Advice on 2L grade improvement

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WhisperingPines
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Advice on 2L grade improvement

Postby WhisperingPines » Sun Jun 16, 2013 10:32 am

Hi guys,

I will be a 2L next year and am looking to improve from my 1L grades. I think my issue is with what I did during the year, rather than with exam writing--I think I relied too much on supplements and didn't focus enough on the casebook, and as a result wasn't synthesizing very well. My worry now is that I still don't really understand how to absorb the material in cases without spending way too much time on them/losing the big picture.

Any general advice/tips on approaching cases and testing myself to make sure I'm getting what I need from them? I'm also looking into doing LEEWS this summer, but from my understanding that's mostly focused on actual exam writing, so I'm not sure if it would be helpful (I'm not saying my exam writing skills are perfect, just don't think that's my main issue). Any thoughts on that would be appreciated as well. Thanks everyone!

fanlinxun
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Re: Advice on 2L grade improvement

Postby fanlinxun » Sun Jun 16, 2013 10:39 am

The problem is with your exam writing, not your ability to read a casebook. The exams always test the same law, regardless of what casebook you were "learning" the law from. 2L and 3L students spend progressively less time in their casebooks and generally just find outlines to learn the material at the end of the semester. Learn how to write in a way the professors want (like IRAC) and then do it on every exam. As a recent grad, my experience is that most students walk out of exams thinking the same answers, but the same few students get all of the As. It is all about the writing.

GertrudePerkins
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Re: Advice on 2L grade improvement

Postby GertrudePerkins » Sun Jun 16, 2013 2:35 pm

fanlinxun wrote:The exams always test the same law, regardless of what casebook you were "learning" the law from.
I do not think this is true. Certainly some professors teach a cookie-cutter version of whatever course they teach, especially for something like Corporations or Criminal Procedure (4th/5th/6th Amendments), but I've had many upper-level classes that the professor "tailored" to his/her own take on the material. Merely studying commercial supplements or outlines based on another prof's version of the course would've been an actively misleading waste of time. I'm in no position to diagnose OPs difficulties, but I think "just grab a canned outline" is often (though not always) very bad advice.

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stillwater
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Re: Advice on 2L grade improvement

Postby stillwater » Sun Jun 16, 2013 3:01 pm

WhisperingPines wrote:Hi guys,

I will be a 2L next year and am looking to improve from my 1L grades. I think my issue is with what I did during the year, rather than with exam writing--I think I relied too much on supplements and didn't focus enough on the casebook, and as a result wasn't synthesizing very well. My worry now is that I still don't really understand how to absorb the material in cases without spending way too much time on them/losing the big picture.

Any general advice/tips on approaching cases and testing myself to make sure I'm getting what I need from them? I'm also looking into doing LEEWS this summer, but from my understanding that's mostly focused on actual exam writing, so I'm not sure if it would be helpful (I'm not saying my exam writing skills are perfect, just don't think that's my main issue). Any thoughts on that would be appreciated as well. Thanks everyone!


reading the casebook is a waste of time. i suggest next year you collect them into a pile and set them on fire. the problem is your ability to take tests.

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Lincoln
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Re: Advice on 2L grade improvement

Postby Lincoln » Sun Jun 16, 2013 3:12 pm

fanlinxun wrote:The problem is with your exam writing, not your ability to read a casebook. The exams always test the same law, regardless of what casebook you were "learning" the law from. 2L and 3L students spend progressively less time in their casebooks and generally just find outlines to learn the material at the end of the semester. Learn how to write in a way the professors want (like IRAC) and then do it on every exam. As a recent grad, my experience is that most students walk out of exams thinking the same answers, but the same few students get all of the As. It is all about the writing.


The bolded is not universally true. I'm personally a big fan of casebooks, and haven't used a supplement since 1L year (and tend to think it's a common 1L mistake).

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stillwater
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Re: Advice on 2L grade improvement

Postby stillwater » Sun Jun 16, 2013 3:13 pm

Lincoln wrote:
fanlinxun wrote:The problem is with your exam writing, not your ability to read a casebook. The exams always test the same law, regardless of what casebook you were "learning" the law from. 2L and 3L students spend progressively less time in their casebooks and generally just find outlines to learn the material at the end of the semester. Learn how to write in a way the professors want (like IRAC) and then do it on every exam. As a recent grad, my experience is that most students walk out of exams thinking the same answers, but the same few students get all of the As. It is all about the writing.


