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Helpful Tips

  • 10 Stress Busters

    10 Stress Busters


    Tis’ the season for stress.  Consider using the following quick tips to lower stress:

    • Try not to procrastinate.  The longer you put off a task, the more onerous it becomes.  Stress builds as the guilt builds.  Stress builds as the deadline gets closer and time runs out. 
    • Do practice exams.  Your stress will be greater if you have done very few practice questions.  Practice questions ahead of the exam allow you to monitor your understanding of the content, apply the content to new fact scenarios, practice exam-taking strategies, and practice some questions under timed conditions.
    • Do your hardest or least liked task first.  That way it will not hang over you all day and increase your stress.
    • Break down any task into smaller steps.  It is less stressful to contemplate reading just one case than to approach 35 pages of reading for a course.  After the first case, contemplate just the second case, and so forth.
    • Learn just two or three rules at a time.  Memory will work better when not overloaded.  Your stress will go down as you succeed in remembering smaller amounts of material at one time.
    • Ask for help.  If you hit a wall on understanding a concept, ask a classmate or professor for assistance.  Stress increases dramatically when you stubbornly keep on struggling alone with only frustration as payoff.
    • Plan now so that you don’t oversleep for your exams.  Are you like me?  Can you hit the snooze button seven times before waking up?  Plan now to set multiple alarms.  Have a friend and a family member call you in the morning to make sure you are awake.  And finally, get 8 hours of sleep before each exam.
    • Plan now so that you don’t run out of time on the exams.  It is important to finish all questions on the exam.  Having to rush to finish increases stress.  Distribute your time wisely by making a time chart as soon as the exam begins.  Note the times that you must begin and end questions.  For each fact-pattern-essay question, divide the amount of time for that question between reading, analyzing, and organizing (1/3) and writing (2/3).  For multiple-choice questions, determine time checkpoints and the number of questions you must complete by that time (for example, 15 after 1/2 hour; 30 after 1 hour; 45 after 1 1/2 hours; 60 after 2 hours). 
    • List four things you plan to do for fun during semester break.  Read the list often.  You will be less stressed knowing you have things to look forward to once exams are over. 
    • Go to the movies.  Sitting in a dark movie theater watching an enjoyable film allows you to get completely away from the law school grind and escape into another existence.

    Manage your stress so that it does not manage you.  The sooner you implement stress busters into your regimen, the more likely you can prevent stress from getting out of hand.

    December 2, 2015 | Tags: stress
  • What Makes a Good Law School Exam Answer? Law Profs Weigh In

    Courtesy of the Wall Street Journal Law Blog:


    What Makes a Good Law School Exam Answer? Law Profs Weigh In


    We checked in with a handful of professors around the country and asked them to complete the following sentence: “A good law exam answer is _______.”

    Of course, none of these responses will, alone, unlock the key to success. And an A exam to one might be a B plus to someone else. But taken collectively, they just might shed some light on what the Great Professoriate is looking for. So here goes.


    Heather Gerken, Yale: A good law exam answer is … evaluative. Too often, students walk through each answer as if all arguments are created equal. They don’t tell me which arguments are strong and which are weak, which facts matter and which don’t, which cases provide strong support for their claims and which ones are distinguishable. And they throw everything into the answer rather than think hard about what belongs and what doesn’t. Good lawyers don’t just know the substantive law; they also have good legal judgment. The mistake students make is not to exercise their own legal judgment in answering a question.


    Richard Friedman, Michigan: A good law exam answer … answers the question. Banal as that sounds, many students take the question as an excuse to write a canned answer on some area in which they’ve learned the black-letter law. I tell my students, “Imagine you’re riding down an elevator with a boss who knows the law and who has told you the facts but wants your help in advising the client. Don’t repeat the facts to him. Don’t tell him the law. Apply the law to the facts.”


    Eric Chiappinelli, Creighton: A good law exam answer … is one that does more than tells me what the law is (more or less well) and applies the law to the facts (more or less well) and then stops. The other 90 anonymous answers will do that. You should do two additional things: Tell me up front what the question really turns on – a choice between two applicable rules? Deciding what a particular word or phrase should mean? Then, at the end, give me your opinion of whether the result is good or fair or just. Cutting to the heart of a question immediately and expressing a value judgment about the result are what separate the A’s from the C’s.


    Paul Secunda: Marquette: A good law exam answer … gets to maybe. By that I mean that too many law students have an undergraduate mentality and seek to figure out the one “right” answer for the question. The point of the law school exam is not necessarily to test for right and wrong answers, but to see whether the student is utilizing critical reasoning skills to understand all the possible issues that the question presents. The more you arrive at a “maybe” in your law exam, the more likely you are seeing all the sides of the question in your answer and will then receive the most exam points.”


    Adam Winkler, UCLA: A good law exam answer … is rigorous and deep. By rigorous, I mean it references every applicable standard, test, and burden; analyzes every appropriate “branch” in the decision tree; and follows a sound logical structure. By deep, I mean it argues — not just concludes — how the legal rules apply to the facts; analogizes and distinguishes the most relevant cases; and addresses the best counterarguments. There is no “right” answer. It’s all about the argument.

    December 4, 2014 | Tags: exams
  • Helping You Manage Stress and Cope with the Next Few Weeks

    Helping You Manage Stress and Cope with the Next Few Weeks


    These tips are not in any particular order as to priority. 

    • Break every task down into small steps.  It is easier to motivate yourself to complete a small task.  You will feel less stressed about the progress you are making because small tasks will get crossed off your list more quickly.
    • Get assistance from others when you are confused about course material.  Go to your professors during office hours.  Go to your Morris Fellow or Littleton Fellow.  Ask questions of classmates who understand the material.  Work with a study partner or group to review material.
    • After you have intensely reviewed a major topic in the outline and you have done practice questions, condense that portion of the outline by at least half.  Start a second document that is the condensed outline so that the longer version is never lost.
    • Approximately one - two weeks before the exam, condense the entire outline to 5-10 pages of essentials for the material so far.  The essentials will bring back the more detailed information if the material has been studied properly.  Use the condensed outline to recall the information. 
    • Condense the shorter outline again to the front and back of a sheet of paper.  This condensed version can be memorized as a checklist for a closed-book exam.  When the proctor in the exam tells you to begin, quickly write your checklist on scrap paper and use it as a guide throughout the exam. 
    • Do practice exams as soon as you have completed your outline for the course (and even if you have not, still do practice exams).  Do the practice exams under time pressure and stick to the exact time allotted by the professor for each question.  The more questions you do, the more confident and less stressed you will be in the exam.  A myriad of fact scenarios during your studying means you will be less likely to meet something on the exam that you have never thought about previously.  And you will be more aware of nuances when applying the law.
    • Realize that the first practice exam will likely make you feel worse.  But that’s fine.  That’s normal.  The first exam is to help you understand how fast three hours goes.  Its purpose is to teach you what you don’t know, not what you do know.  Use that to study from your outline further.  Then practice with another exam.  This exam will go better for you than the first.  But there is still more to learn.  It’s only by about the third or fourth practice exam that you will truly start to get better and faster.
    • Become an even nicer person.  You will feel better about yourself and lower your stress if you focus on others rather than yourself.  Help another student who doesn’t understand a topic.  Take cookies to your study group.  Volunteer in class when another student is floundering in answering a question.
    November 25, 2014 | Tags: stress

 This page will be updated with tips and helpful suggestions for your 1L year. Please check back after orientation for updates.