What does it really take to get top 10%?

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Kobe_Teeth
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Re: What does it really take to get top 10%?

Postby Kobe_Teeth » Fri Sep 17, 2010 2:33 am

edcrane wrote: I switched to a strategy in which I hit all the obvious points in an extremely organized and well-cited way and ignored every ambiguity that seemed unintentional and didn't correlate with course content (i.e., a factual detail that could potentially prompt extensive discussion of some area of the law that we didn't discuss much in class). In short, I produced boring and frequently ugly answers that were correct but not insightful. This was a good strategy.


This is the part I worry about. Its touched on in LEEWS - getting at the important forks (to incorporate GTM) and discussing them properly and letting the other ones go. I can only assume this comes with practice and a little help from your professors? right? maybe? let's hope.

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nematoad
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Re: What does it really take to get top 10%?

Postby nematoad » Fri Sep 17, 2010 2:37 am

tagged

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edcrane
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Re: What does it really take to get top 10%?

Postby edcrane » Fri Sep 17, 2010 10:56 am

Kobe_Teeth wrote:
edcrane wrote: I switched to a strategy in which I hit all the obvious points in an extremely organized and well-cited way and ignored every ambiguity that seemed unintentional and didn't correlate with course content (i.e., a factual detail that could potentially prompt extensive discussion of some area of the law that we didn't discuss much in class). In short, I produced boring and frequently ugly answers that were correct but not insightful. This was a good strategy.


This is the part I worry about. Its touched on in LEEWS - getting at the important forks (to incorporate GTM) and discussing them properly and letting the other ones go. I can only assume this comes with practice and a little help from your professors? right? maybe? let's hope.


Practice helps, but I think you can generally get the balance right just by keeping yourself in the right mindset. Your goal is to write like a lawyer who is explaining the law and its application to a savvy client or judge; you want to note the important ambiguities and raise all of the obvious or persuasive arguments, but you do not want to waste anyone's time. Sometimes, for example, you shouldn't argue both sides because the law is clear and the counterargument is wholly unpersuasive and therefore would not be raised by a lawyer who wished to retain his credibility.

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traehekat
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Re: What does it really take to get top 10%?

Postby traehekat » Fri Sep 17, 2010 11:05 am

I've got the initial impression that writing an exam is a lot like writing a memo, except for the restating the facts part. Is this totally off base?

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edcrane
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Re: What does it really take to get top 10%?

Postby edcrane » Fri Sep 17, 2010 11:13 am

traehekat wrote:I've got the initial impression that writing an exam is a lot like writing a memo, except for the restating the facts part. Is this totally off base?


I think that's basically right, except that the quality of prose is generally irrelevant. Ugly and repetitious is perfectly fine, provided the substance of your analysis is clear and correct.

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vanwinkle
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Re: What does it really take to get top 10%?

Postby vanwinkle » Fri Sep 17, 2010 12:59 pm

edcrane wrote:
traehekat wrote:I've got the initial impression that writing an exam is a lot like writing a memo, except for the restating the facts part. Is this totally off base?

I think that's basically right, except that the quality of prose is generally irrelevant. Ugly and repetitious is perfectly fine, provided the substance of your analysis is clear and correct.

This. You're doing essentially the same thing, but don't treat them quite the same way. With a memo there's a strict focus on your writing quality; for an exam your sole purpose is just the substance. Presentation matters a little on an exam (I've found that professors really like it if you organize your answers logically and with subheadings) but not nearly as much as it does in an LRW class.

Also, keep in mind that the tone of your answer will vary depending on the question. Some memos are going to be neutral but some are just about your client's side; on an exam the question will almost universally invite (and expect) you to respond in a neutral way and fully explore both sides. Make sure you're always responding to the question that's actually being asked. If it asks for a neutral, balanced answer and you only talk about one side's issues, you're not going to do very well at all.

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traehekat
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Re: What does it really take to get top 10%?

