Things I wish I'd understood as a rising 1L

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delusional
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Things I wish I'd understood as a rising 1L

Postby delusional » Tue May 22, 2012 7:50 pm

Things incoming 1Ls should know about law school

I am writing this because I just finished 1L, and there were many things I wish someone would have told me before. Some of these things people did tell me before, but either I had to experience them to know what they meant, or they weren’t expressed in a way that I really understood. Other things should have been taught a little more clearly in Legal Research and Writing class, but either it wasn’t taught well, or I got too caught up trying to figure out how to bluebook cite to a case from a foreign ad hoc tribunal that was published in the Reader’s Digest. I’m trying to add to the TLS wisdom bank, not because there’s something missing from what other, far more successful students have contributed, but because sometimes, the things that address one person’s needs wouldn’t work for another.
By way of introduction, I was not particularly successful grades-wise. However, a good part of that is because I did not initially “get” most of what I’ve written below, and most of what I plan to post in a few days, until the middle of spring semester. I welcome feedback from other rising 2Ls and experienced students that will either determine that my advice is worthless, or that it in fact even makes sense to people in the top 5%.

What is law and how is it studied?

This is a question that you’d think every incoming 1L would know. I didn’t. Sure, I knew what a law was, but I didn’t know the nature of rules, or the way that doctrine is created, or the roles that judges have as compared to legislatures. It didn’t occur to me to ask, or perhaps I was too embarrassed. But there’s no reason that you should wait until four weeks in to your first semester before you even start to get it. So what is law?
In order to understand what law is, it’s useful to take a minute to articulate why we have laws. In my experience, regular people think about events in terms of right and wrong, good guys and bad guys, happy endings and tragic endings. That suffices to determine what should be done in certain circumstances. When person X, without provocation, plots to kill person Y for no reason at all but his own personal enjoyment, we don’t need highly qualified judges or nuanced rules. But when cases get complicated, as most do, you can’t have judges making judgment calls. You need to have rules. Maybe people with underprivileged backgrounds should always be treated more leniently, maybe not. But everyone that has an underprivileged background needs to be treated the same way no matter which judge they get, and no matter what mood the judge is in. That requires rules.

The rules

The most important thing in studying law, at least as a 1L, is the rules. The rules are the clay that law works with. The rules are the tools that mix and form the clay. And newer, more refined rules, are what come out at the end of the process. The purpose of reading cases, 99% of the time, is to get at the rules. Once you know the rules, you can begin to work with them.
Some rules are easy. You aren’t allowed drive faster than the speed limit. You probably know that rule even if you are applying to med school, and you landed on this board because of an unfortunate autocomplete error. But what happens if you are speeding because your wife is in labor in the back seat? What happens if you are speeding because your wife is in labor in the hospital, and you don’t want to miss the birth of your child? Laypeople, (I think) assume that it’s up to the judge – was that a good excuse or not an excuse? But as I said above, in order for the legal system to function, there need to be rules. People need to know what they are allowed to do, and judges need to know how they ought to rule, in order to assure fairness.

Finding the rules

Take an example. You sit down in class on your first day of your first course – it’s driving law, since your law school has realized that most graduates are going to be doing traffic court and car accidents, they’ve made driving law a first year required course. You read a case called State v. McDad, about a person who was driving his wife, who was in the process of giving birth, to the hospital at 30 MPH over the speed limit. The case you read starts with all kinds of facts – the policeman pulled the driver over, tased him, racially profiled him, and didn’t let him go for an hour, while the his wife gave birth on the side of the road. The judge notes that later, there was a wrongful arrest case in which the couple unsuccessfully sued for damages. In the end of this opinion, though, the judge says that since the driver, who was bringing his wife to the hospital to give birth, had a good reason for driving that fast, the ticket cannot stand.
If you’re like me at the beginning of 1L, you walk away from that reading and think about it as a story. Some professors like to discuss it in class that way, which makes it a little more difficult to discern the pont. Lots of interesting details, biased cops, just judges, and a happy ending. You might relate it as a story to your friend who is a traffic cop. BUT IT IS NOT A STORY. That is not the point. You did not read it to find out that sometimes judges are fair and deliver good outcomes. You read the case to find the rule. And the rule is that when you are driving someone to the hospital because they are in the process of giving birth, you can speed. (Or, it might be that when you have an excuse you can speed, or it might be that when a husband drives a wife who is about to bear their first child, to a hospital a particular distance from their home, he can speed up to 30 MPH over the limit. More on that later.) Henceforth, policemen are essentially bound to let such a guy go, since they won’t get a conviction; judges don’t have to worry about treating people differently because they are in a bad mood that day; and law students can say that they know one thing for sure about law – people driving passengers who are in the process of giving birth are allowed to speed.

