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Helpful Tips

  • Better Case Briefing

    Here are some tips for avoiding common mistakes in briefing your cases:

    • Think about the pattern of your professor’s typical class.  What questions does your professor usually ask about the cases?  In reading and briefing the cases, use these questions as a guide.
    • At the end of reading, spend time analyzing the case as a whole before you write your brief.  Why did you ultimately need to read the case?  What did it teach you about the major topic you are discussing in class?
    • Most professors use hypotheticals with changed facts to get students to think about applying the law in situations that are different from the case.  If your professor does so, then spend some time thinking about how variations of the facts would change the outcome.  Include your thoughts at the end of your brief.  
    • Include in your brief the essentials, not everything in the case.    
    • Synthesize cases on the same sub-topic after you read them.  Why did you have to read each case?  How are the cases in the series similar or different?  How does each case fit into the sub-topic and larger topic?  Include the synthesis insights in your brief. 
    • Use bullet points, numbered lists, abbreviations, and symbols to save time in writing your briefs.  Use phrases instead of sentences when possible.  Avoid including long quotes from the case in your briefs. 
    • Try to put the brief into your own words.  Do not look at the language of the opinion to write your brief if at all possible.  If you cannot put the gist of the case into your own words, then you did not understand the case.
    • Remember that briefs are usually for your eyes only.  Therefore, brief in a method that is most useful to you.  You may need to vary your briefing for different professors’ classes.
    • Recognize that your professor may have a different slant on a case than the casebook editor, a study aid, or editoral notes from a case reporter.  If you have a pattern of missing your professor’s perspective, ask your professor for some guidance.
    • Use canned briefs only to check your own briefs.  You need to learn the legal analysis skills yourself rather than depend on a canned brief.  Canned briefs can be wrong, may not cover all of the points in the case, or may miss your professor’s view of the case.
    September 22, 2014 | Tags: Case Briefing
  • Ten Tips for Rising 2L and 3L Students

    The second and third years of law school are somewhat easier than the first year because, for the most part, you have learned the basic skills needed for success in law school.  However, both years bring new responsibilities with journal or moot court participation, the job search, part-time work, and student organizations.  Time management and organization are key to attain your best grades.  Here are some tips to help you obtain your goals:

    • Evaluate your study habits from last year.  Look at each aspect of law school: reading and briefing, note-taking in class, outlining, reviewing for exams, memorizing the law, taking fact-pattern-essay exams, taking multiple-choice exams, and completing papers or projects.  What were your strengths in studying and why?  What were your weaknesses in studying and why? 
    • Decide which study habits to continue and which study habits to change.  If you have any questions about this, please do not hesitate to e-mail me and make an appointment.
    • If you have specific skill weaknesses, read a book about that skill to improve your understanding.  Here are a few examples: Reading Like a Lawyer by Ruth Ann McKinney; The Eight Secrets of Top Exam Performance in Law School by Charles H. Whitebread; Open Book: Succeeding on Exams From the First Day of Law School by Barry Friedman and John C. P. Goldberg.  You can borrow these and other books from me or check with the Library, which maintains many of these titles.
    • By now, you have all heard me sound like a mom, and why stop now? Start regimens now that are healthy and sensible.  Get on a routine sleep schedule of 7-8 hours per night.  Exercise at least three times a week for 30 minutes to an hour.  Eat healthy meals.  Do not let these routines disappear during the semester. 
    • If at all possible, relax for at least one week prior to the beginning of classes.  You want to begin the semester with fully recharged batteries.  If you are busy interviewing, relax as much as you can in between the interviews.  
    • Time yourself in each course for the entire first week to see how long it takes you to prepare for class (read, brief, complete problem sets).  Then pick the longest block of time for each course and use that to set up your class preparation schedule.  Each week, attempt to shorten that amount of time by forcing yourself to complete your reading more efficiently.  
    • Put in your calendar time for other tasks each week: outlining, review of outlines, practice questions, research, writing, study groups, and more. 
    • Read your course syllabi very carefully.  Many professors include information that can help you get the best grades in the course: learning objectives, study aid recommendations, websites and other resources, study tips, and more.
    • During the first month of school, review all exams from last semester.  By getting feedback from your professors on what you did well and what needs improvement, you can make the appropriate changes as you do practice questions for your next set of exams.
    • If you were disappointed in your performance in a paper class last semester, ask the professor for tips on how you could improve your research and writing.  Then use the feedback to improve on your papers this year.

    Finally, if you are 2L, enjoy the fact that you are not a 1L and you never again will be.  Remember what it felt like this time last year?  This week, the 1Ls come to school.  They have no idea what jurisdiction means, they have never heard of CREAC, and they don’t even understand that there are two court systems – federal and state.  Can you imagine?

    If you are a 3L, please enjoy every moment of this year.  Cherish your (likely) last year as a student.  Absorb all of the information you can from your professors.  Learn from your peers.  Have a great time not having any responsibilities other than school work.

    August 28, 2014 | Tags: Academic Support

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