There is an old saying, to the effect that one should worry about the things one can control, but forget about the rest. In the case of LSAT preparation, you may be able to control how much prep time you invest, or whether or not you take a prep course. But deep down inside, you may feel that the key component of LSAT success, that is your intellectual horsepower is pretty much outside of your control. However, you may not have considered that there are some variables within your control, having nothing to do with your intellectual skills, but that can have a substantial effect on your LSAT performance.
Caveat: The following are some miscellaneous tips for you to consider as ways to "turbocharge" your LSAT preparation. However, I am not an educator, learning specialist, theologian or a medical doctor. I am merely a guy who did reasonably well on the LSAT, without taking a prep course.
Therefore, I make no assertions regarding the factual or empirical validity of any of these suggestions. In other words, the following suggestions are one person's opinion as to ways to improve your LSAT score, based upon his own experience, in addition to what you are likely already doing, namely, practicing hundreds upon hundreds of old LSAT questions.
That said, in a fairly short period of time, I took the LSAT, did reasonably well in law school and passed two bar exams. I used these tips in preparation for them all. These tips have nothing to do with "logic game" secrets, process-of-elimination, syllogisms or anything else directly related to the intellectual requirements of the LSAT. Instead, they are fairly easy to implement lifestyle changes/additions, which I believe contributed greatly to my success on these exams.
Tip Number One: Exercise. There are countless studies which show the effect of exercise on brain efficiency. In particular aerobic excercise, which raises your heart rate to a predetermined target level, Early in law school, I believed I was too busy to exercise. For the first time in my life, I stopped exercising on a regular basis. As a result, I found myself frequently tired and sometimes had difficulty concentrating, probably due to the large reading workload, as well as the intensity of the 1L experience.
During my second and third years of law school, I did a fair amount of cardio exercise and found myself more alert, with a higher overall energy level, and a much higher reading comprehension and retention level. I continued my exercise through two bar exams (Texas and Tennessee) and absolutely believe that it substantially contributed to my success with both.
Today, I exercise about an hour a day, seven days a week. People ask me how I find the time, and the answer is simple: the exercise seems to pay a decent return, in terms of a reduction in my sleep needs. I need less sleep, which gives me more time to exercise. Regardless, my own experience has been that consistent exercise seems to have seriously contributed to my ability to concentrate and focus, and meet the intellectual rigors required in law practice.
Needless to say, especially if you have been inactive or have a medical condition affected by exercise, you should talk with your doctor before beginning an exercise regimen.
Tip Number Two: Diet. Again, there are countless studies which show that diets high in Omega 3 and vitamin D, and low in fat and complex carbohydrates, can increase brainpower. For me, this translates into eating as much fish as I can stand, lots of vegetables and a fair amount of vitamin supplements. A simple Google search will yield a gold mine of literature on nutrition and the brain. But cutting back on the junk food and increasing healthy foods, in my experience, have a significant effect on my energy levels and ability to concentrate. Here again, you should consult your doctor and/or nutritionalist before you begin any vitamin regimen.
Tip Number Three: Spirituality. Studies have shown that fear and stress are serious impediments to intellectual performance. When faced with a threat, the heart and respiration rates increase, as do some of the bodies other basic functions, such as perspiration. This increased biological activity puts the body on high alert, resulting in a narrowing of reasoning capabilities essentially down to two choices: "flight" of "fight".
The "deer in the headlights" mindset that occurs in many of us when faced with a difficult situation, can cause our brains to seriously slow down and interfere with our ability to think and reason quickly. However, a belief system that is based upon a "higher power" (I actually believe in God, but for the sake of readers still wrestling with that notion, a "higher power" may be less intimidating). If one believes that their life has a plan and meaning, then one likely believes that at least to some extent, they need to relinquish control of their life to the "higher power" responsible for that plan and meaning. Physiologically speaking, that relinquishment has the opposite effect of a threat, the bodily functions slow down and one experiences relaxation. This relaxation results in greater biological resources being made available for reasoning and rational thinking.
If you go to church, then keep going. If you pray, then keep praying. If you don't, then consider taking either or both up. You might be surprised at the result.
