Lazy's Guide to Top 10% Without Working Nights or Weekends

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Lazy
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Joined: Mon Aug 08, 2011 7:09 pm

Lazy's Guide to Top 10% Without Working Nights or Weekends

Postby Lazy » Tue Aug 09, 2011 4:00 pm

Lazy’s Guide to Top 10% Without Working Nights or Weekends (or the “Lazy Person’s Guide”)

I.Introduction
II.Personal Background
III.0L Prep
IV.Academics: In Class
V.Academics: Out of Class
VI.Outlining
VII.Exam Lead-Up
VIII. The Exam
IX.Questions

I. Introduction

I’m writing this to pay forward all the great advice that helped me through my 1L year. There were a lot of folks who, whether they knew it or not (I tend to lurk, not participate) gave me tips that made 1L much easier and much less stressful. It occurred to me, in reading the other guides available, that no one had posted a guide that focused on doing the least amount of work possible to be successful. As someone who has a long history of being academically lazy (a trait I suspect that I share with more than a few people on this site), I wanted to write one. So here it is: the lazy person’s guide to being top 10%.

For the record: “Lazy Person’s Guide” does not mean “no work.” You will still have to put in some effort; you will still have to do things like attend class, take notes, and make outlines. Without doing these things you will be in for a world of hurt unless you’re some kind of law school savant. This guide attempts, however, to show you how to do those things without having to give up your evenings and weekends to the oh-so-seductive law school library. The Lazy Guide’s premise is that you can succeed in law school without working at night or on weekends*.

I make no great claims to this being the “best” method. Honestly, such a method probably doesn’t exist. This is what worked for me, but I’m only one person and I know my own strengths/weaknesses. I recommend that you also read the other guides available and put together a plan that plays to your specific strengths.

I hope that this is helpful to at least a few of you. If it isn’t, well, I tried. But 1L can be a bit of a maze, and can definitely be overwhelming, so I wish you all luck!

*immediately before finals excepted

II. Personal Background

I was below median in GPA and at approximately the 75th percentile in LSAT for the school I attend. I worked full time for the majority of undergrad, but am a K-JD student.

I developed this method because I'd rather chill out, see friends, read, and watch TV at night and on weekends.

1L Results: I finished 1L well in the top 5% of my class at a T20 and was accepted on to Law Review. During 1L I was a member of three extra-curricular clubs (a community service-oriented one, one oriented around my URM-type, and one oriented around my academic area of interest); admittedly, though I did a good amount of community service, I did not attempt a leadership role in any of those clubs.

Final Outcome: Finished law school in the top 6%, Coif etc., and went off to a federal clerkship.

III. 0L Prep

As is evidenced by the fact that I am not even posting this until the beginning of August, I do not believe that significant (or, heck, minimal) 0L prep is necessary.

I read through Getting to Maybe the summer before law school. The book was okay, but some of its finer points will be lost on you until you actually begin to study law. I think GTM is marginally helpful because it focuses on how to write a law school exam. I know there are humanities/social science majors out there who feel confident in their writing ability and think that the substantive material should be their focus. They're wrong. Law school exam writing is not like the writing most of us did in undergrad, and it's the one thing that they don't really teach in law school. So if you're going to do 0L prep, focusing it on exam writing makes sense.

Beyond GTM (or similar books that focus on teaching you how to write exams), I suspect that 0L prep is pointless. There are others who swear by it though, and for a detailed 0L attack plan you should check out some of the other guides (actually, you should read them regardless).

IV. Academics: In Class

1) Notes:
I hope most of you learned in undergrad what note-taking style works best for you. However, given that this is the lazy person’s guide to top 10%, it’s entirely possible that some people reading this have never taken notes before.

There are two important factors in note-taking for law school: relevance to the exam, and retention. (I will harp on those two things repeatedly; you’ve been warned.)

Only take notes on the stuff that’s going to help you on the exam. You do not need to know all the minutiae, and writing it all down is both a waste of time and could lead to you missing something that's actually relevant. Figure out why the professor had you read the case, what the rule is, and write that down. Your exam will consist of applying the law to a set of facts. You do not need to come in knowing the facts, you only need to come in knowing the law. This part is mostly common sense; you will know what’s important based on how your class’ conversation is going and how your professor lectures.

