#The1Llife: Legal Writing Meltdown

GUEST BLOG By Lauren Rose,
1L at the University of Detroit Mercy

Well, it finally happened.

I have officially been shot down by a professor. No, not literally, but definitely figuratively. My first critique of a memo by my professor was honestly one of the most nerve wracking things I have ever experienced. Coming straight out of undergrad, I thought I had figured out how to master the art of writing a great paper. However, in law school, writing is not the same. Writing in law school is unlike anything that I have ever encountered in my entire life.

When we were given the task to write a memo, I didn’t think it would be that bad. I was wrong – so very wrong. From what I have learned about legal writing in the last month is that it is strategic, precise, and definitive. There is no use of flowery language and exquisite adjectives to make your writing interesting and exciting to the reader. Every word, every sentence is placed in a particular spot to convey your point clearly and concisely. It’s so different from everything that I have learned before and maybe that’s why I don’t like it so far.

This whole situation has made me seriously question why undergrad institutions do not teach legal writing. From what I understand, some universities offer these classes. I guess I’m just confused as to why these institutions do not make “pre-law” writing classes mandatory if you are on the “pre-law” track. Anyways, I’m hoping that as time continues I will learn how to effectively write for the legal profession, but for now I’ll be in the library freaking out about how to do it.

5 Things to Start Doing Now to Prepare For Your 1L Final Exams

By Mike Sims,
BARBRI President

You’ve figured it out already. Most, if not all, of your first-year grades will depend on your performance on your final exams. And, most if not all, of your finals will consist of essay questions….but law school essay questions are different than what you’ve previously experienced.

It’s not about how much law you’ve memorized. Instead, your job is to solve the problem presented in your essay question. You are being tested on your ability to apply the facts to the rules of law you have learned and explain how you arrived at a reasonable solution and solve the problem.

So what should you start doing NOW to learn the material and position yourself well for final exams?

  1. Read the assignments
    • Always try to get the reading done even if it feels like you don’t understand everything (or anything!).
  2. Always go to class – even on the rare occasions that you are unprepared
    • The most important thing is that you learn what the professor thinks the case said – not what you think the case said.
  3. Write down every fact pattern that your professor gives you in class as you go
    • These are all previews for what will likely be on the final exam.
  4. Consistently review
    • Try a daily review – quickly take 5-10 minutes at the end of each day to jot notes about what the professor said was important in class that day while it’s still fresh.
    • A periodic review at the end of every major topic in each course is a must.
      • The end of every roman numeral in the syllabus is an excellent way to gauge the end of a topic.
      • Review your notes and distill all of the information down to a couple of pages. This overall process is often called outlining, but outlining for the sake of outlining is not the goal. Neither is just re-writing all of your notes. The goal is to learn the material.
  5. Do some practice questions
    • Don’t worry too much about the specific number of practice questions you do, but make sure you do some.
      • Most professors have old exam questions on file. With at least one, sit down and write out a full answer – give yourself the same amount of time you’ll have on exam day for that question, get together with friends, read each others’ answers.
      • BARBRI’s 1L Mastery package also includes practice essay and multiple-choice questions to give you additional confidence. If you haven’t already enrolled in 1L Mastery, do so here.
      • If you have questions as you review, take advantage of your professor’s office hours.

Be consistent with these practices and they’ll pay off big time as you approach final exam time.

#The1Llife: Explaining Law School

GUEST BLOG By Lauren Rose,
1L at the University of Detroit Mercy

Think about the most difficult thing you’ve ever had to explain to someone.

Now think about trying to explain law school to your friends and family. Over the past month, countless family members and friends have asked me questions along the line of: “What’s law school like?” “Is there a lot of homework?” “What do you mean by a lot?” “What’s your favorite part?” If you’re like me, you probably find these questions difficult to answer.

Law school is unlike anything that I have ever experienced before. Even though the students that I went to undergrad with were smart, the students at law school are even smarter. These students are the best of the best and it becomes apparent in every class.

