Law School Discussion

Nine Years of Discussion
;

Author Topic: "Studying" in law school  (Read 1476 times)

marcus-aurelius

  • Sr. Citizen
  • ****
  • Posts: 352
    • View Profile
"Studying" in law school
« on: September 17, 2010, 12:04:01 PM »
I understand studying in law school is much different from undergraduate.  Am I understanding correctly that the proper way to prepare for an exam is to know the Black Letter law and use hypothetitcals in order to give a fact pattern a lawyer-like analysis?

Hamilton

  • Sr. Citizen
  • ****
  • Posts: 337
    • View Profile
Re: "Studying" in law school
« Reply #1 on: September 17, 2010, 12:08:24 PM »
Yes, knowing the black letter and knowing how to apply it.  One of the best prep tools I had was taking previous exams let out by the professor and comparing my answer to the answer key.  As one of my profs once said... " I have been teaching this class for 5 years, there are only so many ways I can ask for certain information."

Thane Messinger

  • Sr. Citizen
  • ****
  • Posts: 533
    • View Profile
Re: "Studying" in law school
« Reply #2 on: September 17, 2010, 05:54:36 PM »
I understand studying in law school is much different from undergraduate.  Am I understanding correctly that the proper way to prepare for an exam is to know the Black Letter law and use hypothetitcals in order to give a fact pattern a lawyer-like analysis?

To follow Hamilton's advice, check out Wentworth Miller's LEEWS program.  He will help reverse the above sentence, so that a lawyer-like analysis IS the application of black letter law.  (i.e., one doesn't "use" hypotheticals; one breathes them.)

What "study" is not is rote reading of casebooks, hornbooks, flashcards, notes. etc.  As a consequence, the habits that sufficed for 16 years will no longer. 

No more mass note-taking, no color-coding, no gunning, no nonsense.  It's not about "studying," but about learning.  And the learning is not about "stuff" (i.e., black letter law) but rather that plus knowing what to do with it.  As you mention, analysis.  Case analysis--which involves a methodical, point-by-point breakdown of the legal aspects of each fact pattern.  To get good at that, take LEEWS . . . and (sorry to be blunt or brusque) re-think how you've studied for the past xx years.

Yours brusquely,

Thane.

marcus-aurelius

  • Sr. Citizen
  • ****
  • Posts: 352
    • View Profile
Re: "Studying" in law school
« Reply #3 on: September 17, 2010, 06:26:09 PM »
My LEEWS is already here.  I read Planet Law School on advice of a friend.  Within is a 50 week reading schedule (primers, learning legal reasoning etc) that I have been following.  I prefer to be as prepared as possible before I leap

marcus-aurelius

  • Sr. Citizen
  • ****
  • Posts: 352
    • View Profile
Re: "Studying" in law school
« Reply #4 on: September 18, 2010, 05:36:36 PM »
Thane,

I have began to think about the way I study.  As I work my way through the Aspen Tort primer, I have been taking few notes except for notecards of the elements of each tort.  I have then been working my way through the examples and the explanations to understand how each element is met/not met by the fact patter presented.  Is this on the correct path I should be following?

Please forgive my incessant questions

I understand studying in law school is much different from undergraduate.  Am I understanding correctly that the proper way to prepare for an exam is to know the Black Letter law and use hypothetitcals in order to give a fact pattern a lawyer-like analysis?

To follow Hamilton's advice, check out Wentworth Miller's LEEWS program.  He will help reverse the above sentence, so that a lawyer-like analysis IS the application of black letter law.  (i.e., one doesn't "use" hypotheticals; one breathes them.)

What "study" is not is rote reading of casebooks, hornbooks, flashcards, notes. etc.  As a consequence, the habits that sufficed for 16 years will no longer. 

No more mass note-taking, no color-coding, no gunning, no nonsense.  It's not about "studying," but about learning.  And the learning is not about "stuff" (i.e., black letter law) but rather that plus knowing what to do with it.  As you mention, analysis.  Case analysis--which involves a methodical, point-by-point breakdown of the legal aspects of each fact pattern.  To get good at that, take LEEWS . . . and (sorry to be blunt or brusque) re-think how you've studied for the past xx years.

Yours brusquely,

Thane.

Thane Messinger

  • Sr. Citizen
  • ****
  • Posts: 533
    • View Profile
Re: "Studying" in law school
« Reply #5 on: September 19, 2010, 10:27:58 PM »
Thane,

I have began to think about the way I study.  As I work my way through the Aspen Tort primer, I have been taking few notes except for notecards of the elements of each tort.  I have then been working my way through the examples and the explanations to understand how each element is met/not met by the fact patter presented.  Is this on the correct path I should be following?


Marcus -

This is fine.  Notes are fine, except when they become substitutes for learning.  (And, yes, they often are.)  The point of a note is to help in committing something to memory.  In law, more is needed, which is a facility with that knowledge.  Not just knowing those elements of a tort, but knowing what to do with them when presented a bizarre fact pattern.  (In fact this is true with other disciplines, but it seems more logical to us to understanding that learning the atomic weights of Hydrogen, Helium, etc., are a prelude  For a chemist, these details are just the starting point.  Sure, they need to remember those masses of data, but that becomes second nature when they have to use the information in an actual lab.  How? They look it up a hundred times.)  In the law, the labs are in our minds. 

