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Several 1L Questions about studying ...

Posted: Wed Sep 06, 2017 3:55 pm
by breakfast
Hi all,

I'm only 2 days in LS and I've already had a meltdown. I'm in the process of looking for a mentor in my school, but I have too much to do for now so I figured I would ask TLS first. I have some specific q's regarding how to manage your readings, and more broadly, how to manage your time as a 1L, as well as some miscellaneous questions. I would appreciate any advice.

I'm finding that the readings are so dense to the point that I am spending FAR too much time on them. I'm spending hours and hours on merely 10 pages. After all that, I *think* I've grasped the concept then come to class, hear other people, to realize my grasp is weaker than theirs... I know I need to change my perspective or method of doing this, and am seeking some advice:

    * Should I or should I not be carefully reading the "Notes & Questions" at the end of each chapter some books have? Should I only extract interesting ideas/concepts from this section, and pay closer attention to the rest of the reading?

    * Is it important to not mull over every sentence? Should I weed out what is "relevant" and what is not? How can I tell if it is relevant? (isn't that up to the professor's discretion?)

    * How did you take notes on/while reading? Typed or written? I'm afraid if I don't take notes while reading, I will have an even harder time recalling ideas/concepts.

    * How can I be efficient in condensing my reading notes into an outline? Should my reading notes be concise?

    * How do you go about taking notes effectively? Like, how do you go about determining what parts are going to be relevant to exams?

    * How did you balance your time with reading the text itself and reading supplements? (i.e. doing CALI lessons/reading E&E's, etc. etc.)

    * CASES -- I've read here that I shouldn't spend so much time on case briefs ... what should I be focusing on when I read cases? Some advice I've read on here suggest only skimming thru cases -- is this such a good idea? It seems like professors spend a lot of time on cases during class, but I know it may not be useful when it comes to exams. How do I balance day-to-day reading assignments and preparing for the final?

I am a 1L at a T10 school and I received 120k in scholarship. Of course I had been previously warned that LS will make you feel inadequate because your peers are all as intelligent as you are, but what I feel is just... dumb. As cliche as it is, I've never felt so intellectually inferior in a classroom before coming here. I feel like I can't retain the concepts as well as others. Others get called on and they have the answers immediately, and they're more articulate in discussing those concepts than I can. I see classmates lining up after class to ask the professor q's and I'm not even sure what q's I could possibly ask the professor, which is probably because they've explored the concept more in depth and I have yet to even realize where my gaps in understanding are.

I know it's early on and I can turn things around. I am seeking a counselor on campus to address some mental health issues going on, and hopefully the counselor can help me with this crippling feeling of failure and doom. I want so badly to do well in LS. Please help me :(

Re: Several 1L Questions about studying ...

Posted: Wed Sep 06, 2017 4:18 pm
by yyyuppp
just some brief bits of advice:

don't worry about people sounding smarter in class or like they "get it" and you don't. you don't get graded on how smart you are in class. at the end of the semester, you will take a bunch of rules you were taught and apply them to facts. thats what matters. many of the folks that talk the most in class will be at median or below.

cases are dense and hard to understand when you start as a 1L. take the time to read them and understand them the best you can. don't freak out if you don't get everything. (also, just dont freak out generally). when reading cases, the important thing is to understand what the rule that you are being taught (i.e., how does this add to your understanding of contracts/torts/etc). if you don't get it, ask the prof. after class or go to office hours or use a supplement. ideally, you should be getting an outline at some point from 2Ls and 3Ls that is specific to your professor and all the rules will be laid out clearly. you might also want to make your own outline or synthesize the one you're given with your notes or something.

regarding case books: your prof might talk about the notes after the cases.. he or she might cold call on them. read them and try to understand what they mean in context of the case that proceeds it. a lot of the times they just add to your understand of the topic, and don't add to the doctrine. sometimes they do. if the prof doesn't talk about a note, don't worry about it. if he or she does and you don't know why or how it adds to the lesson, then ask. (really, the outlines should give you everything you need to know , so even if you miss something some week in class, you will still have that nuance in your outline and learn it come exam time)

very little of what is in the cases itself will be important on exams. generally the cases all add a single rule or maybe a couple of rules to the doctrine. just figure out what that rule is and you're fine. (the tough part is then knowing how to apply that rule to facts). i would take notes on what your professor usually cold calls on + the rule from the case. pay attention to class and how your professor teaches the doctrine. that is ultimately what you need to know, not what is in the casebook.

