How do I do well in Law School?

A forum for applicants and admitted students to ask law students and graduates about law school and the practice of law.
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chuckbass
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Re: How do I do well in Law School?

Postby chuckbass » Fri May 15, 2015 1:25 pm

djbatista wrote:Thanks for all the responses guys! I'm seeing a general consensus that practice exams is the right way to go. Any advice on where to look for exams assuming the prof/upperclassmen don't provide any old ones?

I mean, that's the only way to get old ones from your prof, and those are the only ones that really matter. If you only have one or something and want more, you can try to find exams that are similar from other profs/schools, but that can be iffy. I used quite a few tests from other schools, but only because they were very close to my own prof's exams so they were still useful.

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iamgeorgebush
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Re: How do I do well in Law School?

Postby iamgeorgebush » Fri May 15, 2015 6:28 pm

rising 2L here who did well. i'll share a few tips.

(1) analysis gets you points. generally, it's analysis that gets you points on exams. don't waste too much time (if any, see #2 below) restating the law. you may have heard of "IRAC" (issue-rule-application-conclusion). it should look more like IRAAAAAAAAAC.

also, while we're talking about analysis, you will hear this over and over again, but i'll say it anyway: argue both sides. when you do this, don't just make conclusory statements for each side, but actually support your conclusions through application of the law to the facts in the fact pattern, which means saying how various facts in the fact pattern do and do not support the legal conclusion. if your argument looks one-sided or just states legal conclusions with minimal reference to the facts in the fact pattern, you are doing it wrong.

there may also be different legal rules (or example, in torts, the "zone of danger" approach to emotional damages v. the "impact" approach to emotional damages), and you should discuss how the outcome would be different under each legal rule, if different rules might apply.

anyway, i don't want to get too deep into legal reasoning. there's this great book called getting to maybe that will explain this better. see #8 below.

(2) every prof is different. for example, some profs don't want you to write the rules at all, but rather prefer that you jump straight into the analysis. say the rule is a three-part balancing test, where application of the law involves balancing three factors. in civ pro, for instance, one of the tests you will likely encounter is the mathews v. eldridge balancing test, where you balance (i) the interest of the individual whose life/liberty/property was deprived; (ii) the interest of the government; and (iii) the risk of error and probable value, if any, of additional procedural safeguards. instead of listing those factors and explaining mathews, you might just say:

"there being deprivation of johnny's liberty by a state actor (it was a cop who threw johnny in jail), the court will use the mathews v. eldridge balancing test for procedural due process to determine whether the state violated johnny's constitutional rights under the due process clause. first, johnny's interest---liberty itself---is high, weighing in his favor on the first prong. because the state forbid johnny from communicating with counsel or anyone else outside of jail during his first 30 days in jail, the state not only deprived johnny of his liberty, but also of his ability to ability to ensure that his affairs were tended to while he was in jail. second, the government's interest was also high, b/c...." blah blah blah.


however, some profs may want you to list the factors as well. point being, know your prof and what she wants.

(3) prewriting? ish... you definitely want to prewrite the rules, so you don't have to think about how to phrase them. i pretty much organize my outlines by the rules and copy them into my essays as needed. in some classes, you may be able to to prewrite parts of essay questions you know or believe will come up (although this really only works for some classes with pointed types of questions---itwould not work for a class with a massive issue spotter like my torts class had). for example, most civpro exams have a personal jurisdiction issue spotter. there are only so many different types of PJ questions, and you can basically prewrite essays for each with stuff like [*INSERT FACTS/ANALYSIS HERE*] in various parts. for example, this is part of one i wrote for one type of PJ question:

Among SCOTUS’s tests for determining whether purposeful availment is satisfied, World-Wide’s “seek to serve” test is probably most appropriate, considering that D is a [*retailer / distributor*].

[*ARGUMENT BASED ON SEEK TO SERVE*]
• Target the forum state?
o Marketing aimed at forum state?
o Website?
o Attracted out-of-state customers in some special way?
• Might overcome the unilateral 3rd party issue
o Awareness/foreseeability not enough
• Direction of 3rd party?

