MegaTTTron's Advice For Doing Well At A T1
II. 0L Prep
III. Class Prep
V. Study Groups
IX. Networking With Professors
X. Final ThoughtsI. Introduction
I finished my first year at a T1 in the top 10% following (for the most part) Arrow's advice. I was admitted late off the waitlist with a sub-160. So anybody can succeed with this approach. I also followed much of the NYU student's advice in "Success in Law School." This stuff really helped me, everybody should check these out.
NYU Student (http://www.top-law-schools.com/success- ... chool.html
Other helpful threads
Wahoo1L's advice (viewtopic.php?f=2&t=78769&st=0&sk=t&sd=a
Xeoh's advice (viewtopic.php?f=2&t=36635
It is also important to start out with what should become a mantra for all law students: it's all about the final exam. From day one you should realize that your entire grade for any class, besides legal writing, is based on one exam. Your focus in every class should be "how can I use what I am being taught on the final?" And in order to answer that question you should be familiar with how each professor's exam is formatted. Usually schools will keep these on file in the library or online. If not, you should ask your professors. Arrow and the NYU student spend a lot of time discussing this. It is so so so important that you understand how a law school exam works. Take a look at your professors' old exams early in the semester and keep them in mind as you learn and study. Legal Essay Exam Writing System (LEEWS) and Getting To Maybe (GTM) do a good job of explaining how exams work. II. 0L Prep
First of all, this is totally subjective and there is a ton of controversy over whether or not this helps. I read a few E&Es, Planet Law School II, Getting To Maybe (I just skimmed it, and really only used the "Czars of the Universe" section), and I did LEEWS.
While most will agree that PLSII, GTM, and LEEWS are helpful, many people strongly advise against substantive prep, by that I mean E&Es, or any book that teaches you actual law. While I agree that there is potential for a 0L to "learn the law incorrectly" or to "become confused beyond relief" I have to say that the familiarity I had, especially with Civil Procedure and Property, helped me a lot when initially grasping the material.
My advice would be to spend 0L summer relaxing and enjoying yourself. Maybe read PLSII (if only to scare you into making a study plan) or GTM for a nicer introduction. Do LEEWS as well. It's not earth-shattering advice, but it works. III. Class PrepGenerally
For each class, I would read the relevant section in my supplement and take notes on the BLL or any nuance. I would then read the case. I did not skim. I read the cases all the way through, but I only took notes on sections the supplement had directed me to, or little factual nuances that I felt were important.
I used a modified version of the LEEWS note-taking approach, explained by Arrow in his article. I would partition a Word document into two columns. I would take my notes on the left, and then anything I had missed, or something important the professor said I would type in the right column.
During the second semester, for some classes I ended up just taking notes right into my outline. This meant I had to spent more time later reorganizing and polishing, but it saved me time over all.
Sometimes, if a supplement didn't match up with a topic we were going over in class, I would reverse the order and read the case first. However, all of my professors gave us syllabi, which allowed me to figure out where in the supplement I should be.
Some people do all of their reading the week before, I did not. I simply read each day or day before, reading the supplements and casebook for that day's assignment. A major advantage of this method is that you never have to brief a case. Many of my friends who would read a week in advance would have to re-read cases before class in order to re-familiarize themselves with the facts or nuances. I found that this took almost twice the time. When I read the case a day or two before I don't need to breif or re-read anything - it's all fresh in my mind. Class participation is worthless, but looking like an idiot or getting reamed out sucks (I have witnessed this, and it is truly terrifying). My method makes it almost impossible to not be prepared - unless you have the memory of a fish, or are reading drunk.
Everyone has to develop their own system, and this was just mine.
What follows are my individual comments for each class including the supplements I used and any other helpful hints I picked up. Criminal Law
Dressler, Understanding Criminal Law, 5th Ed.
(http://www.lexisnexis.com/store/catalog ... odId=10591
For my Criminal Law class I didn't use a supplement until half-way through the semester. The class discussion was all policy based, however, my professor's old exams were all BLL. He suggested, off hand, a supplement his friend had wrote, which turned out to be Dressler's phenominal "Understanding Criminal Law". After working through the book, class made much more sense, and the BLL buried in our policy discussion became much clearer. Bottom line - use any resources your professor suggests.
