The Complete 0L Guide to 1L

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JayCutler'sCombover
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The Complete 0L Guide to 1L

Postby JayCutler'sCombover » Tue Jun 30, 2009 12:07 am

As a rising 2L, I thought I would give something back to the community and start a blog addressing all the common questions that neurotic 0L's have about 1L year. It seems like the Law School Forum has been overrun with multiple threads about the same topics, so hopefully I will be able to get to most everything that people are curious about. If there is something you would like me to specifically address, send me a PM.

So you're probably wondering why a guy would start a blog with his first post. Well, I typically post under another username and don't feel like totally outing myself, so I thought it would be good to start posting under a different username for this blog. Plus, I am applying to transfer this year (and may or may not change schools), so hopefully I can keep people updated on the process and give some helpful insight about transferring.

Why should you give a rat's ass about anything I say? Well, I finished in the top 1% of my 1L class at the Tier 1 school (it is a Big Ten law school; that is all you'll be getting from me on that front). Is everything I say the gospel? Hell no, but once you get to law school, you will be surprised by the number of people who will pass themselves off as experts who are at or below the median. I would advise you to gather as much information as you can and use your own judgment. There are a lot of people who have done extremely well who have taken a different approach than I have, but these methods worked for me. If you are smart enough to get into law school, you should be smart enough to know when someone is feeding you a load of bull.

Topics I plan to address this summer include: study groups, practice tests, 0L prep, supplements, outlining, briefing, and anything else you want me to.

TOPIC #1: 0L Prep

So let's start with the most controversial topic. Should you prep this summer? Yes. An emphatic yes. I did and it helped. But they key is that you should focus on test-taking prep rather than substantive law prep. No one in law school will ever teach you how to take a law school exam (at least in my experience), so it is up to you to figure that out on your own. Since you will be innundated with substantive material during the semester, it is best to get test-prep done during the summer (at least as much as you can). Once you understand the types of tests you will be taking, this can help you structure your studying during the semester.

Here is a list of books you should get this summer for test prep:

Getting to Maybe: http://www.amazon.com/Getting-Maybe-Exc ... 0890897603
LEEWS: http://www.leews.com/
John Delaney: http://www.amazon.com/How-Your-Best-Sch ... 0960851453

We'll go over these books the rest of the week and I'll give you my insight on how I used them and why I thought they were beneficial. Until tomorrow . . .

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Re: The Complete 0L Guide to 1L

Postby JayCutler'sCombover » Wed Jul 01, 2009 1:12 am

TOPIC #1: 0L Prep (Day 2)

Let's pick up where we left off yesterday. The important thing in the "0L Prep" debate is to distinguish between substantive prep (e.g., Examples and Explanations) and exam prep (the 3 books I listed -- Getting to Maybe, LEEWS, and John Delaney's examsmanship book). As a 0L, I though posters on TLS were full of crap when they said that you shouldn't teach yourself any substantive law before 1L year (via E&E's and other books). I did the 6 week prep program as outlined in Planet Law School before 1L started (at least most of it anyways) and was convinced that I was going to get ahead. But it ended up generally being a waste of time, and here's why: my teachers didn't go over half the stuff I prepped.

For example, in property, I read all of the E&E sections on personal property (mislaid property, bona fide purchasers, etc.). All told, I spent about 12 summer hours on prep for personal property. Then I got to my property class, and the entire class focused on real property. We didn't spend one second on personal property. [As a side note, I'll address the E&E's later and why they are useful once you are actually in law school]. Biggest waste of time ever.

As a caveat, I will say that if as a 0L you are totally clueless about the law and the legal system in general (like me prior to law school), there is one "substantive" book that *might* be useful for you: John Delaney's Learning Legal Reasoning (http://www.amazon.com/Learning-Legal-Re ... 0960851445). It is basically an introduction on how to brief and provides great background on the common law, the court system, policy, and other general legal knowledge that no one will ever discuss with you in law school. If you are like me and could neither pronounce nor define "appellate court" before law school, you will probably find this book useful. Others will think it is the stupidest book ever. I will add that I briefed all the cases in Delaney's book and compared them to the model answers, and that was the last time I formally briefed a case. Once school started, I used the LEEWS briefing method (which is an abbreviated method that I will get into more tomorrow when I talk about LEEWS more in depth).

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I'm going to spend the rest of the week briefly going over the 3 books I recommended and why I think they are worthwhile. First, Getting to Maybe.

Why Getting to Maybe is Useful: First, the book is written by law professors Fischl (--LinkRemoved--) and Paul (--LinkRemoved--), who both graduated from Harvard. If nothing else, getting the exam taking perspective from professors is beneficial, since most other pre-law books (Law School Confidential, PLS) are written by former law students rather than law professors. The book also gives a good overview and breakdown of the types of exam questions you will encounter on a 1L exam (issue spotters and policy essays). Perhaps most importantly, this book was helpful in drilling home the point that in law school, you will need to get comfortable with ambiguities. On exams, there are no "right" answers, and two "A" exams might end up having different (and sound) reasoning and end up reaching different conclusions.

Why Getting to Maybe Kind of Sucks: The authors spend about half the book talking about forks, twin forks, pitchforks and all kinds of stupid forks, which I never understood. The authors also get a bit preachy at points, and the book drags ass at multiple points. Also, the exam taking tips are a little too general, as I felt that LEEWS (which I will discuss tomorrow) gave a better system for attacking law school exams.

Overall: I took about a week to get through this book and really didn't understand what the authors were taking about until I got through a couple weeks of law school. My advice would be to get through the book, and if you have time at fall break/thanksgiving, thumb through it again briefly to touch up on the main points. It is a pretty easy read and a good introduction to law school exams, and since your entire grade depends on one exam, it is never too early to start thinking about ways to attack your law school exams. Get this book used somewhere (half.com, amazon.com), as it can probably be had for under 10 bucks.

Also, as a companion to this book, if you can somehow get access to Jeremy Paul's article "A Bedtime Story," 74 Virginia Law Review 915, read that before school starts or sometime after school starts. I read it in one of my classes, and it was a great introduction to legal reasoning that cleared up some of the stuff GTM discussed.

Tomorrow we tackle LEEWS...

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Re: The Complete 0L Guide to 1L

Postby JayCutler'sCombover » Thu Jul 02, 2009 2:40 am

TOPIC #1: 0L PREP (Day 3)

A couple housecleaning things to get things started. First, I want everyone to make sure they check out the thread started by Arrow, one of the best posters on this board (viewtopic.php?f=2&t=77628&hilit=arrow). It seems that Arrow had the same idea and wanted to share some of 1L success tips. Reading through his summary, it seems that we did many things the same in 1L and both ended up in the top 1%. There will probably be some areas where we approached things differently, but as I said before, it is important for you to gather as many data points as possible and then make an educated decision on what system you think will work the best for you. Everyone has different learning styles, and considering you will have been in school for 15+ years by the time you get to law school, you should have some idea about your learning style.

As a piggyback off Arrow's post, I will point out that the methods I am advocating here worked for me at a Tier 1 school but not a T-14 (although I am at a Big Ten law school, it is not Michigan). These methods worked for me, but YMMV depending on where your school is at in the almighty USNWR rankings. I did have a teacher who used to teach at a T-14 and made the old tests from that school available in the test bank. They did not vary in content or form, but aside from that, frankly I have no idea how things work in the T-14.

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I also wanted to share on quick anecdote about grades and 1L jobs. I had a friend who applied for a summer internship (nonpaying legal job). My friend was bright and ended up in the top 25% at my school. This friend told me about how he ended up getting his summer job. It seems that the employer collected resumes until a certain deadline and then organized the resumes in order of GPA (from highest to lowest, with the highest GPA's on top of the stack). Then, the employer called the first 3 people off the top of the stack and offered them summer positions. Grades are all that matters to employers (most of them anyways), and this is why I am advocating summer test prep. Additionally, I would not have been able to secure my current job, which pays more than $1K per week had I not prepped.

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On to LEEWS (http://leews.com/). I like to think of LEEWS as analogous to an LSAT prep class because it gives you a systematic approach for law school classes and law school exams. In my experience, I only had one class in which a professor actually went over the best way to write a law school exam. Most professors I had would merely go over one exam in class and then tell you that on the real thing that you would need to spot the issues and argue both sides. Most professors never touched on any of the material the Miller talks about in LEEWS (i.e., read the call of the question first, set up conflict pairs, outline your answers before typing, flip through the entire exam before starting, use headings and small paragraphs to make essay answers easy to read, and so on and so forth). Like an LSAT prep class, LEEWS will be the priciest supplement you will purchase ($100+ brand new for the CD and book set), but I guarantee you that it is a worthwhile investment. [side note: please check out this thread on LEEWS for a two-sided argument about LEEWS; there is a bunch of good stuff in the thread - viewtopic.php?f=3&t=77646].

