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.