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Author Topic: 1L Advice  (Read 34941 times)

cyberrev

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Re: 1L Advice
« Reply #170 on: June 01, 2006, 05:12:59 PM »
The whole point of the post is that you can't be specific, because the law school experience is not the same for everyone.  That's contrary to popular opinion, which says that every law student is an overachiving psycho out for blood who finds the only way to reduce sress is devloping a drinking problem or drug addiction.  Most people aren't like that.  People's goals are very different.  Study habits, learning types are all different as well.


since i have already beaten my drug addiction, and i consider myself fairly friendly, i must be merely a psycho.

ms

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Re: 1L Advice
« Reply #171 on: June 01, 2006, 05:40:42 PM »
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SuicideNixon

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Re: 1L Advice
« Reply #172 on: June 05, 2006, 06:25:18 PM »
how is that different from being a dictator?

practically, there may not be much difference but the dictator's power comes from the political apparatus of the state, not from ownership of the property.
When a President does it, that means that it is not illegal. -Richard Nixon

http://www.lawschoolnumbers.com/display.php?cycle=0405&user=SuicideNixon

Perversely

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Re: 1L Advice
« Reply #173 on: June 10, 2006, 08:42:38 PM »
I remember being in your shoes this time last year, and I received a lot of good advice from 1Ls, so I thought I'd do a little payback.  Here are my "hints."

Summer Reading:  Do nothing!  You're more likely to learn bad habits trying to be the 0L gunner over the summer.  If you must read, take a look at how courts are structured.  Many people in my class had no idea how the trial/appellate level system worked, and it's important when you're looking for binding vs persuasive authority.  If you're unclear of how they work and/or the hierarchy, read about it because it will not be covered in class. 

Class notes/reading is NOT enough:  Most of you already know this from being on this board, but most of your classmates will not.  One of the most annoying things in law school is how professors love to hide the ball and then expect you to play.  One of the ways to "discover the ball" is through commercial outlines, hornbooks, etc.  I'm partial to Examples and Explanations.  It will take your fellow students a semester to learn this; use it to your advantage!

Study for exams like they're a math test:  Most people approach law exams as though it's their poly sci final-- it's not!  You will be given a factual scenario that you have not seen and asked to apply legal premises to the facts.  This is much like math...  you know the general principles of how to differentiate/integrate/add/etc, but on the exam you'll see the problem in a form that you haven't worked with.  I prepared for my math tests with a formula sheet (which will be your law outline) and through practicing the problems!  I know it's cliche and seems obvious, but you must work hypotheticals in all parts of your class to get a firm grasp.  Nothing will focus you like having to explain the law.  It's all so clear when the professor is working through an issue in class, but, just like math, when it's you and the blank paper, things become more challenging.  You couldn't score well on math without working the problems... same thing here.

Legal writing is not for English majors:  The people with extensive writing backgrounds were crushed in legal writing.  Legal writing looks more like math (surprising?) than English.  They will focus on sharp, condensed sentences.  For an excellent example of modern day legal writing, look up some opinions by judge Easterbrook (7th Circuit court of appeals).  Do not read the opinion for the law, but for an idea of how legal writing should look.  Once you can rid yourself of the idea that you'll be writing verbose prose, the better you'll be.

Take LEEWS:  I can't stress it enough, but that helped me to all As.  There is more than one way to skin the proverbial cat, and I'm sure there are other ways to writing exams which work, but this one is proven.  Buy it.

Half of your class is there because of their parents:  Shocking to learn, but many are there because of outside pressures.  They are not your competition and will not put up much of a fight.  This also tends to be true at the Harvards of the world as well.

Don't be a dickhead:  If someone asks you a question, answer it.  If someone asks which outline you like the best, tell them.  That doesn't mean you have to go around giving up "secrets", but if you're asked a pointed question, give a pointed answer.  It'll serve you much better in the long run.

Do not join anything your first year:  People will disagree with me on this, but you have three years to pad your resume; how about you start by padding it with As?  There's plenty of time for this stuff, but none of that time will be found in your first year.  Get the grades!!