This is a close call, but on balance, the facts seem to satisfy purposeful availment.

prewriting is also useful if you know there's a policy question coming up (usually the prof will tell you the format of the exam) and you can identify a few possibilities for what your prof might ask you. for example, you might have a pretty good idea that your torts prof will ask a policy question about either strict liability, damages caps, liability for emotional harm, or the "race to the bottom" in products liability. you might then prewrite policy questions about each of those four topics, which you can copy substantially during the exam, if not word-for-word. this will not only make you sound way more eloquent and coherent, but it will also save you tons of time so you can focus on the issue spotter or whatever other parts of the exam there may be.

(4) briefing. i briefed one or two days' worth of classes and thought it was useful b/c it taught me how to read cases and separate holdings from issues from reasoning. after that, i just wrote "issue," "holding," etc. in the margins of the casebook; anything else was a waste of time. but that's just me, and what works for you may be different.

(4)E&Es. for the subjects that have good E&Es (torts and civpro for sure [glannon is a god], maybe property, maybe contracts, definitely NOT crim or conlaw though, IMO), i found writing out answers to each of the examples as if i was writing an exam question and then comparing my answers to the questions to be very instructive. when i had time, i did this for every class at the conclusion of any given section in the course. for example, when we finished negligence for torts, i wrote out all the answers to the examples in the neglience chapter of the torts E&E and compared my answers to the explanations. when we finished proximate cause, i did the same for the proximate cause chapter. this is useful to do early on b/c you can target specific areas you just went over and get some practice on exam-taking without having to take a whole exam (which would be useless at the beginning of the semester, IMO, since you would know only a small part of the law).

(5) outlining. i started doing this a little over one month into the semester, after the natural completion of any given part of a course (for example, when we finished "negligence" in torts or "personal jurisdiction" in civpro). most people do this much later, but i think it's helpful to start early and continue to outline after the completion of each section. that way, once you're about 3 weeks away from exams, you can start taking practice tests (or parts of practice tests at least---depends on the course) while everyone else is still outlining. for most classes, i also did attack outlines at the end, which served as a good review of everything (since i sometimes forgot earlier parts of the course---that's the disadvantage of outlining early) and provided a usable tool for the exams (you'll find that in most courses, a 50 pg outline is too unwieldly to be of much use during the actual exam...i think i looked at my big torts outline maybe three times during the 4 hour exam, whereas i glanced at my two-page attack outline probably a dozen times).

(6) practice tests. for me, practice tests were the most valuable thing. if you professor releases a bunch of her past exams, take all of them if possible (or at least 5 or so if they have more than that) sometime starting about 2-3 weeks before classes end and ACTUALLY WRITE OUT YOUR ANSWERS. if she releases model answers, studiously compare your answers to hers and figure out how to improve yours. rewrite answers to be as good as hers if necessary. if she doesn't release model answers, get together with other like-minded students, compare your answers to one another, and solicit honest feedback. if the prof doesn't release past exams at all, she probably sucks. if that's the case, try to find out what her exams will be like from 2Ls or 3Ls and take practice exams that will be similar. this may be hard for some profs with a unique exam format. not much i can tell you in that case, but you still gotta figure out some way to practice.

(7) headings. see how my headings in this post make everything easy to read and follow? yeah, professors like that too, especially when they have 100 exams to grade. use headings and even subheadings, where appropriate.

(8) getting to maybe. it's a book, and a good one. get it and read it. ideally once before law school starts and another time as exams approach.
Last edited by iamgeorgebush on Wed Jun 03, 2015 10:32 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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starry eyed
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Re: How do I do well in Law School?

Postby starry eyed » Fri May 15, 2015 7:05 pm

Sticky in the making

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bowser
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Re: How do I do well in Law School?

Postby bowser » Fri May 15, 2015 7:13 pm

Work really really hard first semester.

Once you get your first semester grades back, look back to see if there's room for improvement. Go talk to your professors to see if there's something you did wrong you can correct.

Work really hard second semester, but also change your approach to whatever degree is required ( a lot of change if you didn't do so good 1st semester; tweaks if you did).

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KD35
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Re: How do I do well in Law School?

Postby KD35 » Fri May 15, 2015 11:46 pm

I would also encourage looking at an exam early on in the first semester in a traditional law school class like torts to see what a LS exam looks like. It is important to prepare with the end goal in mind and you can't do that if you don't know what a LS exam even looks like.