Developing the Doctrines

Once you have the rule, it will need to be applied. The next day, you read a case about someone who was speeding to pick up his wife who was beginning labor across town, and needed to go to the hospital. Don’t look at the verdict in the second case yet. What would the rule from State v. McDad say?
There are two ways to express the question, but they are essentially the same thing. One way is in terms of the rule – should it be interpreted broadly or narrowly? Does the McDad rule apply in cases where the woman is not yet in the car? Does the McDad rule apply in cases where the woman is not imminently going to give birth?
The other is in terms of the comparison between the cases – is the second case the same as the first case?
If the judge says that the cases are the same, you can say that he/she looked at the McDad rule broadly, or you can say that he/she followed McDad. If the judge says the cases are not the same, you can say that the judge looked at McDad narrowly, or distinguished McDad.
By combining rules from different cases, a broad and nuanced doctrine forms. There might be a few cases that determine the type of relationship that is necessary between the driver and the woman giving birth, a few cases that outline the type of recklessness that is allowed, and the types of emergencies that have been included in the McDad doctrine.

Applying the rules

Applying the rules is the same as developing the rules and doctrines, except that instead of a judge doing it, you are doing it. That is what happens on legal research assignments, and that is what happens at 100 MPH on exams. Applying the rules is the lifeblood of law school. If you can figure out what rules need to be applied, and then apply those rules, you are golden.
In doing that I have noticed several things that it is important to remember. 1. Identify all the questions of law, and 2. Remember that unlike in stories, the facts are in service of the rules. 3. When you are faced with applying a series of rules to a series of facts, don’t stop applying them because you think that the question has already been answered. For example, if you get a hypo about someone’s neighbor driving her to the hospital after she’s suffered an accidental amputation, and you have a clear case that says that neighbors are not included in the McDad doctrine, you should write a paragraph about that. And then you should write a paragraph about how amputations should be considered, based on the rules you’ve learned. These three points are important in applying the rules, but at this point, it is hard to demonstrate, so I’ll leave more for later.

The syllabus

Most syllabi work the way I described above – they are divided into sections, and under each section, there will be a series of cases that build a general doctrine.
Take an example from criminal law. There is an insanity defense. I conjecture that laypeople think the judge determines whether the defendant is crazy. But there are rules. The most canonical insanity doctrine comes from M’Naghten’s case, which says that the only two situations in which a defendant should be acquitted on grounds of insanity are if the defendant didn’t know what he was actually doing, (he thought he was chopping wood, but he was actually chopping up his cousin) or he didn’t know that it was wrong. That is a pretty clear rule and it goes both ways – these two events are insanity, any other type of mental limitation is not insanity. The next case you read is Blake v. US about a guy who had an irresistible compulsion to do something that he knew was wrong. It’s clear under the M’Naghten case that he would not have an insanity defense. But the court added a new prong to the insanity defense. The insanity rules are filling out – maybe you’ll notice that your textbook refers to the cognitive prong and the volitional prong – insanity that means defendant didn’t know something, and insanity that means defendant didn’t have a choice. Using the terms I set out above, the Blake Court did not distinguish M’Naghten or look at it narrowly; rather the court adopted an additional rule – now, irresistible compulsion is a new part of the insanity defense. You will read a series of other cases that deal with different claims of insanity, and then you will finish that part of the syllabus.
Then, you will look at the next heading in the syllabus – perhaps it will be rape. You may read an old case that demonstrates a defendant who clearly had unwanted sexual contact, who was acquitted because he didn’t use force. Then you will read a newer case that says that the force inherent in sexual contact is enough to meet the requirement of force. You might read another case that says that some jurisdictions don’t require force anymore, and yet another case that says that once the victim refused once, the perpetrator is always liable, even if he thought she changed her mind. And then you will finish the Rape heading, and move on to something else.

Using the information

As I said above, it is important to know what the questions are. For that, the place to start is the rules. But even once you have the rules, you still need to remember the facts because the facts illuminate the rules. Look at it as a two level test. Imagine a book of rules that was written as a book of rules – but in the footnotes, there are examples of how the rules would apply. That is how you should look at the facts in the cases that the rules come from. The first thing to think about is the rule. Sometimes, the case itself will outline detailed rules, and in that case, it is like responding to a series of questions. But even if the case has clear rules, you should proceed to the second level of analysis – how were the questions answered by the facts of that case, and how does it compare to the case at hand?

Rules and cases in Memos and Exams

One of my professors explained his syllabus to us by saying, “Look at each section as a closed memo assignment. I have given you the cases, and you need to see how they compare to figure out what the rules are and how to apply them.” That was illuminating to me in understanding both memos and exams.
You will be a novice when you sit down to work on your first memo. Don’t make the mistake that almost everyone in the class will be making, and think about whether your client is sympathetic, whether you think he should be legally right, what facts you would point to if you were trying to convince your friend you’re your client was correct, etc. First and foremost, read the cases and try to determine what the rules are. If you must, and your assignment rules allow it, go online and see if the cases you were assigned are well known, and if there are briefs available for them online. What are the rules that the case briefs get out of the cases? Cases are sources of rules. That is what you should be using them for.
Once you have surgically removed the rules from the cases, see how they apply to your case. Now that you have isolated the rule, you can go back and look at the facts to work with the rule. Are the facts in your case similar to the case that you got the rule out of? How are they similar? How are they different? Do the differences lead you to think the rule should not apply? Remember, the facts are in service of the rule, so find the rule that you are referring to and apply it in light of the facts of the case at hand compared to the case the rule came from.

