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Author Topic: How do you think like a lawyer?  (Read 5367 times)

CJScalia

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Re: How do you think like a lawyer?
« Reply #20 on: April 26, 2010, 02:53:29 PM »
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!)

On the issue of grades, you're right, law students use that as a "mind game" of sorts against each other, I don't generally talk about grades with anyone at my law school simply because 1) I don't want them to know my GPA and 2) I wouldn't trust them on what they claimed to be their GPA. Everyone is looking for an advantage of sorts, however unrealistic that is. The only one I actually discussed grades with was at-the-time my girlfriend, so wasn't really any point hiding it. I know she told other people at law school her GPA was actually lower than it was in reality, because she didn't want to be a "target". Yes, law school can really be that immature.

As for exams, I'm guessing this is extremely school / professor dependent. I'd say less than half of my exams have been essay exams at all, short-question exams seems to be getting more and more popular. Even had a few multiple choice ones. As for the essay exams I've had, they have all been somewhat related to the cases we've used, typically the professor has taken some cases from our readings and modified them to add a few twists and turns to see how students deal with that. Again, I'm sure this can be very different from school to school, but I've never had an exam where I feel like the professor has deliberately tries to be deceptive or played "hide the ball" with us.

To Thane;

as for borrowing outlines, I guess the student should ask themselves how they best learn. Some people learn best for listening; get CD-based audio-files, some students learn best from writing; make your own outlines, some students learn best for reading (me); just copy it.

I'm not saying there isn't value to writing your own outline, it very clearly is. But to me it just wasn't worth it considering how much time it actually takes. I am a student after all, I do need to be drunk at least 3 days a week.

As for spending every hour and day productively; that's not realistic at all. I agree that just running through case after case isn't good allocation of your time though, and I'm sure you're not saying that a law student should study 24/7. My only point is that you shouldn't give up on having a life just because you're in law school. I do understand that you have a book to sell, and I don't have a beef with that though. Although I do consider anyone buying a book about "how law school is going to be" to be a complete idiot :p

I will concede however that I used the work legal analysis very narrowly. Yes, the I in IRAC is also a part of analysis. My point is; if you have the choice between identifying every issue, but doing poor analysis section or identifying just one issue, but analysing the hell out of that one; you'll get a better grade for option 1.

If you can do amazing at all parts of the IRAC, then by all means, that's of course the best solution.

Couldn't agree more with you on that whole look outside just the case part, I can't begin to describe how much I hate case law (I already have a law degree from a civil law country where the case method isn't used). It's just consuming so much time learning so little it's beyond ridiculous.
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Thane Messinger

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Re: How do you think like a lawyer?
« Reply #21 on: April 27, 2010, 04:43:14 PM »
To all -

This isn't the time to be distracted by any of this discussion.  

But . . .

I would buy copies of my own books and give them away.  The broader point:

Are you in, or are you in?

Law is not a half-assed profession.  Neither is law a profession for those who are simply mechanistic--on either side.  Too much studying is just as wrong as too little.  This is not what the law is about; efficiency is just as important as effectiveness.  (Firms know this.)  This is one of the major points of my books, and one of the reasons the outline/don't outline, notes/too-many-notes, higlighting/you're-kidding, etc. are just so silly . . . and indicative of where law students go wrong.

For 1Ls, close this window, ignore this thread, strike this from the record and your memories, and get back to your practice exams.  = :  )

And best of luck in those exams.

Thane.



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!)

On the issue of grades, you're right, law students use that as a "mind game" of sorts against each other, I don't generally talk about grades with anyone at my law school simply because 1) I don't want them to know my GPA and 2) I wouldn't trust them on what they claimed to be their GPA. Everyone is looking for an advantage of sorts, however unrealistic that is. The only one I actually discussed grades with was at-the-time my girlfriend, so wasn't really any point hiding it. I know she told other people at law school her GPA was actually lower than it was in reality, because she didn't want to be a "target". Yes, law school can really be that immature.

