Law School Discussion

So You Want to Succeed In Law School Without Being A Dummy From Another Planet

I keep seeing all of the summer fuss over pre-law prep on every law school website. I could not resist giving my two cents.  First, here are my credentials. I am in the summer term of my first year of law school in an evening program.  I am near the top of my class.  My spouse is a practicing attorney who graduated a few years ago from a tier one school. I read too many law school discussion boards and I have talked to numerous attorneys and law students at all levels.

A quick search of Barristerbooks will give you a list of about 50 “must reads” that tell you how to succeed in law school. They range from$10 to over $100.  They all have some good information and some suspect information.  Take your pick and add a grain of salt.  Some may require a whole pillar of salt.

All of that said, here is some free advice. It is worth about what you payed for it.  I have a method that works for me.  It is a modified version of what worked for practicing attorneys I know.

Step One: Pre-Law Summer.

Take some time off before law school. You will have enough stress and when you get to law school. If you must do something, read the Nutshell for Contracts, Criminal, Property, Torts and  Civil Procedure or listen to the Law School Legends tapes.  This will be enough to make the subject matter not seem foreign. You could do this prep in your spare time.

Step Two: Class Preparation.

Read the cases and assigned materials.  Never get behind. Never. After you have read the cases, read the High Court Summaries, published by West, keyed to your text book.  Make sure you understand the reasoning and black letter law.  Don’t get bogged down in the rainbow highlighter approach.

Write your own brief.  This will help you put the cases in your own words and understand the material.  You don’t want to sound like you are reading the canned brief when called on.

Step Three: In Class

Take good notes but most listen to the Professor.  Understanding his/her reasoning is the difference between an A and a lessor grade. Speak up when you know what you are talking about. A good impression on the instructor may have impact on your final grade.  Professors do have some discretion in grades beyond the final.  If you ask questions, make sure they are well thought out and coherent. Never ask, “Is this going to be on the exam?” You will be labeled an idiot.

Step Five: Exam Prep

Write your own outline by pulling together the important information from your notes. Use commercial outlines to clarify points you do not understand. 

Choose your commercial outline based on what helps you understand the material not what everyone is buying.  In my opinion, the  best is either Emanuel’s and Gilbert’s. Buy the one keyed to your text.

If you still have time on your hands, read the Hornbook for your subject.  Hornbook’s give you the why behind the case law.  They are like the commercial outline fleshed out and on steroids.  I find they help me formulate my model answer for the exam.

I caution you to chose study groups carefully.  Keep them small and get to know your classmates a little before committing to a study group.  Large study groups, unfocused meetings, and people who want you to do the work for them are all real pitfalls.  You can succeed with or without a study group. 

Step Six: Exams

My method is read the question twice, spot the issues, create an outline of my answer, and then flesh out the outline in simple concise paragraph form. It is better to cover a few issues well than a lot of issues badly. IRAC works.  Why? Because that is how most profs learned it in law school and that is what they expect you to do.  Why reinvent the wheel.

Step Seven: Becoming the Superstar

If you want to take it a step further than this you should read current case law.  Read your states appellate opinions, your Federal Circuits opinions, and of course the Supreme Courts Opinions.  This will make you sound smart to your law school friends and if you want to strike up a conversation with your prof you can always ask what they thought of opinion X.  Use this with caution and care.  It can make you look like an ass kisser or a “gunner.”

I wish you the best of luck in your first year.  If my advise helps you make A’s I will take the credit.  If you fail miserably, I will be just like all other authors and say you did not follow the advise precisely or you were going to fail anyway.

jgruber

I'm sorry but I cannot accept your advice for two reasons.

1) You are not critical of anyone

2) You are not charging for it.

chicago

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Thanks for the info, it was quite helpful. I'm applying to LS this fall, and plan to go to a full-time program. I've been reading a few of the law-school prep books like law school confidential, and I keep hearing that I should not try to do any significant studying before law school....

Here's my problem with that advice... I've got about 14 months before I start law school. I work full-time, but my job is quite flexible in that I work from home a lot and have a lot of time available for study. I want to be as prepared as possible, and I want to start studying before law school. I'm trying to put together a study plan to help me... what would you (or anyone else who reads this) recommend for someone who doesn't want to wait until law school to get started?

I plan to study for the next year, and then take some time off from studying for the 2 months before law school so that I'm fresh and ready to go once school starts... I'd appreciate any advise you can offer, including any good study guides, books, websites, etc.


 

I plan to study for the next year, and then take some time off from studying for the 2 months before law school so that I'm fresh and ready to go once school starts... I'd appreciate any advise you can offer, including any good study guides, books, websites, etc.

IStep One: Pre-Law Summer.

If you must do something, read the Nutshell for Contracts, Criminal, Property, Torts and  Civil Procedure or listen to the Law School Legends tapes.  This will be enough to make the subject matter not seem foreign. You could do this prep in your spare time.


Beyond that learn to type faster, read faster, and get in the best physical shape of your life.

I'm sorry but I cannot accept your advice for two reasons.

1) You are not critical of anyone

2) You are not charging for it.

1. Don't trust people who post over 2000 times per year on the same board. ;D
2. Consider yourself criticized.  Send me $19.95 plus shipping and handling. Paypal works just fine.

jgruber

Thank you, oh mighty one.

I'm sorry but I cannot accept your advice for two reasons.

1) You are not critical of anyone

2) You are not charging for it.

1. Don't trust people who post over 2000 times per year on the same board. ;D
2. Consider yourself criticized.  Send me $19.95 plus shipping and handling. Paypal works just fine.

exposé

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lsafterdark- that's real good stuff.  thanks much.

rainmkr07

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I agree, thank you for your time and advice.