Pre-law school preparation + LS study / exam tips

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Pre-law school preparation + LS study / exam tips

Postby 270910 » Tue May 11, 2010 8:00 pm

(Important Disclaimer: The entire original post is a joke. The advice I give is almost exactly the opposite of what is smart. later in the thread (page two) we start giving real advice. Sorry if that's confusing. I have a twisted sense of humor.)

Extra credit: Read the "advice" and figure out why it's bad advice. If you can, you'll get one of the mythical Advantages(TM) I see so many pre-law students craving these days.


------------------------------V The original, un-edited post (satire) V------------------------------
Hi nervous 0Ls! OK, I’ve survived an entire year of law school and decided I want to give something back. Some of these ideas I had myself before starting law school, some I picked up on TLS, and others I figured out as I went along. But I did try to spend as much time as possible thinking about the process, and thinking about how I would approach it differently given the opportunity.

You’ll see a lot of contrary opinions on this website about prepping before law school. Well, welcome to the legal profession – it’s high time you get used to conflict! For the rest of your career, people will be steering you in different directions. From here on out, you need to learn to trust your gut and come to your own decision when it comes to important matters. And in law school, nothing is as important as your first year grades. No ifs ands or buts: they’ll help you transfer, help you get the job of your dreams, impress your professors, set you apart from your peers... everything you wanted in life, everything you desired when sitting for the LSAT or skimming that book on law school for the first time – it can be yours if your first year grades are good enough.

Unfortunately, the competition is fierce for those grades. But that’s why I’m here: To help you get an advantage. A real leg up, a way to make your professors shocked when they read your exams. A lot of 1Ls don’t get it – but hopefully if you really apply the methods I describe below (obviously if you don’t put in the effort it won’t do you any good) you’ll be in the pole position heading into your first year.

Pre-law school preparation

First thing’s first: federal courts. What’s that, you say? Well, it’s an upper level course – one they often recommend you don’t take until you’re a 3L. But the dirty little secret is that even though the course itself is extremely competitive (getting a good grade in it is critical for prestigious clerkship applications) the doctrine they cover is exactly what you need to do well as a 1L. The class covers the kinds of ideas that bubble up in first year property, torts, contacts, and civil procedure classes - without playing mind games. If you grab the materials necessary to prep for the course, you'll feel like you read the teacher's manual for law school. It's completely ridiculous - they spend the first year not teaching you the things you need to know, then the test you on it. Afterward they go through it all. Lots of 2Ls and 3Ls think it's ridiculous, but that's the way of things - and if you take the initiative, you can get the leg up.

I'd recommend the Fed courts E&E. This was published in February, so you have to buy a new copy. It’ll be worth it though, when come exam to you know about ways the court system can resolve conflicts your peers won’t even be able to imagine: http://www.amazon.com/Federal-Courts-Ex ... =pd_cp_b_2

After that, it's important to get a grounding in the doctrine for your courses, but more important to get a grounding in the kind of legal doctrine that will be IMPORTANT in your courses. Every torts professor teaches torts differently, so reading the torts E&E isn't going to give you a huge leg up. But getting background in other relevant legal doctrine absolutely will. Federal income tax is another good one to study before law school - there are tax implications raised in contracts, torts, and property that you'll understand a lot better if you've at least skimmed a supplement to know how the tax code works.

It's stuff like that which will just get your brain moving in the direction of 'thinking like a lawyer' that will help impress your professors. No need to touch the first year curriculum - but the good stuff that actually lays the foundation (which you usually won't see until 2nd year) is really helpful. Law school is read like that - but if you can learn fed courts and tax inside out before 1L, you'll blow the competition away. There's no doubt about that.

Studying:

The most important thing to doing well in law school is learning the facts from the cases. It’s horrible and painful, but it’s the challenge you’re going to be up against and it’s what you’ll have to do to succeed on exams. Professors aren’t subtle about this – the Socratic method demands you be prepared with the facts of every case, every day if you get cold on – and that goes double for exam time. Spend your time re-reading cases and coming up with thorough briefs would be how I would do it, but there are a lot of ways. I do know one or two people who got high grades while only reading the cases once, but for the most part repetition helps. Re-reading over the weekend or during the exam period is absolutely critical.