I hope this helps, and I'll post more as it comes to me. :)

wow, thanks. i'll keep all of this in mind!

great post!

Trice

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Re: 1L Advice
« Reply #174 on: June 11, 2006, 06:23:41 PM »
All of this info is fantastic advice.  I have a few things to add / comment on that I feel could've been helpful a year ago when I was in your shoes (I wish I had known about his website, I randomly found it on google)

The first, most obvious point is that you must read the cases and stay on top of the reading.  Sounds paternalistic?  Wait and be surprised how many people do not do this.  And it is the most slippery of slopes -- the amount of reading seems small at first, but do not underestimate the amount of time it takes to COMPREHEND the material...especially at first.  If you get a week behind in the reading during your first semester, you are in serious danger.  If you get 2-3 wks behind, you are done. 

Two -- pay attention in class.  Also seems obvious...but look around and watch in amazement as your classmates watch mlb.tv, shop ebay, surf the drudgereport, etc.  Unless you are a prodigy, which you aren't, you must pay attention.  Try to answer the profs question even when (98% of the time), the question is not posed to you.  Be amazed at how many times you are wrong, and don't worry excessively about that fact...it is the process of thought, not the result that is of primary importance.

Three -- Buy the E&E for each class you are taking.  Review the appropriate section on E&E AFTER the prof covers that section...then, and here is what I believe to be the key to success on exams, EMAIL the prof intelligent, well-thought out questions regarding key concepts.  Assuming your question is well crafted (I often spent 1-2 hrs per email, revising two or three times before sending), the professor will offer a personal, often lengthy response.  THIS RESPONSE WILL BE GOLD ON THE EXAM.  You get a sense for the professor's writing style and the concepts that are important to him/her.  Incorporate the professor's views into your outline, and then into your exam.  Do you know how much better an exam reads if you add a one-line follow up to an obvious 'issue' on an exam that demonstrates a more thorough understanding of a concept?  This is where the Bs become As.  With the exception of the people who won't be back for 2L, everyone will spot most of the issues.  The money comes in the application of the law to the facts at hand and an in depth understanding of the theories behind the concepts and the tensions between differing schools of thought.   

Four -- Do NOT fall into the trap of neglecting your core courses to spend additional time on your Lawyering Skills/Legal Research and Writing Pass/Fail course.  At most schools, a "Honors" or "High Pass" grade offers no boost to your gpa or class rank.  Only 5% get a Low Pass or Fail, and with ANY sort of effort and by turning the assignments in on time, you won't fall here.  There are some, including your skills professor, who will tell you that this class is SO important and blah blah blah...they are LYING to you.  It means nothing.  Ask an employer the difference on a transcript between someone who has three As and a Pass vs someone who has Bs and a High Pass.  Who gets the job?  You get three guesses and the first two don't count.  The class sucks and means nothing in the long term.  Focus on the classes that will lead to class rank and future employment.

Five -- Whether or not you take an exam 'prep' course (I didn't, and have not received below an A {on a strict B curve} and hope to be #1 in my class when rankings are released), the key is doing practice exams under actual test conditions (sounds like LSAT advice, eh?)  DO NOT just reread your outline over and over again...do all the previous exams from your prof on file at the library.  Do google searches for exams (there are PLENTY out there).  In my opinion, the Siegel's books are largely worthless, each question focuses too much on one or two issues and are not representative of what a real exam will be like.  Just my opinion, others swear by Siegel's. 

Six -- There are no secret tricks to doing well.  You must read and comprehend all the material and repeatedly practice applying the law (the rules) to the facts and discussing the policies behind the rules.  I have been zero for law school in predicting what the professor was going to test on the exam.  Yet I have done very well...why?  Because I have put forth the effort to learn the material and the underlying policies. 

