and whichever details are needed to connect that big picture with the facts presented in an exam.

Sorry for so many mixed metaphors.  = :  )

Best of luck in your exams,

Thane.

CJScalia

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Re: How do you think like a lawyer?
« Reply #17 on: April 23, 2010, 04:41:10 AM »
To Thane, a question...

I know I'm not Thane, but my experience is quite different than his so I want to add my perspective too. Not saying I'm right, he's wrong - people are different, that's all.

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So I understand what lawyers do is to try to establish each element of a claim, and since casebook (which is largely appellate decisions clarifying/explaining each element in detail) focuses on how each element should be applied under detailed circumstances, it alone wouldn't be effective in learning the BLL.

The case-book method of learning the law is horribly f-ing flawed. The only reason we're sticking with that method is because it allows professors to create a 1100 page book by 97.5% copy/pasting legal opinions, but still charge $175 for it.

There's a reason why the case-book method isn't used most over the world.

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1.Would you say using someone else's outline (instead of creating your own) could actually hurt you more than help you? I already have an outline for the class I'll take next semester. I plan to use the headings and title of cases as guidance as to what I need to read on E&E. Do you think this is ok?

I did not write a single outline myself, 1L or later. (My GPA is currently 3.9, was 3.65 after 1L). Get outlines, either online or from friends, and use them as guidelines for your studying. A few weeks before exams, print out your class notes, take the outline and write up a 5-10 page note sheet for your exam. Focus on getting the BLL and put down any buzzwords and major case names, since professors are often lazy slobs and just give +1 point for words mentioned (I wish I was making this *&^% up).

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2.This girl I got the outline from claims to have gotten an A. When I looked at her outline (about 40 pages) it was filled with case briefs and bunch of rules. (Promissory estoppel, ___ v. ____, rule) If what I understand is correct, these rules (40 pages of info) are mainly to clarify/explain the elements of each law. So if I added information about the BLL (general rule about other elements of each law, history, rationale etc) I assume that will be A LOT of information. Considering what I need to do on an exam is legal analysis (prove each claim/ argue against it), making such outline is essential right? (I will of course try to trim it down and make it as set of applicable rules containing elements to be proven)

Law exams involve very little legal analysis. 90% of the exam question is actually identifying the issues, 9% is remembering the correct rule, 1% is putting the facts given to you into the IRAC pattern. Your conclusion generally doesn't matter much, unless you're ending up on stuff totally batshit crazy.

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3.This may be a stupid question, but... does every law have its own elements? I figure primary purpose of most lawsuits is to recover and what lawyers do is proving each element of the law/doctrine. Could there be any doctrine/law that has no elements? or to put it more correctly, can a lawyer do something else in a courtroom other than proving elements? (please understand this question comes from a (legally) uneducated lay person  :()

I don't know what elements mean (and I only got 1 week left of law school!). Being a lawyer is about selling analogies and distinctions. You have an issue (i.e. negligent infliction of emotional distress), you have a set of facts, and you have black letter law. You look to case law to see what the black letter law is (or just Google it tbh), and then you match your facts to those in those cases. You draw analogies to the cases that are in your favor, you find the distinctions in the cases that don't support you.

Short example; case for NIED (as mentioned above), mother hears her daughter get hit by a car and killed in the drive-way, immediately after she left for school. Case law supports recovery for NIED when parent has seen that accident, but there is no case law supporting "other sensory observation". There is case law saying no recovery when parent heard the accident, but did not have any reason to know it was his daughter until he went into the street and saw the scene.

Neither cases are directly on point, you'll be trying to explain why case 1 is relevant because it had a sensory perception of the accident, and seeing something isn't inherently different than hearing it. You'll make sure to explain why case 2 is not relevant, because that parent had no idea their child was in the street in the first place, so the immediate knowledge of the victim isn't present. 

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4.What sources of CO would you suggest? What is good for laying out elements of each doctrine?

CO == Commercial Outlines? If so; get the "Crunchtime" series from Emmanuel. They are invaluable for exam preparation. As for just getting normal class outlines; www.outlinedepot.com

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lovelyjj

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Re: How do you think like a lawyer?
« Reply #18 on: April 24, 2010, 01:21:45 AM »
To CJScalia:

Thanks for giving your insight. Even though I am hesitant to believe people about whatever GPA they say they got(not saying you are lying, but i find it quite funny how nearly every 2L and 3L I talked to said they got 4.0 and told me so much useless stuff), I still think you are right on many points, especially, importance of trying to find as many issues as you could and casebook method being seriously flawed. I also think your exam approach (trying to find relevant case, and distinguish it from facts at hand) to be very good. But, isn't this only one way to approach law school exam (analogy reasoning, which could be a form of a legal analysis)? Sometimes, finding relevant cases isn't easy. Professors of course know this when they make exams, and deliberately try to create difficult fact pattern that doesn't relate to any cases we've learned. Any insights regarding this matter would be very much appreciated. (Thane, Please help!)