A lot of students spend a great deal of time practicing and stressing about Analytical Reasoning quesions, also called "logic games". Human nature is such that we tend to focus on our weaknesses, rather than our strengths. As a result, when students take that first diagnostic exam and miss, say, half of the Logic Games questions they freak out and are determined to master these question types. This is exacerbated by the typcial Type "A" law student personality, that has succeeded in their undergraduate studies and has pretty much never failed at anything.
Prep courses often unknowingly add to the problem, because in their zeal to add value, they also focus on logic games, sometimes to the exclusion of the other question types- Reading Comprehension and Logical Reasoning. Once you have figured out a particular logic game, as with any puzzle, it seems easy and more significantly, can be apparently easily explained to others. The problem with this is that there really is no "pattern" to logic games (however, there is a pattern to the other question types- Reading Comprehension ("RC") and Logical Reasoning ("LR"), which I will discuss below), other than the basic question setup, which lends itself to some sort of diagram. As a result, logic games preparation generally has a lower return on study investment than the other question types.
On the other hand, RC and LR questions are almost pattern-like in their consistency. With RC questions, anyone who has taken the LSAT can recognize the pattern- a dense reading passage, followed by questions about the passage. LR questions are almost always syllogistic (meaning, "if this, then that", requiring the test-taker to logically solve the problem. As a result, both of these question types can be "drilled" through intensive preparation, and the skills required to solve these questions can be increased over time with that practice.
This is not to say that you cannot increase your skill in solving logic games problems. I'm simply saying that you can more easily get better at RC and LR questions, and more quickly, than you can with logic games. And because all LSAT questions count easily, depending upon how much prep time you have before the test, you may experience a greater "bang for the buck" with RC and LR question practice than with logic games practice.
The other thing you should keep in mind is that the LSAT is a "head game" of sorts. If you freak out during the test, for any reason, it is likely that you will not do as well as you could have. Logic games tend to freak people out, especially people who have spend a great deal of time in LSAT logic games preparation, who suddenly encounter a logic games problem that seems unsolveable. If you encounter one of those problems early in the LSAT on test day, it could potentially unnerve you to the point of affecting your overall performance.
So, logic games preparation to the exclusion of practicing the other question types is a bad strategy. A better strategy is to prepare equally for all question types, carefully monitor your progress early in your preparation, then adjust the ratio of prep time, depending upon your level of improvement. If you experience good improvement on RC, but still aren't where you need to be, for example, it may make sense to invest more time in RC prep than logic games prep.
Finally, and arguably most importantly, remember that there is no penalty for guessing on the LSAT. So, narrowing down the probable answers and then guessing between a couple of equally probable answers may statistically increase your chances of a correct guess. And a guess counts the same as if you spend ten minutes sweating through an intense logic games question.
Everyone is different. Different strategies work better for different people. But don't fall for the "logic games trap" in your LSAT preparation- spending most of your time trying to master this question type, to the exclusion of the other question types.
As an initial matter, most 1Ls waste a huge amount of time getting their intellectual bearings; which would likely not be the case, assuming you have read “Law School Labyrinth-A Guide to Making the Most of Your Legal Education”.One other caveat:before you commit to employment, check with your law school to see whether they have a policy or prohibition regarding employment your first year.
That said, assuming that your ultimate goal is to work in a law firm, then grades are a fairly serious matter (I make this assumption because the vast majority of new law graduates aspire to law firm jobs).Law firms look at first year grades and not much else, in deciding who gets those precious clerkships that second summer of law school.Everything rides on that final exam and the difference between an "A" and a "B" is often practically impossible to discern.This is why I emphasize hitting the ground running that first year in “Law School Labyrinth”.It's also why I try and arm the reader with a proven methodology to help them learn the law and legal reasoning, in the chaos that is the first year of law school. On the other hand, if you don't plan to work in a firm, grades simply aren't as important (although, as a matter of pride, they may be extremely important to you anyway).Either way, I wouldn't worry too much about failing (the "look to your left; look to your right; one of you won't be here next semester" is largely law school mythology).But the bottom line is pretty much what you would expect:all things being equal, working means you will have less time for studies, which could have a negative effect on your grades.