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LawsRUs
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Re: How do I do well in Law School?

Postby LawsRUs » Sat May 16, 2015 4:57 am

Thank you so much, everyone. I really do appreciate all of your replies. It really helps to hear about different ways with which you all approached your exams.

- Can I ask you if you can explain what goes on an attack outline?
- Also, I would very much appreciate any advice from you in hindsight on how to approach our 1L legal writing and research class.

Thank you all.

Effingham
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Re: How do I do well in Law School?

Postby Effingham » Sat May 16, 2015 10:15 am

Figured I would contribute a few of the places where I got some good exams for teachers that didn't post any prior exams - most, if not all, taken from here on TLS (I'd just send you there, but a lot are out of date and this will hopefully save some time):

Contracts:
http://www.columbia.edu/~ak472/contracts/exams.html

Torts:
http://www.kentlaw.edu/faculty/rbrill/c ... R1995.html
http://guweb2.gonzaga.edu/~dewolf/torts ... am_ind.htm
http://tortstoday.blogspot.com/p/final- ... -fall.html
http://ericejohnson.com/exam_archive/

General (Crim, CivPro, ConLaw, Torts, Contracts):
https://www.dropbox.com/sh/qh1o9a71udvwhxn/y6aoPlLez-
https://www.law.berkeley.edu/library/dynamic/exams/
http://lawbooklist.com/practice-exams-law-school.php
http://www.alliant.edu/sfls/sfls-progra ... -exams.php

As someone said earlier, the key with these is to sit down and spot every issue. Do one or two full-on and timed just to get a feel for the time, but the real benefit is learning to quickly spot issues, which you can do just by outlining and then checking your answer against the model answer.

Good luck, I don't envy you.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: How do I do well in Law School?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Sat May 16, 2015 11:08 am

1L legal writing/research - follow the directions exactly and give your prof exactly what they're asking for, regardless of whether it makes sense to you.

Effingham
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Re: How do I do well in Law School?

Postby Effingham » Sat May 16, 2015 11:18 am

A. Nony Mouse wrote:1L legal writing/research - follow the directions exactly and give your prof exactly what they're asking for, regardless of whether it makes sense to you.


Plug your stuff into a good cite checker too, or at least be careful about it. The teachers try to be objective, and that usually means grading turns on who didn't mess up any cites.

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chuckbass
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Re: How do I do well in Law School?

Postby chuckbass » Sat May 16, 2015 11:41 am

Effingham wrote:
A. Nony Mouse wrote:1L legal writing/research - follow the directions exactly and give your prof exactly what they're asking for, regardless of whether it makes sense to you.


Plug your stuff into a good cite checker too, or at least be careful about it. The teachers try to be objective, and that usually means grading turns on who didn't mess up any cites.

Yeah on most of the assignments I did ok mainly b/c I wasn't missing any easy bluebooking points.

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KD35
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Re: How do I do well in Law School?

Postby KD35 » Sat May 16, 2015 1:41 pm

scottidsntknow wrote:
Effingham wrote:
A. Nony Mouse wrote:1L legal writing/research - follow the directions exactly and give your prof exactly what they're asking for, regardless of whether it makes sense to you.


Plug your stuff into a good cite checker too, or at least be careful about it. The teachers try to be objective, and that usually means grading turns on who didn't mess up any cites.

Yeah on most of the assignments I did ok mainly b/c I wasn't missing any easy bluebooking points.


Still need to format and do the analysis of the assignment as the professor wants. Most professors, at least in my experience, have made it really clear what is a good setup and structure and what is not.

But in law school, definitely don't miss those easy points for bluebooking.

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ManoftheHour
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Re: How do I do well in Law School?

Postby ManoftheHour » Sat May 16, 2015 1:47 pm

A. Nony Mouse wrote:1L legal writing/research - follow the directions exactly and give your prof exactly what they're asking for, regardless of whether it makes sense to you.

lol, this is so true. My LRW professor didn't care about blue booking or citations. I mean, you had to put them in, but she basically said she wasn't going to check. She wanted simple, easy to read, no jargon, to the point writing. Even the research part was secondary (as long as it wasn't blatantly wrong). The TAs told me that for the purposes of that class, an A paper is one that the professor can read through quickly and understand exactly what each sentence means the first time she read it. If the professor has to go back and read a sentence because it is too long or slightly ambiguous, then you're getting marked off.

