Issue spotter: analysis skill vs memorization

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Peg
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Issue spotter: analysis skill vs memorization

Postby Peg » Tue Nov 08, 2011 9:19 am

After doing some practice hypos, I've realized that my analysis skill has gone way, way up (my prof was impressed that I noticed something that she didn't), but I keep having to refer back to my outline because I'll forget issues/nuances. It's frustrating because there is just so. much. material.

Do the people who get As memorize the entire body of BLL from their syllabus for each class? Somehow I don't think so, because I know a 2L who aced his exams last year, but almost never did the reading, did plenty of socializing, just studied really hard in the last few weeks. So either he memorized all that law in the last few weeks (which is hard to believe, at least for me) or else he figured out that you don't have to memorize the black letter law.

In your experiences, which is it? I want to know because I thought my time now would be more usefully spent on perfecting analysis skills, but I'm getting worried that I can't remember some stuff.

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jessuf
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Re: Issue spotter: analysis skill vs memorization

Postby jessuf » Tue Nov 08, 2011 10:17 am

If you have a good outline, maybe you don't have to memorize everything exactly. For my crim law class, I'm in the same boat as you when it comes to feeling pretty overwhelmed by the sheer number of concepts we've covered in class. My strong point is analysis and writing style. My weak point is remembering every single little thing that could possibly relate to the hypo.

However, I have noticed a pattern in the hypos. Generally speaking, the issue will be some broad topic we've covered in class, like felony-murder rule. I then know to talk extensively about the felony-murder rule and the possible limitations. However, my professor also likes for us to bring up items that are unrelated to the broad topic. I've noticed that I can figure out what these extra little issues are by looking at the fact pattern. Pretty much anytime she adds a sentence that seems nrelated to the main issue, I know she wants me to point out something (e.g. if she mentions the victim didn't die until a month later, she wants me to point out the common law 1 year + a day rule).

Also, my professor has for the most part blatantly told my class that it is about quantity and not quality. She doesn't care how illogically our essays are organized as long as we hit all of the points.

StyrofoamWar
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Re: Issue spotter: analysis skill vs memorization

Postby StyrofoamWar » Tue Nov 08, 2011 10:52 am

Depends on the exam. Closed book? Yup, start flash carding and writing out rule statements till you know it cold. Sucks, but that's what it takes.

Open book? I still always make sure I'm real familiar with the material so the fact pattern makes certain sentences jump out as triggering key issues but can go back to the outline for the exact rule.

Poster above has a good point: treat it like a game. As much as the professor may like to write a good story with his exam, every word is chosen for a reason. If something seems random, there's probably a little wrinkle to it or a subtle issue it is meant to bring up. Pay attention to
Those little triggers and you'll do great.

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NeighborGuy
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Re: Issue spotter: analysis skill vs memorization

Postby NeighborGuy » Tue Nov 08, 2011 6:30 pm

1L, so take with a grain of salt, but I'm beginning to see what posters like Scribe have been talking about: how you don't actually need to possess encyclopedic knowledge of the law to do well. The game is "sophisticated application of basic doctrine". Good analytical skills and knowledge of basic doctrine get you farther than great memorization of legal minutiae that you don't really understand. You can sit there and try to memorize Restatement law, but without context or rationale you'll be working harder to understand it than if you just read the casebook.

As far as issue spotting goes, I subscribe to the GTM approach. Just consider the BLL in context of the actual dispute between the parties, and the issues just jump out at you. At least they do for me.

03121202698008
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Re: Issue spotter: analysis skill vs memorization

Postby 03121202698008 » Tue Nov 08, 2011 6:32 pm

Open book...I didn't really try to recall from memory. I had a 3-page outline of issues and what to talk about for each (splits in auth, etc.) You need to know enough to spot the issues in the first place though. Worked out fine for me.

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5ky
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Re: Issue spotter: analysis skill vs memorization

Postby 5ky » Wed Nov 09, 2011 3:37 pm

blowhard wrote:Open book...I didn't really try to recall from memory. I had a 3-page outline of issues and what to talk about for each (splits in auth, etc.) You need to know enough to spot the issues in the first place though. Worked out fine for me.


I personally did recall from memory, those I did just make a singular page of issues for exams as well, just in case. But +1 for needing to know enough to spot the issues in the first place. The people who are going to do the best on a law school exam are those who understand the issues well enough to spot a majority of them, are able to implicitly rank-order them in terms of importance, and devote time for analysis accordingly.

You won't be able to spot all of the issues or probably even write about all of the issues that you do spot. But it's important to be able to spot as many as you can, so you can try to figure out which ones are most important given the facts of the question.

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queenlizzie13
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Re: Issue spotter: analysis skill vs memorization

Postby queenlizzie13 » Wed Nov 09, 2011 11:47 pm

Read GTM again today. Or portions of it anyways. Totally need to add some stuff to my outlines now...