Each and every day, my grandmother asks me if I have homework and how much homework I have. In her own weird way, I know that she is asking me because she cares about my school. However, like every other law student I’ve talked to, it’s difficult to explain the homework load to non-law students because the reading (and amount of it) is unlike anything else. Trying to explain the process of re-reading cases and briefing them is impossible, so in this past month I’ve learned that it is easier to describe my homework in estimated time increments.

legally-blondeWith time I know that I will find better ways to explain the law school process to my friends and family. For now, I’m perfectly okay with just describing it as the need to always be prepared. *Que my interpretation of the scene from “Legally Blonde” where Elle is cold called and didn’t know about the reading*

 

 

#The2Llife: Smarter vs. Harder

GUEST BLOG By Harrison Thorne
2L at UCLA School of Law

Smarter vs. Harder, Efficiency, and Having a Life.

During my first year—especially my first semester—I thought working around the clock was a prerequisite to doing well in law school.

Of course there are cycles. Sometimes you’re working to make a deadline, or sometimes you have to play catch-up. This happens, and cannot be avoided.

However, I realized that working longer hours is not always the best use of time. I think this really clicked after my first set of finals during 1L. I had briefed every case (which I still do, and still recommend). But I had also made a flashcard for each case, made two different outlines, and had a list of rules and rule statements printed on a separate document. After realizing exactly what I needed to know, it hit me that I was WASTING MY PRECIOUS TIME.

I will admit that I am a slow reader, and that I find it difficult to “get it” after reading something once. However, here are some tips that have really helped me.

  1. Figure out your strengths and weaknesses. If you know that you have to read something a few times, or that you read slowly, plan accordingly. Be realistic with your process and the amount of time things will take.
  2. Make a plan. I have all my assignments and reading in bullet points on my computer. I start each day with a goal – i.e., finish Assignment 1-3 for bankruptcy, Assignment 2 for evidence, etc. Stick to the plan.
  3. Use the resources available to you. I often used BARBRI lectures to explain big-picture ideas. I used my BARBRI first-year outline book to create outline structures. Use these tools. They help.
  4. Take breaks. I like to set a timer for 45 minutes. I work for those 45 minutes, and then take a break. Avoiding distraction and working without breaks is amazing. You can get a LOT done in 45 unbroken minutes.
  5. Take it easy.

I think #5 is the most difficult. Knowing when to “turn it off” can be very, very tough. But like everything, practice makes perfect. If you want to thrive, you have to keep some semblance of normalcy (in my opinion). I suggest finding 2-3 things you enjoy doing. Once you have those things, DO THEM.

For me, I go to the gym/run, I hang out with friends, and I watch television/read. I do these things regularly, and they keep me balanced.

I also like to keep things light and enjoy other students. A good friend of mine recently started a website, Res Ipsa Whatever, that pokes fun at law school and the seemingly ridiculous things teachers and students tend to do regularly. Never lose sight of your goals, and never lose your humor during the process! http://resipsawhatever.com

Don’t Stress. Take Control of Bar Exam Fees.

By Hadley Leonard,
BARBRI Legal Education Advisor

Studies show most law school students won’t begin thinking about the bar exam until their last year. That might mean that you, on the verge of said final year, are feeling the creep of anxiety from the looming expenses: the fees for sitting for the exam, the balance on their bar review account, the living expenses during bar studying. Then the panic begins to set in – where is all this money going to come from?

Create a budget

Budgeting is maybe the least glamorous work in the English language. But it’s also one of the most effective and proven ways to manage financial challenges. No one has ever had fun sitting down in front of Excel and allocating out their income or financial reserves to food, rent and savings. Those who do, however, sleep better at night, in control of where their money is going, rather than their money being in control of where they are going.

Find areas to cut back

After looking at your budget, try to find where you can eliminate spending. I know we all feel like we can’t possibly do this, but really you can. The easiest areas are eating out and entertainment expenses. A good strategy for cutting back: plan to eat out one meal per week. And skip the specialty coffee pit-stops a few days a week. It all adds up.

Save

Determine how much you need to save, how much you need to spend each month in necessities and find an equilibrium. Put it on paper and stick to it. Make sure you start saving as soon as possible; it’s never too late. Whatever your income, save a little each week.

If you were to save only $25 a week, over the course of three years of law school, you would have accumulated almost $4,000. $25 a week is not noticeable; the balance you accumulate (plus interest) is.

BUDGETING PUTS YOU IN CONTROL

This may have been the most un-fun post you’ve read all week (and probably sounds like a lot of things your grandpa used to tell you), but there’s a reason people keep shelling out this advice. It works. Taking control of your income and financial reserves puts you in the driver’s seat and frees you up to invest in what’s best for your future.