Otherwise, outline as you need. Keep the outlines heavy on the cases - especially on open book exams it's helpful to have most of your initial briefs wind up in the outline. A short outline might help as an afterthought, but your first objective should be getting it all into one 'master' outline. And once you know all of the facts of all of the cases well enough, you can start getting ready for the exam by prepping for the kinds of fact patterns and questions you'll be tasked with having answers for (see exam prep later).

Class participation

TLS has a fairly strong anti-gunner reputation, and that’s smart. You don’t want to be obnoxious or raise your hand too often. But you do want to raise your hand, and you have to be ready when called on. The best way to handle the experience is to push back on the professor – ask your own hypos to try and frame the issue. It’ll show that you’re thinking through things, and it will give the professor a chance to resolve any ambiguity in the law. One of the worst things that can happen is stitting down for an exam without knowing exactly how the law you learn will resolve certain fact patterns, so make sure you spend the time in class (or in office hours) to ask. Professors might be vague or try to resist coming down one way, but that’s your task on exams so even if they don’t give you the answer make sure you find it.

Judges resolve legal conflicts – and all legal conflicts are resolved. It’s your task to find those answers during the semester.

Exam Taking:

You’ll see a lot of guides posting exam advice, so I’m just kind of adding to the list here. It’s important to realize what professors are and are not looking for on an exam. You’ll get a fact pattern that’s either totally bizarre compared to what you studied during the semester, or else similar to a case or fact pattern but with some important differences. You’ll have relatively little guidance about how to take that exam, and no chance to practice (remember, final exam = your whole grade). So what should you do?

The most important thing to remember is that this is law school, the study of rules. It’s a son-of-a-bitch process to learn all those rules, but that’s what the professors are testing you on. That leaves two important lessons: First, if you’re not sure how the rules and law you learned will resolve a case, make sure you prove that you know the law! Type out the rules, discuss their interaction, discuss their history (no joke: every person in my class who got an A in torts discussed the development of the doctrine from trespass and trespass on the case in England!). Getting to the right answer (whether it’s yes, no, or maybe) is obviously important, but writing out the law is sort of ‘showing your work’ on an exam. There were so many cases, often in so many directions, that proving you’ve mastered the legal framework is one of the best ways to ensure you get some points no matter what the question is.

The second thing you need to do is solve the legal problem! You’ve been trained to analyze rules and their implementation, and you should be able to answer any fact pattern you are given. Law professors hate NOTHING more than people who attempt to ‘argue both sides’ or show merits to different interpretations of the facts. You need to state the legal rules and then come up with an answer. State it as plainly and directly as possible – I had one prof last year who made sure to doc points for any right answers if you later hedged or included wrong ones. You’ll blow it and get it wrong sometimes, but there will be enough points on an exam that it’s OK. You can’t compete for As if you’re not stating clear conclusions for every legal issue you’re confronted with.

Conclusion

That’s all I’ve got... good luck, and remember- your first year lays the foundation for your career, it’s impossible to work ‘too hard’!
Last edited by 270910 on Wed May 12, 2010 3:41 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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Re: Disco_Barred’s pre-law school preparation + LS Study thread

Postby miamiman » Tue May 11, 2010 8:02 pm

Was it worth it?

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Re: Disco_Barred’s pre-law school preparation + LS Study thread

Postby ConMan345 » Tue May 11, 2010 8:03 pm

lollerskates.

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Re: Pre-law school preparation + LS study / exam tips

Postby apper123 » Tue May 11, 2010 8:13 pm

lol

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A'nold
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Re: Disco_Barred’s pre-law school preparation + LS Study thread

Postby A'nold » Tue May 11, 2010 8:14 pm

This is great advice, but I feel like Disco missed a key component: Impressing your professors. While Disco mentioned office hours, I don't think he expressed just how important it is to form relationships with your prof's. All of the best students at my school were completely obvious with their knowledge. While others stuttered to get out a coherent word when cold-called, others would raise their hands and come to the rescue. Many times I would see professors beam at this. It is a huge relief for them to know that there are students that ACTUALLY read and do the assignments, and most importantly, GET IT. I would often hear the best students in the professor's office just chatting away about some ambiguity they spotted and the professors were just on the edge of their seat. Made me jealous more than once, I won't lie.