There is no difference between attending the live session and purchasing the CD's, but I would recommend purchasing the CD's and doing LEEWS before 1L if it is feasible. Frankly, once you get into 1L you will soon realize that you won't have 8 hours of free time to listen to LEEWS and learn the system. Moreover, if you purchase the CD's before school starts, you can work at your own pace. I would recommend taking about 1-2 hours a day over the course of a few weeks to work through LEEWS. There is A LOT of information to digest, and most of it is rock solid advice.

In addition to the exam prep, the LEEWS briefing method was one of the most beneficial things I learned during law school. I read every case that was assigned and used the LEEWS briefing method for each case. The gist of the LEEWS briefing method is that you should pull out the black letter law and only write down only the facts needed to job your memory about the case if you are called on in class. Class participation (in my experience) DOES NOT MATTER AT ALL! I never once volunteered to speak during the semester when I wasn't cold called and I generally made a good faith effort when I was cold called (if you were to ask my peers, I would bet they would say I was a median student based on what I said in class). Don't waste your time doing 1 page briefs because it will help you look better in class. Keep your eye on the prize and only do what will help you on an exam.

So here is an example of a LEEWS brief that I did for Torts. It is pretty simple, but it helps you get the idea. When I would go back and outline, I could then just insert the "Tools" section into my outline (since it was the BLL that I needed for the exam) and delete the fact summary.:

Vosburg v. Putney (Battery)
Tools: A wrong-doer is liable for all injuries resulting directly from a wrongful act/battery whether they could or could not have been foreseen by the wrong-doer. [Note: Children are treated differently under intentional torts versus negligence.]
Fact Summary: D held liable for kick of P’s shin during normal class hours (not during playground hours, and therefore an unlawful act), which ultimately led to the non-use of his limb.


Great things about LEEWS: Aside from the briefing method, LEEWS gives you a comprehensive exam taking strategy that you can implement on any type of law school exam. As I said before, it is up to you to figure out the best way to take a law school exam, and this system (in my opinion) is the best out there. You might be a natural born genius of the law and be able to kill your law school exams without this system. However, I was not that person. Having an organized system for breaking down and analyzing an issue spotting exam was a gigantic help for me throughout the year. In my experience, most of my classmates, even after 1st semester exams, still were not sure the best way to approach a law school exam. This system gets you on the right foot from Day 1.

Why LEEWS kind of sucks: LEEWS is great system for the "racehorse" exams in which your professor asks you to "Discuss all the issues raised by the fact pattern." However, I found that some of its recommendations were only marginally useful when an exam had a word limit. Only 2 of my 8 exams had a word limit, so this system was generally useful in 2/3 or my classes. Many of its recommendations can be modified for word-limit exams, and the organizational system is still useful on any exam. Additionally, LEEWS uses a Torts hypo to demonstrate the exam taking system. While this helped me book torts (i.e., highest grade in the class), I found that I did have some trouble applying the LEEWS method in contracts. Just realize that you will need to be flexible with this system depending on the subject matter, the type of exam (issue spotter vs. policy), and if there is a word limit on the exam.

LEEWS will take a lot of time to get through, but I can't tell you how helpful it is to go over before 1L. LEEWS came highly recommended in Arrow's post as well, so unless we are both crazy, it is a useful investment. It is a grind to get through since there is a bunch of information, but if you stretch it out over a few weeks, it will break it down into more manageable parts.

Until tomorrow . . .

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Re: The Complete 0L Guide to 1L

Postby JayCutler'sCombover » Fri Jul 03, 2009 12:39 am

TOPIC #1: 0L PREP (DAY 4)

With the holiday weekend coming up, I've lost my motivation to post anything too substantive. But here it goes anyways.

Something I forgot to mention at the beginning of this blog is that these supplements are not magical. If you purchase them, they won't automatically make you smarter or more likely to finish in the top 10%. Think of them sort of like diet books. You can't lose weight unless you actually implement the programs in the diet books (simply purchasing and looking at the books won't make you lose weight), and the same thing goes for the test taking supplements.

The first step is finding the right material to prepare yourself (I think LEEWS, GTM and Delaney's book are the right materials for test prep). The next step is to actually get your hands on the supplements (total cost less than $150 if your purchase all 3 used, or less than the cost of a new torts casebook). Once you've got them, you need to read through the material and understand the challenges you will face while taking a law school exam (which like losing weight, can be daunting but not impossible to overcome). Then, it is up to you to implement the system (whether it is LEEWS, GTM, or some other system). Just like failing to work out and eat right won't help you lose weight, unless you learn and practice the test taking skills advocated in these books, it will be more difficult to earn top grades. And just like there are some people who can drink a 24 pack of Natty Light and eat 2 large pizzas and lose weight, there will be people who are natural born geniuses of the law who can kill law school exams without these books. But generally those people are the minority and not the majority.

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One more tangentially related thing about law school exams. It is important to self assess and think about whether you can write (organization, grammar, thesis sentences, etc.). Your entire grade is based on how well you WRITE, not how well you can handle the socratic method in class. Literally the only work product the professor will see from you all year is your 4-hour written/typed exam. Unless you are able to compose exam answers quickly, concisely, and in a well organized manner, your exam will be difficult for the professor to grade and you will be more likely to end up at the median. As you are doing exam prep, think about this: "What is the best way I can present this exam and make my professor's job easy?" I used to teach, and let me tell you, it sucks grading a stack of 80 papers. You will be more likely to get a higher grade if your writing is clear and easy to read and doesn't force the professor to work hard. Just something to think about as you focus on exam taking strategies.

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As for a review of John Delaney's "How to Do Your Best on Law School Exams," I think this book is good to thumb through simply because it provides you with another professor's test taking perspective. PLS pimps Delaney a lot, and while I think Delaney's book would rank third behind LEEWS and GTM, it is still a quick, easy, and informative read. LEEWS and GTM's strategies might not click for some people, and you might find that some of the techniques in Delaney's book suit you well. One of his best pieces of advice is his notecard outlining method, which you might find beneficial. As I've said before, my strategy was to collect as many data points as possible and then make a decision based on the data that I gathered, and because of this, I think Delaney's book is another solid 0L prep book.

I will admit that I found the LEEWS system better (overall) for exam taking, but Delaney's book is still solid.

Enjoy the holiday weekend, and I'll catch you on the flipside . . .

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Re: The Complete 0L Guide to 1L

Postby JayCutler'sCombover » Tue Jul 07, 2009 12:40 am

TOPIC #2: 1L MYTHBUSTERS

This week's installment of the blog is going to focus on 1L myths. There are a lot of myths are perpetrated about 1L year, and this seemed like the appropriate way to handle these topics.

MYTH #1: STUDY GROUPS ARE NECESSARY TO SUCCEED IN LAW SCHOOL

There is already an interesting thread about this in the Law School Forum (viewtopic.php?f=3&t=76375&start=25), but I thought I would expand on this a bit. There seems to be this myth floating around that if you don't form a study group in the first week of class, you are doomed to finish in the bottom of the class, and upon graduation, work as a public defender in Smalltown, USA making 25K per year. I think this is patently false.

There are basically two questions you need to ask yourself with regards to study groups: (1) How is this going to help me on the final exam? and (2) What type of learner am I?

With regards to question #1, this should and needs to be your focus throughout the semester. You should always be asking yourself whether the effort you are expanding is going to pay some dividends on the final exam. Frankly, for me, I thought study groups were only useful around final exams, and I refused to study in groups up until maybe the last 3 weeks before finals. Even when I did get together with a group, it was ONLY to go over old exams and never to bullshit about some stupid case or Scalia's reasoning in the dissent of some random case. For me, getting together with a study group to talk about the class was not going to help me on the final exam, as my time could be better spent reading supplements and working on hypotheticals/E&E's/Cali lessons.

With question #2, I know that I work better by myself (I am more productive working alone) and I hate having my time wasted. In law school, you don't have enough hours in the day to waste even one hour, and throughout my academic career, I've found that more often than not, it takes 10x's as long to accomplish something in a group that it would for me to just sit down and figure it out on my own. However, this might be different for some people. If you liked group work and excelled at in undergrad, by all means, get a group together and go at it. If you are a loner, there is no problem in this. You shouldn't change what has worked for you up until this point simply because you are in law school. It is still learning, and you should do whatever you think best fits your learning style.

WHAT WORKED FOR ME WITH STUDY GROUPS: For me, the following approach worked for study groups: (1) keep them small if you use them (3-5 people, anything larger than that was too difficult to organize and the larger the group, the more difficult it became to work efficiently); (2) use them only to go over old exams (you can learn a lot from others and the way they spot issues and attack an exam); (3) when you get together with a study group, make everyone in the group finish their work ahead of time (i.e., if you are getting together to go over an old exam, make sure everyone in the group does the test beforehand so you don't have freeriders in the group or people who slow the group down with constant questioning on simple topics); (4) if you use study groups, a lot of the time you can each visit individually with a professor to discuss part of an old exam (i.e., if an exam had 3 questions, each person would go over 1 question with the professor) and then get together and compare notes and have a complete answer for an old exam.

