Law School Success
Law School Secrets are Difficult to Accept for
These secrets are difficult to accept when you are a 1L law student. They are easy to see in hindsight but when you listen to all those around you and in particular to law school professors you will be confused and influenced by their positions of authority. Most students just plain listen to the wrong people who have no idea what they are talking about. They are elusive because the 1L year of law school is the most confusing and wasteful time of your life. Most students will spend their precious time following worthless advice that is completely contrary to all known methods of learning; methods that they have used to achieve excellent results in their past academic performance. Everyone will tell you that you have to learn how to think like a lawyer but just do a little exercise and ask anyone of these so called experts what and how does one think like a lawyer? They will not have an answer that is cogent or even organized. You ask us that question and we can easily define what thinking like a lawyer is all about.
Because of anxiety, confusion, and inability to determine who is telling them the truth, most students will totally abandon the study methods they have used for at least 17 years or more (from which they have achieved superior results) and embark on experimental learning methods that have no basis in education and in fact do not work. That is the big mistake that almost all law students make in their first year of law school and that is why most first year first semester law students never learn them. Just take a few minutes and carefully read what we have written and you too can achieve these Secrets.
You already know how to think like a lawyer.
- Ask yourself the following questions:
- Did you take the LSAT?
- Did you pass the LSAT?
(You may answer yes to this question if you have been accepted to an ABA accredited law school in the United States).
If you can answer yes to these questions, you already know how to think like a lawyer. The only real problem that you have is that you do not know any law. If you do not know any law, it is next to impossible to produce the type of lawyer like analysis most law school professors look for on exam answers. If you know a lot of law it is really easy to produce legal analysis in a lawyer like fashion. If you knew all the law in any particular area or had studied it for 20 years and actually applied it in court you would be able to perform perfect lawyer like analysis.
The more law you know from memory, the better able you will be to legally analyze any given factual situation. You have been using the memorize-apply study method all of your life and there is no reason for you to abandon that method for the Socratic method which is inferior to all other learning methods known. Stay with what has brought you to the party; it will never fail you. There are no special training methods or learning experience needed to produce lawyer like analysis. You already know how to think like a lawyer; All you need to do is to learn some law, learn how to apply it, and then learn how to dissertate that law.
Your grades in law school will be based almost solely on final exam performance. Exam writing is a skill.
No matter how intelligent you are, or think you are, you can only learn a skill by practice. Proficiency in a skill can never be developed based on your inherent level of intelligence or knowledge about any particular subject. Knowledge and intelligence will only accelerate the rate at which you learn a skill. However, once you learn the skill for just one of the classes you are taking, you will have learned the skill of exam writing for all the classes you are taking.
You cannot learn a skill from just one lecture. You will not even understand most of the advice given in a short 4-5 hour lecture until you learn a critical mass of law. To effectively learn the skill of exam writing you must practice, practice, and practice some more. This must include a biweekly review of the critical skills and advice given in any lecture. The more law you learn and the more you practice the skill of exam writing the more you will learn from the information we have to convey to you about the skill of exam writing.
Issue spotting is dependent on how much law you have memorized before you take any exam.
It's a fact; your grade on any exam will be dependent on how much law you have memorized and can recite from memory the night before the exam. This is based on a simple principal; if you can't spot the issues on an exam you won't score the points. Example: If there are 27 items that you can ever possibly know about Offer under contract law and you only know 13 of them you have the potential of spotting only 13 issues. The only way you can potentially spot all the issues on an exam about Offers is to have the 13 issues that you know about be the only issues present on the exam. That possibility is highly unlikely.
You cannot memorize all the law you need to know and learn a skill two to three weeks before an exam.
There are 327 things that you need to know about contract law in order to guarantee that you will get an A on any exam that you will ever take. There are 466 things that you need to know about criminal law.... There are 390 things that you need to know about tort law.....There are 195 things that you need to know about constitutional law... Get the picture. If you wait until October to start memorizing the law or to practice the skill of exam writing, you may be too late. The sooner you start, the easier it will be.
Don't be fooled by professors giving you open book exams and telling you that it is not necessary to memorize the law. You will not have enough time on an exam to be paging through books or even your own outline in order to look up information. Those students who spend their exam time spotting issues, organizing their answers, formulating their legal analysis of the issue present, and then neatly writing the answer in proper English will get the best grades.
In order to learn the application of law, you have to case brief at least 1,000 cases. However, short form questions and answers will accomplish the same result.
It takes about 45 minutes to fully brief a case. It only takes about 2 minutes to do a short form question and answer. Even if the questions and answers were half as effective as case brief, in actuality they are 80% as effective, they would still provide an enormous advantage in saving time in learning the application of the law.
If you want to be preoccupied with conventional case briefs in order to learn how to apply law, you will waste a lot of time and effort. Conventional case brief is too time consuming. You do not have time to research the other 800 cases (for each course) that are not in your casebook in order to learn the application of the law. Brief the cases in your casebook and then do short form question and answers.
You will only go over about 60% of the law in classroom discussions. You cannot rely on class room discussions for learning the law. You can only rely upon classroom discussions for helping you with the application of the law.
This is the biggest area of misunderstanding in law school. In order for you to excel in law school you must memorize, apply and dissertate the law. During class time you do not have enough time to do all three so short cuts must be taken. Professors are not teachers and they are there to provoke independent thought and as such they will only go over the application of the law as this is the most difficult area that cannot always be learned in a vacuum. You are supposed to have learned or memorized the law before you go to class.
Naturally most case books concentrate on areas of the law that are more difficult to apply and do not address all areas when there is no real controversy over the application of law in that particular area. Students who rely on casebooks and class discussions to learn law will not know about 60% of the law needed to do well on an exam.
The more notes you take in class the worse you will do in law school.
The typical student comes to class without having learned any law. That student spends an inordinate amount of time reading cases thinking that he will learn law from those cases. When that student enters class she generally does not know the law from memory or has not even studied the law. Then the student proceeds to write down enormous amounts of notes that have little or no meaning when they are reviewed for an exam. That student and many of her compatriots may even try to reason about the law and make logical conclusions about the law even when they know nothing about that law. All we can say is good luck; you'll need it.
You cannot take notes on how to think and that is what applying the law is all about. If most students knew the law before they walked into class, they would simply say to themselves that this case is applying the transferred intent doctrine under tort law or this case is showing us how the reasonable person standard for a manifestation of contractual intent is analyzed under offer under contract law. In class, you are merely learning the application of the law and making sure that you understand the underlying principle that the application is based upon. If you already know the law, or are well underway to memorizing it, you go to class to learn how to apply the law and make sure you understand the principle behind the application of that law. It is virtually impossible to take notes on how to think about something. In fact, when most students start to memorize the law their understanding of what is being discussed in class increases by orders of magnitude and the amount of note taking drops to virtually nothing.
You are in class to make sure that you can apply the law and understand the principles behind the application of the law. You cannot learn the law in class nor can you ever understand the law if you do not take the time to memorize it and know all of its important aspects. Stop writing and listen and learn when you are in class.
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