Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I finished finals... but I'm still recovering from them.

All I can say, at this point is:

My first law finals experience was like every school nightmare you have about taking a test. It all happened to me... (except the not wearing clothes part).

At least I've finished.

One semester down, seven to go!

Monday, December 14, 2009

How to be a Better Law Student - Part 4

The Benefits of Notetaking

In law school, I feel that it is absolutely essential to take notes. However, don’t fall into the same trap I did and write down everything that the professor says. I wrote reams and reams of pages of notes for my Civil Procedure and Torts classes, and it took forever to sift through them for the nuggets I needed to study from.

This is what I learned about notetaking:

Get to class five minutes early to set up your computer, get out your food. Nothing is more annoying than listening to someone opening their bag of potato chips or wrestling with computer plugs and Ethernet cords when the professor is starting the lecture.

Taking good notes help remind you of the context of the class, which helps you remember the material, assimilate and synthesize the cases.

There 3 categories of notes for each class, case briefs, hypotheticals, and policy considerations.

The case briefs you write are your documents, you never have to turn them in. For more information, see my post about briefs.

Hypotheticals are those scenarios the professor brings up that helps you get a feel for all possible exceptions to a rule. These hypos are how professors draw questions from the material to put on the exam.

Policy considerations are the economic implications, social trends, and buzz words that all arise from an issue or issues in the case you are reading. Some professors love policy questions, and will really focus on them during the exam.

After class, refer to the notes, and make one or two sentence summary of what happened in class. This summary as well as organizing your notes well will help you so much when it comes to creating your course outline, which consists of taking the topic and organizing rules of law under that topic so you can remember and understand them.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

How to Be a Better Law Student - Part 3

Most law classes are taught using the Socratic Method, a combination of both a class lecture and class discussion.

I hate the Socratic Method, everyday during class I am terrified that I will be called on and expected to have some kind of response. On the days when I didn't get the reading done I was even more terrified. I made myself sick with anxiety, I am surprised that I didn't get an ulser that first semester.

But, I know the Socratic Method does have its pros, and as a former teacher I can appreciate them.

Why the Socratic Method works:

It helps people stay actively engaged.

It teaches you to think on your feet.

It highlights the complexity of the law.

It can be frustrating, because the answer to many legal issues is gray, not black or white.

It gives you feedback at where you are at with the material.

 But the key in not looking like a complete moron during class?

Always be prepared.

Never say “Pass” because you didn’t read.

But if you honestly don’t know, just say, “I don’t know.” Don't try to make it up, you'll look even more stupid.

Ultimately, the Socratic Method promotes the best preparation for class.

That said, I still hate it.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

How to be a Better Law Student- Part 2

How do you become a successful law student?

It’s simple really.

Read for class every single day.

That's it, that's the secret to success. Did I follow that secret during my first semester?
Well, no. But I survived, but I didn't thrive and succeed in the way that I hoped to. Take my advise, read for class every day. And reading should be active, following the steps I've listed in Part 1.

Friday, December 11, 2009

How to be a Better Law Student- Part 1

As I finished my first semester of law school I realized several things-- I need to change the way I study and be more deliberate in my use of designated study time.

So I thought I'd type up some thoughts, things I've learned, read, heard, and want to implement as I look forward doing better next semester. (Many thoughts below are not my original ideas, but from my notes.)

What does a snapshot of a law school semester look like?

A good law student spends time organizing and scheduling one’s precious studying time. One law professor said that students should expect to spend: 
  1. 40% of their time reading cases and then briefing them;
  2. 10% of the time on class discussion;
  3. 50% of time working on organizing, synthesizing, and prepping for exams.

Looking at my last semester, I probably spent about 60% of my time reading cases and briefing them; 15% of the time preparing (or worrying about) class discussion; and 25% of my time organizing, synthesizing, and prepping for exams. This led to a lot of stress at the end of the semester as I was preparing for finals. So far (grades are not all in yet) I’ve survived my classes, and passed them. But I would have done so much better if I had managed my time better.