As for exams, I'm guessing this is extremely school / professor dependent. I'd say less than half of my exams have been essay exams at all, short-question exams seems to be getting more and more popular. Even had a few multiple choice ones. As for the essay exams I've had, they have all been somewhat related to the cases we've used, typically the professor has taken some cases from our readings and modified them to add a few twists and turns to see how students deal with that. Again, I'm sure this can be very different from school to school, but I've never had an exam where I feel like the professor has deliberately tries to be deceptive or played "hide the ball" with us.

To Thane;

as for borrowing outlines, I guess the student should ask themselves how they best learn. Some people learn best for listening; get CD-based audio-files, some students learn best from writing; make your own outlines, some students learn best for reading (me); just copy it.

I'm not saying there isn't value to writing your own outline, it very clearly is. But to me it just wasn't worth it considering how much time it actually takes. I am a student after all, I do need to be drunk at least 3 days a week.

As for spending every hour and day productively; that's not realistic at all. I agree that just running through case after case isn't good allocation of your time though, and I'm sure you're not saying that a law student should study 24/7. My only point is that you shouldn't give up on having a life just because you're in law school. I do understand that you have a book to sell, and I don't have a beef with that though. Although I do consider anyone buying a book about "how law school is going to be" to be a complete idiot :p

I will concede however that I used the work legal analysis very narrowly. Yes, the I in IRAC is also a part of analysis. My point is; if you have the choice between identifying every issue, but doing poor analysis section or identifying just one issue, but analysing the hell out of that one; you'll get a better grade for option 1.

If you can do amazing at all parts of the IRAC, then by all means, that's of course the best solution.

Couldn't agree more with you on that whole look outside just the case part, I can't begin to describe how much I hate case law (I already have a law degree from a civil law country where the case method isn't used). It's just consuming so much time learning so little it's beyond ridiculous.

Thane Messinger

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Re: How do you think like a lawyer?
« Reply #22 on: April 27, 2010, 09:09:30 PM »

To all -

This isn't the time to be distracted by any of this discussion.  

But . . .

I would buy copies of my own books and give them away.  


To put my money where my proverbial mouth is, I'll make this an offer, both legal* and moral:  

I'll send you a copy of one of my books, of your preference, and I'll even spring for Priority Mail.  Absolutely free to you.  For anyone interested, send me a note within three days--by the end of the day on Saturday, May 1 (Law Day, as it happens), 2010--explaining, for pre-laws, your thoughts on studying, or for 2-3Ls, how you will help your fellow 1Ls next year.  

(For 1Ls, same question as for 2-3Ls, but you can send that after your last final.  = :  )


* Not to put too fine a point on it, but as to the above, it's a "sole discretion" (by me) standard.  Despite what everyone else says, however, I'm pretty reasonable--well, with an emphasis on either "pretty" or "reasonable," depending upon whom you're talking with.

Thane Messinger

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Re: How do you think like a lawyer?
« Reply #23 on: April 27, 2010, 09:18:54 PM »

I'm not saying there isn't value to writing your own outline, it very clearly is. But to me it just wasn't worth it considering how much time it actually takes. I am a student after all, I do need to be drunk at least 3 days a week.


Getting drunk is fine, but is more effective if done after one's final final.  = :  )



As for spending every hour and day productively; that's not realistic at all. I agree that just running through case after case isn't good allocation of your time though, and I'm sure you're not saying that a law student should study 24/7. My only point is that you shouldn't give up on having a life just because you're in law school. I do understand that you have a book to sell, and I don't have a beef with that though. Although I do consider anyone buying a book about "how law school is going to be" to be a complete idiot :p


You're quite right that that's not what I recommend.  As to having a life, that's quite right too.  But which is which?  If you've multiple trust funds from which you're simply overwhelmed figuring out how to rid yourself of all those disbursements, good for you.  For everyone else, this is hardly a game, sober or otherwise.