The bolded is not universally true. I'm personally a big fan of casebooks, and haven't used a supplement since 1L year (and tend to think it's a common 1L mistake).


supplements > casebook

GertrudePerkins
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Re: Advice on 2L grade improvement

Postby GertrudePerkins » Sun Jun 16, 2013 3:38 pm

stillwater wrote:
Lincoln wrote:
fanlinxun wrote:The problem is with your exam writing, not your ability to read a casebook. The exams always test the same law, regardless of what casebook you were "learning" the law from. 2L and 3L students spend progressively less time in their casebooks and generally just find outlines to learn the material at the end of the semester. Learn how to write in a way the professors want (like IRAC) and then do it on every exam. As a recent grad, my experience is that most students walk out of exams thinking the same answers, but the same few students get all of the As. It is all about the writing.


The bolded is not universally true. I'm personally a big fan of casebooks, and haven't used a supplement since 1L year (and tend to think it's a common 1L mistake).


supplements > casebook
I can't tell if this is just sarcasm or whether you think this is actually an objective fact. I'll admit that it might sometimes be true, but it's definitely not across-the-board good advice. Sometimes professors care about a level of nuance that supplements simply don't cover. And some people won't learn the material as thoroughly by merely reading supplements. I for one tend to remember the logic of a case better if I actually read the real thing, even though that takes more time.

I'm also turned off by "just read supplements" advice for a different, less pragmatic reason: I'm not especially comfortable with the notion of people succeeding in law school by way of not reading cases. If actually reading cases is some kind of handicap for a law student, well, I'm not really sure this is the right profession for that student.

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stillwater
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Re: Advice on 2L grade improvement

Postby stillwater » Sun Jun 16, 2013 3:42 pm

GertrudePerkins wrote:
stillwater wrote:
Lincoln wrote:
fanlinxun wrote:The problem is with your exam writing, not your ability to read a casebook. The exams always test the same law, regardless of what casebook you were "learning" the law from. 2L and 3L students spend progressively less time in their casebooks and generally just find outlines to learn the material at the end of the semester. Learn how to write in a way the professors want (like IRAC) and then do it on every exam. As a recent grad, my experience is that most students walk out of exams thinking the same answers, but the same few students get all of the As. It is all about the writing.


The bolded is not universally true. I'm personally a big fan of casebooks, and haven't used a supplement since 1L year (and tend to think it's a common 1L mistake).


supplements > casebook
I can't tell if this is just sarcasm or whether you think this is actually an objective fact. I'll admit that it might sometimes be true, but it's definitely not across-the-board good advice. Sometimes professors care about a level of nuance that supplements simply don't cover. And some people won't learn the material as thoroughly by merely reading supplements. I for one tend to remember the logic of a case better if I actually read the real thing, even though that takes more time.

I'm also turned off by "just read supplements" advice for a different, less pragmatic reason: I'm not especially comfortable with the notion of people succeeding in law school by way of not reading cases. If actually reading cases is some kind of handicap for a law student, well, I'm not really sure this is the right profession for that student.


well you obviously need to use your domepiece. if the professor is highly irregular, then i would approach supplements with pause. but the idea is to score high on your exams. the rest is just noise. sure you can learn some neato facts from cases but your mission is to get As. my feeling is supplements are the best way to learn how to package the law when on an exam. briefing is shit, the casebook is shit, unless your professor is weird and tests like factual details.

mrloblaw
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Re: Advice on 2L grade improvement

Postby mrloblaw » Sun Jun 16, 2013 4:43 pm

stillwater wrote:
well you obviously need to use your domepiece. if the professor is highly irregular, then i would approach supplements with pause. but the idea is to score high on your exams. the rest is just noise. sure you can learn some neato facts from cases but your mission is to get As. my feeling is supplements are the best way to learn how to package the law when on an exam. briefing is shit, the casebook is shit, unless your professor is weird and tests like factual details.


This really, really depends--mostly on the depth of the class. For example, I took a lot of income tax classes in my time at NYU, where I was sitting in a classroom full of incredibly bright tax lawyers in the part-time LLM program. Just knowing the black letter law, as it would be covered in a supplement, was not enough to reach median. Far more than half the people in the class knew the black letter law cold. The difference between a B and a B+/A-/A was the difference to which you picked up the subtleties in legal reasoning in the cases that would not even be covered in a supplement.

And sometimes, you get a professor who legitimately wants to teach you how to do legal reasoning more than how to memorize supplements, in which case the subtleties are more important than the black letter stuff.