Because you need to come in knowing the law, retention is key. Your notes don’t do you a damn bit of good if you forget everything you took notes on two minutes after class has ended and although you’ll have outlines, you don’t want to waste perfectly good exam time by having to flip through them. So whatever note-taking strategies you’re considering, use the one that helps you memorize what you took notes on the best.

For some people, how they take their notes (typed v. hand-written) can have a huge impact on both aspects of note-taking. I am one of those people. I write my notes by hand because hearing it and then having to manually copy it burns it into my brain. Writing things down manually also takes more time than typing, so I’m forced to distill (on the fly, no less) everything the professor says to its essence; when you can only write down 20% of what’s being said, you tend to write down the most important 20%. Also, I have terrible ADHD and if I have my laptop open I will not pay attention. If you’re one of those people, please admit your own flaws and go without the laptop. Note-taking can also be greatly impacted for some people, both in terms of catching the important things and in retaining them, by where they sit in a classroom. Like I said, I have ADHD, and I am one of those people. Sit somewhere that you’ll be inclined to pay attention.

2) Participation:
How participation works varies from professor to professor. Some will cold-call, some will take volunteers, some will ramble on aimlessly with no apparent destination. Getting called on can disrupt your note-taking. Don’t panic; ask friends for stuff that you missed later if you actually missed anything important. The terror of getting called on can actually help with retention; the trauma could burn whatever it was you were called on for into your brain forever. (There are parts of criminal law I will never forget for this exact reason.)

Some people (read: gunners) will swear by frequent participation as a panacea for poor exam-taking, citing the rumored/theorized participation boost. I’m of the firm opinion that if you participate enough to get such a boost (something I don’t think I’ve ever seen), you’re probably either incredibly obnoxious or have no idea what’s going on. Either way, it’s not good.

Exams are blind-graded, so freaking out over participation is completely unnecessary.

All that being said, if you actually have a quick question or need clarification, go ahead and ask. If you need longer, more in-depth help go to office hours (or, if your school provides them, a tutor). You have a couple spare hours in the day as I’ve planned it out for you, so you’ll have the time.

3) Miscellaneous

Pay attention to your professor. Not just in the sense that you’re listening for the rule (which you should be), but in the sense that you want to know this professor. Knowing what the professor is looking for is important come exam time, because it should inform your answer. I had a professor who spent all semester talking about how classist/racist/etc. the federal rules are; I wrote my exam answers in a way that allowed me to point out the flaws/unfairness of the federal rules. He loved it. This is the kind of stuff you want to know.

V. Academics: Out of Class

This is where the “lazy” part of the guide kicks in, since in-class stuff tends to be fairly uniform (unless you’re one of those gunners with tabbed supplements with you in class, then I don’t know what you’re doing). In terms of how to study outside of class, I recommend the following: reading the assigned pages, taking notes on the assigned pages.

No, seriously. That’s it.
1) Reading:
Read all of the assigned pages. I might be lazy, but I also live in fear of unemployment, so this was one of the few shortcuts I was unwilling to take. The way I figure it, if the professor bothered to assign it, it was probably at least worth glancing at. I typically budget about 1 hour to plow through 20 pages, but you should figure out your own timing and go from there.

Read through things at whatever pace allows you to understand what you’re reading. I read pretty quickly, but I definitely slow down when reading cases. When I read a case, I want to make sure I’m understanding everything that is going on in that case. So take as much time as you need to make sure that you’re getting it. In some classes, this might require re-reads or even diagrams to keep things straight. (My property notes look like a child’s treasure map. No joke.)

2) Note-taking:
As with class notes, you only need to write down and retain the important stuff. I do not “brief” cases; I do not go through and write out all the facts, procedural history, etc. I do, however, have a separate heading for each case where I write down the rule, any dispositive facts, and whether it’s still good law as is or has been modified. Why? Retention. The more you write this stuff down, the more ingrained into your memory it will be.

I have never in my life, and I still do not, use highlighters or otherwise write in my casebook. Why? First, because it’s less convenient when I’m outlining if my notes are spread all over the place. I want my notes neatly contained in my notebook so that that’s all I have to carry around with me when outline time rolls around. (I told you I was lazy – more on carrying books home later.) Second, because having to manually re-write something in my notes that was already in my casebook increases, yes, retention. Any reading notes I take are written in my notebook, none of them are in my casebook.