For pre-laws, don't make the mistake many do by studying too much, poorly, and then deciding what you're going to let pass.  What happens is that students re-focus on the wrong things--those things that have a low cost-benefit--and let the few good tools lie unused.  

Come exam time, all this goes away.  What is left is your professor (via the exam) and you.

By now, outlines and practice exams are key.  But an outline isn't to "study"; it's to use.  How?  By working through a dozen practice exams for each subject, and spending an equal amount of time dissecting just what you hit (and why) and what you missed (and why).  This is intense, and focused.  This is why highlighting, notes, brown-nosing, etc. are so pointless.

At this point, how about a half-dozen practice exams each?

Best of luck.

Thane.

cooleylawstudent

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Re: How do you think like a lawyer?
« Reply #24 on: April 27, 2010, 10:08:51 PM »
Hell, for the people crying about their take home exams(only 36hours mommy help) hell you could get drunk, high, do yo bittch doggystyle while typing on the keyboard.....oh yeah "fungible exchange!"(sounds homoerotic dosn't it?)

CJScalia

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Re: How do you think like a lawyer?
« Reply #25 on: April 28, 2010, 02:23:49 PM »
Getting drunk is fine, but is more effective if done after one's final final.  = :  )

Obviously, but I really don't think it's a benefit to completely give up having a life, being social, etc during the school year either. I know a lot of law students go into absolute panic mode, especially around finals time where they literally don't do anything but study. I really doubt that is good for you, both because it's going to make you super anxious, plus having some R&R is healthy for you.

Now, I don't discuss grades much with people, but what I do know is who is employed, where different people got jobs etc, and it doesn't seem to me that the super-OCD-students did any better than the more laid back of us; on the contrary. Mind you, perhaps I feel more laid back because this stuff is coming easier to me than others, and I'm just a lucky guy, I don't know. But contrary to "popular belief", I don't see gunners and over-anxious super-readers actually getting better grades than those of us who approach this as just school.

Quote
You're quite right that that's not what I recommend.  As to having a life, that's quite right too.  But which is which?  If you've multiple trust funds from which you're simply overwhelmed figuring out how to rid yourself of all those disbursements, good for you.  For everyone else, this is hardly a game, sober or otherwise.

Obviously, my point is simply that going to the level of desperation is never a good way to achieve anything. If you are really struggling with law school, I think it's more likely your problem is with the way you are studying, not the amount of time you put in. In all fairness, I think you made that point as well a bit earlier.

Quote
For pre-laws, don't make the mistake many do by studying too much, poorly, and then deciding what you're going to let pass.  What happens is that students re-focus on the wrong things--those things that have a low cost-benefit--and let the few good tools lie unused.  

Come exam time, all this goes away.  What is left is your professor (via the exam) and you.

By now, outlines and practice exams are key.  But an outline isn't to "study"; it's to use.  How?  By working through a dozen practice exams for each subject, and spending an equal amount of time dissecting just what you hit (and why) and what you missed (and why).  This is intense, and focused.  This is why highlighting, notes, brown-nosing, etc. are so pointless.

At this point, how about a half-dozen practice exams each?

You're making sense here, the problem I have is that you're not going to know whether your answers to practice exams are right or not, in the eyes of the professor. I had one professor during 1L that actually let us do a practice exam question (just one out of three on that old exam) and gave us feedback on it. That was absolutely invaluable. But 99% of the practice exams you do, you're not getting any feedback at all. If you didn't know what was right or wrong when doing that practice exam, how would you know afterwards?
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lovelyjj

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Re: How do you think like a lawyer?
« Reply #26 on: April 28, 2010, 06:53:38 PM »
To CJScalia

I think you are right on the lack of feedback/being efficent comments. It's probably what causes the most problem.
What practical solution do you have for these problems? Since you claim you are doing well, would you mind sharing your techniques to overcome these difficulties? I would really appreciate any help.