Postby traehekat » Fri Sep 17, 2010 1:17 pm

vanwinkle wrote:
edcrane wrote:
traehekat wrote:I've got the initial impression that writing an exam is a lot like writing a memo, except for the restating the facts part. Is this totally off base?

I think that's basically right, except that the quality of prose is generally irrelevant. Ugly and repetitious is perfectly fine, provided the substance of your analysis is clear and correct.

This. You're doing essentially the same thing, but don't treat them quite the same way. With a memo there's a strict focus on your writing quality; for an exam your sole purpose is just the substance. Presentation matters a little on an exam (I've found that professors really like it if you organize your answers logically and with subheadings) but not nearly as much as it does in an LRW class.

Also, keep in mind that the tone of your answer will vary depending on the question. Some memos are going to be neutral but some are just about your client's side; on an exam the question will almost universally invite (and expect) you to respond in a neutral way and fully explore both sides. Make sure you're always responding to the question that's actually being asked. If it asks for a neutral, balanced answer and you only talk about one side's issues, you're not going to do very well at all.


Got it - ugly but effective. Thanks.

xyzbca
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Re: What does it really take to get top 10%?

Postby xyzbca » Fri Sep 17, 2010 8:41 pm

Background: After my first year, my GPA was .25 above the Top 10% cutoff at my (T50) school.

What worked for me: I first acknowledged to myself that my writing sucks (English is my second language) and I know that I have to be even better in the other areas which are important in an exam in order to compensate for my poor writing. I am particularly strong at synthesizing concepts and I am very disciplined and efficient in studying. I did not use GTM/LEEWS or color coded highlighters or anything else like that. I did read every assignment, briefed every case, relied on supplements ONLY as a backstop, never missed class and always paid attention in class (turn your Wi-Fi connection off if you have to). I worked through exam problems under simulated exam conditions. Most of your classmates will just read through the problems and lightly work through them. I attended every review session as well.

I too wanted a road map to success but it just doesn't exist. I think everybody should follow disco's advice and try to figure out the exam game ahead of time. But I also think that if you are the kind of person who is trying to figure out the game ahead of time you are already destined to do relatively well in law school.

nyknicks
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Re: What does it really take to get top 10%?

Postby nyknicks » Fri Sep 17, 2010 9:31 pm

Anybody from St. Johns finish top 10% by just taking class notes? I started out readying supps and casebook but it gets in the way of my hunt for dime piece bitties (DPBs). I've gotten pretty good at paying attention and taking really good notes hungover. It seems to me that the professors give us all the materials we need in class. I don't care if I sound dumb when I get called on cause I'm so good looking it doesn't matter. I just don't want to screw myself out of biglaw with this strategy.

Thanks in advance for the info.

PEACE OUT.

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Triangles
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Re: What does it really take to get top 10%?

Postby Triangles » Fri Sep 17, 2010 9:52 pm

nyknicks wrote:Anybody from St. Johns finish top 10% by just taking class notes?


I sure as hell hope so, I stopped reading the case books after our first week. (section c)

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electricfeel
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Re: What does it really take to get top 10%?

Postby electricfeel » Fri Sep 17, 2010 9:54 pm

Just wanted to say thanks for the input guys. This is why i keep coming back to TLS

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KeepitKind
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Re: What does it really take to get top 10%?

Postby KeepitKind » Fri Sep 17, 2010 10:12 pm

it seems those of that did well are recommending strategies that worked across the board for you. But are they any nuanced differences in how to succeed on let's say a Constitutional Law exam versus a Torts test? because it seems the content and reasoning in these classes is quite different.

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vamedic03
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Re: What does it really take to get top 10%?

Postby vamedic03 » Tue Sep 21, 2010 9:13 pm

KeepitKind wrote:it seems those of that did well are recommending strategies that worked across the board for you. But are they any nuanced differences in how to succeed on let's say a Constitutional Law exam versus a Torts test? because it seems the content and reasoning in these classes is quite different.


Content is differently, but honestly the reasoning is the same. Con law is still common law and its still matter of understanding the blackletter law along with the underlying policy. Honestly, I think the only place where the reasoning is different is with statutory interpretation classes.