If you follow this method you will see/hear the rule at least 4 times without doing any extra work: once when you do your reading, once when you write it down, once when you hear it in class, and once when you write it again (in your classnotes). And this is assuming that there aren’t any questions in your class about the rule (and there will be) which will increase the repetition.

You will notice that nowhere in my explanations above did I mention supplements. I am lazy, and cheap, and thus did not use a single supplement my 1L year. I honestly believe that supplements are unnecessary, provided that your professor is at least mildly competent; all supplements do are re-state what you’ve already read out of your casebook, and this strikes me as a waste of time and money that could be spent doing something else. If you don’t understand something in your casebook, office hours seem like a more useful alternative than purchasing and using supplements; they tell you exactly what the professor wants and you get to build a relationship with your professor for purposes of getting recommendations later on. It’s a win-win.

However, as with many things, other students who were just as or more successful disagree with me on the supplement issue. Read them, and they’ll be able to offer you a more thorough discourse about how to use supplements.

3) Scheduling Generally:
I did all of my reading at school. I also did all my reading by 5 or 6pm Monday through Thursday and by 2pm on Friday. I didn’t read on weekends. Why? As has been said a million times, I’m lazy. Part of being lazy is not wanting to lug home obnoxiously heavy case books. But there’s a mental health benefit to this method also: I had more downtime to re-charge, got better quality sleep, and had a “safe zone”.

So, if I didn’t want to do this stuff at home, how did I manage to accomplish all my reading, at school, by no later than 6pm (at the outside end)? It sounds tough, given that I had to spend all day in class. It’s not all that difficult though, because when you look at your 1L schedule you will realize that you are not actually in class all day. On the whole, you’re probably only in class for about two or three hours a day. Maybe four if you have your legal writing class. So if you have four hours of class and then four hours of homework…congratulations, that’s an eight-hour work day! And, just as in the real world, this can be done between 9-6 on Monday through Friday, leaving your evenings and weekends free.

Example Daily Schedule:
Ks I, 9am-10am
Crim, 10am-11am
Read Ks (assigned for the next class), 11am-12pm
LUNCH (1 hour; this can be moved around if you’re in the zone or if you want to eat with friends)
Read Crim (assigned for the next class), 1pm-2pm
Civ Pro I 2pm-3pm
Read Civ Pro (assigned for next class), 3pm-4pm
Extras (legal writing, getting ahead because a friend is coming next week, office hours, etc.), 4pm-6pm

As you can see, I followed a “complete reading when assigned” method. Which is to say that after class on Monday, I did the reading for whatever the next class was in that subject (it could be due Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday…whatever). Also as you can see, I could be done by 4pm. This allows extra time (4pm-6pm or so) to be used for legal writing assignments or anything else that might come up.

Now, not all schedules will be as pretty as my sample; sometimes you'll have a four hour gap between classes and your last class will be at 4:00pm. What then? Just slip classes around in the slots.

Example Unfortunate Schedule:

Ks I, 9am-10am
Crim, 10am-11am
Read Ks (assigned for next class), 11am-12pm
LUNCH, 12pm-1pm
Read Crim (assigned for next class), 1pm-2pm
Read Civ Pro (assigned for the class following today's), 2pm-3pm
Extras (LRW, getting ahead, re-reading, etc.), 3pm-4pm
Civ Pro, 4pm-5pm
Extras (LRW, etc.), 5pm-6pm

I think that the amount of free-time afforded by this schedule is a good thing for anyone. Why? For folks that are social, this allows them to actually connect with other human beings at night and during the weekend, so they’ll be less stressed out. For people that don’t require frequent social interaction, this allows them adequate down-time away from the other high-strung law students. Re-charging like this helps avoid burn-out and complete misery.

VI. Outlining

I start outlining about one month before exams. And, yes, I do make my own outlines. This does, of course, require that I take more time out of my day for my substantive classes than I normally do, BUT by this time most of your legal writing assignments will be done and you can use the built-in “extra” time to work on outlines instead.