i used supplements when i didn't get something. didn't seem to take a ton of time to sit down for a half hour or so.

the important thing is to do what works for you to understand the material. people will do different things. your job is to figure out how to write a great exam. knowing the procedural posture, facts, and holding of International Shoe by heart and being able to explain all the reasoning behind it during september won't get you very close to writing a great exam in december. but, come december, knowing how to apply the doctrine for specific jurisdiction to a novel fact pattern will be what gets you points on the exam.

If taking notes by typing is better for you, then do it. i could never write as much as i wanted to by hand and my hand writing sucks, so i typed. but maybe you will want to hand write.

there are also a ton of guides to success in law school on this site. they may not be gospel, but they might give you a good idea of what kind of things you should be thinking about as you go through the semester.

anyways, best of luck. no need to be so stressed on day 2. it gets easier. you go to great school that will give you great opportunities.

Re: Several 1L Questions about studying ...

Posted: Wed Sep 06, 2017 4:25 pm
by cbbinnyc
breakfast wrote:
    * Should I or should I not be carefully reading the "Notes & Questions" at the end of each chapter some books have? Should I only extract interesting ideas/concepts from this section, and pay closer attention to the rest of the reading?


Depends on the professor. For most professors: no. However, sometimes (especially when your professor wrote the casebook) the notes can give clues about what the prof wants you to take from the case. But, even if the professor cares about the notes, don't spend an inordinate amount of time here.

breakfast wrote:* Is it important to not mull over every sentence? Should I weed out what is "relevant" and what is not? How can I tell if it is relevant? (isn't that up to the professor's discretion?)


My advice here: read a brief of the case before reading the actual case. I used quimbee.com in 1L (and still do) - it requires a paid membership and is a little expensive, but I found it incredibly helpful. There are other sites with free briefs (though they are not as consistently good) and there are print resources with case briefs. For 1L, it should be relatively easy to find briefs for the vast majority of your cases. The brief will give you at least a pretty good idea of what you should be looking for and will make it easier and quicker to read through the actual case.

breakfast wrote:* How did you take notes on/while reading? Typed or written? I'm afraid if I don't take notes while reading, I will have an even harder time recalling ideas/concepts.

I typed my notes, but this is completely personal in terms of effectiveness.

breakfast wrote:* How can I be efficient in condensing my reading notes into an outline? Should my reading notes be

There are probably many answers to this question. Remember that the outline is for one purpose and one purpose only: doing well on the final exam. The final exam, in most classes, will require you to know the black latter law and apply it to a fact pattern (and some professors will want you to analogize to cases from the reading). So your notes should generally be whittled down to the bare bones facts and holding of the important cases, the black letter rules, and any policy thoughts that seem to be important to your professor. It's early to be worrying about this, though.

breakfast wrote:* How did you balance your time with reading the text itself and reading supplements? (i.e. doing CALI lessons/reading E&E's, etc. etc.)

Supplements are the last priority after doing the assigned reading, outlining, and looking at practice exams and hypos. Again, this is probably something where everybody will have an opinion, but I think supplements are best used in two cases: (1) on the weekends (or after all reading assignments are done) to clarify areas that were unclear to you and (2) towards the end of the semester, when in full outlining mode, to fill in any gaps or clarify black letter law on your outline.

breakfast wrote:* CASES -- I've read here that I shouldn't spend so much time on case briefs ... what should I be focusing on when I read cases? Some advice I've read on here suggest only skimming thru cases -- is this such a good idea? It seems like professors spend a lot of time on cases during class, but I know it may not be useful when it comes to exams. How do I balance day-to-day reading assignments and preparing for the final?

