Hard-Nosed Advice from a Cranky Law Professor: How to Succeed in Law School

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If students wish to survive and excel in law school, they must approach it correctly. Students also need to understand what professors expect of them, or they will be left behind. Hard-Nosed Advice from a Cranky Professor explains some of the correct ways to approach law school and provides insight into professor expectations. This book is designed for new law students who would like to improve their chances of doing well in law school. Written from the perspective of a cranky, cantankerous professor, the book side-steps pleasantries to provide no-nonsense, sometimes hard-nosed advice that is intended to instruct students on what they must do to succeed. While blunt, the practical advice is provided in a light-hearted, humorous way. The book's aim is to give concise answers to questions that most students have when they begin law school. The book's user-friendly style is one of its greatest assets. In tight, to-the-point chapters, the book addresses those tasks that students commonly face in law school: from reading and briefing cases, to outlining, to preparing and taking exams, to being called on in class. The book also provides advice on success outside the classroom, including preparing for the bar exam. In many ways, through the professor's grumblings, the book promotes professionalism and common sense. At the back of the book are sample case briefs, outlines, and exam answers.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594608025
  • Publisher: Carolina Academic Press
  • Publication date: 5/1/2010
  • Pages: 204
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Austen Parrish is Vice Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor of Law at Southwestern Law School and Co-Director of the Vancouver Summer Law Program. Cristina Knolton is a professor of law at Southwestern Law School.