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traehekat
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Re: Issue spotter: analysis skill vs memorization

Postby traehekat » Thu Nov 10, 2011 2:46 am

a deep, working understanding of the big, core concepts of your classes is huge. this will go much further than knowing all the little nuances and exceptions to the exceptions.

as far as memorization goes, im a big fan of checklists. if its open book, have one with you. if its closed, memorize your checklist and write it down in first 3 min or so of exam. chances are you will spot the big issues, but use your check list once you have done that to see if there are any little things within the bigger issue that might be lurking.

Peg
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Re: Issue spotter: analysis skill vs memorization

Postby Peg » Thu Nov 10, 2011 7:56 pm

Yep, all of my exams are open book. Yeah I've read GTM, and when I say memorize, I was talking about the nuances, or all the little "forks".

Fully agree that trying to figure out which issues are most important is the game, though. It's just that, once you do figure out which issues to attack, there are so many forks that it's overwhelming - and worst of all, you definitely can't include all that in your outline.

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JCougar
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Re: Issue spotter: analysis skill vs memorization

Postby JCougar » Thu Nov 10, 2011 8:35 pm

I like to bitch about the way these exams are graded a lot, but hear me out.

Sometimes looking back at your outline helps you. If you try to do everything by memory you will forget the smaller details and precise wording that professors like. I spent my first semester memorizing my outlines, and didn't look at them more than once or twice the entire exam. But I pretty much got median grades. I didn't really miss many issues at all, but I didn't rack up the analysis points you get from adding in the little tidbits about policy and quotes from cases, etc. Analysis is FAR more important that spotting issues.

I did better in the Spring by focusing on applying my outline to the test, rather than my test to the outline. You should be looking at your outline to see what you can work into the analysis, and not looking at the facts and trying to remember what from the doctrine applies. You'll be far more detail-oriented with the former approach. Law exams reward people for pouring on the little details and hyper-analyzing every point -- even the ones that are mostly self-evident, even if they have little to no practical value to the argument at hand. If you're reading/copying from your outline, you're way more likely to include tiny, meaningless details that you don't naturally think of when you're trying to communicate a point to someone. In a way, the more words you can dump straight from your outline, as long as they're only slightly plausible to the analysis, the better you are.

It helps if you pre-list a bunch of BS policy arguments on your outline that apply to each area of the doctrine...because these arguments are pretty broad and will apply to virtually any set of facts. Then you can just flat-out copy these straight from your outline onto your exam when the time comes...and you don't even have to think. Just change a few words around to make them apply to the facts. It's better to use precise wording from cases, etc. These are things that I'd never think of spur-of-the-moment. But if you're in the library and in the mood for sophistry, think a bunch of them up. Law professors eat these up.

In short, I don't think memorization is really that much of a problem -- unless your memory is absolutely insane. That's what your outline is there for. I've found I also type faster if I'm just copying from a sheet of paper rather than thinking of something myself -- which is a huge key.

Everybody's brain works differently, though. Just figure out something that works for you. I'm way more of a big-picture thinker than someone who can remember crazy little details, so this approach seems like it will work for me. Maybe you're different.

Peg
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Re: Issue spotter: analysis skill vs memorization

Postby Peg » Thu Nov 10, 2011 8:44 pm

JCougar wrote:I like to bitch about the way these exams are graded a lot, but hear me out.

Sometimes looking back at your outline helps you. If you try to do everything by memory you will forget the smaller details and precise wording that professors like. I spent my first semester memorizing my outlines, and didn't look at them more than once or twice the entire exam. But I pretty much got median grades. I didn't really miss many issues at all, but I didn't rack up the analysis points you get from adding in the little tidbits about policy and quotes from cases, etc. Analysis is FAR more important that spotting issues.

I did better in the Spring by focusing on applying my outline to the test, rather than my test to the outline. You should be looking at your outline to see what you can work into the analysis, and not looking at the facts and trying to remember what from the doctrine applies. You'll be far more detail-oriented with the former approach. Law exams reward people for pouring on the little details and hyper-analyzing every point -- even the ones that are mostly self-evident, even if they have little to no practical value to the argument at hand. If you're reading/copying from your outline, you're way more likely to include tiny, meaningless details that you don't naturally think of when you're trying to communicate a point to someone. In a way, the more words you can dump straight from your outline, as long as they're only slightly plausible to the analysis, the better you are.

It helps if you pre-list a bunch of BS policy arguments on your outline that apply to each area of the doctrine...because these arguments are pretty broad and will apply to virtually any set of facts. Then you can just flat-out copy these straight from your outline onto your exam when the time comes...and you don't even have to think. Just change a few words around to make them apply to the facts. It's better to use precise wording from cases, etc. These are things that I'd never think of spur-of-the-moment. But if you're in the library and in the mood for sophistry, think a bunch of them up. Law professors eat these up.

In short, I don't think memorization is really that much of a problem -- unless your memory is absolutely insane. That's what your outline is there for. I've found I also type faster if I'm just copying from a sheet of paper rather than thinking of something myself -- which is a huge key.

Everybody's brain works differently, though. Just figure out something that works for you. I'm way more of a big-picture thinker than someone who can remember crazy little details, so this approach seems like it will work for me. Maybe you're different.


Yes! I feel like I can't remember stuff like the professor's specific language, etc. That's why I have fantasies about being able to copy from my outline. I'm probably going to try this out on practice exams and see if it works better.