I'm highly hesitant to suggest to a rising 2L that the way to improve his grades is somehow to learn the material with less depth.

fanlinxun
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Re: Advice on 2L grade improvement

Postby fanlinxun » Sun Jun 16, 2013 5:00 pm

You can disagree with my conclusion about all classes testing the same thing, but it doesn't change the fact that your writing ability is much more important than whether you read the casebook. Professors will sometimes include nuances that aren't in supplements, but more people would improve their grades by writing better than they would be remembering one particular nuance that a professor hits on.
I know it is common on these threads to complain about the arbitrariness of grading, but most people test pretty consistently at the same level throughout the entire three years. Laziness can make a difference, but overall it is the same few people getting most of the As. They may or may not be smarter than 90 percent of the class, but the one thing that they have in common is the ability to write law school exams. Figure out how to do IRAC, use short sentences, and avoid the passive voice and your grades will go up. (It will also help you with the bar because in NY they expect the same IRAC structure.)

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stillwater
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Re: Advice on 2L grade improvement

Postby stillwater » Sun Jun 16, 2013 5:04 pm

fanlinxun wrote:You can disagree with my conclusion about all classes testing the same thing, but it doesn't change the fact that your writing ability is much more important than whether you read the casebook. Professors will sometimes include nuances that aren't in supplements, but more people would improve their grades by writing better than they would be remembering one particular nuance that a professor hits on.
I know it is common on these threads to complain about the arbitrariness of grading, but most people test pretty consistently at the same level throughout the entire three years. Laziness can make a difference, but overall it is the same few people getting most of the As. They may or may not be smarter than 90 percent of the class, but the one thing that they have in common is the ability to write law school exams. Figure out how to do IRAC, use short sentences, and avoid the passive voice and your grades will go up. (It will also help you with the bar because in NY they expect the same IRAC structure.)


I agree and disagree with the above. On law school exams, writing is not that important outside of your ability to communicate ideas. Passive voice doesn't matter. I know my writing hedges toward passive voice while typing quickly. I thought GTM's analogy was great. The best law school exam takers peel the onion more layers deep than others. The quality of the writing isn't important outside of the professor knowing what you are talking about and presenting the information that shows you know the law and can make the analysis, find the forks, etc. I find that writing a lot and being efficient and skilled at issue spotting are the most important elements. (READ SUPPLEMENTS!)

fanlinxun
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Re: Advice on 2L grade improvement

Postby fanlinxun » Sun Jun 16, 2013 5:59 pm

stillwater wrote:
fanlinxun wrote:
I agree and disagree with the above. On law school exams, writing is not that important outside of your ability to communicate ideas. Passive voice doesn't matter. I know my writing hedges toward passive voice while typing quickly. I thought GTM's analogy was great. The best law school exam takers peel the onion more layers deep than others. The quality of the writing isn't important outside of the professor knowing what you are talking about and presenting the information that shows you know the law and can make the analysis, find the forks, etc. I find that writing a lot and being efficient and skilled at issue spotting are the most important elements. (READ SUPPLEMENTS!)


When I said writing matters, I really meant that the professor needs to be able to read what your wrote and actually understand precisely what you are trying to say. Generally, short active sentences convey your meaning better than the opposite. It is amazing how many students say they wrote the same things but end up with different grades. FWIW, I graduated from a top-25 school with close to a 4.0 without ever pealing back the layers of onion at all. I just wrote what I saw as simply as I could. I acknowledge that others may have had different experiences, but if you talk to the people at the very top of the class they will not wow you with their intelligence. Most of them will agree that their writing skills made the difference.

Again, you may have had a different experience, but I think as a general rule if a student is not testing well, meaning consistently at or below medium, they will probably get more of an improvement from working on writing the way law school professors like than spending a few more minutes in supplements. (I do not think casebooks are worth the paper they are printed on for the most part, though I admit this is only my own experience. I usually just found old outlines and skipped the supplements/casebook altogether.)

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Scotusnerd
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Re: Advice on 2L grade improvement

Postby Scotusnerd » Sun Jun 16, 2013 6:04 pm

First, read exactly what is on the syllabus and not a hair more. If you absolutely must, use an E&E to figure out what a case is talking about, but I've seen people read the entire casebook when the syllabus only assigns 3/4s of it. That extra 1/4 is a complete waste of time. Most professors will not grade on that extra material. The same logic applies to supplements. Know what the professor wants you to learn before opening supplements, and make sure you only learn that. If your professor teaches only one way of looking at the Rule against Perpetuities, then only learn that.

Most professors will not grade on materials they do not teach. A lot of students waste a lot of time on this. I saw one person in my class that spent hours memorizing what a fee tail was, when we never learned about it in class. I promise you they did not receive credit for any analysis they had on the exam for it.