Rules, facts, IRAC, and legal writing

Now that you understand the way that rules work, it will be easier to understand what the purpose of legal writing structure is. Your Legal Research and Writing class will give you some format that you should use. Some examples (from Wikipedia) are MIRAT, IDAR, CREAC, TREACC, CRuPAC, ISAAC and ILAC. You will want to make rhetorical points, you will want to leave out obvious things to save space, you will be tempted by “story” parts of the hypo and you will want to treat some issues in just one sentence. But that is not what legal writing is for. Legal writing is for the purpose of applying the accepted rules to the case at hand. The essence of legal analysis is finding the rule, applying the rule, and proving it by comparison, NOT comparing similar experiences, or characters, or plaintiffs or defendants. If the compelling fact relates to your application of a rule, by all means, use it in your “application” or “analogy” or “comparison” section. Otherwise, it’s irrelevant. By building your writing foremost around the rules and then the application of them to the case, and including nothing else you will be on your way to mastering quality legal writing and law school in general.

As I said above, I welcome other law students to critique my post, although I urge you to go easy on me – I get nothing out of this, and even if it’s something you would not have gained from, I know that I would have loved to understand this before.

I plan another post explaining a good way to outline and to use the outline on exams, although that is more concrete and pretty much in line with what others have already written.

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boosk
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Re: Things I wish I'd understood as a rising 1L

Postby boosk » Tue May 22, 2012 7:59 pm

:idea:

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gaud
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Re: Things I wish I'd understood as a rising 1L

Postby gaud » Tue May 22, 2012 8:04 pm

Tag

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roaringeagle
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Re: Things I wish I'd understood as a rising 1L

Postby roaringeagle » Tue May 22, 2012 8:04 pm

thank you for your post. It is pretty clear and straightforward in that a 0L can understand it. I am reading two books i just got now to prepare for law school:

1.Getting to maybe

2. How to interview like a pro

I find "getting to maybe" a bit haughty and involved, but with some golden advice . It is written by 2 law professors, so that is pretty much expected.

how to interview like a pro is a shorter book that i have not gotten to yet, given that getting to maybe is long as shit.

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IHeartPhilly
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Re: Things I wish I'd understood as a rising 1L

Postby IHeartPhilly » Tue May 22, 2012 8:08 pm

Tag. Thanks delusional.

northerncali9
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Re: Things I wish I'd understood as a rising 1L

Postby northerncali9 » Tue May 22, 2012 8:17 pm

1. Reading/briefing cases is a waste of time for exam preparation purposes (the only utility it really serves is having a pretty highlighted/tabbed book to show off to other 1L's).
2. Don't listen to a word anyone other than the professor says during lecture.
3. Make friends with smart upperclassmen and get outlines/scripts from them for all of your classes.
4. Take all the practice exams available on reserve for your classes (multiple times).
5. Make every effort to clarify concepts with professors during office hours instead of consulting E&E's (still look at E&E's, but only for review purposes). In my experience, even professors that were often unclear or went off on tangents during lecture were surprisingly very helpful during office hours.

delusional
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Re: Things I wish I'd understood as a rising 1L

Postby delusional » Tue May 22, 2012 8:36 pm

northerncali9 wrote:1. Reading/briefing cases is a waste of time for exam preparation purposes (the only utility it really serves is having a pretty highlighted/tabbed book to show off to other 1L's).
2. Don't listen to a word anyone other than the professor says during lecture.
3. Make friends with smart upperclassmen and get outlines/scripts from them for all of your classes.
4. Take all the practice exams available on reserve for your classes (multiple times).
5. Make every effort to clarify concepts with professors during office hours instead of consulting E&E's (still look at E&E's, but only for review purposes). In my experience, even professors that were often unclear or went off on tangents during lecture were surprisingly very helpful during office hours.
The only part of your post that I disagree with is 1. It may be helpful in comparing the facts of the case in when you apply the rule. Of course, a good outline can also include relevant facts, and reading week is not the time to brief cases, but generally, briefing cases as I read them for class was helpful for me. And in my big post, I was going to mention that you should do what works for you.

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LawSuccess
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Re: Things I wish I'd understood as a rising 1L

Postby LawSuccess » Tue May 22, 2012 9:32 pm

Wow. Thanks!