We had to memorize both the Model Penal Code and Common Law definitions and approaches for every topic. This was daunting, but I'll bet at least 1/2 of the students couldn't distinguish between the two, which is why I was able to do so well. The Dressler book separates the MPC and CL very nicely. Civil Procedure I
Spencer, Acing Civil Procedure, 2nd Ed.
(http://www.westacademic.com/Professors/ ... 6930&tab=1
Examples & Explanations: Civil Procedure, 6th Ed.
(http://www.aspenpublishers.com/Product. ... 0735570337
My professor wrote both the book, and supplement. In situations like this it is paramount that you use your professor's books. If you can write and analyze exams the same way he or she does, your answer will be more appealing. I barely cracked by E&E which I had gone through almost entirely the summer before. The familiarity absolutely helped when initially grasping things like Int'l Shoe
This class, although very complicated, resulted in a 9 page outline and a 4.0. I used a checklist approach. I would have each topic (PJ, SMJ, DJ, Supplemental Jurisdiction, Venue, Eire) on one or two pages with checklists. During the exam I would simply run through each point methodically. This was much easier as civil procedure doesn't often require creative legal arguments, but rather thorough, step-by-step, rule-based analysis. Civil Procedure II
Emanuel Law Outlines: Civil Procedure, Keyed to Yeazell, 7th Ed.
(http://www.aspenpublishers.com/Product. ... e%5Ftest=1
Civil Procedure, Second Edition (Aspen Treatise Series)
(http://www.aspenpublishers.com/Product. ... 0735578303
For my second semester Civ Pro I purchased the Emmanuals keyed to our casebook. I actually found that it overcomplicated some things. We only went through about 100 pages of text which made this class odd. Again here my professor suggested a treatise, Civil Procedure by Freer, which I found HUGELY enlightening with respect to aspects of rules that my professor simply did not help us understand.
In the end, I received my only B in law school in this class. I honestly believe that my score reflects either my position on his policy question or the simple fact that he did not read the exams. I base this off of the off the wall grades he gave to the rest of my class, and the consistency with which it occurs year after year. Contracts
Examples & Explanations: Contracts, 4th Ed.
(http://www.aspenpublishers.com/Product. ... 0735562415
For Ks I had read the E&E the summer before. I relied heavily upon the UCC, CISG, UNIDROIT, and our casebook. I didn't use the E&E unless I really needed some clarification. Ks is often a very dry class, and some students find it confusing. The E&E was clutch in preparing me over the summer. Torts
The Law of Torts: Examples & Explanations, Third Edition
(http://www.amazon.com/Law-Torts-Example ... 0735540241
For torts, I got lucky. My professor spelled out the BLL on the board every day before class. I used the E&E religiously for this class, but I would always keep in mind the slight difference between its definitions and my professors. The examples, including the exam in the end were hugely helpful.Property
Examples & Explanations: Property, 3rd Ed
(http://www.aspenpublishers.com/Product. ... 0735570310
Emanuel Law Outlines: Property keyed to Dukeminier, Krier, Alexander & Schill, 7th Ed.
(http://www.aspenpublishers.com/Product. ... 0735589976
For property, I used an Emmanuel's and E&E. We covered a TON of material and our professor was brand new. I relied mostly on the case book and would have her clarify discrepancies between it and the supplements, which always ended up going the way of the casebook. International Law
This is a little odd. I doubt many other students are required to take International Law during 1L. I used no supplement for this class. In fact, we didn't have a textbook, simply home-grown materials the professor had assembled. In these classes, you've just got to be thorough. Everyone is sort of in it together. I ended up reading all the texts 3 times the 4 days before exams. Administrative Law
Law School Legends: Administrative Law
(http://www.barristerbooks.com/Index.asp ... Qodd3lvRQe
For Administrative Law, I didn't use a traditional supplement. My my professor recommended a 4 hour podcast lecture series. I was a little hesitant, however, it ended up being a life saver, and I made my entire outline based off this series. Despite the small size of the class I 4.0'd. The take away is that no matter how odd it may sound, if a professor refers you to a source USE IT. Legal Research & Writing
Texas Law Review: Manual on Usage and Style
(http://www.utexas.edu/law/publications/ ... _info.html
Whatever book you are provided with use for structural guidance. I don't think I cracked my R&W book once, except to look at how memos, letters, breifs, etc were structured.