And as you spend all that time reading cases, make sure that you make your reading count. I like what's been called the ABC's of Law School Reading:

1. Get oriented by Pre-Reading
a. Table of Contents- look at the TOC, and see where cases you’re reading are in the book, giving you clues of how the case fits in with the subject outline.

b. Syllabus- look at the professor’s syllabus and see what topics she is planning on discussing, so you can look for that in your case.

c. Read the case preface and the notes of the case before actually starting the case.

2. Read Actively.
a. Take a guess to create a test hypothesis

b. Hunt for the main concept as a legal expert.

c. Ask questions and take annotations as you read.

3. Brief the Case
Purpose of the Brief provides a record of your legal travels, prevents over taxing your memory, and focuses the mind on critical legal thinking skills. While writing a brief is time consuming, it really helped me better understand and later discuss the case in class. While so many people say that briefing cases is a waste of time, the few cases that I briefed during my first semester are the only cases that I still recall, and those concepts I fully grasped on my finals.

A brief should include the following:
Facts: Facts are made up of 3 chunks. Biographical Facts- the judge, year of the judgment, the Plaintiff and the Defendant’s names. Campfire Facts- what actually happened. Procedural facts- how the case got to the supreme or appellate court.

Issue- the legal question at issue.

Rule- What the court needs to create

Application- how the court creates and applies the rule

Holding- the result of the case.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

What motivates me...

I've learned recently some things about my personality and character, (more on that later) including what motivates me. I am a generally laid back carefree person who would rather have fun and relax than get a lot done... unless I convince myself to be competitive and challenged. It has to be an internal motivation, not someone "coaching" me or kicking me in the butt.

I am motivated by rewards, by the carrot at the end of the stick. I need that carrot to be motivated to actually get things done.

It's an interesting thing to think about, and as I struggle through the last home stretch this week with finals, I wanted to share my motivation with you.

My motivation to study at least 8 hours today and at least 6 hours tomorrow-- if I do that I will let myself spend my entire Sunday afternoon watching movies and reading. That's it, after church I'll go home, snuggle up under a blanket and completely veg out.  However, if I don't hit the goal of 14 hours of studying between know and my Civ Pro final tomorrow... instead of laying around watching movies, I'm going to clean out and reorganize my bedroom closet (something I don't want to do, but know I probably should).

That's it, the carrot dangling in front of me to motivate me to actually study instead of read blogs and cybershop on my computer.

Ok... and my ultimate goal/reward and why I'm going to law school?

I want to live here:

Well, not in the barn, but I do want to own land in Boulder County, Colorado and raise my kids with the principles and values that comes from living in the country, having chores, and taking care of animals. This cowgirl married a city boy, and while I am desparately in love with the Chef, I do miss my open spaces. I keep telling my husband, The Chef, that if we live in the country I'll have a milk cow and will milk it everyday so he can have organic raw milk and cream to cook with. While that, the promises of grassfed beef and homegrown vegetables are appealing, he keeps smiling and just says, "Maybe someday."

This farm has been on the market for a while, and I would love to buy it and move in...

But since that's not going to happen any time soon, I am using this as my visualization to get me through law school, to do my best so I can get a great job, and maybe one day be able to afford this little farm (or one like it).

That's my motivation... what's yours?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Creation of Apparel

I'm in the middle of law school finals… My first finals period during my first semester of Law School.

I am surviving, barely.

Yesterday was my Torts final (I survived it!), so one down and one to go.

As I was preparing for my Torts final, I went through my notes and outline. One of the terms completely flummoxed me... Creation of Apparel.

What in the world was that?

And how did that relate to Torts- (a wrongful act other than a breach of contract for which relief may be obtained in the form of damages or an injunction)???

I puzzled over the term and the fact that I had elements and notes written about it.

Then it dawned on me.

Creation of a Peril-- not Creation of Apparel.

No wonder I'm having trouble with this class-- maybe I should be on Project Runway instead of Law School. Or maybe I've been spending too much time studying in the law school library.


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