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Cade McNown
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Re: Things I wish I'd understood as a rising 1L

Postby Cade McNown » Tue May 22, 2012 9:33 pm

northerncali9 wrote:1. Reading/briefing cases is a waste of time for exam preparation purposes (the only utility it really serves is having a pretty highlighted/tabbed book to show off to other 1L's).
2. Don't listen to a word anyone other than the professor says during lecture.
3. Make friends with smart upperclassmen and get outlines/scripts from them for all of your classes.
4. Take all the practice exams available on reserve for your classes (multiple times).
5. Make every effort to clarify concepts with professors during office hours instead of consulting E&E's (still look at E&E's, but only for review purposes). In my experience, even professors that were often unclear or went off on tangents during lecture were surprisingly very helpful during office hours.


IMO this is garbage advice.
1. Reading & Briefing is not a waste of time, especially for exam-taking purposes. You have to learn to read & follow a case before you can understand and successfully issue spot an exam fact pattern, because the patterns you'll identify in reading and briefing cases reappear in exams. Also, pretty tabbed outlines are very helpful on open-note exams.
2. Absolutely discredited. You must pay attention in class, and that means following the entire discussion, not just lecture. If you think something a fellow classmate says is bogus, you should be able to articulate why. Moreover, your classmates may have valuable interpretations of a topic that you've missed. What the professor thinks is of course important, but don't ignore other resources for that reason.
3. Make your own outlines. It sucks, but do it. If you don't feel confident with your own work, then compare outlines with someone in your class who is also struggling through the material, and together you'll each refine your knowledge.
4. Take practice exams for sure, and take them early. But by no means should you take the same exam more than once. What value is there in taking an exam you're already familiar with?
5. If you do 1-3, you'll have a lot less to clear up with your professor after class or during office hours. Office hours and supplements like E&Es are there if you need them, but always remember they are supplements.
The number one thing to remember is that you learn law by doing. To the extent that norcal's post is inconsistent with that basic principle, I respectfully dissent.

lobolawyer
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Re: Things I wish I'd understood as a rising 1L

Postby lobolawyer » Tue May 22, 2012 9:42 pm

Cade McNown wrote:
northerncali9 wrote:1. Reading/briefing cases is a waste of time for exam preparation purposes (the only utility it really serves is having a pretty highlighted/tabbed book to show off to other 1L's).
2. Don't listen to a word anyone other than the professor says during lecture.
3. Make friends with smart upperclassmen and get outlines/scripts from them for all of your classes.
4. Take all the practice exams available on reserve for your classes (multiple times).
5. Make every effort to clarify concepts with professors during office hours instead of consulting E&E's (still look at E&E's, but only for review purposes). In my experience, even professors that were often unclear or went off on tangents during lecture were surprisingly very helpful during office hours.


IMO this is garbage advice.
1. Reading & Briefing is not a waste of time, especially for exam-taking purposes. You have to learn to read & follow a case before you can understand and successfully issue spot an exam fact pattern, because the patterns you'll identify in reading and briefing cases reappear in exams. Also, pretty tabbed outlines are very helpful on open-note exams.
2. Absolutely discredited. You must pay attention in class, and that means following the entire discussion, not just lecture. If you think something a fellow classmate says is bogus, you should be able to articulate why. Moreover, your classmates may have valuable interpretations of a topic that you've missed. What the professor thinks is of course important, but don't ignore other resources for that reason.
3. Make your own outlines. It sucks, but do it. If you don't feel confident with your own work, then compare outlines with someone in your class who is also struggling through the material, and together you'll each refine your knowledge.
4. Take practice exams for sure, and take them early. But by no means should you take the same exam more than once. What value is there in taking an exam you're already familiar with?
5. If you do 1-3, you'll have a lot less to clear up with your professor after class or during office hours. Office hours and supplements like E&Es are there if you need them, but always remember they are supplements.
The number one thing to remember is that you learn law by doing. To the extent that norcal's post is inconsistent with that basic principle, I respectfully dissent.


TCR.

071816
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Re: Things I wish I'd understood as a rising 1L

Postby 071816 » Tue May 22, 2012 9:46 pm

Cade McNown wrote:
northerncali9 wrote:1. Reading/briefing cases is a waste of time for exam preparation purposes (the only utility it really serves is having a pretty highlighted/tabbed book to show off to other 1L's).
2. Don't listen to a word anyone other than the professor says during lecture.
3. Make friends with smart upperclassmen and get outlines/scripts from them for all of your classes.
4. Take all the practice exams available on reserve for your classes (multiple times).
5. Make every effort to clarify concepts with professors during office hours instead of consulting E&E's (still look at E&E's, but only for review purposes). In my experience, even professors that were often unclear or went off on tangents during lecture were surprisingly very helpful during office hours.