WHY STUDY GROUPS ARE POTENTIALLY USELESS: It is tough to vet potential group members, which is also why I think it is stupid to try and get people in a study group early in the semester. At that point, it is the blind leading the blind and the chances of a study group being beneficial seem slim to none. If you wait until the end of the semester, at least by that point you should have a good idea of your friends/acquaintances who are lazy/hardworkers/genuinely interested in doing well, and then you can pick and choose people to work with based on your impressions. Granted no one really knows who is smart and who isn't until grades come back (If you consider doing well on a 3 hour exam "smart", which is a dubious proposition) so it is somewhat of a crapshoot. As I mentioned earlier, study groups have the potential to be a big time suck, as it is difficult to get everyone to (1) show up on time and (2) stay on task and not play grabass during the study sessions. This is another reason why it is good to wait until the end of the semester to do study groups. Everyone will realize that they can't be screwing around, so the potential that people will waste your time decreased exponentially because of the looming prospect of finals.

My recommendation is to keep the study groups small, use them only around finals to go over old exams, and if you are lucky enough (like I was) to find a good core group of people to work with, a study group can be a great way to prep for exams. It is tempting to form study groups because working with people can at least give you some feedback on how you are grasping the material (since you will get ZERO feedback from professors during the semester), but I think that time would be better spent on supplements and going over hypos.

Until tomorrow . . .

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Re: The Complete 0L Guide to 1L

Postby JayCutler'sCombover » Thu Jul 09, 2009 1:10 am

So I'm pissed that I missed a day of blogging, but you'll have to forgive me. I was accepted to Berkeley as a transfer student yesterday and took a day to celebrate a little bit. Still a long way to go in the transfer cycle, but it is nice to have an acceptance under my belt.

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TOPIC #2: 1L MYTHS

Reflecting on my transfer acceptance gave me the idea to address what was a somewhat prevalent myth (at least from some people I talked to at my school): the importance of your 1L grades.

MYTH #2: YOUR 1L GRADES AREN'T ALL THAT IMPORTANT

If you're on this board and reading this blog, you are probably thinking there is no way that anyone would say 1L grades aren't important. But I swear to you, I've heard multiple people say "Well even if I don't do well, I can always make it up 2L and 3L years," or "I'm not trying to work at a big firm and only want to do (insert random non-firm job here) and grades don't really matter for that."

I think it is important to lay out what is at stake with your 1L grades. I'm not sure many people grasp how you can set yourself up for 2L and 3L years with good grades or torpedo your chances at your dream job with a poor 1L performance. So here is what is at stake for your 1L year:

(1) Possible paying gig during 1L summer: Yes these are few and far between, but finishing at the top of your class will give you a chance for a 1L firm gig. I'm not sure that the 1L big law firm gig will exist in any shape or form next summer, but let's say you are someone like me who has a connection to a secondary market (I'm not even sure if where I work can be called a secondary market but it is not someplace that typical law school graduates from T14's flock to) and networked with an alum. Because of my grades (and a bit of networking), I was able to secure a 1L firm gig that pays more than 1K per week. When you are staring down the type of loans that most law students take on, the extra cash can be a HUGE help. Moreover, even if you don't want to work in a firm, most summer employers simply screen by grades because it is the easiest thing to do. 1L summer jobs don't really seem to matter that much in the grand scheme of things, but the chance to make extra cash is one motivation to do well during 1L.

(2) Law Review: The one credential that all employers seem to love in Law Review. At most schools, law review is a combination of 1L grades and a journal writing competition. At my school, the top 10% automatically were invited to law review, and there were another dozen spots for write ons (but 1L grades were weighed heavily when deciding who would be invited based on the combination of their writing score and grades). At other schools, it is completely a combination of grades and the write on score, but from anecdotal evidence I have seen on this board and others, 1L grades usually are weighed more (typically 2/3) and the write on competition is weighted less (usually 1/3 or so). However, the point is that only your 1L grades are considered for law review status. There are some schools that allow you to submit a journal note to the law review as a 2L, and if it is published, you are invited to law review (I think Chicago does this, but I am not certain), but that seems to be the exception. By all accounts, the actual work that you have to do with law review sucks immensely, but the credential will open numerous doors for you. And it is mostly based on 1L grades.

(3) 2L OCI is Based Entirely on 1L Grades: Assuming that 2L OCI/OGI/EIP (or whatever acronym your school uses) will continue to exist, all the bidding and interviewing will be done based on 1L grades. Unless you are at a T14, most firms have GPA and/or class rank cutoffs that you need to hit. Even if you have a lottery interview system (i.e. bids are assigned by lottery system), I would imagine that if your grades suck and you get an interview at a good firm, it will probably be a waste of 20 minutes for both you and the interviewer. But, if you think about it, it is entirely possible to get a job after you graduate based SOLELY on your 1L grades. Let's say you finish in the top 10%, get a summer associate position, and the knock the firm's socks off and get an offer after the summer. You will have done that entirely based on your 1L grades and can now spend your 3L year beer drinking and playing softball. (Of course, this is assuming that firms will even be hiring SA's to begin work sometime before 2050 with all the deferrals). Either way, the GPA cutoffs at my school seemed to go up to the top 10% mark for the major legal markets, and ITE, you will want to keep that GPA as high as you can. Even if you are someone that wants to do non-firm work (PI, etc.), there sure will be a lot of deferred Big Law people who will be competing with your for those jobs.

(4) It is Difficult to Have Major Movement in GPA/Rank as a 2L and 3L: From lurking on the Law Students Forum, most 2L's and 3L's have indicated that the grading curve as a 2L and 3L is not as harsh. There is the opportunity to clinics and seminars that are not curved, which means that you will have a chance to rack up some A's and raise the GPA. The only problem is that everyone else in those classes will be getting high grades too (assuming they don't dick around), which means that what matters (your class rank), won't be making any major movements. Additionally, you will already have 28-32 credits under your belt from 1L, and with only 60 or so credits left in law school, it will be tough (although not impossible) to move up in rank. The bottom line, as I said earlier, is that 1L grades can go a long way to opening doors for you.

(5) The Opportunity to Trade Up and Transfer: You can only transfer after 1L, and if you can finish in the top 10%, it is possible to trade up into a T14, T10, or T3 school depending on where your school ranks and what your individual class rank is. From reading PkSebben's posts (a rising 3L who transferred to Michigan last year), transfer students generally do quite well at OCI, and if you want to clerk/teach/work in Big Law in major legal markets, moving up in the rankings can open doors that were previously slammed shut. I am going to post extensively about the transfer process later in the summer (once I find out where I am going and what worked/didn't in the transfer cycle), but unless you kill 1L, you won't have the opportunity to transfer.

Which kinds of brings it all full circle in why I advocate prepping during the summer and doing LEEWS/GTM/Delaney's books. There is so much riding on the line with you 1L grades, why wouldn't you work to put yourself in the best position possible?

Tomorrow we'll go over supplements a bit . . .

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Re: The Complete 0L Guide to 1L

Postby JayCutler'sCombover » Fri Jul 10, 2009 12:40 am

I'm back again for another day of blogging and with another transfer acceptance (Columbia) under my belt. Study hard in 1L and crazy things like getting admitted to a Top 5 law school are possible. Let's just say I had to change my shorts after getting an acceptance email from Columbia.

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Also, we are up to almost 800 views on this blog! I am fairly certain that 25 of those are mine, but what the hell at least I know people are looking at it. I will reiterate that if you have a topic you'd like to see addressed, send me a PM and I will do my best to get to it. I'd like to do a mailbag-Bill Simmons style post to answer a bunch of questions that might be pertinent, but that will depend on whether you guys have specific things that I might be able to answer.

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TOPIC #2: 1L MYTHBUSTERS

So back on the topic of 1L myths, here is one that needs to be addressed: professors who tell you not to use supplements.

MYTH #3: IF YOUR PROFESSOR TELLS YOU NOT TO USE SUPPLEMENTS, DON'T USE THEM

I had multiple professors at the beginning of each semester explicitly tell the class that using supplements would be a waste of time and that everything we needed to do well in the class was in the casebook. I didn't listen to my professors (actually I thought they were full of crap), and I ended up doing quite well. Here are some quick reasons why you shouldn't listen to your professors if they tell you this:

(1) Your professors were a lot smarter then you and didn't need supplements while they were in law school, so of course they are going to tell you that. Most of your professors will be top of their class T14 grads, and they were probably people who were natural born geniuses of the law. I'm sure they mean well, but I think a blanket "don't use supplements" statement is bad advice. I only recall one professor during 1L who recommended a specific supplement, and while not all said I shouldn't use supplements, at least half said supplements were not worthwhile.