The hardest part of that first year of law school is simply figuring out the game.You are left to your own devices to figure it out.And the sooner you do, the more likely that you will do well."Figuring it out" means learning legal reasoning ("thinking like a lawyer"), which is largely about analytical and syllogistic reasoning; learning the black letter law; learning to identify legal issues presented by a chaotic law school exam fact patter; and being able to apply the law to those facts in an analytical way, thus resolving the issue(s) presented.
If you don’t waste a lot of time pointlessly reading cases to no apparent end, writing huge outlines without really learning anything, and generally spending a lot of time on little or no return study activities, then it is likely you can work a reasonable amount of hours in addition to your legal studies.
One other issue.I absolutely loved law school.I had worked my way through college and was determined to totally immersed myself in the law school process without working. I tried to take advantage of everything my tuition dollars were paying for.So, there is a part of me that hates to see you work because I suppose I am imposing my own biases on you.But everyone is different.And based upon your career goals and financial constraints, "immersing yourself" in law school may not be that big of a deal.You may merely want to get through it and get your JD.Which, after all, is the real point of law school.
Regardless, assuming you have broken the Labyrinth "code" (and if you are reading my book, I think this is a reasonable assumption), the time investment actually required in your legal studies will likely not be as big of a burden as you might think.If you have a job during that first year in addition to your legal studies, you will certainly have a busy year, but if you focus on the right study activities (as described in my book), it will be doable.
It's the summer before law school. You are on the verge of signing away a substantial portion of your free time for the foreseeable future. As a result, you have made the conscious decision to invest your remaining free time in "NCIS" and reruns of old Springer episodes.
Despite my frequent exhortations, you still haven't read "Law School Labyrinth- A Guide to Making the Most of Your Legal Education". You scoff at law school preparation, in an almost Dirty Harry-esque "make my day" sort of way. "After all", you reason, "law school is going to be difficult enough; why get myself all worked up before I have to?"
Then one evening, you get the call from one of your friends (not a close friend, and in fact someone who was always a bit of a brown-noser to the profs in college). He is almost giddy with excitement as he describes the week-long "law school prep" course he just finished. "They had professors from UVa and Michigan on staff," he effuses, "and students taking the course typically graduate cum laude!" You punch "Off" on the remote, silently cursing your "friend", who has just interrupted a Springer confrontation involving four generations of Iowa hog farmers. Nonetheless, you have to hand it to him; he certainly has your attention. Your throat suddenly feels a bit dry and a small swarm of butterflies just commandeered your stomach.
If you find yourself in this unfortunate position today, it's not too late to read my book. And even if you don't read my book, then at least read the following last-minute tips, designed to help you quickly focus on your legal studies. "Quickly" is the operative word, the pace in law school is so fact, especially that first year, that you absolutely must "hit the ground running", in order to do well.
You probably understand that the law school pedagogy is dramatically different than that used in your undergraduate studies. The Socratic method and the casebook prevail (in law school, "textbooks" become "casebooks") and you learn the law by dissecting many arcane judicial opinions, called "cases". If you rely on your old undergraduate study methods in law school, you will likely find yourself behind the pack early on, thus reducing your chances of making decent grades.
Anyway, on with the tips . . .
Pay Attention to the Casebook's Table of Contents
In their zeal to quickly dive into voluminous and often indecipherable cases, law students frequently overlook a basic component- the casebook's table of contents. Before you read your first case, carefully peruse the casebook's table of contents. The table of contents is generally the road map to the entire course and is a wealth of information regarding where the case fits into the body of law, as well as the various components of the subject. By carefully developing an understanding of the table of contents, you will be able to read the cases more efficiently and with more purpose, thus saving time down the road.
Review Old Exams
As early in the semester as possible, begin to review old exams. Most likely, your professor has them on file in the law school library. Begin to develop a feel for the structure of a law school exam, the kinds of issues tested, and how an effective answer is developed. If you do this early in the semester, it will provide huge focus to your studies.
And now for the plug.
"Law School Labyrinth" is filled with tips and techniques like these to help make you successful in that critical first year of law school. More importantly, my Pyramid Outline Method, as described in the book, is a proven, comprehensive strategy that you can use to maximize your legal studies. ThePyramid Outline Method is a step-by-step, easy to understand law school study method, which will enable you to maximize the return on your studies investment.
Even if you're reading this blog well into your first semester, I encourage you to read my book. The sooner the better, but it's never too late to begin using the methods described in the book.