IMO this is garbage advice.
1. Reading & Briefing is not a waste of time, especially for exam-taking purposes. You have to learn to read & follow a case before you can understand and successfully issue spot an exam fact pattern, because the patterns you'll identify in reading and briefing cases reappear in exams. Also, pretty tabbed outlines are very helpful on open-note exams.
2. Absolutely discredited. You must pay attention in class, and that means following the entire discussion, not just lecture. If you think something a fellow classmate says is bogus, you should be able to articulate why. Moreover, your classmates may have valuable interpretations of a topic that you've missed. What the professor thinks is of course important, but don't ignore other resources for that reason.
3. Make your own outlines. It sucks, but do it. If you don't feel confident with your own work, then compare outlines with someone in your class who is also struggling through the material, and together you'll each refine your knowledge.
4. Take practice exams for sure, and take them early. But by no means should you take the same exam more than once. What value is there in taking an exam you're already familiar with?
5. If you do 1-3, you'll have a lot less to clear up with your professor after class or during office hours. Office hours and supplements like E&Es are there if you need them, but always remember they are supplements.
The number one thing to remember is that you learn law by doing. To the extent that norcal's post is inconsistent with that basic principle, I respectfully dissent.

Outed as Antonin Scalia.

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Tanicius
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Re: Things I wish I'd understood as a rising 1L

Postby Tanicius » Tue May 22, 2012 9:52 pm

I agree with the OP that it's important to know rules, but I think reading cases to find the rules is a huge waste of time. The rules are much more efficiently understood during class lecture, the case's Wikipedia page, or any number of case brief websites. Reading cases can help to understand the structure of legal writing and argument, so that's helpful to some degree, but IMO there's no actual reason to read the case for substantive understanding except for:

1.) one of the much more accessible secondary sources doesn't note something important like a famous dissent
2.) the professor is adamant about certain policy concerns outlined in a case
3.) the professor grades participation during a cold call (which half the time you can survive with just a reading of a case summary)


You have plenty of stuff to do in 1L that trains you on legal analysis and writing that does not require you to read cases in substantive courses. LRW classes teach you how to disassemble cases and much more. Most cases in substantive courses can be reduced to one sentence - two or three if the facts and/or opposing justice opinions are important. Some professors won't even want case cites on their final exams. In those classes, stay the hell away from the textbook and pay attention in class to the professor's version of the rules, because that's literally all that matters.

All in all, I found that not spending hours every night reading cases every night was fine. For courses that seem particularly foreign to you (for me it was property) read a supplement to death about a month out from finals and then start putting together an idea of the professor's preferred doctrines. You're not going to remember any details about a case that you read half a semester ago that you wouldn't also remember from a case summary posted online. If you're focusing on or remembering other parts of a case, then either the professor better have specifically emphasized those parts of the cases or you're getting bogged down in unimportant fluff.
Last edited by Tanicius on Tue May 22, 2012 9:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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MrPapagiorgio
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Re: Things I wish I'd understood as a rising 1L

Postby MrPapagiorgio » Tue May 22, 2012 9:54 pm

Best single piece of advice to give to incoming 1Ls on TLS? Don't think the advice on TLS is one size fits all. I followed the "cases don't mean shit" mantra on TLS and I got slaughtered on my crim and civ pro exams because of it. Talk to students who had your professor in previous years to learn his or her quirks. For example, with my con law professor, if you talk about anything on the final that he did not cover in class (anything that will be in every single supplement), you get an automatic F on that question (and no, I'm not exaggerating).

For all of the good advice regarding the LSAT that TLS has, I have found that many of the 1L guides were nothing like my experience and I got burned on the exam advice that I took from these guides. Maybe my experience was an outlier. I don't know. But the take home point here is to gear everything that you do towards the specific professor that you have.

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Re: Things I wish I'd understood as a rising 1L

Postby acirilli1722 » Tue May 22, 2012 10:00 pm

tag

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Tanicius
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Re: Things I wish I'd understood as a rising 1L

Postby Tanicius » Tue May 22, 2012 10:05 pm

MrPapagiorgio wrote:Best single piece of advice to give to incoming 1Ls on TLS? Don't think the advice on TLS is one size fits all. I followed the "cases don't mean shit" mantra on TLS and I got slaughtered on my crim and civ pro exams because of it. Talk to students who had your professor in previous years to learn his or her quirks. For example, with my con law professor, if you talk about anything on the final that he did not cover in class (anything that will be in every single supplement), you get an automatic F on that question (and no, I'm not exaggerating).

For all of the good advice regarding the LSAT that TLS has, I have found that many of the 1L guides were nothing like my experience and I got burned on the exam advice that I took from these guides. Maybe my experience was an outlier. I don't know. But the take home point here is to gear everything that you do towards the specific professor that you have.



I don't think anyone would ever say "cases don't meant shit," even in a less exaggerated manner. Cases matter if the professor expects you to cite them on an exam. What doesn't matter is reading cases from beginning to end. For 1L doctrine classes, that amounts to a huge amount of time spent reading just to take away a few sentences of information. Everyone's different, but for most people that exacts a huge toll on your psyche, and it accomplishes something that I don't think is necessarily helpful even a little.