(2) Supplements are the only way to get feedback and gauge your progress. As I've said many times before, in law school you will receive ZERO feedback on your progress before exams. Personally, I would rather find out in November that I don't know what I am doing rather than get my exam grade back and THEN find out that I was clueless. Supplements are a great way to test your knowledge of the black letter law and your ability to analyze different fact patterns. I was a terrible issue spotter when I started law school, but at least for me, it was skill I learned through practicing with hypos in supplements.

I seemingly sampled every supplement known to man and found that they varied from great to mediocre. I used Law in a Flash, E&E's, Cali Lessons, and while I am not sure everything I used was helpful, I do know that if I had tried to learn things straight from the casebook I wouldn't have done as well.

Here is a list of the supplements I used for each class. I am planning to take a day or two later this summer to provide more in-depth information about why I thought each one was good or bad, but for now, I'm just going to layout which ones I used and provide links to purchase them (if you are interested). Buy old copies of supplements if you can, except in Con Law (since the law always changes) and Civ Pro (at least 2007 version since that is when the FRCP was modified to its current numerical system). Also, find out on the first day of class what the exam format for your class will be. There are great books for essays and multiple choice, and if your exam is entirely essay based, you shouldn't focus too heavily on multiple choice questions (except if you want to test your black letter law knowledge).

Every Class:
Cali Lessons (get password from your law school librarian). IMHO, best supplement other than LEEWS that I used during the year (--LinkRemoved--)
Crunchtime: I hated the gigantic Emmanuel's commercial outlines, and I loved the shorter versions that had charts, multiple choice questions, and short answers sample questions. They also had short outlines with exam tips that I read through the night before the exams (http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss_b?url ... me&x=0&y=0)

Contracts:
Blum E&E: Sample answers are really in depth but overall a solid book (http://www.amazon.com/Contracts-Example ... 1567066348)
Chirelstein: Didn't like it all that much but seemed like everyone had this book (http://www.amazon.com/Concepts-Case-Ana ... 819&sr=1-1)
Siegel's: Essay and multiple choice questions coded by area of law. Useful in every class I took except Crim Law and Con Law (http://www.amazon.com/Siegels-Contracts ... 424&sr=1-2).

Crim Law:
E&E: Has both model penal code and common law examples. Mediocre at best but still marginally useful because I couldn't find any supplements that focused specifically on the Model Penal Code, and that is what my entire exam was on (http://www.amazon.com/Criminal-Law-Exam ... 173&sr=1-1)
Delaney: Didn't use all that much since class focused on MPC, but if you like his other books, you will find this one useful too (http://www.amazon.com/Learning-Criminal ... 026&sr=1-1)

Civ Pro:
E&E: Glannon kicks major ass. Indispensible supplement (http://www.amazon.com/Procedure-Example ... 333&sr=1-1)
Glannon Guide: Another great Glannon supplement. Civ pro exam was MC so this was a great book (http://www.amazon.com/Glannon-Guide-Civ ... 509&sr=1-1)
Siegel's: see discussion, supra (http://www.amazon.com/Siegels-Civil-Pro ... 544&sr=1-1)

Torts:
E&E: Another great Glannon book. Weak on intentional torts but all the sections on negligence are great (http://www.amazon.com/Law-Torts-Example ... 596&sr=1-1)
Siegel's: http://www.amazon.com/Siegels-Torts-Mul ... 722&sr=1-1

Property: *Note that I hated property and therefore tried every supplement in the world because I just wasn't getting it. Somehow got an "A". Not sure how that happened.
E&E: Could be better, could be worse. About on par with the Crim Law E&E (http://www.amazon.com/Property-Examples ... 688&sr=1-1)
Siegel's: http://www.amazon.com/Siegels-Property- ... 749&sr=1-1
Understanding Property:
Some people said this series of books was also useful during Crim Law. More hornbook than a supplement as it does not contain questions and answers (http://www.amazon.com/Understanding-Pro ... 815&sr=1-1)
Glannon Guide to Property: Another useful Glannon book, although it is not written by him (http://www.amazon.com/Glannon-Guide-Pro ... 856&sr=1-1)
Law in a Flash: Needed more hypos in order to "get" property. These are organized by area of law and were pretty good for quizzing myself on the application of the BLL. There are two sets, one for real property (http://www.amazon.com/Law-Flash-Real-Pr ... 913&sr=1-1) and one for future interests (http://www.amazon.com/Law-Flash-Interes ... 913&sr=1-2)

Con Law:
Chemerinsky: I could have used this book instead of buying my casebook. The BEST Con Law supplement. Everyone will have it, but it breaks down the confusing SCOTUS cases that have like 8 different parts with a different set of judges concurring and dissenting with all the different parts. Bonus in that you can keep it and use it in Con Law II if you take that as a 2L or 3L (http://www.amazon.com/Constitutional-La ... 169&sr=1-1)
E&E: Meh, not the best. There is one on individual rights (http://www.amazon.com/Constitutional-In ... 216&sr=1-1) and another for federalism (http://www.amazon.com/Constitutional-La ... 216&sr=1-2)
Lexis Q&A: Didn't get a chance to try these out in other classes, but I loved this book. Had multiple choice with really detailed explanations (like 3 pages worth for one question), and also short answer/mini-essay questions. Great supplement IMHO. Randomly bought in the bookstore in a late semester panic and ended up being a solid purchase. (http://www.lexisnexis.com/store/catalog ... odId=46673).

Until tomorrow . . .

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Re: The Complete 0L Guide to 1L

Postby JayCutler'sCombover » Sun Jul 12, 2009 12:09 am

Almost 1,000 page views! Hopefully people are getting some good info out of this blog.

TOPIC #2: 1L MYTHBUSTERS

So today is going to be a short post that will address one of the most prevalent myths of 1L: luck determines your grades.

MYTH #4: GRADES ARE ENTIRELY BASED ON LUCK

I will agree with this myth to some extent, because when you are graded on a curve, your grade is in part based on the performance of your peers. However, I am a true believer in the following saying:

Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.

I have only felt good walking out of one law school exam, and it was the one I did my best on. The rest of the exams, I usually felt somewhere between "thank god that is over" and "shit that wasn't that bad and everyone else probably thought the same thing."

The one thing I did have going for me was that I always walked into an exam prepared. My motto was that when a law school exam was over, I wanted to be able to look myself in the mirror and say "I did everything I could this semester to do well in the class, and whatever the grade comes out as, I can live with it."

I read the cases, worked with supplements, implemented LEEWS, attended every class, worked with study groups to go over exams, and lived and breathed law school. Was it the most healthy approach? Not necessarily. Have people done better by doing less work? Without a doubt. But at the end of the day, I wanted to be able to say that I gave it my best, and if my best wasn't good enough, then so be it.

So what is the point of this post? It is to tell you this: worry only about what you can control and screw the rest. You can learn about law school exams this summer by going over LEEWS, GTM, and Delaney's book. You can show up to class every day and "take your professors frequency" by learning about what you prof is stressing and any exam information they give. You can pick up your professors exams from the exam bank at the beginning of the semester and spend the entire semester figuring out what the heck your professors is looking for on test day. What you shouldn't do is worry about what anyone else is doing.

Were my grades "lucky"? To some extent, yes. In torts, I focused heavily on intentional torts and got lucky when one 90 minute essay was dedicated exclusively to intentional torts. In property, I guessed right that one policy essay would be about 3 certain theories of property (but I guessed right because I looked at all the profs old exams and noticed that certain types of essay questions kept popping up every other year). So realize there is inherently some luck involved in law school exams (and grading in general). But luck is when preparation meets opportunity, so make the most of your opportunity to show your prof how much you know on your law school exams.

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And if anyone cares, here's an update from the transfer cycle: In at Chicago. Once the cycle is over, I'll do my best to let you guys in on what did and what didn't work for me in terms of personal statements, letters of recommendation, and all the other pros and cons of going through a transfer cycle.

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Re: The Complete 0L Guide to 1L

Postby JayCutler'sCombover » Tue Jul 14, 2009 1:28 am

So this summer is flying by, and I'm hoping I'll be able to get to all the topics I want to. Here is a rough outline of what I'm going to try and blog about over the next couple weeks.

(1) Supplements. I provided a detailed summary of the supplements I used in last week's post, but I think it might be helpful to give some insight into how I used them and why I thought they were good or sucked. I'm going to do that this week.

(2) Outlining. Self explanatory, but my strategy was somewhat different than my peers, so I'm hoping to provide some insight into this.

(3) My study schedule. I've had a couple PM's asking me how to attack 1L, and I'll try to give a comprehensive outline/review of what worked for me. Be forewarned that I was a grinder and rarely took days off during the semester, so you will likely think that I was a dumbass based on how much time I put in. I believe fellow poster BradyToMoss did quite well and took the exact opposite approach that I did (see posts in this thread: viewtopic.php?f=3&t=19378&p=1736317#p1736317). It might be helpful to compare and contrast the two approaches.