DO NOT BRIEF [edited, originally said OUTLINE by accident], especially if you are spending too much time on reading. As I mentioned above, get a commercial brief and copy that into your notes, making cuts and additions as needed.

breakfast wrote:I am a 1L at a T10 school and I received 120k in scholarship. Of course I had been previously warned that LS will make you feel inadequate because your peers are all as intelligent as you are, but what I feel is just... dumb. As cliche as it is, I've never felt so intellectually inferior in a classroom before coming here. I feel like I can't retain the concepts as well as others. Others get called on and they have the answers immediately, and they're more articulate in discussing those concepts than I can. I see classmates lining up after class to ask the professor q's and I'm not even sure what q's I could possibly ask the professor, which is probably because they've explored the concept more in depth and I have yet to even realize where my gaps in understanding are.


Things will calm down as the semester goes on. Most people come in hyped up (hell, I went to Civ Pro office hours my first day to talk through Pennoyer, which was a totally silly and unnecessary move), but things will fall into a rhythm.

Re: Several 1L Questions about studying ...

Posted: Wed Sep 06, 2017 4:41 pm
by breakfast
cbbinnyc wrote:
breakfast wrote:* Is it important to not mull over every sentence? Should I weed out what is "relevant" and what is not? How can I tell if it is relevant? (isn't that up to the professor's discretion?)


My advice here: read a brief of the case before reading the actual case. I used quimbee.com in 1L (and still do) - it requires a paid membership and is a little expensive, but I found it incredibly helpful. There are other sites with free briefs (though they are not as consistently good) and there are print resources with case briefs. For 1L, it should be relatively easy to find briefs for the vast majority of your cases. The brief will give you at least a pretty good idea of what you should be looking for and will make it easier and quicker to read through the actual case.


breakfast wrote:* CASES -- I've read here that I shouldn't spend so much time on case briefs ... what should I be focusing on when I read cases? Some advice I've read on here suggest only skimming thru cases -- is this such a good idea? It seems like professors spend a lot of time on cases during class, but I know it may not be useful when it comes to exams. How do I balance day-to-day reading assignments and preparing for the final?
[/list]

DO NOT BRIEF [edited, originally said OUTLINE by accident], especially if you are spending too much time on reading. As I mentioned above, get a commercial brief and copy that into your notes, making cuts and additions as needed.



Thank you so much for a thoughtful reply. For quimbee.com, which level of membership would you recommend? Are there other commercial outline banks that are popular? I'm having a lot of trouble identifying "takeaways" from cases, and am willing to try anything to help.

Re: Several 1L Questions about studying ...

Posted: Wed Sep 06, 2017 4:43 pm
by Damage Over Time
I used quimbee 1L year too and it straight up carried me through contracts

Re: Several 1L Questions about studying ...

Posted: Wed Sep 06, 2017 4:54 pm
by cbbinnyc
breakfast wrote:Thank you so much for a thoughtful reply. For quimbee.com, which level of membership would you recommend? Are there other commercial outline banks that are popular? I'm having a lot of trouble identifying "takeaways" from cases, and am willing to try anything to help.


I have the Gold membership, which is $24/month.
If you don't want to pay (though, again, I think it is well worth the investment ... they also have other helpful resources: helpful videos that layout the black letter law in all 1L classes and common upper level classes, exam tips, legal writing videos, etc etc), before joining quimbee I found most of my briefs on casebriefs.com (usually the first site that pops up if you Google "[case name] case brief") - these are generally good, but not as consistently good/helpful as Quimbee

Re: Several 1L Questions about studying ...

Posted: Thu Sep 07, 2017 6:46 am
by cavalier1138
I actually recommend doing your own briefing for a few reasons:

1. It will teach you to read the case for the important points and stop obsessing over every single sentence.
2. You won't waste money.
3. You will be much more likely to pull out the essential elements of the case for your class (which professional services definitely don't do).
4. You won't waste money.
5. Your exam is going to largely be you reading a dense fact pattern and identifying the important information. If you've been letting someone else do that for you all semester, you're going to have a rough time.
6. You won't waste money.