Whatever you do, don't assume that the professors will tell you what to do in law school. They won't. You are your own guide through the Labyrinth. And candidly, law is taught this way because it works. In practice, for the most part you will be on your own. You simply have to figure things out for yourself.
In the interest of full disclosure, I was a businessperson for a number of years, before I became a lawyer. Needless to say, this colors my view regarding the merits of a joint degree. More importantly, any educational decision is an intensely personal one, and needs to be tailored to your own situation, plans and desires. So read the following and take it for what it is, one guy's opinion. In addition, I recognize that there may very well be folks out there who are so together that they know precisely what they want to be doing in twenty years, e.g. investment banking (although methinks this ain't exactly a hot field these days) and a JD/MBA will get them there.
Beginning in the mid '90s, many law schools began offering students an opportunity to earn both a JD as well as an MBA, for an investment of additional time and tuition dollars. Most schools describe the benefit as essentially "synergy", that is, it takes less time and money than it would to earn each degree separately. That said, I tend to believe that a JD/MBA is not worth the additional educational investment. It's sort of like "super sizing" your fast food meal, when your not really hungry. In other words, an MBA is a waste, if you really want to become a lawyer. And a JD is unnecessary, if you really want to become a businessperson.
More importantly, I believe that this joint degree is actually dilutive, in terms of your legal education. I further believe that my position is sustainable, based upon what I believe is the dirty little secret presently occurring in law and business schools- that interest and enrollment in these programs has steadily declined over the past five years.
Simply, a JD/MBA will mean virtually nothing, if you plan to work in a law firm. Legal work is so technical and so specific, that from your very first day on the job a a lawyer, you will find yourself drawn increasingly into a specialty practice area. All of your assignments will accrete to that specialty and, generally speaking, one day you will wake up and realize that you have become a skilled litigator, transactionalist, family lawyer and the like. In other words, the only way to become a lawyer, is to engage in your practice. And if you want the JD as a mere credential, you should seriously introspect. This is a hugely expensive "credential" and with public opinion toward lawyers as it is, it may not be as good a credential as you think.
Further, I suspect that the JD/MBA label may be viewed by law firms as a lawyer who really wants to become a businessperson. Read that as "short-timer". In other words, those precious firm jobs may go to old-fashioned JDs, because firms won't want to invest in someone who is planning to leave as soon as Donald Trump retires.
This is not to say that the business education you gain cannot help you in virtually anything you can do, it can and will. However, the same can be said for virtually any educational curriculum. The question is whether it's worth an additional year of your life and perhaps $50,000-$60,000, depending upon your living expenses.
More importantly, the question is whether the extra year will actually hurt your chances of getting a decent legal job. I had friends in law school who pursued the joint degree and spent an extra year in school. Whenever we talked about things like summer employment, recruiting and jobs, these hapless folks always seemed a bit lost. The were, in essence, a year behind everyone else and the law school OCI process simply wasn't geared to their schedules.
If your goal is ultimately to become a business lawyer and/or corporate titan, and you feel strongly that a JD/MBA will get you there, let me offer a lower-cost alternative. First of all, bet the best grades that you possibly can, in the hopes of landing a good job with a decent firm. Today, virtually all significant transactional work is going to the big, prestigious firms. So your goal should be to get a job with one of these firms. The only way that will happen is if you succeed hugely in your first year of law school (for an in-depth discussion on who gets the good jobs out of law school, and a suggested methodology to get there, I'm afraid you are going to have to read my book, "Law School Labyrinth- A Guide to Making the Most of Your Legal Education").
If you are fortunate enough to land one of these firm jobs, the rest will pretty much take care of itself. This is because these firms do sophisticated work for business clients. These business clients are constantly seeking ways to reduce legal expenses. The best way to do this is to bring as much legal work in-house as possible. So, you go to work for a good firm in their transactional practice area and within 3-5 years, it is likely you will get a job offer to go in-house.
Once you are in-house, you will work on a daily basis with businesspeople, and often with senior management. Candidly, your legal education and background will give you a huge advantage. It is likely that you will be among the smartest, most analytical people within the company. This will make you a natural choice for management roles as they become available. By working effectively with businesspeople, you can easily become one, if that is your goal.