(4) The transfer process. There is little information out there on the transfer process, but I'll be happy to provide anecdotal evidence based on my experience. It is simultaneously the most exciting/gutwrenching/shitty process, and once I know where I am going, I will try and fill you in on what worked and didn't. Based on what I have seen (my personal experience and the data points on the TransferApps database at Yahoo), it seems largely a numbers based process.

--------------------------------------------

So today I'll tackle what I think were the 2 most helpful supplements for me during law school: (1) Cali lessons and (2) E&E's.

#1 CALI LESSONS: To me, the Cali lessons are on par with LEEWS as a supplement that I feel was critical to my success in law school. And the best part: IT'S FREE! (I can't overestimate how clutch this is when you are dropping 60K per year for law school). (--LinkRemoved--)

Your school librarian can provide you with the user password to access Cali, and at least at my school, they also handed out CD's with all the lessons on them. They are sorted by topic and then you can either search them by course outline. There will be a lesson for most of the material you will go over in all your foundational classes, and the lessons usually range in length from 15 minutes to 2 hours. Most lessons are about 30 minutes long and are perfect to do when you have that pesky 45 minute break in between classes.

WHY CALI ROCKS: I know I sound like a broken record, but when you get ZERO feedback on your progress in law school, the Cali lessons are a great way to figure out if you are learning the black letter law and are able to apply it to hypos. Every questions not only tells you whether you got it right or wrong, but it also provides an explanation (varying in detail) on why you got the question right or wrong. Cali cites to numerous cases that you will read in class, and it also cites to the Restatements for torts and K's. It is mostly multiple choice and true false questions, but there are some short essay questions to practice for exams. I only had two classes where I had MC on the final, but I used Cali lessons in all my classes. I have also lifted entire paragraphs out of the Cali lessons and dropped them into my final exam outlines.

WHY CALI MIGHT NOT WORK FOR YOU: The only downside to Cali lessons is that the lessons almost always cover more material on a topic than your professor will in class (and that you would be expected to know on an exam). Every teacher approaches subjects in a different manner, but IMHO, I was able to recognize what we did and did not go over in class and adjust accordingly. The other drawback is that your professor and the professors who write the Cali lessons will often use different terminology (for example, this happened in my property class for the estates and future interests portion of the class). When there is any conflict, ALWAYS USE THE TERMINOLOGY THAT YOUR PROFESSOR USES! This can't be stressed enough.

VERDICT: Go through these as the semester progresses to test yourself on the topics. Don't leave them all until the end (although they are great for exam review). Two enthusiastic thumbs up from me.

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#2 EXAMPLES AND EXPLANATIONS: Everyone will lug these around in law school, and maybe half will crack them at some point. Most people make the mistake of waiting until the end of the year to buy supplements as "exam cram," but I found them more useful to read through as the semester went on. Buy used copies, except for Con Law (which weren't all that great and you might not even need to buy them if you have the Chemerinsky text) and Civ Pro (at least 2007/08 version since I think the FRCP were modified in Dec. 2007, but you might want to check that).

WHY E&E'S ROCK: Similar to the Cali lessons, E&E's are great because they have hypos and detailed explanations of the correct answers. Again, you will need to rely on yourself throughout 1L to gauge your own progress, and the E&E's were great to do this. I found that it was best to at least outline a rough answer to each hypo presented, but I will admit that with the time crunch, I rarely wrote out complete answers to the questions. If I had to rank the E&E's from most useful to least useful, I would go (1a) Torts; (1b) Civ Pro; (2) Contracts; (3) Property; (4) Crim Law; (5) Con Law. I liked to read through them before doing my assigned casebook readings and then try and do the problems once I finished reading the supplement and my assigned reading (not always possible to do but at least it was an aspirational goal). Also, there is usually a table to cases in the index of the book, so if you focused on one major case, look it up in the index and find the corresponding section in the E&E so you hit on what is covered in class.

WHY E&E'S SUCK: The answers to the hypos range from treatises (See Blum's Contracts E&E) to only marginally useful (See Property & Crim Law). Blum's damn E&E took forever to read through since he usually provided ridiculously detailed explanations of his answers, while the Property and Crim Law were succinct and to the point (which was good and bad). I really didn't have many qualms with the E&E's other than when I bought the Con Law ones new and it cost me about 80 bucks for both books. Also, as with the Cali lessons, be aware of different terminology that your professors might use.

VERDICT: I've heard anecdotally of people reading the E&E for Civ Pro, working through all the examples, never cracking a case book and acing the class. These are pretty standard supplements for most law students, but most people fail to actually go through the Q&A at the end of each section. If you can get them for cheap online (Half.com, Amazon.com), they are well worth the price.

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I found that the most helpful supplements were Cali and E&E's because you could get instant feedback on your grasp of the material. Keep in mind that law school exam success requires you to go through a 2 step process: (1) Learn the black letter law and (2) Apply it to a fact pattern. Most people stop at 1 and don't learn how to apply it to new situations, and that is why these supplements worked for me. They challenged me to apply the BLL to new fact situations and figure out what was applicable and why.

We'll continue the supplement discussion tomorrow . . .

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Re: The Complete 0L Guide to 1L

Postby JayCutler'sCombover » Thu Jul 16, 2009 10:47 pm

The one day hiatus was inexcusable, but I'm back with a double post of info. Been a crazy week at work and with a 1+ hour commute each way, I just didn't have blogging in me yesterday.

So I know I said I would get to transfer info once my cycle is over, but I learned a great lesson this week about how much the transfer cycle can suck if you don't get all your ducks in a row.

TRANSFER CYCLE LESSON #1: GET ANY DEAN'S CERTIFICATION FORMS PRIOR TO THE END OF YOUR 1L YEAR

For me, this transfer cycle has been a pain in the ass because I had to gather multiple dean's certification forms. I attended a couple different schools for undergrad and earned a graduate degree, so for some schools, I had to get multiple forms. For example, CLS requires that you get a dean's certification form from every school that you matriculated towards a degree. I had to get 5 separate forms filled out by 5 different schools. NYU required one from your undergrad, and HLS required once from each school that you earned a degree.

And for me, the problem came with gathering my undergraduate dean's certification form for HLS. I decided to apply to HLS only after receiving my last grade (which came back really late in June), and thus I did not request my dean's certification form until the last week of June (first mistake). I called my school the day I faxed the form, and they confirmed that they were sending it out that day (which was a lie, but they probably wanted to get me off the phone since it was a Friday). One week later (now the first week of July), I received an email from HLS that said my application was not complete because I was lacking my dean's form (this lead to a steady stream of expletives from me). I called my undergrad and was told by the secretary, who had been out of the office the week before, that she had it on her desk and was sending it out that day.

Another week goes by and my application still isn't complete because of this form. Then the first round of HLS decisions go out and my application still isn't complete. So I call my undergrad school back and talk to the same lady. She tells me, "Well I guess I never sent it out. It is still here on my desk. Usually I am really good with these things." I had the money for a plane ticket, I would have flown to my undergrad immediately and punched this lady right in the babymaker. The form was eventually overnighted by the secretary and received and processed today (the form could not be faxed and had to be mailed).

The point of this story is to tell you that if you are even remotely entertaining transferring after 1L, figure out the form requirements for each school and gather them in late April and early May. Most schools release their transfer apps in April or May, so once those are up, print out the forms and have the schools send them to you in an envelope that is signed on the back. That way, if your grades come back high enough, you can send them out yourself and be in control of your fate.

Do I have a shot at getting into HLS? Maybe and maybe not, but it sucks that my app was not complete until after the first round of decisions already went out. There are now fewer seats and more competition, and I put myself at a distinct disadvantage by failing to be on the ball with things. It is better to be judged on the merits of your 1L performance rather than be at the mercy of some secretary who failed to do her job. HLS does not even review applications unless they have all the application requirements, so that sucks big time for being judged on the merits.

Here's my recommendations for form gathering:

(1) Make a list of schools in late April/early May and figure out the form requirements for each school. Print them out from LSAC/school websites.

(2) Call the schools individually (the schools you previously attended and need to get the forms from) and figure out who the form needs to go to. Some schools it needs to go the registrar. Some schools it needs to go to the dean of student life. Some schools it needs to go to the ethics office. The point is that each school is different, so you need to make sure it gets in the hands of the correct person. Fax the forms to save money, and follow up with a phone call to make sure that the form was received.

(3) Have the schools send the completed forms directly to you in a sealed envelope that is signed across the back by the school. This will avoid any confusion on whether the forms have actually been sent and filled out. For the past two weeks, I had been under the impression that my dean's certification form was being processed by HLS. Had the form been sent to me and then I had sent out it when I sent my application, this problem could have been avoided.