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Table of Contents



Chapter 1 Preparing for Law School 3

Getting Ready for the First Year 4

A. A Little Perspective 4

B. Use the Summer Before Wisely 5

C. Prepare Your Family and Friends 5

D. Visit the School 6

E. Work Out Your Finances 6

The Right Mindset 7

A. Understand the Point of Law School 7

B. Question Everything 9

C. Accept Ambiguity 9

D. Understand the Socratic Method 10

E. Cautiously Use Hornbooks and Commercial Outlines 11

F. Create a Schedule 12

G. Avoid Common Missteps 13

Understanding the First-Year Curriculum 13

A. Civil Procedure 14

B. Contracts 14

C. Criminal Law 14

D. Property 15

E. Torts 15

F. Legal Research and Writing 15

Checklist 16

Chapter 2 Briefing Cases 19

The Basics 21

A. A Case Brief Defined 21

B. Why You Will Brief 21

C. How to Use Your Case Brief 22

How to Read Cases 22

A. Prepare to Read 23

B. Preview the Case 23

C. Read Carefully 23

D. Use a Legal Dictionary 24

E. Avoid Excessive Highlighting 24

F. Take Selective Notes 25

G. Keep Track of the Parties 25

H. Distinguish Kinds of Opinions 25

How to Brief 26

A. The Issue 26

B. The Facts 28

C. The Procedure 29

D. The Rules 30

E. The Holding 31

F. The Reasoning/Policy 31

Avoiding Pitfalls 32

A. You Will Not "Book Brief" 32

B. You Will Value. Substance Over Style 32

C. You Will Not Cut and Paste 33

D. You Will Not Use a Commercial Brief 33

Checklist 34

Chapter 3 Professor Expectations 37

A. Arrive on Time 39

B. Be Prepared 39

C. Attend Every Class 40

D. Engage with Class 40

E. Answer as a Lawyer Would 41

F. Go to Office Hours 42

G. Ask Only Appropriate Questions 42

H. Be Supportive, Not Competitive 43

I. Take Responsibility 43

J. Professionalism Goes Both Ways 44

Checklist 46

Chapter 4 Outlining 47

The Basics 48

A. Why You Will Outline 48

B. When to Outline 49

C. When to Stop Outlining 50

D. What to Outline 50

E. What to Avoid 51

How to Outline 52

A. Get Organized 52

B. Organize Around Legal Topics 52

C. Subdivide into Legal Elements 53

D. Blend in Key Cases and Statutes 54

E. Include Policy and Reasoning 54

Other Considerations 55

A. The Condensed Outline 55

B. It's a Personal Thing 55

C. Flowcharts 56

D. Open and Closed Book Exams 56

Checklist 57

Chapter 5 Studying 59

Before Class 61

A. Setting a Schedule 61

B. The Right Environment 62

C. Before Reading a Case 62

D. Reading a Case 62

E. Don't Forget the Book Notes 63

F. Immediately Before Class 63

During Class 64

A. Listen Carefully 64

B. Take Selective Notes 64

C. Take Consistent and Organized Notes 66

D. Listen to Your Classmates 67

E. Use Your Laptop Appropriately 68

After Class 68

A. As Class Ends 68

B. Use Your Professor Effectively 69

C. Limits on Using Your Professor 70

D. Using Study Groups Effectively 70

E. Avoid Study Group Don'ts 72

F. As the Semester Ends 72

Checklist 73

Chapter 6 Final Exams 75

Before the Exam 77

A. Know Your Professor 78

B. Keep Your Outline Updated 79

C. Schedule Practice Exams 79

D. Approach Practice Exams Effectively 81

E. Learn How Your Professor Grades 81

F. Go to Review Sessions 81

G. Know the Legal Rules Cold 82

H. No All-Nighters and Manage Stress 83

I. Typing v. Handwriting 83

Starting the Exam 84

A. Arrive Early 84

B. Arrive Prepared 84

C. Read the Instructions 85

D. Allocate Your Time 85

E. Read the Call of the Question 86

F. Read the Facts (and Again) 86

G. Outline Your Answer 87

Writing the Exam 88

A. Use Headings 88

B. Use IRAC 88

C. Write Precise and Succinct Rules 89

D. Use the Facts, All of Them 89

E. Use the Word Because 90

F. Argue Both Sides 90

G. Emphasize Policy 91

H. Use Plain English 91

I. Write Enough 92

J. Avoid Humor 92

K. Use Common Sense 92

Learning by Example 93

Emergencies and After the Exam 97

A. If Your Mind Blanks 97

B. If All Else Fails 98

C. A Few Nevers 99

D. Self-Assessment 99

E. Final Words on Exams and Grades 100

Checklist 101

Chapter 7 Outside of Class 103

Law Journals (and Law Review) 104

A. What Are They? 104

B. How Do You Become a Member? 105

C. Should You Try? 106

D. Once You Are Accepted 107

E. Board Positions and the Third Year 108

F. Maintain Perspective 108

Advocacy Programs 109

A. What Are They? 109

B. How Do You Become a Member? 110

C. Should You Try? 110

Externships and Clinics 111

A. An Introduction to Extemships 112

B. An Introduction to Clinics 113

Other Opportunities 114

A. Teaching and Research Assistant Positions 114

B. Student Organizations 115

C. Faculty/Student and SBA Committees 116

D. Public Service and Volunteering 116

Checklist 118

Chapter 8 Beyond Law School 119

Preparing for Your Career 119

A. Cultivate Relationships 120

B. Get Practical Experience 121

C. Take Advanced Writing/Skills Courses 122

D. Meet with the Careers Office 122

E. Jump at Networking Opportunities 123

F. Consider All of Your Options 125

Letters of Recommendation 127

A. Make Good Choices 128

B. Approach Recommenders Directly 128

C. Ask, Don't Presume 128

D. Give Plenty of Notice 129

E. Make It Easy for the Recommender 129

F. Provide Detailed Information 129

G. Remember to Follow Up 130

The Summer Clerkship 130

A. Act Professionally 130

B. Dress Professionally 131

C. Submit Assignments on Time 132

D. Always Bring Pen and Paper 132

E. Ask Appropriate Questions 132

F. Work Hard 133

G. Proof Read. Proof Read. Proof Read. 134

H. Go to Firm Functions 134

I. Take Advantage of Firm Training 135

After Graduation 135

A. Build a Professional Reputation 136

B. Join Local Bar Associations 137

C. Keep in Contact 137

D. Remain Flexible in Your Career 138

Checklist 139

Chapter 9 The Bar Exam 141

Preparing for the Bar Exam 141

A. Have the Right Mindset 141

B. Focus in Law School 142

C. Understand the Exam Structure 143

D. Meet Deadlines 144

E. Prepare Financially 144

F. Research Preparation Courses 145

G. Clear the Decks 146

H. Petition for Accommodations 146

Studying for the Bar Exam 147

A. Take a Preparation Course 147

B. Create a Schedule 147

C. Study Ten to Twelve Hours a Day 148

D. Study Actively, Not Passively 148

E. Take Timed Practice Exams 149

F. Manage Your Environment 149

G. Stay Healthy 149

Answering Bar Exam Questions 150

A. Use IRAC 150

B. Allocate Your Time 151

C. Use Headings and Subheadings 151

D. Approach the Exam Methodically 152

E. Use the Word Because 152

F. Argue Both Sides 152

Some Practicalities 153

A. Reserve a Hotel Room 153

B. Tie-Up Loose Ends 153

C. Visit the Exam Site 154

D. Pack Ahead of Time 154

The Day of the Bar Exam 154

A. Wear Comfortable Clothes 154

B. Eat Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner 155

C. Arrive Early 155

D. Leave Your Study Materials 155

E. Expect the Unexpected 155

F. Do Not Discuss the Exam 156

G. Don't Obsess 156

Checklist 156

Conclusion 159

Appendix A Selected Bibliography 161

Appendix B Sample Case Brief 163

Appendix C Sample Final Exam 169

About the Authors 179

Index 181

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