Hmmm, guess that's about it.  I've never really posted anything on a board like this before, but hopefully this will help out some of you.  Have confidence and enjoy LS.

jacy85

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Re: 1L Advice
« Reply #175 on: June 11, 2006, 08:53:05 PM »

Four -- Do NOT fall into the trap of neglecting your core courses to spend additional time on your Lawyering Skills/Legal Research and Writing Pass/Fail course.  At most schools, a "Honors" or "High Pass" grade offers no boost to your gpa or class rank.  Only 5% get a Low Pass or Fail, and with ANY sort of effort and by turning the assignments in on time, you won't fall here.  There are some, including your skills professor, who will tell you that this class is SO important and blah blah blah...they are LYING to you.  It means nothing.  Ask an employer the difference on a transcript between someone who has three As and a Pass vs someone who has Bs and a High Pass.  Who gets the job?  You get three guesses and the first two don't count.  The class sucks and means nothing in the long term.  Focus on the classes that will lead to class rank and future employment.


1.  Most schools seem to have a graded legal writing course.
2.  A great grade may not help pull your gpa up very much, as the class is usually worth fewer credits than core courses.  BUT getting a bad grade can kill you in interviews, even if you have good grades otherwise; who wants to hire a lawyer who can't write?
3.  Realistically, what you learn in legal writing is what you'll be doing for the rest of your life.  The skills are more important than many students realize.  After working only 3 weeks in a D.A.'s office in teh appellate division, I can't even describe the horrible errors "experienced" defense attorneys make in their appellate briefs.  It's sad that these people are allowed to represent people that have so much at stake.
4.  If you have a good legal writing teacher,  do put the time in.  Learning how to craft a good piece of legal writing will do nothing but help you clearly and consisely answer your prof's questions on an exam.

Trice

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Re: 1L Advice
« Reply #176 on: June 11, 2006, 09:38:18 PM »
Points well taken.  The gist of my advice was to be sure not to completely neglect your substantive classes just because the final may be two months away and a "bluebooking" exercise is staring you in the face.  The 90% solution is usually good enough in LRW, and in my opinion, spending the additional required time to insignificantly improve the quality of your research/writing may not be worth it at the expense of spending those precious hours boning up on other classes. 

I have personally witnessed people who spend HOURS and HOURS refining appellate briefs/open memos for infinitesimal increases in grades/quality...then those same people were completely overwhelmed by finals and are in the lower end of the class...at many schools, the best writing sample in the world won't be read by an interviewer if your resume says "2.5"...


raider1218

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Re: 1L Advice
« Reply #177 on: June 11, 2006, 09:47:26 PM »
Quote
Two -- pay attention in class.  Also seems obvious...but look around and watch in amazement as your classmates watch mlb.tv, shop ebay, surf the drudgereport, etc.

One of my friends watched mlb.tv continuously for the last month of the semester in our criminal law class.  He pulled down a 3.7.  Law school class time is vastly overrated.  I paid far less attention this semester in class and ended up with a 3.5, while last semester I managed a 2.9.

supergirluw

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Re: 1L Advice
« Reply #178 on: June 11, 2006, 10:47:42 PM »
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harrow

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Re: 1L Advice
« Reply #179 on: June 12, 2006, 04:40:54 PM »
I'm another "just-finished-with-1L-and hoping-to-pass-on-advice" poster.

What's been said before bears repeating (again, and again, and again): what works for one person may or may not work for others. In fact, I think that the best way to prepare for 1L is to read about as many different study approaches as you can, and pick and choose those approaches that work for you. That's what I did--I read this board constantly last summer, and read Law School Companion, Acing Your First Year of Law School, The Study and Practice of Law, Law School Confidential, and Getting to Maybe (all available at your local library). I didnt adopt any one approach, but rather choose a few methods that resonated with me, and created my own study plan.

That said, I began 1L planning and hoping to end 1st in my class, with a 4.0, and my study plan got me there. So maybe parts of it can help others do well in law school. (I'm not going to get into the flip side of the grades coin--that is, the point of law school is to become a good lawyer, not a good law student--because this thread is about tips on studying and doing well.)

I treated law school like a job. I was at the library every weekday by 8, and didnt leave till 5:30. If I wasnt in class, I was studying. Burden: the law library gets starts feeling oppressive about 1/2 way through first semester, and by the end of the year you hate the place. Benefit: I never worked or studied after 5:30, and the only time I worked during a weekend was 1) law review write on (during spring break--ick,) 2) the weekend before my brief was due, and 3) during finals periods. And it was great to be able to just put law aside every evening and every weekend and have a life, while knowing that I was still studying more than most other students.

