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Author Topic: What should I be doing to prepare for law school?  (Read 3548 times)

M112

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What should I be doing to prepare for law school?
« on: March 07, 2010, 03:50:50 PM »
I have been accepted to law school for the Fall 2010 semester and wanted to make sure I was as prepared as possible for school.  I was not a pre-law major so do not even have a rudimentary knowledge regarding some fundamentals of the law school experience e.g. case-briefing, outlining, etc.

What should/could I be doing to better prepare me for law school now so that I won't find myself in any sort of G.P.A. deficit during my first semester or year.  

Also, I did peruse the suggested readings posted by the law school I will most likely be attending (still waiting on an admissions decision from a few other schools) but some of them seemed to be more about the law school experience as an example "My first year of law school as a female" and "How I survived law school"; are these books really as useful for my first year of school as opposed to books that outline how to brief cases, legal terminology, learning legal writing etc.?

Any advice is appreciated and any suggested books or courses are welcome.  Thanks.

Thane Messinger

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Re: What should I be doing to prepare for law school?
« Reply #1 on: March 07, 2010, 08:37:48 PM »
I have been accepted to law school for the Fall 2010 semester and wanted to make sure I was as prepared as possible for school.  I was not a pre-law major so do not even have a rudimentary knowledge regarding some fundamentals of the law school experience e.g. case-briefing, outliving, etc.

What should/could I be doing to better prepare me for law school now so that I won't find myself in any sort of G.P.A. deficit during my first semester or year.  

* * *

Any advice is appreciated and any suggested books or courses are welcome.  Thanks.


Aloha, M112 -

This will no doubt cause a few flames, if not take us to one of several levels in Dante's Inferno.

First, congratulations!

Second, you're asking exactly the right question.  This is a very, very good sign.

Third, here's the advice:  Yes, you can and do need to prepare.  I suggest you start with two books, one of which is wholly self-serving (so take it as you will).  The first is Planet Law School, which, through years-long conversations with its author started and changed my thoughts a decade or so ago about this topic.  The second book is mine, Law School: Getting In, Getting Good, Getting the Gold.  

Obviously, you're past the first part of that second book, so you would start with the second section, on Getting Good.  I recommend this because it might be helpful in digesting some of the material in Planet Law School, which, believe it or not, is even more radical and dense than I.

In short, you can prepare with a reasonable time commitment by beginning the process of thinking through the framework of the law or, more specifically, in each of the six major areas covered (usually) in your first year. These will be extremely helpful to you as you begin your first year, as the discussions in class will make sense and the cases will too.  (And you'll not feel the need to waste time on case briefs, as the importance of each case will be obvious.)

I hope this helps, and again, congratulations,

Thane.


M112

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Re: What should I be doing to prepare for law school?
« Reply #2 on: March 07, 2010, 08:50:46 PM »
I have been accepted to law school for the Fall 2010 semester and wanted to make sure I was as prepared as possible for school.  I was not a pre-law major so do not even have a rudimentary knowledge regarding some fundamentals of the law school experience e.g. case-briefing, outliving, etc.

What should/could I be doing to better prepare me for law school now so that I won't find myself in any sort of G.P.A. deficit during my first semester or year.  

* * *

Any advice is appreciated and any suggested books or courses are welcome.  Thanks.


Aloha, M112 -

This will no doubt cause a few flames, if not take us to one of several levels in Dante's Inferno.

First, congratulations!

Second, you're asking exactly the right question.  This is a very, very good sign.

Third, here's the advice:  Yes, you can and do need to prepare.  I suggest you start with two books, one of which is wholly self-serving (so take it as you will).  The first is Planet Law School, which, through years-long conversations with its author started and changed my thoughts a decade or so ago about this topic.  The second book is mine, Law School: Getting In, Getting Good, Getting the Gold.  

Obviously, you're past the first part of that second book, so you would start with the second section, on Getting Good.  I recommend this because it might be helpful in digesting some of the material in Planet Law School, which, believe it or not, is even more radical and dense than I.

In short, you can prepare with a reasonable time commitment by beginning the process of thinking through the framework of the law or, more specifically, in each of the six major areas covered (usually) in your first year. These will be extremely helpful to you as you begin your first year, as the discussions in class will make sense and the cases will too.  (And you'll not feel the need to waste time on case briefs, as the importance of each case will be obvious.)

I hope this helps, and again, congratulations,

Thane.



Thank you for the kind words and appreciate the advice.  I will definitely take a look a the books you mentioned.  Do you have any opinion though on what I should be focusing on now in preparation for law school?  For example, becoming familiar with legalese, studying landmark cases, legal writing etc.?

Also, any courses yourself or anyone else may know of that I could take in anticipation of law school (about five months away).  Thanks in advance.