Further, throughout this process you will be refining your legal skills and gaining valuable business skills in the process. You would be amazed at the number of senior executives in publicly-traded companies who were lawyers first. A lot of them just don't talk about it.
So, if you thing a JD/MBA will be your ticket to a successful business career, think again. You would be better served (and save time and money) by becoming a successful lawyer, and then moving in-house. Otherwise, you risk being labeled as neither a lawyer nor businessperson.
In my opinion, the answer for the vast majority of you is a resounding "yes." I entered law school following a twenty-year hiatus from what were at best mediocre undergraduate studies. If I can survive it, then rest assured, you can as well.
I think that, despite all of the lore about how difficult it is, for most of you law school will be an absolutely exhilarating experience. You will interact with a group of incredibly bright and motivated students. You will work with a group of accomplished professors, many of who had substantial careers in law practice prior to teaching.
One of the keys to surviving, and thriving in law school is to have a solid plan of attack, regarding your studies. One way of thinking about this is as described in "The Law School Labyrinth", and specifically what I refer to as The Pyramid Outline Method. The purpose of this methodology is to provide you with a framework upon which to place the entirety of your legal studies- your case reading, information you glean from classroom discussion, your commercial outline reading and study groups.
The Law School Admissions Council, or "LSAC", is the organization which develops and administers the LSAT.As the developer and administrator of the LSAT, it only makes good sense that the LSAC’s website, at www.lsac.org ought to be your first stop in the law school admissions quest. In addition, it is likely that the schools that you are applying to will be LSAC members.
I suggest that you learn as much as possible about the LSAC procedures and protocols. Review the information carefully contained in the LSAC website carefully.Make sure that you understand the procedure and timing of the LSAT.In addition the website will give you a good overview of the law school admissions process itself.
The LSAC calls the LSAT “a strong predictor of first-year law school grades” and as you have probably gathered, is a critical factor in your law school acceptance success.It is most likely that at this point in your academic career, the only variable you can control is your performance on the LSAT.As a result, you would be wise to dedicate a substantial portion of your efforts toward doing well on this test.
In addition, many of the mid-tier schools make scholarship decisions based upon your LSAT performance.By using scholarship money to entice high-scoring LSAT examinees to their schools, they will increase their overall LSAT entering student numbers, which is one of the most important criteria in the U.S. News and World Report ranking.
The LSAC also provides numerous resources as you plan and prepare for law school.Periodically throughout the year, LSAC hosts the Law School Forum, which is basically a career fair for prospective law students and law school representatives.
The Forum is typically held in or near the major legal markets:Boston, Washington D.C., Houston, Atlanta, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and Boston.Admission is free, however, the LSAC recommends that you preregister, which can be done online.They are usually held in a large ballroom or convention center.Law School representatives, frequently admissions personnel and/or student representatives, have booths or tables, and provide you with information about their school and answer your questions.
In addition to the opportunity to meet with law school representatives, the Law School Forum also hosts seminars on topics such as the law school application process, financing your legal education and an overview of the practice of law.
If you can manage it, I would suggest that you attend one of these meetings.You will get a condensed overview into issues regarding law school admissions and a sense of the various law schools you are interested in.You will have the opportunity to interact with other prospective law students and law school admissions personnel.As previously discussed, law school is a huge investment.This event is a good early step in your due diligence process.
What do the GM bankruptcy and law student debt have in common? They both teach a simple lesson to the unwary about making money and spending. Spend more than you make and chances are, you're headed for trouble.
Yesterday, General Motors Corporation emerged from an unusually speedy bankruptcy (40 days). The good news is that what was once the world's largest automaker, appears to have dodged a huge bullet; it will continue to operate, albeit in a reduced capacity. And although many unfortunate people have lost their jobs, a great deal of money, or both; the alternative could have been catastrophic.
How did GM get there? It's actually pretty simple. GM believed and operated as if (I'm speaking of the collective consciousness of its management and ownership throughout the years) that it's success would continue forever. In the 1950s and 1960s, approximately half of all cars driven in America were manufactured by GM. GM convinced car buyers that they needed new cars every year. Buyers complied and during this era, GM made huge profits and built more cars.