(4) Be a pest. Call your old schools multiple times if necessary. It was my own fault since I was not persistent enough, but stay on these people. You only have a limited window of time to get your info in, and if you miss that deadline, you might be screwed. These people filling out these forms have no incentive to get these forms out in a timely manner (and in the summer most will be on vacation or work half days), and the squeaky wheel usually will get the attention.

The bottom line is that you wanted to be judged on the merits of your 1L performance. As stupid as the form requirements are, schools won't even look at your application unless they have all the application requirements. Get them early and avoid the hassle.

-----------------------------------------------------------

Back to the regularly scheduled blogging. I'm going to finish up with quick reviews of the rest of the supplements I used. Let's roll.

#1 CRUNCHTIME


WHY CRUNCHTIME ROCKS: I used the Crunchtime outlines by Emmanuels in nearly every class, and I found them superior to the larger commercial outlines. The larger Gilbert's/Emmanuels outlines were too cumbersome, and it was difficult to find information that I needed. The larger commercial outlines go way more in depth than what you will cover in the foundational 1L classes, and the Crunchtimes presents a more concise and easier to navigate supplement (at least in terms of commercial outlines). I also loved the charts in each Crunchtime that walked you through the best way to analyze certain exam questions that you are certain to see (parol evidence in K's, equal protection in Con Law, etc.). There were also short hypos in the book and "exam tips" (which are also in the larger outlines) that I always went over the night before exams. They were helpful in refreshing your memory about the entire body of law that you will have crammed in your head.

WHY CRUNCHTIME KINDA SUCKS: The book skims on some areas of law and sacrifices some of the depth of the larger commercial outline. However, I think that coverage (or lack thereof) was not detrimental, at least in the classes that I took. The book still covered pretty much everything that I covered in my classes (with a few exceptions of course)

VERDICT: Buy 'em used since they are too expensive to purchase new. Solid supplement all around.

#2 GLANNON GUIDES


I used the Glannon guides in both Civ Pro (thumbs up) and in Property (another thumbs up, although it was not written by Glannon). I believe these books are also available for Criminal Law, Torts. Secured Transactions, Bankruptcy and maybe one other subject that escapes me at this time.

WHY GLANNON ROCKS
: The format is similar to an E&E in that each chapter presents a summary of the body of law in a certain area (i.e., Easements, Future Interests, Joinder) and tests your knowledge with multiple choice questions. There are no essay questions in this book, as they are all multiple choice. It is a great way to test your knowledge of the body of law, and each multiple choice questions contains a detailed description of why each answer was right or wrong. I used this book in Civ Pro (where I had MC on my final) and in Property (which was all essay) and found the books helpful in each class.

WHY GLANNON KIND OF SUCKS: If you don't have multiple choice questions on your final exam, you might not find these as useful. Can be somewhat of an overkill if you already have the E&E's and work through the Cali lessons (since the Cali lessons are similar with testing your BLL knowledge via multiple choice).

VERDICT: I found these books useful, but they might be overkill. Not indispensable but definitely not worthless. You'll need to get a post-2007 version for Glannon (FRCP rule change) but the old property one will do just fine.

#3: UNDERSTANDING SERIES

I only used this book in Property but found that it was a good hornbook (if you can call it that).

WHY UNDERSTANDING ROCKS: The book addresses most of the major cases for the different areas of property law (I found it helpful for the Con Law cases on takings, which confused the absolute hell out of me). It also gave a concise treatment to the different theories of property (helpful if you have a policy question on the final exam). A pretty easy read too.

WHY UNDERSTANDING KIND OF SUCKS: There are no questions to test yourself on the doctrine (and feedback is key when you use supplements). Thus, there was no way to test yourself on the BLL. However, if you already do the CALI lessons and some of the other supplements, this might be a non issue. I also purchased this book for Civ Pro but gave up because I didn't like the length and preferred Glannon.

VERDICT: Good way to brush up on some of the doctrine, good for property, not sure about any other class. I got my book for like 3 bucks on half.com, so it is a cheap supplement to track down.

#4 THE REST OF THE SUPPLEMENTS

Q&A: Only purchased for Con Law but LOVED this supplement. Gave great explanations for the questions, but I didn't use them in any other class. Was only about $25 bucks new and was a panic purchase toward the ends of the semester. Verdict - useful in Con Law, jury is out on the other classes.

Chemerinsky [CON LAW]: If you don't have this book for Con Law, you are making a terrible life choice. Everyone seems to know this book is solid and has it. I could have not purchased my casebook and I would have been fine reading this book. Use the table of cases in the back of the book to find the corresponding cases you are covering in class. Verdict - You MUST by this book IMHO. Great at breaking down all the confusing SCOTUS opinions and laying out the doctrine for each area of law.

Chirelstein [K's]: Lots of people had it, but I though it sucked. Gave up on it halfway through the semester. Verdict - Other people swear by, but purchase at your own risk. I liked the Blum E&E better.

Law in a Flash: Only bought these in property but great for testing yourself on the BLL. Broken down by subject area (easements, takings, adverse possession, etc.), so you can set out each one and go through it as you tackle the subject in class. I can't speak to the usefulness in other classes, but for me, they were great to go over in between classes (when I had 30-45 minute breaks). Verdict - Get them used for cheap if you feel that the Cali lessons aren't making things clear for you.

Yikes that is a lot of info. Let me know if I missed anything with the supplements and I'll get to it tomorrow. Catch you on the flipside.

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Re: The Complete 0L Guide to 1L

Postby JayCutler'sCombover » Sat Jul 18, 2009 12:47 am

Nothing quite like blogging on a Friday night. Yep I'm somewhat of a loser.

One supplement that I forgot to touch on yesterday was audio supplements. I ended up purchasing the Kaplan CD package (--LinkRemoved--), and the CD's were moderately useful for when I commuted to school via bus. I also listened to the CD's when I worked out to hammer home the black letter law (I'm somewhat embarrassed that I listened to the CD's while at the gym, but it worked for me). The CD's just touch on the black letter law, and there are more in depth audio supplements that provide much better treatment of the 1L subjects (Sum and Substance series is the best one). They are a bit pricey, but if you get creative, you can get them on the cheap (*cough* Bit Torrent *cough*). The CD's are not "necessary" supplements, but I also liked to listen to them as I outlined towards then end of the semester and reinforce all the material from the semester.

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So since I received another transfer acceptance today (hint - it is another school in the Big Apple), I thought I would post about scrounging up teacher recommendations for transferring. Most law schools request 1 or 2 letters from law professors, and for me this was an interesting process. I rarely talked in class and visited professors only occasionally, but I was able to find two professors to secure LOR's.

TRANSFER CYCLE LESSON #2: WHEN APPROACHING PROFS FOR LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION, REQUEST A MEETING DURING OFFICE HOURS TO GET THEIR INPUT ON THE PROS AND CONS OF TRANSFERRING. ONCE YOU FEEL THEM OUT, DETERMINE WHETHER OR NOT THEY WILL PROVIDE A GOOD LOR.

Aside from the forms debacle, getting LOR's was one of the more difficult things I had to do for the transfer process. Over the course of the year, I only spoke in class when cold called on and NEVER volunteered to answer a question in class (as a side note, this is a great example of how class participation is B.S. in terms of affecting your final grade). While this was seemingly a great idea at the time, once the time rolled around to get LOR's, I was in somewhat of a bind.

So here's how I approached the process (which started in Feb. since I applied to GULC EA with my 1st semester grades). I picked the two professors that I earned the highest grades from during the fall semester (they also happened to be the two professors I had visited during office hours, but I only went to their office hours 2 or 3 times during the semester). I sent them an email asking if I could meet with them to discuss the transferring process. In the email, I explained that I was exploring transferring for personal and academic reasons, and because I did well in their classes and valued their input, I was hoping to pick their brains about the transfer process.

This was a good way for me (a non participating student who did well on the exam) to feel out the professors and get their opinions. I was nervous on how this would look and the type of resistance I might meet from the profs. In the end, the meetings were a good idea because I did get valuable input from them and ended up with 2 LOR's. But both professors had very different views about the transfer process.

Prof #1 was my favorite from 1L, and this prof met and talked with me for 10-15 minutes about my career goals and the pros and cons of transferring. Prof #1 was very frank about the benefits of transferring and came flat out and said that my current school was great but that transferring would keep more options open. Prof #1 also put me in touch with one of the profs former students that transferred from my school to a Top 5 law school (which was clutch and supremely helpful. See why I liked Prof #1 so much!). This led me to have a 30 minute phone conversation with the former transfer student about the pros and cons of transferring.

This former transfer basically told me 3 things about transferring that have stayed with me: 1) the debt load sucks but is worth it, 2) he got the same job (clerking) straight out of law school that he would have received had he not transferred, but it was his second job (at a big firm in a major legal market) that he would have had no access to if he remained at his 1L school, and 3) the social adjustment sucks when you transfer, but you are there to get a law degree not relive undergrad.