You just got started. Some people are quicker studies at learning how to read cases, but you should not be throwing in the towel at this stage in the game. I'd argue that over half of 1L is learning how to read a case and extract the relevant information in an efficient manner.

Re: Several 1L Questions about studying ...

Posted: Thu Sep 07, 2017 8:56 am
by A. Nony Mouse
I tend to agree with cavalier. It's hard right now because you have to learn to read cases and there is a learning curve. For me the best way to do that was to read them all carefully and write briefs for, like, the first 2 weeks or so, until I figured out how cases worked. I can see that for some people using premade briefs would work too, though I didn't.

I also book briefed after that - noted in the margins the issue, holding, and rule, as well as a few key facts. I agree with everyone else that you shouldn't worry about how others sound (they probably think you sound like you have it all together, too), but I found having notes in the book helpful for cold calls. (They're not the major priority but I preferred to be able to answer.) Also, book briefing kept me from filling up my notes/outlines with info about cases that I really didn't need - I didn't need lots of facts/specific issues in my outlines, just the rules.

Re: Several 1L Questions about studying ...

Posted: Thu Sep 07, 2017 4:59 pm
by vcap180
yyyuppp wrote:just some brief bits of advice:

don't worry about people sounding smarter in class or like they "get it" and you don't. you don't get graded on how smart you are in class. at the end of the semester, you will take a bunch of rules you were taught and apply them to facts. thats what matters. many of the folks that talk the most in class will be at median or below.

cases are dense and hard to understand when you start as a 1L. take the time to read them and understand them the best you can. don't freak out if you don't get everything. (also, just dont freak out generally). when reading cases, the important thing is to understand what the rule that you are being taught (i.e., how does this add to your understanding of contracts/torts/etc). if you don't get it, ask the prof. after class or go to office hours or use a supplement. ideally, you should be getting an outline at some point from 2Ls and 3Ls that is specific to your professor and all the rules will be laid out clearly. you might also want to make your own outline or synthesize the one you're given with your notes or something.

regarding case books: your prof might talk about the notes after the cases.. he or she might cold call on them. read them and try to understand what they mean in context of the case that proceeds it. a lot of the times they just add to your understand of the topic, and don't add to the doctrine. sometimes they do. if the prof doesn't talk about a note, don't worry about it. if he or she does and you don't know why or how it adds to the lesson, then ask. (really, the outlines should give you everything you need to know , so even if you miss something some week in class, you will still have that nuance in your outline and learn it come exam time)

very little of what is in the cases itself will be important on exams. generally the cases all add a single rule or maybe a couple of rules to the doctrine. just figure out what that rule is and you're fine. (the tough part is then knowing how to apply that rule to facts). i would take notes on what your professor usually cold calls on + the rule from the case. pay attention to class and how your professor teaches the doctrine. that is ultimately what you need to know, not what is in the casebook.

i used supplements when i didn't get something. didn't seem to take a ton of time to sit down for a half hour or so.

the important thing is to do what works for you to understand the material. people will do different things. your job is to figure out how to write a great exam. knowing the procedural posture, facts, and holding of International Shoe by heart and being able to explain all the reasoning behind it during september won't get you very close to writing a great exam in december. but, come december, knowing how to apply the doctrine for specific jurisdiction to a novel fact pattern will be what gets you points on the exam.

If taking notes by typing is better for you, then do it. i could never write as much as i wanted to by hand and my hand writing sucks, so i typed. but maybe you will want to hand write.

there are also a ton of guides to success in law school on this site. they may not be gospel, but they might give you a good idea of what kind of things you should be thinking about as you go through the semester.

anyways, best of luck. no need to be so stressed on day 2. it gets easier. you go to great school that will give you great opportunities.


Question re: the bolded - how do we know which rule should be applied on the exam when we've gone over cases that impart different rules or standards for the same legal theory/concept (e.g negligence in torts or assent in contracts or whatever else). If one court found one standard, but another court in a different jurisdiction used a different standard, and neither is authoritative over the other, how do you know which to use? Do you just compare each against the relevant statute and see what's most compelling? What if there isn't a relevant statute?