Did pretty well in that class. There were people who spent way more time on researching and got worse grades.
Last edited by ManoftheHour on Sat May 16, 2015 1:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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jbagelboy
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Re: How do I do well in Law School?

Postby jbagelboy » Sat May 16, 2015 1:51 pm

Don't go to a school with graded legal writing is TCR

aretoodeetoo
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Re: How do I do well in Law School?

Postby aretoodeetoo » Sun May 17, 2015 3:59 am

djbatista wrote:I'm beginning in August and I would like some tips from those of you who are veterans. How should I approach studying and preparing for exams? I also want a good balance between school, clubs/organizations. Thanks for your input, guys!


i didn't read any of the other advice given, i'm sure it was solid though.

key in law school is doing that thing that nobody likes to do. take practice exams. u will be learning a ton of crap and you won't want to apply it for various reasons (oh i don't want to run out of material, i want to wait until i master the entire subject, nobody else is doing it). just do the shit no one else is doing on top of all the busywork studying.

as for clubs/organizations? i don't know. try to likable i guess. no matter how nice you are some belligerent person in ls will pick a fight with you

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starry eyed
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Re: How do I do well in Law School?

Postby starry eyed » Sun May 17, 2015 6:07 am

aretoodeetoo wrote:
djbatista wrote:I'm beginning in August and I would like some tips from those of you who are veterans. How should I approach studying and preparing for exams? I also want a good balance between school, clubs/organizations. Thanks for your input, guys!


i didn't read any of the other advice given, i'm sure it was solid though.

key in law school is doing that thing that nobody likes to do. take practice exams. u will be learning a ton of crap and you won't want to apply it for various reasons (oh i don't want to run out of material, i want to wait until i master the entire subject, nobody else is doing it). just do the shit no one else is doing on top of all the busywork studying.

as for clubs/organizations? i don't know. try to likable i guess. no matter how nice you are some belligerent person in ls will pick a fight with you


what's the story? seems relatively easy to join a club and avoid a confrontation

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usn26
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Re: How do I do well in Law School?

Postby usn26 » Sun May 17, 2015 8:05 am

starry eyed wrote:what's the story? seems relatively easy to join a club and avoid a confrontation


+1

secadc11
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Re: How do I do well in Law School?

Postby secadc11 » Mon May 18, 2015 9:42 am

LawsRUs wrote:Thank you so much, everyone. I really do appreciate all of your replies. It really helps to hear about different ways with which you all approached your exams.

- Can I ask you if you can explain what goes on an attack outline?
- Also, I would very much appreciate any advice from you in hindsight on how to approach our 1L legal writing and research class.

Thank you all.


Also curious about the bolded.

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djbatista
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Re: How do I do well in Law School?

Postby djbatista » Mon May 18, 2015 9:50 am

Effingham wrote:Figured I would contribute a few of the places where I got some good exams for teachers that didn't post any prior exams - most, if not all, taken from here on TLS (I'd just send you there, but a lot are out of date and this will hopefully save some time):

Contracts:
http://www.columbia.edu/~ak472/contracts/exams.html

Torts:
http://www.kentlaw.edu/faculty/rbrill/c ... R1995.html
http://guweb2.gonzaga.edu/~dewolf/torts ... am_ind.htm
http://tortstoday.blogspot.com/p/final- ... -fall.html
http://ericejohnson.com/exam_archive/

General (Crim, CivPro, ConLaw, Torts, Contracts):
https://www.dropbox.com/sh/qh1o9a71udvwhxn/y6aoPlLez-
https://www.law.berkeley.edu/library/dynamic/exams/
http://lawbooklist.com/practice-exams-law-school.php
http://www.alliant.edu/sfls/sfls-progra ... -exams.php

As someone said earlier, the key with these is to sit down and spot every issue. Do one or two full-on and timed just to get a feel for the time, but the real benefit is learning to quickly spot issues, which you can do just by outlining and then checking your answer against the model answer.

Good luck, I don't envy you.


Very helpful, thanks!

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haus
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Re: How do I do well in Law School?