Second, Take good notes. This seems simple, but I've seen a lot of people mess it up. Take your initial notes before class, but revise them afterwards with whatever your professor has added on.

Third, learn what your professor likes and dislikes. If he analyzes cases during class using a particular style, you can bet he expects similar analysis on the exam. If it's policy-heavy, write more policy into your exam. If the professor focuses on the logical interplay between rules, then focus on that interplay. Etc. etc.

I think the toughest thing for most people to realize is that each professor is very different, and that one method does not work. You have to try different ones and figure out what works for you.

So, in short, figure out exactly what he wants you to learn, and don't learn anymore. You'll get the rest in a bar course. Second, take good notes. Third, learn what type of analysis your professor prefers. I think those will help. Also, chat with older students about what a professor was like. They will tell you a lot and help you fill in the gaps.

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Postby Myself » Sun Jun 16, 2013 7:40 pm

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nevdash
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Re: Advice on 2L grade improvement

Postby nevdash » Sun Jun 16, 2013 9:12 pm

Scotusnerd wrote:First, read exactly what is on the syllabus and not a hair more. If you absolutely must, use an E&E to figure out what a case is talking about, but I've seen people read the entire casebook when the syllabus only assigns 3/4s of it. That extra 1/4 is a complete waste of time. Most professors will not grade on that extra material. The same logic applies to supplements. Know what the professor wants you to learn before opening supplements, and make sure you only learn that. If your professor teaches only one way of looking at the Rule against Perpetuities, then only learn that.

Holy shit, this. Primarily learning from supplements is massive flame. You should primarily learn from what your professor assigns to you, and then (*gasp*) supplement that with very specific parts of supplements where needed. But you should always have a very, very specific idea of exactly the material you need to get out of a supplement before you even open it.

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stillwater
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Re: Advice on 2L grade improvement

Postby stillwater » Sun Jun 16, 2013 9:29 pm

nevdash wrote:
Scotusnerd wrote:First, read exactly what is on the syllabus and not a hair more. If you absolutely must, use an E&E to figure out what a case is talking about, but I've seen people read the entire casebook when the syllabus only assigns 3/4s of it. That extra 1/4 is a complete waste of time. Most professors will not grade on that extra material. The same logic applies to supplements. Know what the professor wants you to learn before opening supplements, and make sure you only learn that. If your professor teaches only one way of looking at the Rule against Perpetuities, then only learn that.

Holy shit, this. Primarily learning from supplements is massive flame. You should primarily learn from what your professor assigns to you, and then (*gasp*) supplement that with very specific parts of supplements where needed. But you should always have a very, very specific idea of exactly the material you need to get out of a supplement before you even open it.


i wanna second this. i dont read the whole supplement or anything nutty like that. i just read the relevant sections.

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Jsa725
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Re: Advice on 2L grade improvement

Postby Jsa725 » Sun Jun 16, 2013 9:32 pm

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WhisperingPines
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Re: Advice on 2L grade improvement

Postby WhisperingPines » Mon Jun 17, 2013 9:28 am

Thanks guys, really appreciate this. I think part of my issue is also that I'm lacking a concrete "system" (e.g. read case, then read supplement, then put into outline, or whatever). Any tips on a system for what you do throughout the semester that has worked for you? And also any thoughts on LEEWS in this context (does it give you a system for approaching the material throughout the semester, or only on exams)? Thanks again!

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UVAIce
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Re: Advice on 2L grade improvement

Postby UVAIce » Mon Jun 17, 2013 9:49 am

I see a lot of my classmates making the exact same kind of errors. I don't think their issues have anything to do with reading only the casebook, using too many, or too few, supplements or their writing style.

Common errors:

- Getting too imaginative. There are places where you can use your imagination a little and show your understanding of the law and public policy, but keep it within reason. Much like the student mentioned above who studied the fee tail for far too long, my classmates often waste time on legal arguments that are not going to make them points.

- Not applying facats to law. Do not spend your exam writing out black letter law. This might seem like common sense, but you really don't need to waste time telling your professor what the law is (there are certainly some places where it helps to write out the rule you're working with while applying the facts). Instead, just apply the facts to the law and you'll be safe. You don't need to tell your professor every time that for a tort you need duty, breach, harm, and causation. Just hit up the relevant areas that are highlighted by the facts in the issue spotter. Oh, and actually spend some time analyzing the facts. I have had a lot of exams where it really paid off to sit back and figure out exactly what is happening in a scenario. Every professor I've had has said that they don't give any points for just writing what the law is.