Did any of you ever have a lovably endearing but totally incompetent teacher in high school who would show entire movies in class just to demonstrate a single concept? I was once in this "Current Events" class, and during a unit on internet media, he showed us the film The Net to teach us about "the internet." No joke. That's the casebook method of teaching in law school for you. It's like watching the entire Titanic movie just so you write down the handful of dialogue lines exchanged between Jack and Rose during the naked drawing scene. Now if your professor were to emphasize that this particular scene is necessarily understood in context of the entire movie, then fine, watch the entire movie, all three and a half or however many hours. But otherwise, don't waste the time. The only real difference between that example and real law school classes is that law school reading isn't as entertaining as watching Titanic, so you have less of a reason to do it when it's not helpful on the test.
Last edited by Tanicius on Tue May 22, 2012 10:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.

delusional
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Re: Things I wish I'd understood as a rising 1L

Postby delusional » Tue May 22, 2012 10:05 pm

Looking at the last few posts, I want to re-chime in to say that one of my big mistakes was looking to conventional wisdom instead of following my instincts for what would work for me. There are different ways to outline, and different ways to get at rules, but for me what I began doing later in the year, and what worked better, was taking good notes from reading, and trying, although not always succeeding, to identify the verdict and rule in the case. Then, as class progressed, I would fine-tune my reading notes - if I thought that requirement X was met by Y, but the professor thought it was met by Z, I would add it to my notes of the case. Additionally, I would add a few short notes after the case - it's amazing how little Black Letter Law comes out of an hour of class. That was the backbone of my outline, which basically means that you're 2/3 done when the semester ends, and you have time to work through exams.

Anyway, the point is that I'm sure many people did better than me using borrowed outlines and taking practice exams the entire reading period, or even the whole semester. But if you feel that you are uncomfortable doing that, or that you need to grasp the material organically, like I did, then by all means, do it. Don't feel like there's one right way to do things.

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Bronte
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Re: Things I wish I'd understood as a rising 1L

Postby Bronte » Tue May 22, 2012 10:24 pm

OP's post is good. As to law school advice in general, just don't take anything as dogma. When in doubt, err on the side of traditional studying tactics. It's very difficult to hack law school. If something sounds extreme (e.g., not reading cases at all but instead only reading secondary sources), it's probably not a good idea to place a lot of reliance on that.

I ended up high in my class by doing what I planned to do all along: engaging and studying hard. I read the cases thoroughly but quickly, highlighting in one color, taking notes in the margin, and focusing on finding the rules of law rather than on the facts or the details. I went to every class, paid attention the entire time (no computer), and took detailed notes. I made long, detailed outlines from scratch as if I were creating a commercial outline for publication. I studied in small groups (three to four people) toward the end of the semester by going through our outlines from front to back. I then took all available practice tests as early in advance as possible and went over those with my study groups.

I didn't go to office hours and used supplements minimally or not at all. I skimmed getting to maybe a week or so before school started but otherwise did no 0L prep. I also did not do a lot of extracurriculars, attend a lot of events or talks, spend a lot of time on the 1L job search, or do much besides study and watch movies and go to bars with people I met in law school. This latter part--use of supplements and use of time--is very person-specific, so you'll just have to figure it out.

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Cade McNown
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Re: Things I wish I'd understood as a rising 1L

Postby Cade McNown » Tue May 22, 2012 10:32 pm

MrPapagiorgio wrote:For all of the good advice regarding the LSAT that TLS has, I have found that many of the 1L guides were nothing like my experience and I got burned on the exam advice that I took from these guides. Maybe my experience was an outlier. I don't know. But the take home point here is to gear everything that you do towards the specific professor that you have.


Knowing your professor is certainly important: Come exam day, you want to know where he/she stands on the several issues the course covered, as well as the relative importance of those issues in your professor's mind. For example, you'll be bad off if you miss that your crim law professor thinks the felony murder rule is poor policy; but you'll be worse of if you miss that she thinks treating statutory rape as a strict liability offense is really bad policy. (If you're a 0L, it isn't important that you know what these rules are, the only takeaway is to know your professor's viewpoints on the subjects they cover).

However, for a rising 1L, your professor's viewpoints should be of secondary concern to start. If you're too quick to focus on your professor's views you'll be chasing your tail, because you won't have acquired the skills to read cases, statutes, treatises, or any other assigned material effectively. For cases, you'll first need to familiarize yourself with its moving parts: the facts, definitions, procedural history, issue presented, rules, holding, and dicta. You'll probably be asking yourself, what the F is a dicta--and that's ok, because nobody comes into law school ready to tackle problems head-on.

Thus, I think there is risk in taking either OP's or MrPapa's advice too literally. Like OP says, you want to discern the rules, and like MrPapa says, you need to know your Professor. These are essential facts to have in your toolkit. But facts are no good unless you know what to do with them.