Thane Messinger

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Re: What should I be doing to prepare for law school?
« Reply #3 on: March 07, 2010, 09:15:10 PM »
* * *

Thank you for the kind words and appreciate the advice.  I will definitely take a look a the books you mentioned.  Do you have any opinion though on what I should be focusing on now in preparation for law school?  For example, becoming familiar with legalese, studying landmark cases, legal writing etc.?

Also, any courses yourself or anyone else may know of that I could take in anticipation of law school (about five months away).  Thanks in advance.


As to courses, I've mixed feelings on those, primarily because the type of preparation that will be most helpful can be done with a fairly reasonable approach.  A structured approach might be helpful, but to be honest I've not seen anything out there that's an Ah ha! program.  (Believe it or not, I was considering joining in a five-week program, in, yes, Hawaii, which would be quite expensive for students, thus creating (yet another) two-class system.  That never got off the ground for a number of reasons.  While I still think it could be an excellent program, I'm hesitant to recommend going down that path.)

As to specifics . . .

Legalese.  Believe it or not, much of what we consider legalese is on the way out, partly because so few study Latin nowadays.  Those legal phrases you will hear are connected with doctrines or cases, usually, and will become second nature.  I would thus tend to think that these will be more confusing than they will be helpful, if taken in isolation.

Landmark cases.  Possibly, but only in the context of the framework that will be helpful.  This framework is a basic outline, which will become a master outline (to "master" the subject).  How to start.  There's more in the book, but essentially, scanning the commercial outlines will provide a good start for the basic doctrines in each of the six major subjects.  Be careful not to delve too far below the first- and second-level headings, as that can be its own (seductive) trap.  This stuff IS interesting, and can be overwhelming if digested before that framework is fully in mind.  (For example, if getting into the differences between contributory and comparative negligence doctrines, it's easy to get caught up in the majority/minority distinctions and flip in status, unless one has in mind the trends affecting negligence law (within Tort law), generally.)

As to legal writing, to be honest that might to a large extent be dependent upon the program and the school you attend, and there's not much in terms of specific provision or approach that is likely to be time well spent.  

In all of this, preparation is important, but it's equally important to treat this as a first pass, a 40,000-foot view of the subjects you will dive down to bomb . . . er, learn.  With five months to spend, you'll find that you do have time to explore those details further, and you'll find that they make sense.  This will help you to avoid the common mistakes in your first year of law school.

I hope this helps,

Thane.

TheCause

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Re: What should I be doing to prepare for law school?
« Reply #4 on: March 08, 2010, 04:19:40 PM »
Planet Law School is a decent book, but I'm not sure how much it really helps in the long run.  I don't know you (OP), so take my advice for what it's worth.

First, I was on Law Review and I knew a lot of kids in the top 20 percent.  My only true skill in life is my talent for observation.  This is unscientific, but success in law school seems to come from the following:

1: The ability to smartly outwork your classmates in the first 2/3rds of the semester.  25%
Most law schools run on a bell curve, so your grades are drastically affected by your peers. Most people, especially those students toward the top of the class, work insanely hard for the last 4 or 5 weeks in each semester.  If you want an edge, be smart in the first two months of the semester.  This is where books like planet law school can help. 
You should also consider your energy level.  If I could go back in time I would have spent the summer playing and reading good (recreational) books.
Make sure you take good notes in class and work hard, but also focus on test prep as soon as you feel comfortable.  Glannon's Examples and Explanations book for Civil Procedure is a great supplement.  If you have civ pro, I'd recommend picking it up early on.

2: Raw Intelligence 25%
Not much you can do about this.  I know some people will tell you differently, but it's obvious to me that brain power makes a big difference in law school.  (And LSAT scores aren't really the best indicator).

3:  Exam Taking Speed.  15%
Sometimes the difference between an A and a B is very small.  Start looking at practice exams after a few weeks of law school.  You won't know all the material, but you need to get familiar with questions and figure out how you want to approach them.  Also, keyboarding can make a difference.  I know my 90 wpm typing secured a couple of my A grades.

4:  Writing Ability.  15%
Of course this goes hand in hand with numbers 1 and 2, but this is important.  Pay attention to your legal writing classes, and read a couple writing books.  Good writing makes you more efficient and faster, which helps you get more points.   Remember, most tests are timed and you don't have enough time to talk about every single issue.  So that can diminish the importance of knowing everything.

5:  Memory  10%
Most tests I took were open book, but outlines and books slowed me down.  Create notes and outlines with the purpose of learning the material.  Many people just try to organize everything in a brilliant way so it will be readily accecible, and usually they either get bogged down or they just know the crap well enough to not need an outline on the test.

6: Luck 5%
Sometimes your classmates will be geniuses.  Sometimes the teacher will focus on your one weakness on the final.  Sometimes you'll misread a question.  Very few people get anywhere close to straight As.  But some people are very consistent, so luck is very low on this list.