Disco did touch on something very important though: make sure to not only know the law down pat, also show the professors during class that you not only see the law, but that you noticed some ambiguity in it. Professors are especially grateful (trust me, the silence can get unnerving and you don't want the professor to think he is teaching a class of dumbs) when you can give some kind of difficult rule of law some substance by offering some kind of life experience that related to what you are talking about. Don't be afraid to talk about something computer-related, for example, if your property professor is talking about property rights--bring it around and ask how that related to the digital world. I promise you guys, professors are so bored from teaching the same subject over and over again that they love when you can bring something new and interesting to the table.

Why does this matter? PARTICIPATION POINTS. This is the dirty little secret that separates the A from the B+ students. Professors are allowed leeway in their grading. If they know that they can count on you in class to bring the discussion to a level where they aren't just teaching you basic battery or something to actually something that they want to talk about, YOU will be the one getting the bump. There are no real "A" exams, only A grades from the extra bump you get from participation points.

Good luck!

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Re: Pre-law school preparation + LS study / exam tips

Postby A'nold » Tue May 11, 2010 8:24 pm

I will say though that I did not read the Tax E&E. That just might have given me the boost I needed. Really wish some 2 or 3L had mentioned this, actually, as I can see exactly why it would have been really helpful, especially in contracts. :cry:

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Re: Pre-law school preparation + LS study / exam tips

Postby apper123 » Tue May 11, 2010 8:25 pm

a'nold if they dont have federal tax mastered at this point in the 0L summer... it's already over. nothing can really help them.

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Re: Pre-law school preparation + LS study / exam tips

Postby Leeroy Jenkins » Tue May 11, 2010 8:26 pm

I have one thing to add...read the Conflicts of Law E&E. Knowledge of this area of law cannot be skimped out on. Every single class you take 1L will implicate doctrine from Conflicts of Law...from property that gets moved around, to contracts formed in one state and executed in another, to tortious conduct producing a product that causes injury in another state, and even federal--state law conflicts (also known as pre-emption). If you don't know Conflicts, then you don't know jack.

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Re: Pre-law school preparation + LS study / exam tips

Postby apper123 » Tue May 11, 2010 8:30 pm

quick can you guys recite the facts of erie? you cant? lol just drop out.

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Re: Pre-law school preparation + LS study / exam tips

Postby acdisagod » Tue May 11, 2010 8:36 pm

+1
Last edited by acdisagod on Tue May 11, 2010 9:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Pre-law school preparation + LS study / exam tips

Postby eth3n » Tue May 11, 2010 8:40 pm

Credited. Everyone else will have read the hornbooks the summer before, knowing conflict of laws/federal courts/complex litigation will give you the edge.

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Re: Pre-law school preparation + LS study / exam tips

Postby Leeroy Jenkins » Tue May 11, 2010 8:41 pm

apper123 wrote:quick can you guys recite the facts of erie? you cant? lol just drop out.

Thompkins was walking drunkenly along the railroad tracks in Pennsylvania when a train came by and gave him a hard knock! bro i know the facts of every case we ever read

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Re: Pre-law school preparation + LS study / exam tips

Postby 98234872348 » Tue May 11, 2010 8:48 pm

Obviously burned out from exams/excessive drinking.
Last edited by 98234872348 on Tue May 11, 2010 9:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Pre-law school preparation + LS study / exam tips

Postby ConMan345 » Tue May 11, 2010 8:49 pm

lol?

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Re: Pre-law school preparation + LS study / exam tips

Postby futurelawyer413 » Tue May 11, 2010 8:52 pm

great advice guys, def. bookmarking this for later reads and prep - thank you!

