Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Exam Advice-ish

Okay. The ole LawFool did pretty alright this year. Now, I notice my blog (which is never updated) has some readers hanging out for an extended amount of time. These, no doubt are pre-1Ls who are chomping at the bit. Welcome! You are about to have a really great year. You are (hopefully) going to learn a lot – about the law and people. One piece of advice – don’t sweat it. You will find a friend, you will be able to do everything asked of you. No one gets eaten alive in law school. Now, the obligatory advice for exams. Here is what I would tell you, take it for what it is – advice from a person you’ve never met. One professor gave an ‘exam taking’ talk in the first semester. He had a lot of good tips (he named them things like “cabbage” and “pinball” to help you remember – pinball was not to bounce all around from point to point. Stuff like that). Anyway, I didn’t have this professor in the first semester but I went, I listened, I took bits and pieces. The one thing he said that I had the toughest time with was to answer the question asked. When you take an exam you really want to prove how much you know. It is scary to follow advice like this. I mean, think about it. Let’s say you just spent 3 weeks going over adverse possession and easement; then you studied the hell out of the topic for 3 days before the exam; you get into the exam and there is nothing at all on easements or adverse possession. It must be there, and, sure, you can find a somewhat far-fetched way to work it in – you must prove what you know. Well, I did this my first semester. I tried to prove what I knew. I think this ended up in me being way too rushed and stressed in the exam. Instead of me kicking back and getting really dirty in the tough issues, I would simply spot them, IRAC them, and quickly move on. I never developed them well – just bam, bam, bam. Don’t get me wrong, I did decent, but I really hit it in my second semester. In my second semester I had the prof who had given the talk earlier. I liked the guy. He really did a lot to help get his class prepared for the subject matter. All that BS you hear about hiding the ball – bull! This guy gave you all the tools you needed to succeed. I figured if he was this good in his class, there was no reason to doubt what he was telling us in the talk. I believed he wanted us to be good, and was giving us great advice. Sure I was afraid that even though he might mean what he said, other profs might ask a question, but really want an info dump. However, I decided to risk it. All or nothing (with a small hedge I’ll tell you about shortly). I decided to go with it. IT PAID OFF IN EVERY CLASS. Here is what I did: 1) Study. Go to class. Pay attention. Participate. Learn. Exam time: A) Read the exam all the way through. The whole thing. Don’t worry if the dude in front of you is writing like an exam monster – all the better for you. As you read, make little notes about what comes to mind (underline some stuff you see that is important, but don’t worry, you’ll be back through). If you know the material, you should have a good idea of what is being asked, and what isn’t being asked. You should see that “Ripeness” is in question 3, so don’t write much (if anything) about it in question 1 and 2. You can mention it, but just briefly – even note that you will get deeper into this in question 3. It shows you are in control. And, it shows you are aware of your time and the professor’s time. B) Outline an answer. Nothing fancy. 1. This a. sub this 2. That a. sub that b. sub that again. Just a real basic roadmap. If you freeze up, just pick the biggest point and think of the elements and the questions you need to answer to come to a conclusion. C) Write – But here is the key – Talk to the professor as you write. This isn’t a memo on the law for a Supreme Court justice that you’ve had days to prepare. It is a down and dirty exam. With that in mind, write as clearly (and legibly as you can). And all the while, keep having a conversation with the prof ANSWERING THE QUESTION ASKED. Example: “Alright, in question one, I think you really want us to talk about X and Z. So, I am going to spend a good deal of time on that. However, I also see the possibility that A, B, and C need to be addressed. I do not see any indication that E and F are an issue because K exists, so I am not going to spend any time on those. If I have any time at the end, I would like to touch briefly on P. X, blah, blah, blah…” Okay, not the most elegant, but it seems to work. Because you read the problem you know what is important. We tell the prof we recognize that. We also say that there are some smaller issues which need to be discussed. We also say what isn’t present in the problem, but ever so briefly – NOTHING LIKE THIS: “We need not discuss Respondent Superior because Matt was unemployed, however if Matt had a job, then we would need to show these 4 elements. 1) blah 2) blah 3) blah” Do you see what happened, you changed the question from what the teacher wanted to something you felt comfortable about. You are going to get NO points for this crap. This is what I mean by answer the question. Next point – WRITE WHAT YOUR THOUGHT PROCESS IS. Don’t just dismiss something in your head and not put it down. It may seem obvious to you, but show the prof you know why things should be dismissed. Assume nothing! Pretend you are talking to a person who knows everything but has no capacity to put the pieces together themselves. If the question asks about adverse possession and the person in the hypo had his car parked on the guys yard, outside, for 30 years – sure there is not much in the way of arguing open and obvious, but SAY IT! “Here there should be no problem with the open and obvious element of adverse possession because….” Don’t just dismiss it as so obvious. You get no credit for what (of importance) stays in your head. I’m tuckered out… maybe I’ll write a part two soon…

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Booth Rules

Look, if you come into a quasi-fast-food restaurant with booths, and if you are by yourself, and if you are planning on sitting at a booth, and if you pick a booth right next to a booth already occupied - it is your duty, your honor, to sit NOT facing the person in the other booth. We all sit face forward! I don't want to look up from my burrito and stare into your face. I want to see the back of your head. Get here earlier if you'd rather sit facing the outside instead of the kitchen. Then, I'll do my duty and face the same direction. What the hell is with people these days?