Bankhead
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Re: What does it really take to get top 10%?

Postby Bankhead » Tue Sep 21, 2010 11:21 pm

edcrane wrote:
Kobe_Teeth wrote:
edcrane wrote: I switched to a strategy in which I hit all the obvious points in an extremely organized and well-cited way and ignored every ambiguity that seemed unintentional and didn't correlate with course content (i.e., a factual detail that could potentially prompt extensive discussion of some area of the law that we didn't discuss much in class). In short, I produced boring and frequently ugly answers that were correct but not insightful. This was a good strategy.


This is the part I worry about. Its touched on in LEEWS - getting at the important forks (to incorporate GTM) and discussing them properly and letting the other ones go. I can only assume this comes with practice and a little help from your professors? right? maybe? let's hope.


Practice helps, but I think you can generally get the balance right just by keeping yourself in the right mindset. Your goal is to write like a lawyer who is explaining the law and its application to a savvy client or judge; you want to note the important ambiguities and raise all of the obvious or persuasive arguments, but you do not want to waste anyone's time. Sometimes, for example, you shouldn't argue both sides because the law is clear and the counterargument is wholly unpersuasive and therefore would not be raised by a lawyer who wished to retain his credibility.


Yeah, but many profs would give you credit for it anyway.

Bankhead
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Re: What does it really take to get top 10%?

Postby Bankhead » Tue Sep 21, 2010 11:24 pm

traehekat wrote:I've got the initial impression that writing an exam is a lot like writing a memo, except for the restating the facts part. Is this totally off base?


I'd be careful with thinking this -- we had a lot of people do well in LRW but terrible on exams, and vice versa.

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edcrane
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Re: What does it really take to get top 10%?

Postby edcrane » Wed Sep 22, 2010 7:19 am

Bankhead wrote:
edcrane wrote:Practice helps, but I think you can generally get the balance right just by keeping yourself in the right mindset. Your goal is to write like a lawyer who is explaining the law and its application to a savvy client or judge; you want to note the important ambiguities and raise all of the obvious or persuasive arguments, but you do not want to waste anyone's time. Sometimes, for example, you shouldn't argue both sides because the law is clear and the counterargument is wholly unpersuasive and therefore would not be raised by a lawyer who wished to retain his credibility.


Yeah, but many profs would give you credit for it anyway.


I don't think any professors are going to give you more credit for arguing both sides when the law is clear. Some will mark you down.

CanadianWolf
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Re: What does it really take to get top 10%?

Postby CanadianWolf » Wed Sep 22, 2010 8:35 am

Strong analytical skills presented in a clear writing style.

mr.undroppable
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Re: What does it really take to get top 10%?

Postby mr.undroppable » Wed Sep 22, 2010 9:17 am

I think one of the mistakes 1Ls make is thinking that there is some magical exam answer key out there that is kept secret from them. The truth is the professors just want a well organized exam that recognizes the major issues taught in class and gives them correct analysis. In fact, the secret is that the professors spend every single class telling you exactly what they want on the exam if you just chill out, put down the hornbook, and listen to what they are telling you. Professor spends a ton of time on economic policy stuff in contracts? Guess what, put a lot of economic policy stuff in your exam answer. Professor tells you to only pay attention to BLL, then don't waste time on the exam going into long policy rants (nobody really gives a shit about your opinion anyway so even if you do talk about policy you should always frame it as an argument based on someone else's theories).

Best advice I could give to 1Ls: don't overthink it and show your work. Treat the exams like a math test from high school. You didn't just throw down an answer with no work, you went step by step through the rules (much like how you apply the law to facts in law school). It's really not anymore complicated than that, it's not rocket science. If you were that smart you wouldn't be in law school in the first place.

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Holly Golightly
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Re: What does it really take to get top 10%?

Postby Holly Golightly » Wed Sep 22, 2010 9:24 am

At this point in the semester, would any of you recommend trying to memorize anything, or just continue developing our reading/studying habits and save memorization for outlining time?

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rayiner
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Re: What does it really take to get top 10%?