I recommend looking at Atticus Pinch's guide to the 1L year: http://top-law-schools.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=157830 While his method involves a lot of work (perhaps not all of it necessary), it is a useful timeline for any wide-eyed 0L approaching the beginning of his/her legal career.

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Lovely Ludwig Van
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Re: Things I wish I'd understood as a rising 1L

Postby Lovely Ludwig Van » Tue May 22, 2012 10:39 pm

Tag. Thanks btw.

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fundamentallybroken
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Re: Things I wish I'd understood as a rising 1L

Postby fundamentallybroken » Tue May 22, 2012 10:40 pm

chimp wrote:Outed as Antonin Scalia.


No way - Scalia would never be so humble as to preface an opinion by saying it's his opinion. Everyone else has opinions, he has the truth.

Now Thomas...

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Re: Things I wish I'd understood as a rising 1L

Postby northerncali9 » Tue May 22, 2012 10:50 pm

Cade McNown wrote:
northerncali9 wrote:1. Reading/briefing cases is a waste of time for exam preparation purposes (the only utility it really serves is having a pretty highlighted/tabbed book to show off to other 1L's).
2. Don't listen to a word anyone other than the professor says during lecture.
3. Make friends with smart upperclassmen and get outlines/scripts from them for all of your classes.
4. Take all the practice exams available on reserve for your classes (multiple times).
5. Make every effort to clarify concepts with professors during office hours instead of consulting E&E's (still look at E&E's, but only for review purposes). In my experience, even professors that were often unclear or went off on tangents during lecture were surprisingly very helpful during office hours.


IMO this is garbage advice.
1. Reading & Briefing is not a waste of time, especially for exam-taking purposes. You have to learn to read & follow a case before you can understand and successfully issue spot an exam fact pattern, because the patterns you'll identify in reading and briefing cases reappear in exams. Also, pretty tabbed outlines are very helpful on open-note exams.
2. Absolutely discredited. You must pay attention in class, and that means following the entire discussion, not just lecture. If you think something a fellow classmate says is bogus, you should be able to articulate why. Moreover, your classmates may have valuable interpretations of a topic that you've missed. What the professor thinks is of course important, but don't ignore other resources for that reason.
3. Make your own outlines. It sucks, but do it. If you don't feel confident with your own work, then compare outlines with someone in your class who is also struggling through the material, and together you'll each refine your knowledge.
4. Take practice exams for sure, and take them early. But by no means should you take the same exam more than once. What value is there in taking an exam you're already familiar with?
5. If you do 1-3, you'll have a lot less to clear up with your professor after class or during office hours. Office hours and supplements like E&Es are there if you need them, but always remember they are supplements.
The number one thing to remember is that you learn law by doing. To the extent that norcal's post is inconsistent with that basic principle, I respectfully dissent.


I disagree. Reading/briefing is a waste of time. Sure, for the first 2-3 weeks go ahead and read/brief cases just to make sure you are capable of comprehending the material (if not, you have a problem). I should have added that the outlines you should get from upperclassmen are those that incorporate 2-3 sentences about the cases and how the rule was applied to the outcome. Whether or not you want to make your own outline, make sure to get very detailed and well-organized outlines from the people that already excelled in the classes you are taking.

Once again, reading/briefing is a waste of time. Every law student will come to this conclusion at some point in their law school career. The only point of cold-calling is to make sure you were a good little boy/girl and did your reading last night and the only reason people do the reading is because they are scared shitless they will get called on and look like an idiot. In reality, your time can be spent much more effectively going to office hours and working with practice exams/supplements.

Lastly, anything anyone other than professor says is irrelevant unless the professor repeats it (in which case I typed it down). The fact that you disagree with this proves you are a gunner.

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Richie Tenenbaum
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Re: Things I wish I'd understood as a rising 1L

Postby Richie Tenenbaum » Tue May 22, 2012 10:56 pm

Cade McNown wrote:
northerncali9 wrote:1. Reading/briefing cases is a waste of time for exam preparation purposes (the only utility it really serves is having a pretty highlighted/tabbed book to show off to other 1L's).
2. Don't listen to a word anyone other than the professor says during lecture.
3. Make friends with smart upperclassmen and get outlines/scripts from them for all of your classes.
4. Take all the practice exams available on reserve for your classes (multiple times).
5. Make every effort to clarify concepts with professors during office hours instead of consulting E&E's (still look at E&E's, but only for review purposes). In my experience, even professors that were often unclear or went off on tangents during lecture were surprisingly very helpful during office hours.