The Bluebook/ Maroonbook and Texas Manual of Usage and Style were my main go-tos for grammatical/ citation stuff.IV. Outlining
I made outlines on my own for every class. I recommend this for anyone who is truly serious about doing well. This does not mean that you can't supplement your own or reference others' outlines, you just need to make your own. This is not as daunting of a task as it seems using my method.
Every weekend, I would simply take my class notes and add to my outline. As the semester went on I would add every week. I would sometimes go back and edit things in or out, just building week by week. This is EXTREMELY important. Because by the time the end of the semester rolled around everyone was rifling through hundreds of pages of notes trying to remember some long lost case from the beginning of the semester. The time they spent trying to make an outline, I spent memorizing mine. Or using mine to take old exams. This all comes back to keeping the information fresh. Every weekend the information I transferred to my outline was still fresh in my mind, so it was easier to organize.
My outlines were 9, 10, 10, and 12 pages long for the first semester, and 6, 11, 11, and 12 for the second semester, respectively. I only memorized for classes that were closed book. This made no difference in my grades. I got all A's and A-'s (and one B my second semester from a professor notorious for not reading exams
, however I nearly 4.0'd the rest and my GPA went up). There was no correlation between memorized outlines, and non-memorized outlines. Two of my exams first semester were hand written, and again there was no correlation.
What is important is familiarity with the outline. Format and organization are key. V. Study Groups
As Arrow would say, "my answer is a resounding no." Just don't do it. Unless you're trying to hit on a cute girl/ guy. Which I did. But, of course, I did the real studying before on my own.
The type of study group I'm advising against is the classic type (see The Paper Chase) where one person takes each class, and you meet weekly and trade outlines and notes -- any situation where you haven't learned the material on your own and just expect to pick up someone else's notes and hope they work. Additionally, I strongly advise against any large groups of 3 or more people, where the discussion tends to digress.
There is, however, a type of "study group," if you could call it that, that I think is arguably a good idea. Both semesters I traded and worked through several old exam answers with two very good friends the week or so leading up to exams. But I should say that I had done all the studying and outlining and I had worked out the old exam answers before on my own. AND these two people were much much smarter than I (they were #2 and #3 in the class respectively). This only really happened at the very end of the semester but it really helped me. Just about every night I would go out with one of them to some restaurant and go over old exams, outlines, or problems we'd made up. This really helped close gaps in my outline and helped my overall understanding of the course. I would support this type of a "study group," although I don't think it's completely necessary. VI. Exams
People take vastly different approaches to exams, this is just mine.
For issue spotters, I would know the BLL cold and follow LEEWS. For policy questions I used the Czars of the Universe section of GTM. Admittedly, I only did LEEWS once 1L year, and my style has evolved somewhat but still retains many of the basics. My strict adherence to the LEEWS method originally, and my evolved version have not resulted in a change in my grades (indeed I seem to have done better every year, despite transferring, which indicates that once you "get it" you get it).
I don't want to BS in this section at all. Straight-up, just buy LEEWS, ignore the "if you're smart you don't need LEEWS, it's all common sense" haters, and then sell it/ gift it to another 1L next year.
As far as actually learning the BLL, my outlining style (building it all semester, and constantly reorganizing it to streamline) is a big help. A month before finals I'd start with the notecards. Every concept, in every class. These would sometimes approach several hundred. I'd have them for all classes (but I'd really only memorize the cards for closed book exams). It's all just some form of memorization. My legal BSing skills were (and I'd argue still are) pretty bad. If I was going to do well I needed to out-hussle even the brilliant students. I did this by knowing the BLL backwards in my sleep. Plus, note-cards allow you to walk around outside while studying, instead of being cooped up inside somewhere.
