You worked through four years of undergrad. You have studied, outlined, and IRAC'd your brain to death. Are you ready for your law school finals? Most people answer that question by looking to the other law students in their school, who are just as terrified and confused as you are. Most end up studying WAY more than is necessary, to their detriment. Follow these seven basic tips to set you straight.
1. Make sure you have your assigned readings
Know what will likely be on the test, and more importantly, what won't be on the test. Most cases can be condensed into their black letter law, otherwise known as "this case stands for the proposition that [x]". Spending your precious study time jotting down facts, issues, holding & dissents will only frustrate and delay you.
The assigned readings are also important because they give you insight into which cases your professor deems important. As a general rule of thumb, the cases that your professor spends the ENTIRE class period on will likely have parallel fact patterns on the exam. Use this to your advantage: pick up a casenote legal brief supplement (the brand doesn't matter). Copy the one paragraph fact pattern, the issue and the holding. Boom, you're done.
2. Purchase supplements
The majority of your study time for your law school finals should be spent with supplements you purchase from the student store. They condense a week's worth of material into an hours worth of coherent, easily digestible information. I'm not in the business of recommending products that simply add to their respective law professor's coffers, but the best that I feel necessary to highlight are:
Civil Procedure: Joseph Glannon's Examples & Explanations. For many of you, this is required reading anyway. If not, BUY THIS RIGHT NOW. It's amazingly clear, and Glannon's ability to help you understand Erie Doctrine, pendant jurisdiction and ancillary jurisdiction, amongst others, make this worth every penny.
Torts: Joseph Glannon. Not to lick Glannon's boots, but his One L Torts book is just as impressive. I remember his chronology vastly different from my professors, so be sure to cross-reference your syllabus.
Con Law: Erwin Chemerinsky. This one is THICK! At well over 1,000 pages, it's as tough to get through as the class itself. What makes Chemerinsky's treatise so necessary is that it provides the one thing that makes Con Law so frustrating without: context. Chemerinsky has a way of making all of say, 10th Amendment, coherent and digestible. I was amazed how many of the cases we went over in lecture were also directly (hmmmm) lifted from this book. Chemerinsky had more of a presence in my outline than I did.
Be sure to buy flashcards and case notes in addition to your supplements.
3. Condense the material into your law school outline
Make sure your outline is no more than 25 pages in length. This prevents you from information overload (more so than you already are). Create a stellar outline that is paginated. Speaking of paginating, add those colorful little things that stick out to the right of the binder. Label the tabs with the major sections in your outline
4. Identify black letter law
You spend on average between 90 - 130 hours preparing for any given class (4 CH * 8 hours home reading * 15 weeks). And how long is your final? At most, 4 hours. How can your professor test you? The short answer is that he can't. Instead, s/he usually issue spots. What do they issue spot for: the black letter law.
This is crucial to your success. How can you possibly prepare your law school outlines for your law school finals? Identify the black letter law for all the cases you went over in class, and arrange them in the format that you work best with.
Follow this format:
- Read the section/legal concept in your supplement
- Cross reference your syllabus for the relevant cases
- Find the cases in your legal briefs, fill in the relevant black letter law.
- Answer practice questions at the end of the supplement
- Enter section/legal concept into your outline (or merge with stolen outlines)
- Add in daily practice flash cards
5 Attend study sessions
Most of the time, these are chaired by the Teaching Assistant for the class, and most of the time s/he did very well on that professor's law exam the previous year. Use that to your advantage. Much of the time they go over the answers to previous exams, complete with model answers. Now is the time to pick someone's brain who successful picked your professor's brain. If they are rote Q & A, with no exam, skip it. NEVER let a review session of a past exam go unattended.
6. Practice, Practice, Practice!
If you've have enough time, I would highly suggest that you take every past exam the professor has ever published under exam conditions. This gets you in the flow of exam-taking, and it helps prevent from you checking into an anxiety clinic. The more you take them, the more you find patterns in the professor's finals. For example, every one of my Civ Pro exams always began their answers with something like: "Gee whiz Mr. Supervisor, we'd better hurry up! Rule 4 says we have 20 days to respond (60 days if [X]) and it's already been X days". Is this incredibly retarded? Of course. But you need to pander to your professor to get the grade.
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