IMO this is garbage advice.
1. Reading & Briefing is not a waste of time, especially for exam-taking purposes. You have to learn to read & follow a case before you can understand and successfully issue spot an exam fact pattern, because the patterns you'll identify in reading and briefing cases reappear in exams. Also, pretty tabbed outlines are very helpful on open-note exams.
2. Absolutely discredited. You must pay attention in class, and that means following the entire discussion, not just lecture. If you think something a fellow classmate says is bogus, you should be able to articulate why. Moreover, your classmates may have valuable interpretations of a topic that you've missed. What the professor thinks is of course important, but don't ignore other resources for that reason.
3. Make your own outlines. It sucks, but do it. If you don't feel confident with your own work, then compare outlines with someone in your class who is also struggling through the material, and together you'll each refine your knowledge.
4. Take practice exams for sure, and take them early. But by no means should you take the same exam more than once. What value is there in taking an exam you're already familiar with?
5. If you do 1-3, you'll have a lot less to clear up with your professor after class or during office hours. Office hours and supplements like E&Es are there if you need them, but always remember they are supplements.
The number one thing to remember is that you learn law by doing. To the extent that norcal's post is inconsistent with that basic principle, I respectfully dissent.


Many people do well in many different ways (and many people can't do as well doing what works for others):
-Making my own outline is a horrible way for me to study. I learned this after my first semester. I have a good GPA, but it would be better if I had known that already coming into law school.
-Though this isn't quite the same probably, I have taken professors' practice tests multiple times when the tests are multiple choice. I found it helpful.
-Briefing isn't typically too helpful for me (I'm too slow at it), but I could understand how it is helpful to others.

northerncali9
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Re: Things I wish I'd understood as a rising 1L

Postby northerncali9 » Tue May 22, 2012 10:57 pm

Tanicius wrote:
MrPapagiorgio wrote:Best single piece of advice to give to incoming 1Ls on TLS? Don't think the advice on TLS is one size fits all. I followed the "cases don't mean shit" mantra on TLS and I got slaughtered on my crim and civ pro exams because of it. Talk to students who had your professor in previous years to learn his or her quirks. For example, with my con law professor, if you talk about anything on the final that he did not cover in class (anything that will be in every single supplement), you get an automatic F on that question (and no, I'm not exaggerating).

For all of the good advice regarding the LSAT that TLS has, I have found that many of the 1L guides were nothing like my experience and I got burned on the exam advice that I took from these guides. Maybe my experience was an outlier. I don't know. But the take home point here is to gear everything that you do towards the specific professor that you have.



I don't think anyone would ever say "cases don't meant shit," even in a less exaggerated manner. Cases matter if the professor expects you to cite them on an exam. What doesn't matter is reading cases from beginning to end. For 1L doctrine classes, that amounts to a huge amount of time spent reading just to take away a few sentences of information. Everyone's different, but for most people that exacts a huge toll on your psyche, and it accomplishes something that I don't think is necessarily helpful even a little.

Did any of you ever have a lovably endearing but totally incompetent teacher in high school who would show entire movies in class just to demonstrate a single concept? I was once in this "Current Events" class, and during a unit on internet media, he showed us the film The Net to teach us about "the internet." No joke. That's the casebook method of teaching in law school for you. It's like watching the entire Titanic movie just so you write down the handful of dialogue lines exchanged between Jack and Rose during the naked drawing scene. Now if your professor were to emphasize that this particular scene is necessarily understood in context of the entire movie, then fine, watch the entire movie, all three and a half or however many hours. But otherwise, don't waste the time. The only real difference between that example and real law school classes is that law school reading isn't as entertaining as watching Titanic, so you have less of a reason to do it when it's not helpful on the test.


Perfect analogy. I couldn't agree more. It's ridiculous to me that some 2L's and 3L's STILL don't "get it." I don't trust the logical reasoning ability of anyone who thinks reading/briefing cases is indispensable to the law school learning process.

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MellowMantis
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Re: Things I wish I'd understood as a rising 1L

Postby MellowMantis » Tue May 22, 2012 11:03 pm

Interesting

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Cade McNown
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Re: Things I wish I'd understood as a rising 1L

Postby Cade McNown » Tue May 22, 2012 11:14 pm

northerncali9 wrote:Perfect analogy. I couldn't agree more. It's ridiculous to me that some 2L's and 3L's STILL don't "get it." I don't trust the logical reasoning ability of anyone who thinks reading/briefing cases is indispensable to the law school learning process.


Ur rite NorCal...lawl school isn't about work, it's about who ya know:

northerncali9 wrote:Thousands of attorneys practicing in San Diego went to CalWestern and prefer hiring their graduates. Don't listen to posters who just look at a school's T3/T4 status and disregard it as a road to failure and debt. The rankings are skewed to begin with and what really matters is that you network from the get-go and do reasonably well as a student.

(fr.:http://top-law-schools.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=179522&p=5281088#p5281088).

As Richie, Bronte, & others (myself included) have reiterated, there's no one right approach to 1L year. But beware the half-baked advice of those who would have you believe 1L is just a day at the beach. Master the basics, find your approach, stick to it, profit.




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