Thane Messinger

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Re: How do you think like a lawyer?
« Reply #27 on: April 28, 2010, 07:25:50 PM »
Getting drunk is fine, but is more effective if done after one's final final.  = :  )

Obviously, but I really don't think it's a benefit to completely give up having a life, being social, etc during the school year either. I know a lot of law students go into absolute panic mode, especially around finals time where they literally don't do anything but study. I really doubt that is good for you, both because it's going to make you super anxious, plus having some R&R is healthy for you.

Now, I don't discuss grades much with people, but what I do know is who is employed, where different people got jobs etc, and it doesn't seem to me that the super-OCD-students did any better than the more laid back of us; on the contrary. Mind you, perhaps I feel more laid back because this stuff is coming easier to me than others, and I'm just a lucky guy, I don't know. But contrary to "popular belief", I don't see gunners and over-anxious super-readers actually getting better grades than those of us who approach this as just school.


You're quite right: the correlation between OCD-styled study and grades is low.  Lower than law students have ever faced before...which is exactly why law school is so unnerving.  There's no simple input-output lever.  This is a point of an author, Juan Doria, in his book The Slacker's Guide to Law School: Success Without Stress, which, despite my various rants, is quite good.  That written, it's not also true that one can take a lackadaisical attitute--not that that's what you or Doria are suggesting--and hope to shine in raw brilliance.  That's not how law exams work. 

This is a bit ironic, as much of what I state in GGG is exactly this: one should be balanced in law school.  Because law school is not a pure input-output environment, it's crucially important to think about how one goes about studying and preparing for those exams.

Part of what's in GGG is a way of thinking about study that leaves almost half of one's available time reserved for NON-law activities.  This, again, is one way law students go astray, and burn out, needlessly.  Law students are extremely intelligent, mostly caring, mostly very good people.  To any pre-law out there, if you find yourself studying non-stop, stop.  Stop!  That is not what study is supposed to be.  (Studying for exams, however, is that asterisk to that.  For exams you really do need to devote your full effort.)


You're quite right that that's not what I recommend.  As to having a life, that's quite right too.  But which is which?  If you've multiple trust funds from which you're simply overwhelmed figuring out how to rid yourself of all those disbursements, good for you.  For everyone else, this is hardly a game, sober or otherwise.

Obviously, my point is simply that going to the level of desperation is never a good way to achieve anything. If you are really struggling with law school, I think it's more likely your problem is with the way you are studying, not the amount of time you put in. In all fairness, I think you made that point as well a bit earlier.


Exactly right, and yes I did.  = :  )


For pre-laws, don't make the mistake many do by studying too much, poorly, and then deciding what you're going to let pass.  What happens is that students re-focus on the wrong things--those things that have a low cost-benefit--and let the few good tools lie unused. 

Come exam time, all this goes away.  What is left is your professor (via the exam) and you.

By now, outlines and practice exams are key.  But an outline isn't to "study"; it's to use.  How?  By working through a dozen practice exams for each subject, and spending an equal amount of time dissecting just what you hit (and why) and what you missed (and why).  This is intense, and focused.  This is why highlighting, notes, brown-nosing, etc. are so pointless.

At this point, how about a half-dozen practice exams each?

You're making sense here, the problem I have is that you're not going to know whether your answers to practice exams are right or not, in the eyes of the professor. I had one professor during 1L that actually let us do a practice exam question (just one out of three on that old exam) and gave us feedback on it. That was absolutely invaluable. But 99% of the practice exams you do, you're not getting any feedback at all. If you didn't know what was right or wrong when doing that practice exam, how would you know afterwards?


Quite right, we're rarely getting feedback.  As it happens I agree that we should have more feedback, and I added a section in GGG just for this (which, by the way, I don't believe anyone else has).  But...and sorry to be brusque here...so what?  How many times do we get feedback?  Ever?  And, if not, what then?