7: Friends 5%
This one is tricky.  Sometimes study groups can make a huge difference, but it's a gamble.  That's why I don't think the impact is very significant.  I don't think study groups are  very effective until you and your friends all have a decent handle on the subject.  Otherwise you'll just be slowing each other down.


So what does this have to do with anything?
The point is that some books and some strategies just focus on one or two of the things above.  Some people even believe that hard work is everything.  I just think most of your top competitors will work insanely hard in the first year.  Try to find advantages in the other areas.

Finally, the top 2 law student's I've ever known didn't do any advance preparation.  They had fun and made sure they were ready to commit when the game started.




   

M112

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Re: What should I be doing to prepare for law school?
« Reply #5 on: March 08, 2010, 06:00:58 PM »
Planet Law School is a decent book, but I'm not sure how much it really helps in the long run.  I don't know you (OP), so take my advice for what it's worth.

First, I was on Law Review and I knew a lot of kids in the top 20 percent.  My only true skill in life is my talent for observation.  This is unscientific, but success in law school seems to come from the following:

1: The ability to smartly outwork your classmates in the first 2/3rds of the semester.  25%
Most law schools run on a bell curve, so your grades are drastically affected by your peers. Most people, especially those students toward the top of the class, work insanely hard for the last 4 or 5 weeks in each semester.  If you want an edge, be smart in the first two months of the semester.  This is where books like planet law school can help. 
You should also consider your energy level.  If I could go back in time I would have spent the summer playing and reading good (recreational) books.
Make sure you take good notes in class and work hard, but also focus on test prep as soon as you feel comfortable.  Glannon's Examples and Explanations book for Civil Procedure is a great supplement.  If you have civ pro, I'd recommend picking it up early on.

2: Raw Intelligence 25%
Not much you can do about this.  I know some people will tell you differently, but it's obvious to me that brain power makes a big difference in law school.  (And LSAT scores aren't really the best indicator).

3:  Exam Taking Speed.  15%
Sometimes the difference between an A and a B is very small.  Start looking at practice exams after a few weeks of law school.  You won't know all the material, but you need to get familiar with questions and figure out how you want to approach them.  Also, keyboarding can make a difference.  I know my 90 wpm typing secured a couple of my A grades.

4:  Writing Ability.  15%
Of course this goes hand in hand with numbers 1 and 2, but this is important.  Pay attention to your legal writing classes, and read a couple writing books.  Good writing makes you more efficient and faster, which helps you get more points.   Remember, most tests are timed and you don't have enough time to talk about every single issue.  So that can diminish the importance of knowing everything.

5:  Memory  10%
Most tests I took were open book, but outlines and books slowed me down.  Create notes and outlines with the purpose of learning the material.  Many people just try to organize everything in a brilliant way so it will be readily accecible, and usually they either get bogged down or they just know the crap well enough to not need an outline on the test.

6: Luck 5%
Sometimes your classmates will be geniuses.  Sometimes the teacher will focus on your one weakness on the final.  Sometimes you'll misread a question.  Very few people get anywhere close to straight As.  But some people are very consistent, so luck is very low on this list.

7: Friends 5%
This one is tricky.  Sometimes study groups can make a huge difference, but it's a gamble.  That's why I don't think the impact is very significant.  I don't think study groups are  very effective until you and your friends all have a decent handle on the subject.  Otherwise you'll just be slowing each other down.


So what does this have to do with anything?
The point is that some books and some strategies just focus on one or two of the things above.  Some people even believe that hard work is everything.  I just think most of your top competitors will work insanely hard in the first year.  Try to find advantages in the other areas.

Finally, the top 2 law student's I've ever known didn't do any advance preparation.  They had fun and made sure they were ready to commit when the game started.




   

Incredibly helpful post, thank you very much.  This is some of the stuff I was actually wanting to get into, the "meat and potatoes" of law school.

Speaking to your first point, "The ability to smartly outwork your classmates in the first 2/3rds of the semester.", when you speak about prepping for a test as soon as I feel comfortable, how do you recommend?  Do you mean through class notes, legal briefs, or other supplements like practice exams? 

Also, can I begin studying any of the applicable materials for each course I may be taking in advance so I can be ahead of the game or does that have to wait until class begins?  If I can start in advance, can you lead me to any preferred books, for example like the book by Glannon that you mentioned, Civil Procedure?   And in regards to energy level, do you mean relaxing in the summer in order to “recharge the battery” for the coming fall semester? 

Also, as I understand it, what I gleaned as the underlying message of the post was that if you truly immerse yourself in the study of law, meaning you study with the intent of understanding the law not just for the grades or ranking, the positives will just come naturally?  Am I correct in that assumption? 