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Grizz
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Re: Issue spotter: analysis skill vs memorization

Postby Grizz » Thu Nov 10, 2011 9:26 pm

Didn't try to memorize. Concentrated on analysis and referred back to my tab outline to remeber the rule often. Did well.

Peg
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Re: Issue spotter: analysis skill vs memorization

Postby Peg » Thu Nov 10, 2011 9:30 pm

Grizz wrote:Didn't try to memorize. Concentrated on analysis and referred back to my tab outline to remeber the rule often. Did well.


Tabbing. Didn't think of that.

forty-two
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Re: Issue spotter: analysis skill vs memorization

Postby forty-two » Fri Nov 11, 2011 9:55 am

Peg wrote:
Grizz wrote:Didn't try to memorize. Concentrated on analysis and referred back to my tab outline to remeber the rule often. Did well.


Tabbing. Didn't think of that.

Tabbing is great because it's an inefficient use of time to flip back and forth through your outline to look for something during the exam. I personally prefer making a table of contents instead (it's essentially a checklist with page numbers), but different things work for different people.

mighttransfer
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Re: Issue spotter: analysis skill vs memorization

Postby mighttransfer » Fri Nov 11, 2011 10:39 am

For an open book/note exam, memorizing the BLL in your outline is not necessary. But you must have a deep understanding of the BLL and how it is organized in your outline. This requires that you study your outline extensively, and do tons of practice problems using your outline. This will allow you to spot issues as you read fact patterns, and then you can reference your outline (if necessary) when crafting your written response. At bottom, your analysis is what earns you points on a classic issue spotter exam. Just memorizing the BLL won't get you there, but substantial familiarity with the material and practice applying that material to facts will make the critical difference. This also means that you shouldn't spend too much time outlining because an outline alone is useless on an exam. Rather, it is a combination of your outline and experience in using it that will lead to strong exam answers. Also, 1Ls who haven't even taken a law school exam have no business asserting what they might believe is the best method of outlining or what they believe one should do with an outline. Your opinions are not credited at this point.

Transferthrowaway
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Re: Issue spotter: analysis skill vs memorization

Postby Transferthrowaway » Fri Nov 11, 2011 10:55 am

My outlines for exams generally ranged from a single sheet of paper front-and-back to 6 pages front-and-back. Never really understood the point of having an unwieldy 30-40 page outline for an exam.

keg411
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Re: Issue spotter: analysis skill vs memorization

Postby keg411 » Fri Nov 11, 2011 12:52 pm

Grizz wrote:Didn't try to memorize. Concentrated on analysis and referred back to my tab outline to remember the rule often. Did well.


+1. And I also tabbed my outlines even though they weren't super long. Just easier to flip to the right spot that way.

mimi82
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Re: Issue spotter: analysis skill vs memorization

Postby mimi82 » Sat Nov 12, 2011 4:47 am

StyrofoamWar wrote:Depends on the exam. Closed book? Yup, start flash carding and writing out rule statements till you know it cold. Sucks, but that's what it takes.

Open book? I still always make sure I'm real familiar with the material so the fact pattern makes certain sentences jump out as triggering key issues but can go back to the outline for the exact rule.

Poster above has a good point: treat it like a game. As much as the professor may like to write a good story with his exam, every word is chosen for a reason. If something seems random, there's probably a little wrinkle to it or a subtle issue it is meant to bring up. Pay attention to
Those little triggers and you'll do great.


I'm only in my first year but I had to piggyback from this comment. One thing I've been trying to do is talk to the professor to see what they are looking for. I do that moreso with my LSP professor and Contract professor, but that's because I enjoy speaking to them more. In LSP I talk to him about my memo and to me its like I'm going to the psychiatrist. I tell him where I'm going, he asks me 'certain' questions but doesn't tell me what to do. So if you didn't get what he was doing you would be annoyed, but everytime he does that I go straight back to the drawing board and try to figure out what he was saying. It worked because I got an A on my second draft for the closed memo.

For my Contracts class I've been working on him since the beginning of the semester. He didn't have the answers to his exams he posted so I didn't bother doing that. I would go to his office sometimes to talk about his work in his previous life and then go on about how I'm terrified about his final. After speaking to him one day not even 24hrs later he puts up almost 10 years of practice exams and answers for everyone to use!!! Then the other day after class I ask him about a question on one of the practice exams, I basically get the info the previous poster said. He says to go through every single line and EVERY thing is there for a reason. I look at the paper again like he said and it was like looking at one of those illusion pics and you have to cross ur eyes to finally see the hidden photo, and then it just pops out. That's what happened. I saw the issues, and when I really got another look I realized there were WAY too many to complete.

So I just say talk to your professors. I read this tip from people before on here and thought well maybe it would be good to do but it is the best thing you can do for yourself....although now I have to redo my open memo because I knew I had all the issues. But NO!!! I reread it after I learned how to really issue spot from my professor and all I could do was stare in disbelief. Just know that they get really creative...I had to call my dad to get info on a topic I didn't know about and couldn't find.




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