At the same time, GM's constituents (employees, workers, managers, shareholders and the like), began to demand a greater piece of the profit pie. Rather than risk a breakdown of the gravy train, GM (as did most American companies during this time) granted extensive wage increases and benefits to its workers, and was able to pass the increased costs along to the car buyer.
The first chinks in GM's earnings armor began to occur as a result of the 1970's oil embargos. For the first time, Americans became sensitized to gas shortages and fuel economy. Enter the Japanese manufactures, who filled that need, and offered cars that seemed to last forever. In a short decade, Honda, Toyota and Nissan earned, justifiably, substantial market positions.
In order to meet this threat (as well as pay for things like retiree health care benefits), GM did what many do when incoming dollars do not match outgoing- they borrowed money and lots of it (in the corporate worlds, "bonds" are a fancy way of saying "borrowed money"). Ultimately, GM imploded under its own weight of this borrowing, which is also called "leverage".
Law students can and have used leverage for years. "Leverage" is essentially a bet that borrowing money will result in a payback down the road, based upon future earnings potential. Leverage works, but only those using it earn more money down the road (plus the cost to borrow it), than they borrow.
Law school tuition (as well as undergraduate tuition) has steadily and substantially increased every year since the first Baby Boomers began to go to college. Law.com reports that between 1987 and 2005, the average public law school tuition increased 448% ( see http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1182330351869). As startling as that may seem, in reality first-year lawyer salaries increased at an even greater rate. So, students who used leverage during this time period generally found it to be a successful strategy.
During my first-year orientation at Vanderbilt University Law School, the law school dean ruefully announced to the group of fresh-faced 1Ls that "I'm pleased to announce that this is the first year that I am entirely free of student debt." Although the class groaned loudly, the truth was that most of the groaners had also incurred substantial debt to go to college and law school.
The Wall Street Journal Blog recently reported the story of a 47-year old lawyer who passed the New York bar exam, but was refused admission by the New York bar authorities (see http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2009/07/02/sizing-up-a-student-loan-horror-story/). Allegedly, the student had accrued approximately $400,000 in student debt over the course of 32 student loans, and had failed to make a single repayment over his 26 year loan history.
You may be aware that, in order to obtain a law license, you are required to present evidence to the bar of your "present character and fitness to practice law". "Character and fitness", generally speaking, means moral character (as evidenced by the lack of criminal history of the applicant) and financial fitness (as evidenced by demonstrated responsibility to one's financial obligations). Many lawyers frequently handle client money, which could result in temptation for the fiscally unfit lawyer.
Law school is an investment in one's future earning capability, just as any business makes capital investments, in order to optimize its future investments. And as a second-career lawyer, I continue to believe that the decision to go to law school was a wise investment in my own case. However, as a potential law student, you may have a variety of investment options- private school, state school, in-state, out-of state, and others. The question you must ask yourself is "what is the return on my investment going to be?"
The legal profession is currently in a state of "contraction", in that there are fewer jobs for law graduates, and certainly fewer high-paying big firm jobs. However, as the economy begins to improve, eventually jobs will come back.
I have discussed in earlier blogs the economics involved in choosing a law school. If you plan to practice public interest law, an Ivy League education accompanied by huge debt will likely make less sense than a law degree from "Local U". Although many schools offer debt forgiveness for public interest work, you need to evaluate your future earnings potential and measure it against the cost carefully.
GM was a relatively young company, when it made the fatal strategic error of spending more and taking on debt to finance it. It took about 40 years for that strategic error to catch up with GM. I hope and pray that you will make your own law school strategic decision carefully. Take the time to read some of my other posts in this section regarding choosing a law school. Think of yourself as a buyer and consumer of educational services.
And as a buyer, remember "caveat emptor". (Don't you just love it when lawyers use Latin?)
Be sure and read the other posts in my LSAT section, in order to get a good overview of the LSAT itself. There are three basic question types: Reading Comprehension (which measure your ability to read quickly and retain information), Logical Reasoning (which measure your ability to reason and detect implied and express assumptions) and Analytical Reasoning, or "logic games" (which measure your ability to analyze diverse facts and develop a cohesive conclusion).