Thane Messinger

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Re: How do you think like a lawyer?
« Reply #19 on: April 25, 2010, 04:36:54 AM »
To CJScalia:

Thanks for giving your insight. Even though I am hesitant to believe people about whatever GPA they say they got(not saying you are lying, but i find it quite funny how nearly every 2L and 3L I talked to said they got 4.0 and told me so much useless stuff), I still think you are right on many points, especially, importance of trying to find as many issues as you could and casebook method being seriously flawed. I also think your exam approach (trying to find relevant case, and distinguish it from facts at hand) to be very good. But, isn't this only one way to approach law school exam (analogy reasoning, which could be a form of a legal analysis)? Sometimes, finding relevant cases isn't easy. Professors of course know this when they make exams, and deliberately try to create difficult fact pattern that doesn't relate to any cases we've learned. Any insights regarding this matter would be very much appreciated. (Thane, Please help!)


To CJS's point:  Yes, the case method, as currently employed, is not terribly helpful.  This is one reason law students are so badly confused, depressed, and then angry.  (Or was it confused, angry, depressed, then angry again, then homicidal?)  It's also why so much of the "advice" out there is so misleading.  It's important as well to take the world as it is, especially when the question is "law exam."  (And to think I'm regularly accused of not being realistic enough.  = :  )

I do disagree as to borrowing another's outline and expecting to do well in first year.  There are exceptions, I'm sure, but exceptions they remain.  For anyone going to 1L next year, the reasoning is in GGG.  I'll state one:  There are only so many hours in the day, and there are only so many days in the school year before exams.  Every one of those hours and days should be used well.  If not doing something directly related to learning the law (black letter law), or learning the process of applying that law (thinking like a lawyer), there should be a real question of what, exactly, that time is being spent on.  If one saves a few dozen hours in not doing an outline, what is a better use of that time?  (Note: This argument is somewhat different for years two and three, for reasons explained above.)  If your use of that time has just about anything to do with cases, that's such a monumental waste of time it's hard to even begin to (re)explain why.  At the very least, the cost-benefit of studying via cases is so low that that alone should dissuade anyone from relying on that primarily.

This for current 1Ls:  

I would also disagree, strongly, that "[l]aw exams involve very little legal analysis."  

Legal analysis includes "identifying the issues,...remembering the correct rule, [and] putting the facts given to you into the [analysis; IRAC is only a partial solution]."  This is where law students go astray.  This ALL counts!  That's what your prof is looking for.  Quite right that "[y]our conclusion generally doesn't matter much."  Mostly.  The main point is that, while we separate every issue from every other issue, we cannot separate law-and-facts from facts-and-law.  It's two sides of the same legal coin.

It's easy to focus on the "case," since that's all we seem to study in law school, but in fact the case is (usually) a side issue.  What's important is what that case stands for.  A law exam can be thought of as a peculiar type of case.  It's a given (convoluted) set of facts . . . just as in a case.  Your job is, pretty much, to do what the judge does . . . and to make sure the prof knows what and why you discounted everything that doesn't go into the (real) opinion.  In other words, you need to show the prof every trail, and let them know you think it's a good trail, or a bad trail, and why.  Even if the trail is a trail not taken, you need to show--in fifteen seconds--that you know that and that you know why.

To all, hang in there.  You DO know the law.  The challenge is in distilling that law from a mass of amorphous stuff to a stream of useful legal analysis.  This you do by FORGETTING all that confusing stuff.  Or, at least, by forcing yourself not to get dizzy from it.  Focus instead on answering a series of SIMPLE questions.  How do you get those simple questions?  Simple.  By thinking of each fact pattern as a case.  (Thus my endless nagging in GGG about how to go about learning how to "think like a lawyer.")  You're not there to answer the meaning of life.  You're there to explain why D's defense against X (grand-nephew of P twice removed) fails in a common law jurisdiction on the third prong of that SIMPLE legal test that the Supreme Court laid out so nicely.  Repeat that through every possible pairing and permutation, and you've got it.  See?  Fun!

Best of luck to all,

Thane.