Here's where I differ most from the common wisdom.  As a law student one WILL know what a professor is looking for, even if one is not able to take that professor's past exams or get direct feedback.  (Or, more correctly, as a 2-3L or practicing attorney one will know.)  This is where law students tie themselves into knots, hoping for the secret doorway, when the real path is right there all along: to do well in law school (and to bring the discussion back to the original post) one must hone skill in thinking like a lawyer.

Sure, feedback would be nice, and old exams are great if they're available; I can't imagine anyone ever arguing with a straight face not to use them.  But to take the opposite approach--which I'm not sure you're stating but which seems to be the default resignation at large--is to say "To Hell with it! I can't predict what the prof will want so I won't even try" is absolute, utter nonsense.  We CAN predict.  Prediction is our JOB.  There are many times we will not know how a position will be received.  Practically every time, in every case or deal, this is true.  But we CAN predict what is likely to succeed.  We can know the rough contours of good (or bad) positions.  This is why they call it the law.  And this is exactly what your law professors are looking for.

And, on that professorial note, thank you for the repartee, and best of luck to all,

Thane.

CJScalia

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Re: How do you think like a lawyer?
« Reply #28 on: April 28, 2010, 09:55:05 PM »
I think you are right on the lack of feedback/being efficent comments. It's probably what causes the most problem.
What practical solution do you have for these problems? Since you claim you are doing well, would you mind sharing your techniques to overcome these difficulties? I would really appreciate any help.

Unfortunately, I don't really know. Only thing I've done that has helped me is to find good supplements, and make sure I have an outline that is focused on exams; which means they aren't 100 pages long. Just narrow stuff down as much as you can, you should be able to get a class down to around 10 pages I think. Keep in mind that a lot of your class mates will be gaming professors; especially 1L (if you have electives) and first semester 2L. They'll be taking easy A classes instead of stuff that's actually relevant to them. If you want a job with high focus on GPA (i.e. all of them), you'll want to do the same thing. ratemyprofessor.com is your friend.

Also, don't spend time trying to impress your professor in class. That means 1) don't be a gunner. Nobody likes a gunner. Usually that includes professors. 2) Don't spend too much time worrying about the game. Nobody really gives a crap about every little detail in Palsgraf; if you find and remember the black letter law you're good. That's all you really need to know.

Since me and Thane are starting to agree on things (and I still haven't read his book), I won't bother replying much since I think we're on the same page. I'm also not saying you should be a slacker in law school; indeed not. Just don't let it be everything that matters in your life. For 2L and 3L years I've had a policy of never taking books home. Once the day is over, it's over. That has been good to me, it means that after 6PM most days, I don't have to think about law school at all. It's great.

That's not solid advice for a 1L though, 1L year just has to be horrible, sorry. You don't really have the study technique or experience to be efficient in your reading, you also have a heavier course load than in 2L and 3L years (for some reason that is absolutely beyond me).
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Thane Messinger

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Re: How do you think like a lawyer?
« Reply #29 on: May 11, 2010, 05:40:23 AM »
All -

I've had several takers, and will extend the same offer to any souls willing to vent and/or succeed for the future.

Here's hoping your exams are going [have gone] well,

Thane.



This isn't the time to be distracted by any of this discussion.  

But . . .

I would buy copies of my own books and give them away.  


To put my money where my proverbial mouth is, I'll make this an offer, both legal* and moral:  

I'll send you a copy of one of my books, of your preference, and I'll even spring for Priority Mail.  Absolutely free to you.  For anyone interested, send me a note within three days--by the end of the day on Saturday, May 1 (Law Day, as it happens), 2010--explaining, for pre-laws, your thoughts on studying, or for 2-3Ls, how you will help your fellow 1Ls next year.  

(For 1Ls, same question as for 2-3Ls, but you can send that after your last final.  = :  )


* Not to put too fine a point on it, but as to the above, it's a "sole discretion" (by me) standard.  Despite what everyone else says, however, I'm pretty reasonable--well, with an emphasis on either "pretty" or "reasonable," depending upon whom you're talking with.