Basics: I read every case, went to every class, and paid attention during every class.

Daily Prep: I never worked ahead. When possible, I did the reading for a class the day of the class. If my schedule didnt allow that, I did the reading the day before and reviewed my notes right before class. That way the material is fresh in my head. That allowed me to get the most from lecture and be a little more prepared for being called on.

For the first couple days, I briefed every case. After that, I just took notes while reading the case. The amount of notes necessary for each case depends on the class. Torts is ancient and rule bound, and the cases are relatively unimportant. All I wrote was the facts (generally just one or two), the rule, and the outcome. ConLaw is all about the cases, so I wrote a lot more. Taking notes while reading allowed me to write what I needed for my outline, without wasting time formatting it into a brief, while still having enough to answer questions in class. Then I could just listen in class, and jot down just an occasional sentence if the professor said something important that wasnt covered by my notes.

Outlining: I wrote my own outline for every single class. I updated them throughout the semester. After we finished a section of the course, I updated the outline. For example in Torts I started my outline when we finished Intentional Torts, then updated for Defenses to Intentional Torts, Duty of Care, Breach, Causation, etc.

My longest outline was 25 pages. The average length was 20 pages. The format of the outline depended on the course. Torts I outlined by black letter rule. ConLaw by case. CivPro by both--Rules, then cases underneath explaining. For example, in Torts, my headings go I. Intent; II. Transferred Intent; III. Battery; IV. Assault, just outlining rules. In CivPro, the format is I. Diversity Jurisdiction; A.(B, C, Etc.) Rules; 1. (2, 3, etc) Cases. II. Federal Question, etc.

The goal is to have an outline with everything you will need for the test, that is short enough to memorize.

Why memorize? Because that way I did better. The essay exams have MANY more issues than you could possible address. Issues, subissues, sub-sub issues. If you have your outline memorized, you can simply type non-stop, IDing and analyzing the issues and rules, without stopping to search for the applicable rules and reasoning.

The problem is that professors grade differently. Some reward issue spotting, some reward depth of analysis. So I wanted to spot more issues, and analyze them more deeply, in every class, so that I would be on top of the curve no matter how the professor graded. Memorization of the rules allows that.

Finals week: Since I updated every outline throughout the semester, all my outlines were done the day after classes were over. My exam studying has 3 stages: 1) memorize outline, 2) look at as many different practice problems and answers as possible, to find the ways that issues are tested, and 3) formulate phrases for the rules, rationales, and possible analyses for commonly tested issues that I could memorize and plug in on the exam. This last step involves sitting down with practice problems and your outline, and THINKING--about the best ways to raise these issues, so you can spot them, and the best ways to state rules, arguments, counter arguments, important policies, etc, so you can address the issues in a thoughtful way. This last step is, I think, the culminating step that will move your exam into an A. Rather than continuing to memorize rules, you take the time now, that you wont have during the test, to think--so you can present thoughtful answers that demonstrate insight. These sorts of ideas are fact independent, and can be applied to any fact patter that raises that particular issue, so it makes the test easier--if you've already thought about the issues in the test, you can spend your time writing, not thinking--because only the words on the page get you points.

Finally, exam taking: Its scary. Just remember that you are graded not on what you know, but how the prof thinks your test stacks up to the rest of the class. Remember your goal--to become a lawyer--and calm down, because the test is not your life. Then take a breath and read the question. Read it again, underlining key facts that trigger issues. Remember that the professor MUST separate the students on a curve, so there will be lots of issues, hidden in various ways. Examine every fact to see if it raises a new issue. Outline your answer, then go through methodically, addressing each issue and sub issue. Start off lightly--give a little analysis to each issue, more to the ones you can already tell are determinative, then go back and fill in more according to how important and how much time you have.

Finally, dont talk about the exam or grades. Talking about either will at best make your friends feel bad, at worst make you both feel bad, about how the exam went and how your grades are.

I've said more than most will want to read--take from it what you will, and what you think will be useful.