Postby rayiner » Wed Sep 22, 2010 10:59 am

Holly Golightly wrote:At this point in the semester, would any of you recommend trying to memorize anything, or just continue developing our reading/studying habits and save memorization for outlining time?


You won't remember any of this shit in December. Just work with the material and get a hang on the general contours of the law.

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Ersatz Haderach
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Re: What does it really take to get top 10%?

Postby Ersatz Haderach » Wed Sep 22, 2010 11:29 am

Holly Golightly wrote:At this point in the semester, would any of you recommend trying to memorize anything, or just continue developing our reading/studying habits and save memorization for outlining time?


I love your avatar.

Memorization - I've asked profs about this (am a 1L) and they seem fairly unanimous in saying that writing out the entire restatement section or anything more than the relevant elements of the crime/tort is absolutely not necessary. If memorization works a la the Arrow strategy, I would go for it. It's just a huge time commitment to something that may not be particularly useful. But it will save you a little time. I will probably do this because I am good at it and have used it in the past, but here it is only a small tool, not an end in itself. That said, I'm not doing it yet.

This is a good thread, and I especially like edcrane's comments on exam writing. I have been forcing myself to write like a robot; it's hard. I enjoy words and flourishes of language, and part of my brain is constantly thinking about quality of prose, not substantive analysis. There will almost certainly be a bad pun somewhere on one of my exams.

I think there's going to be major differences regarding the 'laundry list' approach. Certainly all profs will want good, detailed analysis of the main points. Some profs will allocate points to explaining why other statutes don't apply, even ones far removed, but at least one of my profs has explicitly stated that if something is not relevant, on a common sense basis, it will almost certainly not get any points. Insightful points - 'extras' need to come after an exhaustive dissection of the main question, and should be brief. That's what I've gotten from my profs. Upperclassmen have said "JUST THROW EVERYTHING YOU POSSIBLY CAN ONTO THE PAPER AS FAST AS POSSIBLE, ARRRGHH!" and these are people with good grades. Lovely.
Last edited by Ersatz Haderach on Wed Sep 22, 2010 11:36 am, edited 1 time in total.

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BruceWayne
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Re: What does it really take to get top 10%?

Postby BruceWayne » Wed Sep 22, 2010 11:35 am

rayiner wrote:
Holly Golightly wrote:At this point in the semester, would any of you recommend trying to memorize anything, or just continue developing our reading/studying habits and save memorization for outlining time?


You won't remember any of this shit in December. Just work with the material and get a hang on the general contours of the law.


Thanks this is something I've been wavering back and forth with (deciding whether I should be just reading the material and keeping up, or trying to memorize it as well. Doing both right now would take up a lot of time).

Kobe_Teeth
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Re: What does it really take to get top 10%?

Postby Kobe_Teeth » Wed Sep 22, 2010 11:41 am

I've found that the more I do hypos...even if its just the E&E's ones and i'm writing out a quick 2 sentence answer in a notebook that I remember things really well. (wow - terrible sentence) Will this help me in December? Not sure. Maybe? I have a good memory.

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seespotrun
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Re: What does it really take to get top 10%?

Postby seespotrun » Wed Sep 22, 2010 11:53 am

SBL wrote:The question is flawed. What you should be asking is How can I do as well as possible? And the answer to that, of course, has been discussed to death on TLS.

Once you've put together an effective study strategy and execute it faithfully, there is quite literally only one thing that will get you into the top-10%: Luck.

That's it. Nothing more. Because you can only do as well as you can do, and where you fall vis-a-vis your classmates depends on how well they do, and you, of course, have no control whatsoever over that.

So relax, work hard, get lots of sleep, enjoy yourself, and stop worrying about whether you'll be top-10% since that part's not really in your hands.


I disagree with everything in this post.

CanadianWolf
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Re: What does it really take to get top 10%?

Postby CanadianWolf » Wed Sep 22, 2010 12:02 pm

The harder I work the luckier I get. I agree with seespotrun; luck has little to do with law school grades.




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