I don't even know if my question makes sense - I have never even seen a law school exam question yet

EDIT - please don't quote

Re: Several 1L Questions about studying ...

Posted: Thu Sep 07, 2017 5:08 pm
by cbbinnyc
vcap: Sometimes the hypo will give a specific jurisdictional rule to follow (for example, in Crim, the hypo might specify that you are in a Pinkerton jurisdiction that does not follow the MPC, in which case you should obviously follow those rules). However, if the hypo doesn't specify, and there is a jurisdictional split, then, congrats, you have found a great issue on which to rack up points. You should examine the issue using all the various standards and say how you think the issue will come out differently (or not) under those different standards.

Re: Several 1L Questions about studying ...

Posted: Thu Sep 07, 2017 5:12 pm
by vcap180
Cbbinnyc - this makes sense; thank you! One other question: would you say a lot (most?) questions involve some a black letter statute that needs to be analyZed explicitly on the exam, or is it moreso applying reasoning deduced from common law? Classes just started, but I feel like I haven't even looked at the statutes - only to the extent that they are mentioned in the cases.

Re: Several 1L Questions about studying ...

Posted: Thu Sep 07, 2017 5:24 pm
by cbbinnyc
Depends on the class. E.g., Crim will almost certainly involve analyzing a statute (to figure out what the mens rea is for each element, etc). Torts and contracts are mostly common law doctrine, so probably not. Professors should generally make clear what things you need to know cold (e.g. the elements of negligence) and what things are just being used as an example of a more general principle but you don't need to know for the exam (e.g. Idaho's homicide laws).

Re: Several 1L Questions about studying ...

Posted: Thu Sep 07, 2017 5:27 pm
by Thesaurus
vcap180 wrote:Cbbinnyc - this makes sense; thank you! One other question: would you say a lot (most?) questions involve some a black letter statute that needs to be analyZed explicitly on the exam, or is it moreso applying reasoning deduced from common law? Classes just started, but I feel like I haven't even looked at the statutes - only to the extent that they are mentioned in the cases.

What statutes would you even be looking at at this point, besides what's cited in the cases? You've got the casebooks and restatements, but the restatements aren't law. So far I've had to read like 1 statute that was cited in a bunch of cases and a couple of paragraphs from the Constitution.

I'm not taking crim this semester though.

Re: Several 1L Questions about studying ...

Posted: Thu Sep 07, 2017 11:20 pm
by RaceJudicata
Read canned briefs prior to reading the case. This will clue you in on what is important.

Then, read the case. The important details will now jump out at you and you can pay closer attention to those details without getting bogged down in the minutia of the case.

I agree that you should "brief" on your own -- at least to start. But this method at least gives you some background prior to reading the case to look for the "important" or relevant information.

Another thing: Don't sweat being lost the first few weeks. You will quickly learn how the cases fit together and get a better picture of the subject matter. Don't sweat it now - and don't burn yourself out spending "hours" on a single case.

Re: Several 1L Questions about studying ...

Posted: Thu Sep 07, 2017 11:27 pm
by A. Nony Mouse
Thesaurus wrote:
vcap180 wrote:Cbbinnyc - this makes sense; thank you! One other question: would you say a lot (most?) questions involve some a black letter statute that needs to be analyZed explicitly on the exam, or is it moreso applying reasoning deduced from common law? Classes just started, but I feel like I haven't even looked at the statutes - only to the extent that they are mentioned in the cases.

What statutes would you even be looking at at this point, besides what's cited in the cases? You've got the casebooks and restatements, but the restatements aren't law. So far I've had to read like 1 statute that was cited in a bunch of cases and a couple of paragraphs from the Constitution.

I'm not taking crim this semester though.

Crim is the big statutory class, although also the UCC should come up in contracts. But anything you need to read will be assigned - you are not expected to go look at stuff that's not assigned. Most of the time when people say "black letter law" they mean the common law rules found in cases, not literally statutes.