- Not organizing your thoughts. I think it helps to throw up some section titles to make it easy for the professor to see that you spotted particular issues. If your professor is reading 90 ~15 page exams, do him or her a favor and make it easy for them to give you points for every issue.

fanlinxun
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Re: Advice on 2L grade improvement

Postby fanlinxun » Mon Jun 17, 2013 10:59 am

UVAIce wrote:I see a lot of my classmates making the exact same kind of errors. I don't think their issues have anything to do with reading only the casebook, using too many, or too few, supplements or their writing style.


I think, and admit that I made the same mistake before, that too many of us assume that our experience is correct. I highly doubt that you have seen many of the exam papers of your classmates, so it is unlikely you have based this on anything but the memories of a select few classmates who told you what they wrote after their exams. My comments above were based on the same inaccurate source, my own experience and talking with other students who consistently get As.

OP, your best solution is to sit down with EACH of your professors and ask them point blank why you got the scores you received. If the problem is bad law, read more supplements. If the problem is that you think you wrote one thing and the professor saw something else, then it is probably your writing style. If you lose points for application then you need to focus on organization, meaning your use of IRAC or whatever alternative your professor asked for.

If you talk to ALL of your professors you should be able to figure out the general trend. Then you can come back to this forum and ask a specific question on how to improve it. Otherwise you will get exactly what you got in this thread, a lot of anecdotal evidence that may not apply to your situation at all.

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Bronck
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Re: Advice on 2L grade improvement

Postby Bronck » Mon Jun 17, 2013 11:17 am

WhisperingPines wrote:Thanks guys, really appreciate this. I think part of my issue is also that I'm lacking a concrete "system" (e.g. read case, then read supplement, then put into outline, or whatever). Any tips on a system for what you do throughout the semester that has worked for you? And also any thoughts on LEEWS in this context (does it give you a system for approaching the material throughout the semester, or only on exams)? Thanks again!


I don't think you really need a concrete system....

For second semester, I only read canned briefs or westlaw headnotes, not the actual cases. I read the supplements starting 1-1.5 months before finals, and just OLed those (I did incorporate some things from class and the cases, but that was rare). I didn't really make attack outlines this semester, though I did make some flowcharts leading up to finals and I found those useful for quick reference on the exam and for re-learning the BLL. I took almost no PTs and instead just read a handful of MAs the days leading up the finals. I never used anything like the LEEWS system. I don't really know how to provide tips for exam writing. You just have to argue both ways, find forks, don't waste too much time on 'easy' issues, etc. Also, use headers to frame your arguments, and refrain from regurgitating the law very much. It may be useful as a roadmap (especially if you can type fast), but you really should be diving into the analysis right away.

sheila1s
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Re: Advice on 2L grade improvement

Postby sheila1s » Tue Jun 25, 2013 1:29 pm

Kind of going off of this, how common is it for people to jump significantly in class rank during their 2L year? (There's probably a better thread on this but I haven't found one). I've been feeling pretty down about missing top third by a few percentile points as a 1L (T20). This seems like really good advice on improving, but I've heard it's rare for people to be able to climb a lot after the first year. I need some motivation to put in the extra work to bump my ranking, but I keep having pathetic pity parties :oops: help!

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kalvano
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Re: Advice on 2L grade improvement

Postby kalvano » Tue Jun 25, 2013 1:39 pm

Go speak to professors that taught the classes you didn't do so well in, and ask to go over your exam and have them point out where you could have done better.

And then next year, ask to go over a model answer you wrote to an exam problem with the professor before their exam, and get their take on it.

I did it, and my grades improved immensely.

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kalvano
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Re: Advice on 2L grade improvement

Postby kalvano » Tue Jun 25, 2013 1:40 pm

sheila1s wrote:Kind of going off of this, how common is it for people to jump significantly in class rank during their 2L year? (There's probably a better thread on this but I haven't found one). I've been feeling pretty down about missing top third by a few percentile points as a 1L (T20). This seems like really good advice on improving, but I've heard it's rare for people to be able to climb a lot after the first year. I need some motivation to put in the extra work to bump my ranking, but I keep having pathetic pity parties :oops: help!


I moved up 20% between 1L and graduation.

Foosters Galore
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Re: Advice on 2L grade improvement

Postby Foosters Galore » Tue Jun 25, 2013 2:05 pm

After 1L year, I stopped reading anything. Never looked at cases or supplements. Didn't really take notes in class either Just found outlines other students had used for that professor. Grades stayed the same.




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