Postby haus » Mon May 18, 2015 9:52 am

jbagelboy wrote:Don't go to a school with graded legal writing is TCR

Is there a reliable centralized source that identifies schools by their stance on legal writing (pass/fail vs. graded)?

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Smoking Gunner
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Re: How do I do well in Law School?

Postby Smoking Gunner » Mon May 18, 2015 10:15 am

haus wrote:
jbagelboy wrote:Don't go to a school with graded legal writing is TCR

Is there a reliable centralized source that identifies schools by their stance on legal writing (pass/fail vs. graded)?


viewtopic.php?f=1&t=225091

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starry eyed
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Re: How do I do well in Law School?

Postby starry eyed » Mon May 18, 2015 11:44 am

I know this has been asked before but this seems to be a good way to consolidate everything. What should 0Ls do to prepare the summer before law school? I've read that you should only read "gettin to maybe," do absolutely no prep, and do extensive prep.

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chuckbass
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Re: How do I do well in Law School?

Postby chuckbass » Mon May 18, 2015 12:21 pm

starry eyed wrote:I know this has been asked before but this seems to be a good way to consolidate everything. What should 0Ls do to prepare the summer before law school? I've read that you should only read "gettin to maybe," do absolutely no prep, and do extensive prep.

People really are all over the map on this, but personally I think you should do nothing. You don't even need to read getting to maybe (I didn't) if you've been keeping up with TLS advice since that generally tells you what you need to know. I don't really see how doing anything over the summer would help, and I also think you should try to relax and enjoy that time.

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starry eyed
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Re: How do I do well in Law School?

Postby starry eyed » Mon May 18, 2015 12:44 pm

scottidsntknow wrote:
starry eyed wrote:I know this has been asked before but this seems to be a good way to consolidate everything. What should 0Ls do to prepare the summer before law school? I've read that you should only read "gettin to maybe," do absolutely no prep, and do extensive prep.

People really are all over the map on this, but personally I think you should do nothing. You don't even need to read getting to maybe (I didn't) if you've been keeping up with TLS advice since that generally tells you what you need to know. I don't really see how doing anything over the summer would help, and I also think you should try to relax and enjoy that time.


unfortunately, my habit of taking W's over c's is forcing me to take 12 hours over the summer. So i just figure if i'm already in study mode, it might not hurt to add some reading, i'll probably take it easy though

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ManoftheHour
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Re: How do I do well in Law School?

Postby ManoftheHour » Tue May 19, 2015 5:44 pm

scottidsntknow wrote:
starry eyed wrote:I know this has been asked before but this seems to be a good way to consolidate everything. What should 0Ls do to prepare the summer before law school? I've read that you should only read "gettin to maybe," do absolutely no prep, and do extensive prep.

People really are all over the map on this, but personally I think you should do nothing. You don't even need to read getting to maybe (I didn't) if you've been keeping up with TLS advice since that generally tells you what you need to know. I don't really see how doing anything over the summer would help, and I also think you should try to relax and enjoy that time.

I read it but I didn't learn anything that I didn't already know by casually browsing TLS.

-Apply the law to the facts.
-Argue both sides.

There. I just saved you $14 and a few hours of reading. Grades are so professor dependent that there's no real way to prepare without actually taking the class and taking the those professors' practice exams.

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iamgeorgebush
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Re: How do I do well in Law School?

Postby iamgeorgebush » Tue May 19, 2015 5:47 pm

LawsRUs wrote:- Can I ask you if you can explain what goes on an attack outline?

an attack outline is something short (generally 1-10 pages, ideally 1-2 IMO) that you can quickly reference during the exam w/o having to flip through many pages. for some people, they are just checklists of different doctrines; for others, they might also include the elements of doctrines. depends on the person and on the class what exactly they will look like. my torts attack, for example, was just a 2-pg list of the doctrines and the various issues that could come up on an issue spotter, without any explanation of those doctrines, so i could run through the attack and make sure i didn't miss anything. my property outline, on the other hand, was like 7 pgs long and had a bit of explanation of the doctrines (like, it had the elements of adverse possession and different approaches on there rather than just saying "adverse possession"). in general, i would try to make sure to include a word or two for each "fork" (read GTM and you'll understand this term) that could come up on the attack.

just ask some 2Ls/3Ls who did well to see theirs, and you'll get a sense of the various approaches.




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