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Law School Hacker, Issue #003 -- law review
August 04, 2014
|Hello there, Law School Hackers!
Welcome to Law School Hacker Ezine #3
My Dearest Vegan Cronut,
How are you?
If you are getting this, it is because we think you’re off to law school soon.
See, we want to see you crush it in law school, too.
So how do you do that?
Law school isn’t easy. And it’s not like college or the LSAT or anything else you’ve ever done.
It’s another beast all together.
But you will master it.
And we want to help you.
We want you to have specific, practical tips (do we offer any other kind?) that, combined with your hard work, will help you crush law school.
Now, relax for a second.
What we are offering you now is free and very valuable.
First, go to the YouTube channel 7Sage Law School Prep. We’ve put up over 40 videos for you to watch and enjoy. We had fun making them, and this free library will only grow over time.
Second, keep reading this here email.
This is the first of several.
You will be getting super specific tips, tested tips on succeeding in law school.
This is about you. For you.
We want you headed down the right path (instead of working really hard doing the wrong things in law school).
So just sit back, relax, and enjoy the next couple of emails.
These free tips, all put together, are worth many, many hundreds of dollars (if you had to hire Larry to tell you these things as a law school tutor), or many, many thousands of dollars (if you actually implement the ideas we present).
So here is the substance of this email.
* * *
Here is the lesson for today.
It may sound like a warning, but if you really digest it, you are going to be far ahead of your peers.
I used to charge $150 dollars just to tell a tutoring student what I am telling you now.
One of the most important things to keep in mind as you head off to law school is this:
LAW SCHOOL IS NOT LIKE COLLEGE.
Stop a second and think hard about what you think law school will be like.
What do you see?
Maybe something like The Paper Chase or Soul Man?
Maybe you imagine something like college but more intense, and more being called on in class.
You imagine that you’re reading lots of books and absorbing the law and are running around doing, like, rap-battles with your friends, but using the law.
(Please say you’re not that much of a legal geek.)
But more than anything, you think you are going to read and learn the law and be tested on the content of the law.
You stroll along the Ivy-covered walls with a professor in a tweed jacket with elbow patches excitedly debating the finer points of the Constitution or the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act or the operation of the Kyoto Protocol.
His eyes twinkle at the depth of your knowledge.
This is a learned profession, after all, right?
The best students are the ones who remember the most law – who remember every detail of the really complicated statutes and cases you read.
The best students burn the midnight oil and cram so they remember everything.
The best students know the most law.
In college, the best students remember the most material.
So law school must be the same, right?
Like really wrong.
But, you ask, how could this be wrong?
How is it that the person who knows the most law is not the best student?
Well, you need to understand something.
Before you can understand what distinguishes the best law students from the pack, you have to understand what law school is really about.
Law school is a game. And it is not at all like college or undergrad
It is not even like other graduate degrees some of you may have.
But no one tells you the rules before or during the game.
You only find out if you “won” the game when you get your grades back.
That may seem hard to swallow.
I mean, all of these really old wise people in tweed jackets wouldn’t do that would they?
You wouldn’t pay up to $250,000 for such a mysterious education, right?
An entire system of education would not be built on a foundation of “gotcha!”
Sorry to say, but it’s true.
Law school is a giant bait and switch.
Don’t believe me? Let’s start at the beginning.
· You arrive on campus. You’re excited and nervous at the same time. You go through orientation and the Dean and the Director of Admissions tell you you’re just the brightest class they’ve ever had. You seem suitably impressed by your classmates – they seem, mostly, cleancut and articulate. Some of them are pretty attractive. (You also learn, given the small size of the community, that socially, you just went back to high school.)
· In your orientation kit, there is a list of books to buy. You go to the bookstore with other worried students and buy a lot of huge, huge casebooks. They are expensive ($200 each or more).
· You get reading assignments that must be completed before you even sit in your first classes. You are assigned a lot of reading. You do the reading, frantically. You take copious notes.
· You show up for class with your 50 or 100 best friends. You will have all the same classes together. Your professor enters, scanning the room slowly; you avoid eye contact. He (it’s still usually a he) then tilts his head down towards his class roster until he find an appropriate victim. “Mister Sipowitz? Recite the facts of Hawkins v. McGee….”
· The professor proceeds to ask Mr. Sipowitz all manner of other questions, the purpose of which escapes you:
o “What was the procedural posture here?”
o “Was this decided correctly in light of previous cases?”
o “Does judge's internal reasoning make sense?”
o “Is the judge's decision principled or driven by a desire to reach a certain result?”
o “Does the case accomplish the policy purpose of the law that it is interpreting?”
o “What arguments would you have made?”
o “How would you decide the case if you were the judge?
o “What do you think the judge had for breakfast? (Bacon and Metamucil? Count Chocula and crack?)
And so on.
This is the so-called Socratic method. (And, by the way, the Socratic method became the standard method of teaching in law school under a failed judge and lawyer at Harvard Law School who had no sound pedagogical basis for his system. No study suggests this is a good way to teach law students.)
You repeat this all semester long. Hours and hours of reading (and maybe briefing cases, if your professor tells you to do that. More on briefing cases later. In short, don’t.).
Sometimes you are Mr. Sipowitz.
Funny thing is, none of these questions have anything to do with what you are eventually tested on.
Mostly, you will not get questions like this on your final exam.
Reciting obscure parts of the law will not help you.
Rather, you are tested on whether you can apply the actual law (called the “black letter” law) to a new set of facts you have never seen before.
On your FINAL EXAM, which is only worth 100% of your entire semester grade, you get a strange fact pattern and open-ended and horrifyingly terse question (this is only a tiny tidbit of a fact pattern that often goes on for pages):
Cain drinks five pints of scotch, gets in a car with a gun, and starts shooting at what looks like Abel, but is really his mother, and then hits a dog, narrowly missing a pedestrian who dies of a heart attack.
[Ridiculous facts continue for 4 single-spaced pages.]
Wait. What? “Discuss?” Where is the real question?
Huh? you ask yourself after your finals are over.
What just happened?
Did I not take this class?
I did everything that the professor said: read all the cases, go to class, outline.
Why did I get straight Bs?
I worked really hard. What did I do wrong?
Again, here is the key: Law school is not like college or undergrad.
Here is college or undergrad in many places (at least in the social sciences or humanities):
You do all of the assigned reading.
You write down everything the professor says.
If you memorize all of this, you'll get an A on the final exam.
The exam tests precisely what you were asked to read and listen to during the semester.
This approach does not work in law school.
You need to prepare for law school exams differently than you would for college exams.
A law school final exam is like nothing you've ever seen during the semester.
The professor may have discussed a million things during class. But on the exam he wants you to apply the law to a set of facts that will not be known to you before.
You can memorize every last detail of every case you read and write down every word the professor utters in class. Alone, none of this will help you.
So what are you supposed to do?
Not read cases?
Not listen to the professor?
Hold on. It’s early yet. Help is on the way.
But the point of this email is this: Make sure – make doubly sure, then make sure again – that you really understand this fundamental fact of law school.
Do not wander through law school believing it to be something it is not.
If you misunderstand law school, it will bite you in the ass.
It is not college. What you did then will not help you now
But what should you do?
More tips next time.
Ta ta for now, Larry
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