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Re: Pre-law school preparation + LS study / exam tips

Postby acdisagod » Tue May 11, 2010 8:54 pm

mistergoft wrote:Not to discount any of the information furnished by disco, who is extremely smart and an awesome poster, but I though I'd add some of my thoughts for a bit of a contrast.

disco_barred wrote:but if you can learn fed courts and tax inside out before 1L, you'll blow the competition away. There's no doubt about that.


I don't think this would be helpful, though I must admit I haven't read this. However, I think that trying to learn any material before law school starts and you know what to focus on isn't usually productive. There are various things that 0Ls can do that are less labor intensive than attempting to learn Federal Courts before having taken a law school class, possibly before even really reading an entire court opinion; this doesn't seem, in my opinion, like it would serve to do anything more than to confuse someone.

disco_barred wrote:Studying:

The most important thing to doing well in law school is learning the facts from the cases. It’s horrible and painful, but it’s the challenge you’re going to be up against and it’s what you’ll have to do to succeed on exams. Professors aren’t subtle about this – the Socratic method demands you be prepared with the facts of every case, every day if you get cold on – and that goes double for exam time. Spend your time re-reading cases and coming up with thorough briefs would be how I would do it, but there are a lot of ways. I do know one or two people who got high grades while only reading the cases once, but for the most part repetition helps. Re-reading over the weekend or during the exam period is absolutely critical.

Otherwise, outline as you need. Keep the outlines heavy on the cases - especially on open book exams it's helpful to have most of your initial briefs wind up in the outline. A short outline might help as an afterthought, but your first objective should be getting it all into one 'master' outline. And once you know all of the facts of all of the cases well enough, you can start getting ready for the exam by prepping for the kinds of fact patterns and questions you'll be tasked with having answers for (see exam prep later).



I disagree with this entire section; I don't think learning the particular facts of cases is helpful or necessary to succeed in most law school classes (excepting, of course, Con Law). Furthermore, I don't think extensive factual information from particular cases has any place in a good outline, which should consist of (IMHO) black letter law, some hypos for particularly confusing legal issues, and maybe a relevant fact or two of an important case. Cases are used to explain how judges apply the law to particular cases and develop new law through analogical reasoning, which helps students establish a sense of how the law progresses and how the law can be applied to novel situations that don't have a clear legal answer. I think the most important aspect of studying is discerning how the judges apply the law to factual scenarios and cultivate an understanding of how to do it yourself by working through practice exams and hypotheticals. You'll eventually develop a comprehensive understanding of how the law works and how it will resolve certain issues; while you should certainly memorize how the law will interact with certain predictable scenarios, I don't think that memorizing the facts of particular cases is a productive use of your time.

disco_barred wrote:The second thing you need to do is solve the legal problem! You’ve been trained to analyze rules and their implementation, and you should be able to answer any fact pattern you are given. Law professors hate NOTHING more than people who attempt to ‘argue both sides’ or show merits to different interpretations of the facts. You need to state the legal rules and then come up with an answer. State it as plainly and directly as possible – I had one prof last year who made sure to doc points for any right answers if you later hedged or included wrong ones. You’ll blow it and get it wrong sometimes, but there will be enough points on an exam that it’s OK. You can’t compete for As if you’re not stating clear conclusions for every legal issue you’re confronted with.


I don't think there are necessarily clear answers to good exam questions; your professor is often going to present you with a factual scenario that doesn't have any law you've learned exactly on point, and you're just going to have to show the professor that you understand both sides of the argument, however, there might not be a clear answer. Obviously, there are exam questions that have clear answers, and you absolutely have to get these correct; but the most difficult exam questions aren't going to have a clear answer, and a lot of the time the professor is just looking for your to point out the ambiguity of the facts and move on with your life.

disco_barred wrote:it’s impossible to work ‘too hard’!


This is not correct, at least in my experience. If you don't take time off and relax every once and a while, unless you've got some impressive sense of resilience, you should definitely take a day off a week to clear your mind and recuperate. 1L is a marathon and if you work past your physical/mental limitations, you're going to burn out by the time exams come around and then all that time you spend studying will be for naught. Working too hard is definitely possible, and keep in mind that you're still human and you need a break every once and a while, this is a complex, mentally enervating process and students always need to make sure they're still taking care of themselves.