If I’m lazy, why am I making my own outlines? Cost-benefit analysis. I will benefit more by outlining (back to my love of repetition and honing in on relevant points) than I will from enjoying the 20 hours of work I saved. Doing my own outlines forces me to re-analyze those things I thought were important, distill them to their simplest form, and write them again. It takes me maybe four or five hours to complete an outline from my handwritten notes for a semester long class if I’m actually putting effort in. This is one hour a day, Monday through Friday, for one week. So the amount of work really isn’t that bad.

I do not recommend outlining early. Beyond the laziness/scheduling factor I mentioned (I didn’t have to worry about legal writing any more), the reality is that working on your outline is the best “review” you’re going to get. You don’t want to review stuff from the first two weeks of class on the third week of class. It’s still fresh in your mind then and you have no idea how it interrelates with topics that you’ll cover later. If you wait until a month before the exam, you’ve learned most of the material so a) you’ve forgotten those first few weeks, and this will remind you what you learned during them, and b) you can see how everything fits together.

Now, since all of my notes are in a single notebook for each class, I only have to have that notebook in order to outline. This means I can outline just about anywhere (Starbucks, bagel place, library, wherever; but not my apartment) and not worry about carrying huge books with me. I go through, read my notes (repetition), pick out the important pieces (relevant to taking an exam), make the important points even more succinct (repetition and relevance), and then type them into outline form (repetition). I highlight anything that wasn’t clear enough from my notes and either ask a friend or go back to my casebook at school the next day. As I have annoyingly been emphasizing: relevance and repetition. My outlines were no longer than 15 pages in any class. You do not need stuff on your outline that will be irrelevant to your exam, and if you’ve been subconsciously memorizing through repetition you should only need short hints to remind you of the law and keep you on track.

If your scheduling is following my model above, you can do all this and still finish by 6pm every night with no problem.

VII. Exam Lead-Up

This is where the Lazy Guide will, unfortunately, start moving beyond the beautiful 9-6, M-F schedule it has set up. Your entire grade in your substantive classes is generally decided by a single final exam. This, sadly, means that you need to put in a little extra time shortly before those exams.
The good news? If you’ve been taking your notes on the important rules and in a manner that forces you to memorize/retain those rules, you will be ahead of the game. A lot of what I saw classmates wasting time with was trying to get through the mountains of notes they had taken that they didn’t remember and that were completely irrelevant to our upcoming exams.

The bad news? Practice makes perfect, so you’re going to need to work through a few practice exams. This can be put in your schedule wherever you have open time, whether it’s during your normal “work” week or during your weekend. Go online and download whatever practice exams your professor has available.

Laziness Factor: You do not have to actually Take the practice exams. I didn’t. The most important part of practice exams is figuring out two things: 1) how your professor writes an exam, and 2) your weak points. So dowload the practice exam, read the first fact pattern, and basically outline an answer. Spot the issues, jot down a point or two on how you think it would come out and why. Then either compare this to a model answer (if one is available) and see if you hit all the points OR meet with a study group (who has “taken” this same exam) and discuss it with them to see if they found things you missed. Rinse, repeat. [PLEASE NOTE: This is the only time I recommend using study groups.]

I recommend doing practice exams after you’ve finished outlining, because it lets you see if your outline is workable and you can fix it if it’s not.

VIII. THE EXAM

Okay, so you’ve 9-6’d your way all the way through to the end of the semester, and now it’s exam time. Awesome. You’re in the classroom, you’ve got your short and to-the-point outline, your casebook (just in case), your notes (ditto), and your laptop.

Now what?

A few exam tips that are fairly universal:
1) Know your audience. As I said in the “in-class” section, you want to know the kinds of things your professor likes to discuss and hear about. For some teachers it’s policy, for others it’s morality, and for still others it’s some obscure point (like the Negative Commerce Clause or the Model Penal Code [law of nowhere]).

2) Write for that audience. If your teacher spent all semester talking about policy, it might be good to mention the policy implications of the outcome of your fact pattern. If your teacher spent all year comparing current (insert jurisdiction) rape law with MPC rape law, you might wanna slide that into the rape fact-pattern. DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT do this at the expense of answering the written question. But if you can work it in there, do so. And please, do not take this opportunity to expound upon an area of the law that your professor neglected. If your Ks professor didn’t talk about the UCC, I wouldn’t use my exam as an opportunity to bring up article 2.