At the end of my initial meeting with Prof #1, I told the prof that I would take into consideration all the things that we talked about and asked that if I did want to transfer, would Prof #1 be willing to write a letter of recommendation. Prof #1 agreed and ended up turning my LOR around in under a week and just in time for the GULC deadline.

Prof #2 was a different story. I received the highest grade in Prof #2's class, so I figured Prof #2 would be the best bet for a solid LOR. I also had met with Prof #2 about 3 times during the semester and felt that I had the best relationship with Prof #2 (which was just relative; all my relationships sucked because I rarely went to office hours and didn't talk in class). However, the tone of the meeting was quite different. Prof #2 had printed out numerous blog articles about the cons of transferring. We had about a 25 minute discussion in which it was relayed to me that transferring would only cost me money and my job prospects would be the same no matter what.

I was a bit miffed about the meeting, so I left and thanked Prof #2 for the input. After about 2 months went by (I only needed one law school LOR to apply to GULC), I emailed the prof again and said that although I took into consideration the information Prof #2 presented in our meeting, I still wanted to explore transferring for personal reasons. So I set up another meeting, and we had another 25 minute meeting where we discussed whether this was the best decision to make. At the end of our meeting, I again stressed that I appreciate the input and loved my current school but wanted to keep my options open. In the end, Prof #2 agreed to write the letter, but only after 2 meetings that totaled nearly an hour in which the Prof attempted to convince me that it was a poor decision. I really didn't have any other options since none of my other profs could have picked me out of a police lineup if their lives depended on it. I can't fault the prof for doing that, but it just shows that different professors have different attitudes towards transferring.

There are a couple things I really can't speak to in terms of LORs. First, I don't know if it matters that I had LORs only from 1st semester profs. My grades stayed consistent, so I imagine that it didn't really matter who was vouching for my test taking ability and law school aptitude. This might have been more of an issue if my second semester grades were lower, but they were actually higher. Second, I have no idea if they are strong LORs. I have gotten into 4 schools already, but I really don't know what they could say about me other than I showed up to class everyday and did well on the exam.

So there's my LOR story. Just to recap, here's what I recommend.

(1) Kill your first semester.
(2) Email first semester profs (ones you received top grades from) during the spring semester and explain that you are exploring transferring and would to meet with them to discuss the pros and cons of transferring.
(3) Use the meeting to feel out the professors and get their opinions on transferring [**Note that you might be able to skip #2 and #3 if you already have good relationships with your profs from office hours and other out of class communication**]
(4) If you feel comfortable with the profs, ask them to write a general LOR speaking to your ability to do well in law school. Just as when you applied the first time, send the letters to LSAC so that you can just attach them electronically to all your apps when you send them in the early summer [**Remember to print the forms off LSAC and provide them to your LOR writers along with a copy of your 1st semester grades, resume, and SASE addressed to LSAC**]
(5) Profit.

Enjoy the weekend.

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JayCutler'sCombover
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Re: The Complete 0L Guide to 1L

Postby JayCutler'sCombover » Thu Jul 23, 2009 1:01 am

Almost to 2,000 views for the blog! Sorry for the delay in between posts, but between transfer stuff, summer job, and figuring out life in general, the blogging got put on hold the last couple days.

You would think the transfer cycle would be less stressful since it is compressed into about a 6-week span, but it is truly unnerving. It is about 3 weeks until I will need to report to the school I will be attending (which I still don't have nailed down) and about 2 weeks until I will move into some type of dwelling (that I don't have rented yet). Moreover, my stuff is currently residing in a storage shed in the middle of Big Ten country. Transferring is not for those who crave stability and routine. But, the rewards are potentially great and worth the hassle.

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So today's post was requested by a member of the board (whose screenname I can't recall). This person was curious about the type of hours that I put in studying (both in terms of per week and over the semester). I'm going to do my best to outline my weekly study schedule and talk about long-term planning for the semester (both fall and spring).

RANDOM 1L STUFF: STUDY SCHEDULE

It is tough for me to put an exact figure on the number of hours I studied, but I will say that I was an ultimate grinder. You can no doubt do well with doing a lot less studying. For whatever reason, I felt guilty when I wasn't studying, and I always was under the impression that someone was working harder than me. It was unhealthy but I got good grades, so I guess it is up to you to determine to what extreme you are willing to take it. As I said, you can do well with doing a lot less, but considering that I read and briefed all the cases in every single class (using the LEEWS briefing method) and worked through multiple supplements, this was something that simply couldn't be done in a short amount of time.

MICRO LEVEL
On a week to week basis, I always did my reading for the upcoming week during the weekend. This means that I spent probably around 8 hours per day each Saturday and Sunday reading my casebook for the upcoming week. If it was a 4x's per week class, I read 3 days ahead (leaving one day of reading for the week). If it was a 3x's a week class, I read the entire weeks assigned reading. I had four classes in the fall and three in the spring, but I didn't break them up in any particular order. Yes, that is a boring ass weekend full of homework, but it worked for me. Because of this schedule, I somehow managed to attend a Big Ten law school and not make it to one home football game. I still kick myself for that, but that grades I received made up for it.

There are a couple reasons I did this. First, there is nothing worse than spending 8 hours at school Monday through Thursday and the coming home to 3+ hours of reading. After sitting in class and shuttling back and forth between the library, I had zero motivation to read my casebook during the week. Any reading I didn't get done on the weekend I did in between classes during the rest of the week (which usually was only 1 day worth of reading for 2 classes, which would take about a total of 3-4 hours). Second, I am a big picture guy. I liked to see where the class was going, and doing reading in 3 or 4 day chunks gave me a good "big picture" view of whatever topic we were working with. Lastly, I wanted to work with supplements during the week and I knew that class participation didn't matter, so it wasn't life or death if I didn't remember all of the little facts of each case.

During the week, I attended every class (only missed 2 classes all year, and they were for callback interview for 1L summer positions). You will usually have a break in between your 1L classes (my breaks ranged from 45 minutes to 90 minutes), and always try to do something law-related (supplements, Cali lessons) during those breaks (save for your lunch break). Treat it like a job where you put in your time during the day. You would be surprised how many people play grab ass and waste time during the day and then are up all night reading and doing other stuff. Also, once my last class was over, I would head to the gym for a workout, go home and eat dinner, and then spend the night working with supplements for about 1-2 hours, outline, or work on Legal Writing assignments (when they were due). Overall, I thought it was a solid schedule.

MACRO LEVEL
I felt that the schedule I followed on a week to week basis really set me up for success over the long term. Because I put in my time every day and on the weekends, I never had to press to fit everything in at the end of the semester (in terms of outlining, taking practice exams, etc.). There are a couple big picture things to keep in mind.

First, figure out when your big Legal Research assignments are due. You will have 2 (most likely) memos/briefs due at some point during the fall and spring semesters, and things get pretty hectic around that time. If I had a big LRW project due, I would usually spend my nights working on it (instead of working with supplements) and cut out some of the casebook reading on the weekend (still doing at least 2 days ahead and bumping the rest to in between classes or maybe 1 night of reading per week, if necessary).

Second, I would recommend using any breaks (fall break, spring break, thanksgiving break) to outline. I took weekends off for any week long breaks that I had during the year (i.e., spring break) and usually spent the rest of the time outlining. I would try to spend about 6-7 hours per day outlining and working through supplements over fall break and spring break. I also did not go home on Thanksgiving and spent the entire weekend from Wednesday to Sunday holed up in my apartment outlining. I did take Thanksgiving night off to eat dinner with some friends who also stayed around campus, but that was about it for breaks. Typically these school sponsored breaks also coincided with natural breaks in the material (i.e., you will be finished with a major section of K's or Con Law), and it is a great way to synthesize the material and get a handle on what you do and do not know. Not having a 5 day break before finals in the spring sucks in terms of having free days to outline and get stuff done, so plan accordingly.

Third, make a study schedule a stick to it. The semester is a grind, and if you have get in the habit of good study techniques, these habits will be hard to break. I have always said that both good and bad habits are hard to break, and if you get in the habit of making the most of the time that you have, things will work out more smoothly towards the end of the semester.

I'm sure I forgot something in here, and if I think of it, I'll follow up tomorrow. Until then . . .

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JayCutler'sCombover
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Re: The Complete 0L Guide to 1L

Postby JayCutler'sCombover » Mon Jul 27, 2009 12:06 am

So this blog post falls under the heading of "random 1L crap." There are a two things aside from supplements, studying etc. that I think might help your performance during 1L. They might sound stupid to you, or they might hit home. But I thought I would share them with you anyways. Here goes:

TOPIC: RANDOM 1L STUFF

(1) FIND TIME TO WORK OUT/PARTICIPATE IN ATHLETIC ACTIVITY

It is no secret that 1L takes up a huge chunk of time (at least for me it did). And it's no secret that generally, when things get crunched for time, working out is usually the first thing to go. But I would urge everyone to schedule time during each week to workout/run/play hoops or just do something to stay in shape.