These strategies in combination with old exams, and my form of "study groups" apparently did the trick for me.
It's worth emphasizing that there's no one single approach that's right. What's important is surveying the field and finding an approach that works for you. VII. Schedule
I am a very social person. I need to go out, I need to have a good time every once in a while. I attribute my A- grades in some classes to my need to have a life. The people I know who beat me did so by sacrificing the social aspect that I wanted. Everyone can make their own decisions about how important 1L year is, or whether the social aspect is necessary. I simply made a decision, and as a result I got several A-s.
As I mentioned above, I would usually do my reading a day or so before hand which meant I spent all day in the library, then I would usually have free time at night. I would read on the weekends and outline then go out at night. This lasted for half of the semester.
The second half I would cut down on, and eventually out, all partying. I would supplement that time with practice tests and outline memorization.VIII. Transferring
If you do well you may consider transferring to a different or better law school. There are many reasons people chose to transfer. Arrow's transfer thread (viewtopic.php?f=22&t=82937&hilit=transfer
) is the single best transfer resource. Using his advice I was able to transfer to CCN. I also have a thread with some specifics on transfer LORS and PSs (viewtopic.php?f=27&t=118669
).IX. Networking With Professors
This is key for two reasons. First, and most importantly, clerkships, transferring, and some summer gigs require LORS and/or references. And they almost always have to be from at least one law school professor. Second, and far less importantly, is the "professors have the right to raise or lower your grade based on participation" speech you always get as a 1L. I hesitate to even include the second one because at most schools this never matters (or, arguable, ever happens). But, whatever it takes to motivate you to create a good relationship with these professors is a good thing.
Okay, so how? I took a basic approach. I prepared enough for class that when I was called on I sounded like I knew what I was talking about. Showing a professor that you care enough to read the cases or learn the basics (even from an E&E) will go a long way in terms of a making a good first impression. That way, when you show up during office hours you're not that kid who was unprepared or threw up the "pass" in class. I also asked a lot of questions outside of class
. Asking a question in class is fine, but doing it constantly, even if the questions seem brilliant, will annoy anyone, even a professor. I would speak with my professors after class at the podium, or during office hours. Usually I would do this later in the semester, outline in hand, to clarify points I'd missed during class or because I was just confused. This served another purpose as well--it helped me understand the material and fill gaps in my outline.
The foundation of these relationships are your classroom persona and your face time outside of, or immediately after, class. Chit chat and small talk are negligible. Others may have had different experiences but running the risk of offending a professor by either saying something off color or simply acting too casual wasn't worth it to me. I stuck to questions about the class, their careers, particular legal jobs, or clerking.
I'm very confident that this strategy paid off in terms of LORs. Each professor I approached to write a LOR agreed. And two preempted my request and offered to write before I had the chance to ask. A professor second semester offered to contact the admissions office of her alma mater, to which I was applying as a transfer, even though we were in the middle of the semester and she hadn't seen anything I'd written (obviously no exam either).
Another plus is that these professors, if your relationship is good enough, will give you honest advice about jobs, clerking, transferring, and the law in general. Professors love to talk about themselves and their careers, but ones that take an interest in you are invaluable. It seems clear that the professorate is a very mentor-mentee structured world, you can tap into this structure through networking with professors. X. Final Thoughts
Doing well is a commitment. It's largely about motivation. I am not a genius. There must exist some people who can barely do the work and get a 4.0. But I don't know them. The kids who beat me all worked their assess off and when I spoke to them about their grades it made sense. I was frustrated with my poor LSAT score, and decided that I wasn't going to waste this opportunity. I was also paying sticker at my school - if that alone isn't enough motivation to do well, I don't know what is.
Be careful - as everyone says it's not about how much studying you do, but how well you study. For help on what this means, read Arrow's article (if you're truly serious about doing well, you should read all of the articles and create a plan that works for you).
I owe my method to Arrow. Who I met and who is a super-fly dude. Also to the NYU student, Wahool1L, and Xeoh. TLS is an excellent resource.
Feel free to PM with any questions.