Lol, this thread went right over your head didn't it?

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Re: Pre-law school preparation + LS study / exam tips

Postby apper123 » Tue May 11, 2010 8:55 pm

mistergoft is re-leveling me

i just know it

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Re: Pre-law school preparation + LS study / exam tips

Postby 98234872348 » Tue May 11, 2010 8:56 pm

.
Last edited by 98234872348 on Tue May 11, 2010 9:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Pre-law school preparation + LS study / exam tips

Postby A'nold » Tue May 11, 2010 8:56 pm

mistergoft wrote:Not to discount any of the information furnished by disco, who is extremely smart and an awesome poster, but I though I'd add some of my thoughts for a bit of a contrast.

disco_barred wrote:but if you can learn fed courts and tax inside out before 1L, you'll blow the competition away. There's no doubt about that.


I don't think this would be helpful, though I must admit I haven't read this. However, I think that trying to learn any material before law school starts and you know what to focus on isn't usually productive. There are various things that 0Ls can do that are less labor intensive than attempting to learn Federal Courts before having taken a law school class, possibly before even really reading an entire court opinion; this doesn't seem, in my opinion, like it would serve to do anything more than to confuse someone.

disco_barred wrote:Studying:

The most important thing to doing well in law school is learning the facts from the cases. It’s horrible and painful, but it’s the challenge you’re going to be up against and it’s what you’ll have to do to succeed on exams. Professors aren’t subtle about this – the Socratic method demands you be prepared with the facts of every case, every day if you get cold on – and that goes double for exam time. Spend your time re-reading cases and coming up with thorough briefs would be how I would do it, but there are a lot of ways. I do know one or two people who got high grades while only reading the cases once, but for the most part repetition helps. Re-reading over the weekend or during the exam period is absolutely critical.

Otherwise, outline as you need. Keep the outlines heavy on the cases - especially on open book exams it's helpful to have most of your initial briefs wind up in the outline. A short outline might help as an afterthought, but your first objective should be getting it all into one 'master' outline. And once you know all of the facts of all of the cases well enough, you can start getting ready for the exam by prepping for the kinds of fact patterns and questions you'll be tasked with having answers for (see exam prep later).



I disagree with this entire section; I don't think learning the particular facts of cases is helpful or necessary to succeed in most law school classes (excepting, of course, Con Law). Furthermore, I don't think extensive factual information from particular cases has any place in a good outline, which should consist of (IMHO) black letter law, some hypos for particularly confusing legal issues, and maybe a relevant fact or two of an important case. Cases are used to explain how judges apply the law to particular cases and develop new law through analogical reasoning, which helps students establish a sense of how the law progresses and how the law can be applied to novel situations that don't have a clear legal answer. I think the most important aspect of studying is discerning how the judges apply the law to factual scenarios and cultivate an understanding of how to do it yourself by working through practice exams and hypotheticals. You'll eventually develop a comprehensive understanding of how the law works and how it will resolve certain issues; while you should certainly memorize how the law will interact with certain predictable scenarios, I don't think that memorizing the facts of particular cases is a productive use of your time.

disco_barred wrote:The second thing you need to do is solve the legal problem! You’ve been trained to analyze rules and their implementation, and you should be able to answer any fact pattern you are given. Law professors hate NOTHING more than people who attempt to ‘argue both sides’ or show merits to different interpretations of the facts. You need to state the legal rules and then come up with an answer. State it as plainly and directly as possible – I had one prof last year who made sure to doc points for any right answers if you later hedged or included wrong ones. You’ll blow it and get it wrong sometimes, but there will be enough points on an exam that it’s OK. You can’t compete for As if you’re not stating clear conclusions for every legal issue you’re confronted with.