1L year is a grind. It will wear you down physically and mentally. But staying in shape and working out can actually pay dividends during finals week. When other classmates you have might be fading, you might be able to keep up your work level and maintain a high level of focus. Personally. I tried to workout 4x's per week leading up to finals, and then when Ifinals week rolled around, I would try to fit in workouts after my finals to relieve the stress. It is an approach I think that worked well for me. It doesn't matter if it is lifting weights, running, or just walking around campus, but just do something physical. I've found that even if I am tired, working out will actually give me more energy than I would have had if I had not worked out.

I had multiple classmates who put on 15-20 pounds during 1L, generally looked and felt like crap, and (at least from my view) were tired and unable to function at their best once finals rolled around. It sounds like something simple and stupid, but I truly think that working out regularly can give you a slight edge over the entire course of the 1L year. Like I've said before habits (whether good or bad) are tough to break, and if you get in the habit of working out, it can and will pay off.

(2) WRITE DOWN YOUR GOALS FOR 1L AND POST THEM SOMEWHERE THAT YOU CAN READ THEM EVERYDAY

So this suggestion might sound stupid/hokey/ridiculous, but it is something that I did when I played sports in college. Before each season, I would sit down and write out 5-10 personal goals that I wanted to achieve and then post them in my locker. Seeing those goals each day kept me focused and motivated, particularly on the days that I didn't feel like giving my best effort.

Moreover, I think writing down your goals forces you to articulate what it is you want to accomplish during 1L. Do you want to make law review? Put it down on the list. Do you want to be above the curve in each class? Put it on the list. Do you want to be prepared for each class? Put it on the list. Putting something in writing and forcing yourself to look at everyday is a reminder of why you are in law school and what you need to do in order to get to where you want to be.

There are a couple caveats with writing down your goals. First, you need a mixture of goals that can be somewhat easily accomplished (such as being prepared for each class), some medium goals (having outlining done before the last week of class), and difficult goals (making law review or transferring). If you choose goals that are too difficult to achieve (such as getting the highest grade in every 1L class or finishing at the top of you 1L class), it will only cause stress and anxiety. I did this once in college and it hurt my performance. I set an individual goal that was much to difficult to reach, and everyday I had to read that goal, it made me think about how hard it was to do, and in turn, made me perform at a much lower level. Second, make sure that your goals are not too easy to achieve. You need to have the goal list as a reminder to push yourself everyday, and if you make your goals too easy, it will defeat the purpose of writing them down in the first place.

Truthfully, I can't tell you what you goals you want to achieve during 1L. It might be something like getting on law review, or it might be something like getting elected as SBA rep. Both are great goals. Both are somewhat difficult to achieve. But different people have different goals. Whatever your goals might be though, I think it is important to take some time before the school year starts and write them down. It will force you yo think about why the heck you are about to put yourself through 1L.

And who knows, you might end up like me and totally exceed your goals. It is a good feeling. Trust me.

Until tomorrow . . .

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Re: The Complete 0L Guide to 1L

Postby JayCutler'sCombover » Fri Jul 31, 2009 11:22 pm

I know I suck at posting and this will be one of my last 3 blog posts (I'm going to do this one on transferring, one on outlining, and then one wrap up post). I've been totally consumed with the transfer process, and trying to find a place to live/learn about OCI/find a moving truck/register for classes has been a royal pain in the ass. You would think getting in was the hard part, but I think it has been more work once I settled on a school (side note - I won't share what school I am attending, but it is a Top 8 law school on the East Coast). Just crazy stuff.

So I thought I would take this post to clear up the rest of the stuff about transferring. I'm going to talk about personal statements (don't PM me for mine, I won't send it to you - sorry that's just how I roll) and talk about some of my general impressions about my application process (since I don't know if it will pay off, that is all I can speak on at this point).

TRANSFER PERSONAL STATEMENT

Writing a personal statement sucked when I had to do it the first time I applied to law school, and it sucked equally when I had to do it for transfer purposes. I used the same transfer personal statement for each school (in general), and then modified it for each school. I got into to almost every school I applied to, but who knows if they actually read the thing. It was about 2 pages double spaced for each school (except for NYU which requested only a 1 page personal statement - for NYU I just discussed why I wanted to attend the school).

Here was my format for my personal statement:
1) General introduction with introduction of overarching theme of PS (1 paragraph)
2) Quick rundown of my 1L accomplishments (1 paragraph)
3) Quick rundown of pre-law school accomplishments (1 paragraph)
4) Specific discussion about why I want to attend X Law School (3 paragraphs)
5) Conclusion (1 paragraph)

I reused about 1/5 of my original personal statement from 1L applications and the rest was brand new. The 3 paragraphs was specific to each school and usually included the following information:

1) info about a specific clinic I was interested in (look at the school's website);
2) info about one class taught by a well-known professor that is offered (Click here for a list of the most-cited professors at each school: http://www.leiterrankings.com/faculty/2 ... reas.shtml);
3) information about the school's strong placement in judicial clerkships (see USNWR for how many Article III clerks are from each school);
4) information about placement in academia (I've always wanted to do adjunct or other work at a law school; Click here to see how many alums from each school are teaching in law schools: http://www.leiterrankings.com/jobs/2009 ... hing.shtml);
5) information about the school's strong placement in my desired region (check out the NALP website for firm information at OCI).

I wasn't thrilled with my personal statement, but I thought it was well-written (i.e., it was nothing to fancy and didn't have any grammatical or spelling errors) and it showed that I did some research about each school. Granted all it took was about 25 minutes of internet research for each school, but I think it helped me learn about each school and gave me something to write about. It was nothing fancy, but it got the job done.

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Using myself as a data point, here is some common questions transfers have about the process that I might be able to shed some light on (or further confuse you, who knows):

Do schools factor in LSAT and UGPA?


Hard to say. My UGPA was 3.8-3.9 and my LSAT was around the 90th percentile, so I wasn't a horrible applicant, but I wouldn't have been competitive at any of the schools if I had applied as a 0L (and I got into most of the schools I applied to as a transfer, including Chicago, Columbia, NYU, Berkeley, Penn). Just kill 1L year, since that is all you can control at this point. I really think 1L class rank (Not GPA since it is all about rank) combined with your current school's USNWR rank will determine where you can go.

Does the quality of your undergrad affect your ability to transfer to higher ranked schools?

Don't think so. I graduated from a crummy Tier III liberal arts college and transferred twice as a UGrad, so I don't think this hurt me at all. It might help if you have an Ivy background, but I wouldn't know since my Ugrad schools were nothing special. The form requirements suck though if you attended multiple schools like me.

Do soft factors help in the transferring process?

Not sure if they helped me at all. I have a graduate degree and some strong UGrad extracurricular activities, but I didn't win a Nobel Prize or anything like that. I would like to believe that the grad degree helped me, but based on past year's data points on TransferApps (school rank in USNWR, 1L class rank), I got in where I expected I would get in. I did not join any clubs or school activities as a 1L, since 1) I knew that 1L GPA trumps all and 2) there were no leadership positions that I could have taken. Any soft factor that might have been taken into account was from pre-law school, as I did nothing extracurricular worth putting on a resume during 1L.

How does my current law school rank impact the transfer process?

School rank matters. You will be hard pressed to find a T4 to T14 transfer (not impossible, just rare based on anecdotal evidence from TransferApps), and generally the higher ranked your school, the more leeway you will have in transferring. For example (which I saw during this cycle), top 10-12% at a Top 25 will likely get you into Columbia, while that will need to be top 2% from a school ranked in the 80's or 90's. Keep in mind that your law school grades are not an objective measure of your intelligence. Rather, they are a measure of your performance against your peers on a forced curve. Thus, if you accept the fact that people at higher ranked law schools are typically stronger 0L candidates (with LSAT and UGPA), then the lower you are on the USNWR pecking order, the tougher it will be to break into the mythical T14. Schools seem to think that higher grades against (theoretically) tougher 1L competition are more impressive in the transfer process.


Are LORs from law professors really that important?

If you've read some of my earlier posts, there is just no plausible way that I could have had outstanding LORs. I never spoke in class and rarely went to office hours (1-3 times per semester). I just showed up, put in an honest effort when called on in class, and did well on exams. It was just impossible for any of my professors to say anything more specific than "oh yeah JayCutler'sCombover showed up to every class and did well on my exam; please let JCC into your school). They might be a tiebreaker if all else is equal, but I just don't think that any information in my LOR is what got me accepted to schools.

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So I lied. You'll get one more post about transferring tomorrow and then the other stuff on the agenda (and by tomorrow I mean hopefully by Monday). Until then . . .




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