So, yes, short notes as you're getting into a new topic are fine.  Just don't let those notes take on a macho sense of importance.  They will do NOTHING for you on the exam.  You will thus graduate from short notes to outlines to short hypos to complex ones.

Good work,

Thane.

Morten Lund

  • Sr. Citizen
  • ****
  • Posts: 259
    • View Profile
Re: "Studying" in law school
« Reply #6 on: September 20, 2010, 12:47:09 AM »
Perhaps a slightly different way to state the stated:  "Lawyer-like analysis" is not only the application of black-letter law, but it can actually lead you to black-letter law.

If you ask me a question of law in an area I know nothing about, I could still make a pretty decent guess at what the black-letter rules are.  Not because I am a mad genius, but because those black-letter rules aren't random, and tend to be the result of centuries of accumulated "lawyer-like analysis" by the judges and legislators that precede us. 

In fact, one of the most important pieces of advice you will hear from BARBRI three years from now is just that:  If you don't know the answer, guess.  You will be right most of the time, assuming that you managed to learn HOW the law works in law school.

To learn how the law works, you combine the specific black-letter rules with the theoretical discussions in class.  The theory is that this eventually illuminates you on the nature of the special sauce of legal principles.

And this is where Thane and I diverge, at least to some extent.  I am a big fan of commercial outlines.  Not as a memorization tool (although they are good for that too), but as a tool for learning/divining the general principles behind the specifics.  My approach to classes was to buy a commercial outline and read the whole thing - study it - before the first class.  This created a framework within which the classroom discussions made a whole lot more sense.  I would then check back with the outline between classes as well. 

Are homemade outlines "better?"  Perhaps - but (IMO) they are also too late.  I'm a very boring guy.  I flip to the last page to see if the butler did it.  I read the spoiler reviews before seeing a movie.  And I like to have the entire detailed course outline in hand BEFORE the course begins.  I hate surprises.  I didn't use outlines as after-the-fact study aids, but as in-class madlibs.  This means I need the outline on the first day of class, not on the last.

Everyone is different - you have to find what works for you.  But I am quite confident that Thane is very right on one specific point:  Note-taking in class is a complete and utter waste of time.


/random ramble

marcus-aurelius

  • Sr. Citizen
  • ****
  • Posts: 352
    • View Profile
Re: "Studying" in law school
« Reply #7 on: September 20, 2010, 08:38:13 AM »
I can already see that the old way or memorize and color in a bubble will not work.  While working over the examples for negligence and proximate cause I can see how specifics matter not if the general thought behind it is not understood (not just memorized).

On a side note, I am enjoying the primer.  I grow more excited for law school each moment.

Thane Messinger

  • Sr. Citizen
  • ****
  • Posts: 533
    • View Profile
Re: "Studying" in law school
« Reply #8 on: September 20, 2010, 03:29:41 PM »
* * *

And this is where Thane and I diverge, at least to some extent.  I am a big fan of commercial outlines.  Not as a memorization tool (although they are good for that too), but as a tool for learning/divining the general principles behind the specifics.  My approach to classes was to buy a commercial outline and read the whole thing - study it - before the first class.  This created a framework within which the classroom discussions made a whole lot more sense.  I would then check back with the outline between classes as well. 

Are homemade outlines "better?"  Perhaps - but (IMO) they are also too late.  I'm a very boring guy.  I flip to the last page to see if the butler did it.  I read the spoiler reviews before seeing a movie.  And I like to have the entire detailed course outline in hand BEFORE the course begins.  I hate surprises.  I didn't use outlines as after-the-fact study aids, but as in-class madlibs.  This means I need the outline on the first day of class, not on the last.

Everyone is different - you have to find what works for you.  But I am quite confident that Thane is very right on one specific point:  Note-taking in class is a complete and utter waste of time.


/random ramble


I'll second what Morten has written.  Again.  = :  )

I too like commercial outlines, and the open secret in practice is that they're a good, fast way to learn the basics of a new area.  (In practice as in years 2-3, "learn the basics" means figuring out where to start asking the harder questions applicable to a specific case.)

The danger with commercial outlines is that they're too easy.  In an exam, what's in the outline needs not only to be committed to your memory, it needs to be known well enough to use.  Simply reading something (an outline, casebook, hornbook, etc.) is not only not sufficient, it is dangerous, because it won't be apparent just how insufficient it is.

For a practitioner, "too easy" is great . . . as a start.  As Morten mentions, this is the beginning.

There's another point we're in agreement on:  outlines MUST be done NOW.  They are not helpful after the fact, as a memento of sorts.  With a  bad grade that's not the sort of memento you want.  They should be done BEFORE class, so that class will mean something. 

So, where we might diverge (as to law school in any event) is that I suggest creating an outline (from, among other things, commercial outlines).  Yourself, before class.  This is just a few lines!  Why yourself, and not just flip through the others?  Because then it is yours.  It's not that your outline is better.  It probably isn't.  (It almost certainly isn't as complete as a commercial outline.)  But that's beside the point.  What you need isn't "THE LAW" (as in all of it).  What you need is that framework.

With a framework, the rules make sense.  And it becomes fun.  = :  )

marcus-aurelius

  • Sr. Citizen
  • ****
  • Posts: 352
    • View Profile
Re: "Studying" in law school
« Reply #9 on: September 20, 2010, 04:33:23 PM »
So as I go through the primers, I should outline the information to get the framework down so I can peruse it as needed starting day 1 in class?