There are approximately 26 Reading Comprehension questions.Each Reading Comprehension question is a passage of about 450 words, followed by five to eight questions.The passage is dense and frequently deals with subject matter which you will not be familiar with.The purpose of Reading Comprehension questions is to test your ability to read carefully, comprehend new material, make inferences from the passage and apply the information.
Different experts advise students to approach these questions differently.Some advise you to read through the reading passage carefully, then read through the answer stem.Others advise you to read through the answers first, then read the passage.
Regardless of the technique you ultimately use, the most important skill you need to develop with these questions is your ability to use the process of elimination of bad answers (“POE”).The trick is to eliminate incorrect answers as quickly as possible.
There are approximately 24-28 Logical Reasoning questions.These questions typically contain very short reading passages, followed by answer choices.Logical Reasoning questions deal with deductive and inductive logic and arguments.You do not need to have had any formal preparation in logic to do well on these question types.However, you should be able to identify in assumptions and premises contained therein, as well as appropriate conclusions which should or do follow from the given facts.
There are approximately 26 Analytical Reasoning questions. The structure of the quesion is a fact patter, which provides information concerning the relationship among the various facts. These questions, also called "logic games" are generally considered the most difficult of the LSAT questions.
Analytical reasoning questions involve a fact pattern with a group of variables and conditions, and the question tests your ability to derive conclusion regarding the relationships among the variables and conditions.In my view, these types of questions arguably simulate more so than any other, the actual kind of thinking that goes on in law practice on a daily basis.
For example, you may be given a fact pattern in which a radio station programmer is trying to determine a radio program lineup.There are certain condition regarding listener preferences and the order that groups of music may be played.You are then required to determine the best programming order for an evening.Another example of this type of question is the mapping question:you are given relationships between cities and then asked to determine the optimal route for a trip.
Virtually all experts advise you to diagram the fact patterns of Analytical Reasoning questions.For most people, diagramming is the only way to keep all of the facts straight.
The key to success in Analytical Reasoning questions is to work enough questions in preparing for the LSAT.This will ensure that you will develop your analytical skills and help you to think like the examiner.Repeated diagramming and working through these questions will enable you to work through these question types more quickly.Probably more so than any other question type, practicing Analytical Reasoning questions will increase your effectiveness.
That said, because these questions are generally the most difficult, you can spend a huge amount of time and get only incremental overall improvement in your test score.You should keep in the back of your mind that you can score poorly on this section and still do extremely well overall.
In fact, you may spend a huge amount of time trying to improve your Analytical Reasoning score, and overlook the other question types.This would be a mistake.Unless you have limitless test preparation time, I would suggest that you spread your preparation evenly among the question types, carefully monitor your progress, and adjust your preparation accordingly, in order to achieve the highest degree of leverage from your preparation time.
There are over 200 law schools presently operating in the United States.Most of those are accredited by the American Bar Association.Some law schools are approved only by the state bar examining authorities, which means that graduates from those schools can practice only in that state.
There are a variety of criteria that can affect your choice of schools.School reputation, curriculum, location, tuition rates and faculty-student ratios all can play a part in your decision.Probably the biggest is the simple fact of whether you have the requisite grades and LSAT scoreto get admitted to a particular school.
Law School Reputation
The popular weekly magazine, U.S. News and World Reportpublishes annually a ranking of every accredited law school in the country.The rankings are based on a variety of objective criteria such as class size, library size and other variables.The so-called “Top Twenty Schools” in this ranking are the most sought-after law schools by students and law firm recruiters.
Naturally, many law schools disdain these rankings.The deans of a number of law schools got together a few years back and published an open letter regarding therankings.The letter essentially said that the student’s choice of law school should be about much more than rankings.I certainly agree with the premise.
However, generally speaking, students from the highest-ranked schools will have an easier time finding employment following graduation.That said, there are numerous jobs out there, which can be found in a variety of ways.Many of these employers are happy to employ lawyers from mid or even lower-ranked law schools.
Students who either do not have the requisite LSAT/GPA numbers, or who do not want to incur substantial debt may choose a lesser-ranked school and have extremely rewarding careers.In addition, as discussed below, these students frequently are able to commence their careers free of burdensome student debt and are therefore relieved of the pressure of having to take a job they won’t really enjoy.