3) Know the black-letter law. You should be all over this, if you’ve been taking notes in a way that forces you to memorize it.

4) Finally, READ THE PROMPT/FACT-PATTERN CAREFULLY. You may or may not realize this (I’m guessing that you do) but minute differences in the wording of a fact or a question can make all the difference. A single word can be the difference between a Fee Simple Determinable and Fee Simple Condition Subsequent. (For those you haven’t taken property yet, I promise that these two things are different in a way that matters.)

IX. Questions?

If you have any questions, please feel free to post them here or to PM or email them to me. I am more than happy to answer them, even if its been quite awhile since this thing was posted. 1L (and the preceding summer) can be intensely scary and stressful-seeming, and if I can help reduce that for you, I’m glad to.

Good Luck!

Best,
Lazy

[Any edits made to this post have solely been to update as appropriate.]
Last edited by Lazy on Thu Jul 16, 2015 9:14 am, edited 4 times in total.

lawgod
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Re: Lazy's Guide to Top 10% Without Working Nights or Weekends

Postby lawgod » Tue Aug 09, 2011 4:06 pm

When did you find time to write this post?

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cinephile
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Re: Lazy's Guide to Top 10% Without Working Nights or Weekends

Postby cinephile » Tue Aug 09, 2011 4:07 pm

I am excited to read this guide.
Last edited by cinephile on Tue Aug 09, 2011 5:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Kilpatrick
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Re: Lazy's Guide to Top 10% Without Working Nights or Weekends

Postby Kilpatrick » Tue Aug 09, 2011 4:09 pm

Awesome guide and pretty close to what I did my 1l year. I wouldn't even call it lazy, I call it efficient.

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NYC Law
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Re: Lazy's Guide to Top 10% Without Working Nights or Weekends

Postby NYC Law » Tue Aug 09, 2011 4:09 pm

I find this guide suspiciously detailed for a 'lazy'. But thanks for the post!!!

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Cupidity
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Re: Lazy's Guide to Top 10% Without Working Nights or Weekends

Postby Cupidity » Tue Aug 09, 2011 4:10 pm

Artistic.

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Bildungsroman
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Re: Lazy's Guide to Top 10% Without Working Nights or Weekends

Postby Bildungsroman » Tue Aug 09, 2011 4:12 pm

Deuce wrote:TAG

Agreed. Finally a guide for us.

lawgod
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Re: Lazy's Guide to Top 10% Without Working Nights or Weekends

Postby lawgod » Tue Aug 09, 2011 4:15 pm

This is pretty close to my schedule also, but I added sundays

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Mike12188
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Re: Lazy's Guide to Top 10% Without Working Nights or Weekends

Postby Mike12188 » Tue Aug 09, 2011 4:16 pm

great post.

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Deuce
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Re: Lazy's Guide to Top 10% Without Working Nights or Weekends

Postby Deuce » Tue Aug 09, 2011 4:18 pm

Bildungsroman wrote:
Deuce wrote:TAG

Agreed. Finally a guide for us.


Problem is I'm too lazy to read it

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Bildungsroman
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Re: Lazy's Guide to Top 10% Without Working Nights or Weekends

Postby Bildungsroman » Tue Aug 09, 2011 4:18 pm

Deuce wrote:
Bildungsroman wrote:
Deuce wrote:TAG

Agreed. Finally a guide for us.


Problem is I'm too lazy to read it

Hopefully someone will post a tl;dr version.

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JamMasterJ
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Re: Lazy's Guide to Top 10% Without Working Nights or Weekends

Postby JamMasterJ » Tue Aug 09, 2011 4:21 pm

tl;dr. tag for laterz

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starchinkilt
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Re: Lazy's Guide to Top 10% Without Working Nights or Weekends

Postby starchinkilt » Tue Aug 09, 2011 4:26 pm

Kilpatrick wrote:Awesome guide and pretty close to what I did my 1l year. I wouldn't even call it lazy, I call it efficient.

lawgod
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Re: Lazy's Guide to Top 10% Without Working Nights or Weekends

Postby lawgod » Tue Aug 09, 2011 4:27 pm

Bildungsroman wrote:
Deuce wrote:
Bildungsroman wrote:
Deuce wrote:TAG

Agreed. Finally a guide for us.


