Coming to Law School: How to Prepare Yourself for the Next Three Years

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This book demystifies law school and the process of studying the law. Rather than just describing the various necessary study skills — including case briefing, taking notes in class, and preparing exam outlines — the book shows how these skills are interrelated and how an incoming student can practice them before coming to law school, making the transition from prospective to actual law student easier and as painless as possible. Written in an informal and conversational tone, Coming to Law School shows incoming law students the benefits of coming to law school armed with strong study skills already in place and guides them through the process of getting ready for school with examples and exercises to clarify the points it raises. The book also contains information about many practical issues, including the law school process, how to do well in a summer job, and taking the bar exam. Although this is not a book about the law, it is designed to be a book that will help all law students get the most out of law school.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594606533
  • Publisher: Carolina Academic Press
  • Publication date: 5/30/2010
  • Pages: 139
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Ian Gallacher is a professor of law and Director of Legal Research and Writing program at Syracuse University College of Law.

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Table of Contents


1. Introduction 3

2. Quick Overview 9

3. Reading 13

A Active Reading and Law Students 14

1. Read for a Reason 15

2. Place the Case in Context 15

3. Answer Any Questions You Have before Moving On 16

4. Don't Read on Automatic Pilot 16

B Active Reading in Action 17

1. Surface Detail 18

a. Jurisdiction 18

b. Citation 19

c. Finding the Case 20

d. Level of Court 20

e. Procedural Posture 21

f. Existence of a Dissent 21

g. Date of Decision 22

h. Identity of the Judge Who Wrote the Opinion 22

2. Reading Like a Lawyer 23

C. Reading and the Internet 28

4. Case Briefing 29

A. How to Brief 31

1. Read the Case First 31

2. Case Title and Citation 32

3. Identity of the Parties 32

4. Procedural History 33

5. Facts 34

6. Issues 35

7. Summary of Arguments 36

8. Holding 36

9. Court's Rationale for Holding 37

10. The Court's Order 37

11. Your Thoughts and Comments 38

B. Briefing in Action 39

5. Note Taking 51

A. When to Start Taking Notes 51

B. How to Format Your Notes 53

C. Computer, Paper, and Recording 55

1. Recording 55

2. Computers and Pens 56

D. The Content of Your Notes 58

E. Note Review 60

6. Outlining 63

A. When to Start Outlining 64

B. What Form Should Your Outline Take? 65

1. Skeleton Outlines 65

2. Narrative Outlines 66

3. The Benefits of Employing Both Outlining Approaches 67

7. Time Management 69

A. Why Time Is at a Premium in Law School 69

B. Treat Law School Like a Job 70

C. Plan What Work You're Going to Do and When You'll Do It 72

D. Maintain an Accurate Calendar 73

E. Perform a Time Audit 76

8. Writing 79

A. The General Perception That Lawyers Are Bad Writers 79

B. Good Writing Is Reader-Centered 81

C. Good Writing Is Easy to Read 82

1. Technical Accuracy 83

2. Structure 84

3. Voice 85

4. Plain Language 86

D. Good Writing Is Not Easy 87

E. Good Writing Is About Character 88

9. Structure of the U.S. Court System 91

A. Federal Courts 91

1. Civil versus Criminal 92

2. Trial Court Level 93

3. The Courts of Appeals 94

4. The Supreme Court 98

B. State Courts 100

10. Hierarchy of Authority 103

A. Court Ranking 103

B. Legal Issues 105

C. Persuasive Authority 108

11. The Legislative Branch 111

A. The Organization of the Federal Legislature 111

B. Congressional Power 112

C. The Legislative Process 112

12. The Executive Branch 115

A. Organization 115

B. The Regulatory Process 116

13. What Else Is There to Do? 119

A. Read 119

B. Read American History 120

C. Compare the Way Stories Are Reported 121

D. Read a Newspaper Front to Back Every Day 121

E. Watch C-SPAN for an Hour Each Day 122

F. Go to Court and Observe 123

G. Learn Something About Culture and Social Behavior 125

H. Get a Job in a Law Firm or Government Office 125

I. If You Can't Get a Paying Job, Volunteer 127

J. Write 127

14. Conclusion 131

Index 135

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