Also, as I mentioned earlier, any books o courses you can recommend that would allows me to get a leg up on school before it starts is very much appreciated.  Thanks.

nealric

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Re: What should I be doing to prepare for law school?
« Reply #6 on: March 08, 2010, 06:01:55 PM »
I will disagree with Thane Messenger here and just tell you to relax. There is little you can do to prepare yourself all that much. You can read through Law School Confidential if you want a preview, but their advice on studying is way too neurotic for my tastes.

At most, I would read through some of the Examples and Explanations series. I especially found the Torts E&E helpful for its discussion of law school exam taking.

A final tip for your 1L year: Pennoyer v. Neff isn't good law  ;)
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Re: What should I be doing to prepare for law school?
« Reply #7 on: March 08, 2010, 10:48:51 PM »
I will disagree with Thane Messenger here and just tell you to relax. There is little you can do to prepare yourself all that much. You can read through Law School Confidential if you want a preview, but their advice on studying is way too neurotic for my tastes.

At most, I would read through some of the Examples and Explanations series. I especially found the Torts E&E helpful for its discussion of law school exam taking.

A final tip for your 1L year: Pennoyer v. Neff isn't good law  ;)

I agree, you should be doing more relaxing than anything else. At this point you are not in a position to genuinely gain anything from actual prep. Trying to learn any of the substantive material now would likely be very difficult and of little use; most people say their 1L year was the hardest, but this is only because you are learning how to learn the law and how to read cases in addition to trying to master the material. But, reading one of the prelaw books mentioned above will give you a small glimpse into the enigma that is law school.

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Re: What should I be doing to prepare for law school?
« Reply #8 on: March 09, 2010, 12:49:56 AM »

Incredibly helpful post, thank you very much.  This is some of the stuff I was actually wanting to get into, the "meat and potatoes" of law school.

Speaking to your first point, "The ability to smartly outwork your classmates in the first 2/3rds of the semester.", when you speak about prepping for a test as soon as I feel comfortable, how do you recommend?  Do you mean through class notes, legal briefs, or other supplements like practice exams? 

This will depend on your style.
I would get a good outline from a 2L or 3L for your teacher's class from a previous year, and then take notes on it as you go.
I started taking practice tests about 2 months before finals.
It's probably good to spend the first 3 or 4 weeks just taking good notes and reading the cases, and then you can start reading through supplements.
(Crunch Time, Examples and Explanations, Legalines, High Court Case Summaries, Emmanuel Flash Cards, etc.)


Also, can I begin studying any of the applicable materials for each course I may be taking in advance so I can be ahead of the game or does that have to wait until class begins?  If I can start in advance, can you lead me to any preferred books, for example like the book by Glannon that you mentioned, Civil Procedure?   And in regards to energy level, do you mean relaxing in the summer in order to “recharge the battery” for the coming fall semester? 

All I can tell you is that advance study would have done me no good.  It might be a good idea to contact and make friends with 2Ls and 3Ls and ask them how to approach your different classes.

I liked the E & E for property, torts, and civ pro. 
The flashcards (law in a flash) worked very well for torts, UCC (contracts 2) and crim pro, and they started from scratch.

Some people say flash cards are useless, but they are basically hundreds of mini hypos that prepared me for the test.

And it's more than recharging your batteries.  Do whatever you can to immunize yourself from burnout.  If you are a high energy person who never gets cynical or burned out, then you'll be fine. 
It would have helped me to get into great habits before law school started.  Eat right, start running/cycling, find a few TV shows that you can watch for a short distraction.


Also, as I understand it, what I gleaned as the underlying message of the post was that if you truly immerse yourself in the study of law, meaning you study with the intent of understanding the law not just for the grades or ranking, the positives will just come naturally?  Am I correct in that assumption? 
I think so.  If you like studying law you will be in a better position come finals time.  Briefing cases and reading boring material kind of sucks.  If you get confused about the law in a particular area, don't read the case 10 times, go ask the teacher or pick up a supplement for some background.  The case method (socratic method combo) is a good exercise, but you can't depend on it.



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Re: What should I be doing to prepare for law school?
« Reply #9 on: March 09, 2010, 02:00:08 AM »
I will disagree with Thane Messenger here and just tell you to relax. There is little you can do to prepare yourself all that much. You can read through Law School Confidential if you want a preview, but their advice on studying is way too neurotic for my tastes.

At most, I would read through some of the Examples and Explanations series. I especially found the Torts E&E helpful for its discussion of law school exam taking.

A final tip for your 1L year: Pennoyer v. Neff isn't good law  ;)

This.

I just read LSC and PLS and Getting to Maybe. That's it. Nothing subject specific. I can't say that I felt like I was at a disadvantage at all and did well in first semester.
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