I don't think there are necessarily clear answers to good exam questions; your professor is often going to present you with a factual scenario that doesn't have any law you've learned exactly on point, and you're just going to have to show the professor that you understand both sides of the argument, however, there might not be a clear answer. Obviously, there are exam questions that have clear answers, and you absolutely have to get these correct; but the most difficult exam questions aren't going to have a clear answer, and a lot of the time the professor is just looking for your to point out the ambiguity of the facts and move on with your life.

disco_barred wrote:it’s impossible to work ‘too hard’!


This is not correct, at least in my experience. If you don't take time off and relax every once and a while, unless you've got some impressive sense of resilience, you should definitely take a day off a week to clear your mind and recuperate. 1L is a marathon and if you work past your physical/mental limitations, you're going to burn out by the time exams come around and then all that time you spend studying will be for naught. Working too hard is definitely possible, and keep in mind that you're still human and you need a break every once and a while, this is a complex, mentally enervating process and students always need to make sure they're still taking care of themselves.


What planet are you from? I basically did everything disco said above and am near the top of my class. Everyone I know that sucked 1L typically did all of the opposite. Pretty much every single one of my professors wanted to know the meat of cases. OL's, listen to mistergoft's advice at your own peril.

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Re: Pre-law school preparation + LS study / exam tips

Postby RPK34 » Tue May 11, 2010 8:58 pm

So what's better...

The assigned casebook or a casebook on the history of English law?]

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Re: Pre-law school preparation + LS study / exam tips

Postby Leeroy Jenkins » Tue May 11, 2010 9:00 pm

RPK34 wrote:The assigned casebook or a casebook on the history of English law?

noob, if you haven't read J. Holmes' The Common Law before you start 1L you are destined to be in the bottom 10% of the class

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Re: Pre-law school preparation + LS study / exam tips

Postby RPK34 » Tue May 11, 2010 9:07 pm

Leeroy Jenkins wrote:
RPK34 wrote:The assigned casebook or a casebook on the history of English law?

noob, if you haven't read J. Holmes' The Common Law before you start 1L you are destined to be in the bottom 10% of the class


Noted, added to the summer reading:

Uniform Commercial Code
The Common Law
The Bluebook

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A'nold
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Re: Pre-law school preparation + LS study / exam tips

Postby A'nold » Tue May 11, 2010 9:09 pm

RPK34 wrote:
Leeroy Jenkins wrote:
RPK34 wrote:The assigned casebook or a casebook on the history of English law?

noob, if you haven't read J. Holmes' The Common Law before you start 1L you are destined to be in the bottom 10% of the class


Noted, added to the summer reading:

Uniform Commercial Code
The Common Law
The Bluebook


You should also familiarize yourself with ALWD, actually.

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Re: Pre-law school preparation + LS study / exam tips

Postby acdisagod » Tue May 11, 2010 9:16 pm

RPK34 wrote:
Leeroy Jenkins wrote:
RPK34 wrote:The assigned casebook or a casebook on the history of English law?

noob, if you haven't read J. Holmes' The Common Law before you start 1L you are destined to be in the bottom 10% of the class


Noted, added to the summer reading:

Uniform Commercial Code
The Common Law
The Bluebook


And you can't understand British Law until you read something by A.V. Dicey. For caselaw, 0L's should start with Entick v Carrington and then memorize the facts of the Factortame litigation to understand the modern day challenges to parliamentary sovereignty. Also, become familiar with the work of Lord Justice Laws, if for no other reason that he has the most kick ass name for a judge ever.

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Re: Pre-law school preparation + LS study / exam tips

Postby vanwinkle » Tue May 11, 2010 9:20 pm

I would add that memorizing the Bluebook is the smartest thing you can do as a 0L. Proper pin cites are necessary on every law school exam, and some professors are very technical and take points off for improper pin cites. (This is also where memorizing cases comes in handy; if you can remember what page a fact in a case is from, you're saved the time of looking it up during the test!) You can also cite to Law Review articles you've read outside of class that supplement the material, in order to really impress the professor. The best thing to do is find articles written by the Professor him/herself and cite to them frequently with proper Bluebook citation. This shows them that you really do care not just about the law, but what they think the law should be.

Given how you'll be using the Bluebook almost every day of law school, memorizing it as a 0L is a hell of a way to get a leg up on your classmates.




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