There are many good regional schools in the United States.Most of these are state schools, with reasonably tuition for in-state residents.Other schools are nationally recognized.These are the so-called “prestige” schools.
You can get a good idea of which law schools are viewed as the most desirable schools from these rankings.Many law school representatives disdain these rankings on the basis that they are not comprehensive and do not consider all of the factors that make a law school.Regardless, these rankings are generally accepted in the legal community and law firms.Most prospective law students consider these rankings as gospel.
The statement I am about to make will be considered by many to be heresy.Having known and worked with numerous lawyers who have graduated from a variety of law schools, I have become convinced that the quality of legal education among schools is actually pretty similar, regardless of which law school you choose.
Let’s face it.There are only so many variations program.Even Socrates himself could only vary the Socratic teaching method in just a few ways.Class outlines and subject matter are so universal that a veritable cottage industry has emerged selling commercial outlines.Your legal education is less about the school itself and more about what you make of it.Some of the most successful lawyers come from the worst schools, and vice-versa.
And as far as bottom lines go, the bottom line to your legal education is your bar card.Without it, you cannot practice law.So, the ultimate goal of law school is to pass the bar.This is so, despite the conventional wisdom that the purpose of law school is to teach you how to “think like a lawyer”.
I overheard my first year Contracts professor talking to a group of students after class one day.He frequently held court after class and students ostensibly to would ask questions about a finer point of law.In reality, they were hoping to earn a few brownie points with the professor.
One student asked the professor whether a particular area of law would be tested on the bar exam.The professor responded, “We don’t worry about your passing the bar.You take BARBRIfor that.We teach you to think.”As an aside, BARBRI is the commercial bar exam preparation course that the majority of bar examinees take, in order to prepare for the exam.
With all respect due that professor, my response to that comment is that law professors don’t worry about the bar exam, because they don’t have to take the test.By the time students are faced with the bar exam, they are but a distant memory to the law school professor.In other words, there is no real accountability to help law students pass their bar exams.
This attitude is prevalent among the top law schools:“we teach you to think.”In my opinion, this is an overstatement.I would argue that law schools, especially the top schools, are overplaying their role in the development of students.Instead, the typical “Type A,” overachieving, 165-170 LSAT, 4.10 GPA entering law student has already demonstrated the ability to “think” long before they entered lawschool.
I would further argue that law schools are taking credit for the intelligence of a group of incredibly bright people, who were that way long before they ever thought about law school.
Certainly, while in law school, you will hone your deductive and analytical reasoning skills.You will learn how to sift through facts, apply those facts to legal principles and develop analyses to predict how a rationally thinking judge will rule on an issue.But your law school will not teach you this process.You must understand it, both from a macro and micro perspective, and master it.And by the way, you still have to pass the bar exam.
The lower-ranked schools, on the other hand, focus substantial energy on equipping their students to pass the bar exam.Bar passage rates are a source of huge pride for these schools.Many of these schools have much higher passage rates than the nationally ranked prestige schools.They provide strict curricula, with bar exam subjects being the primary focus.These schools offer few esoteric legal subjects, but instead require students to take the tough courses, such as secured transactions, commercial paper and the like.And their students pass the bar.
Finally, the declaration that BARBRIalone will enable you to pass the bar exam is a reckless assertion.To rely solely on BARBRI as your bar preparation guarantees that you will have ten of the most stressful weeks of your life following law school graduation.As is discussed throughout this book, regardless of where you are in your legal studies, you need to know the law.This is true for bar exam purposes and it is true for law school exam purposes.
Learning legal reasoning is important.However, as is discussed in my book, "Law School Labyrinth", knowing the law is critical to your developing legal reasoning skills.
A “name” law school may be a great career ticket; however, if the school is unwilling to teach you the law, perhaps your tuition dollars are better served at a lower-ranked school with a rigorous curriculum.
Steve Sedberry's new book The Reasonable Person- Due Process of Law, Logic and Faith is available on Amazon. He also has a blog at www.reasonable-person.com
This blog is for the purpose of providing information about law school and legal careers for those interested and are the opinions of the author or those of its readers who may, from time to time, provide comments.
No information contained in this blog is intended as legal advice nor a solicitation for legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should consult an attorney.
Copyright 2009-2011 Steven R. Sedberry All rights reserved