Problem is I'm too lazy to read it

Hopefully someone will post a tl;dr version.


Here:
1. Just read a supplement before class every other day. No other reading.
2. Don't miss a bar review- networking is important.
3. If LRW is ungraded, don't hand anything in.

Lazy
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Re: Lazy's Guide to Top 10% Without Working Nights or Weekends

Postby Lazy » Tue Aug 09, 2011 4:30 pm

lawgod wrote:
Bildungsroman wrote:Hopefully someone will post a tl;dr version.


Here:
1. Just read a supplement before class every other day. No other reading.
2. Don't miss a bar review- networking is important.
3. If LRW is ungraded, don't hand anything in.


Yeah. That's, uh....that's exactly it.

Not even kinda close, but I'll roll with it.

lawgod
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Re: Lazy's Guide to Top 10% Without Working Nights or Weekends

Postby lawgod » Tue Aug 09, 2011 4:33 pm

Lazy wrote:
lawgod wrote:
Bildungsroman wrote:Hopefully someone will post a tl;dr version.


Here:
1. Just read a supplement before class every other day. No other reading.
2. Don't miss a bar review- networking is important.
3. If LRW is ungraded, don't hand anything in.


Yeah. That's, uh....that's exactly it.

Not even kinda close, but I'll roll with it.


I can only read the little letters. What do the big ones say?

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northwood
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Re: Lazy's Guide to Top 10% Without Working Nights or Weekends

Postby northwood » Tue Aug 09, 2011 4:34 pm

sounds to me like you figured out an effecient work scheule and were able to succesfully analyze what works best for you and stick to that plan. Great job and congrats!

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NYC Law
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Re: Lazy's Guide to Top 10% Without Working Nights or Weekends

Postby NYC Law » Tue Aug 09, 2011 4:36 pm

lawgod wrote:
Here:
1. Just read a supplement before class every other day. No other reading.
2. Don't miss a bar review- networking is important.
3. If LRW is ungraded, don't hand anything in.


4. ALWAYS work in study groups throughout the semester as this will allow you to copy and use others' notes and outlines (the lazy method). However, study groups are not recommended when reviewing practice exams, as this will skew your own reasoning.

hurldes
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Re: Lazy's Guide to Top 10% Without Working Nights or Weekends

Postby hurldes » Tue Aug 09, 2011 4:37 pm

I really like this guide.

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NYC Law
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Re: Lazy's Guide to Top 10% Without Working Nights or Weekends

Postby NYC Law » Tue Aug 09, 2011 4:41 pm

What school range did you attend? Are you considering transferring?

Revolver066
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Re: Lazy's Guide to Top 10% Without Working Nights or Weekends

Postby Revolver066 » Tue Aug 09, 2011 4:45 pm

hurldes wrote:I really like this guide.


+1. Thanks OP

shoeshine
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Re: Lazy's Guide to Top 10% Without Working Nights or Weekends

Postby shoeshine » Tue Aug 09, 2011 4:49 pm

hurldes wrote:I really like this guide.

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acrossthelake
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Re: Lazy's Guide to Top 10% Without Working Nights or Weekends

Postby acrossthelake » Tue Aug 09, 2011 5:03 pm

Lazy wrote:I hope most of you learned in undergrad what note-taking style works best for you. However, given that this is the lazy person’s guide to top 10%, it’s entirely possible that some people reading this have never taken notes before.



Oh hello. :lol: Thanks!

Giddy-Up
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Re: Lazy's Guide to Top 10% Without Working Nights or Weekends

Postby Giddy-Up » Tue Aug 09, 2011 5:06 pm

I hope most of you learned in undergrad what note-taking style works best for you. However, given that this is the lazy person’s guide to top 10%, it’s entirely possible that some people reading this have never taken notes before.



To be fair, you can get away without taking notes in law school as well. If possible, getting an old outline for the class that you refine throughout the semester is very efficient.

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Gemini
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Re: Lazy's Guide to Top 10% Without Working Nights or Weekends

Postby Gemini » Tue Aug 09, 2011 5:20 pm

OP, you are awesome. <3




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