LSAT Kung Fu Blog / Week 12: How to Win Law School
Week 12: How to Win Law School
We’re going to try to do this using the spare, forceful, economical language that will be rewarded on your finals.
Already screwed that up by using so many adjectives in that first sentence. So let’s make this rule one:
(A-hem. For my law school classmates reading this, you guys stop reading now. This isn’t for you to learn how to win at law school, this is for future law students who will not be competing directly with me for their grades. Go on. I swear to god I’m not writing another word until you move along. OK. Here we go).
Rule One: Don’t write like this blog. Professors reward succinct analysis, and there are zero points (in fact, there are probably quite often negative points) awarded for using a varied and interesting sentence structure. No parentheticals (as you can imagine, this KILLS me to do). Keep it simple and blunt. Your most effective law school writing is a hammer, not a Rube Goldberg device. Write like you’re teaching a smart sixth-grader, and your style will be rewarded.
Rule Two: Write like you’re a professor. Professors construct their exams using hypothetical situations that they have created specifically in order to test the law they want you to know. As you read your exam question, ask yourself why your professor included the facts that she did: specifically; what law is she exemplifying in the hypothetical? There; you’ve just unlocked the secret key to the whole deal. Note that the secret has almost nothing to do with the literal infinity* of cases that you’ll be required to read. The cases are there just to get you used to spotting issues and get you used to the incredibly important work of caselaw reading (but that work is only incredibly important to you after graduation. While you’re in school, the cases don’t matter. They’re just there as conduits for the law. Learn the law. Forget the case names).
*Not literal infinity
Rule Three: Take your time spotting issues. As a continuation of the foregoing, your job is split into thirds. The first third is identifying the legal issue that your professor is highlighting in her fact pattern. If Jamal knocked over Erin’s coffee cup on a law school exam, THIS IS NOT AN ACCIDENT. Your professor wants to know that you see the possible tortious behavior in Jamal’s coffee-spilling ways. Spend up to 1/3 of your exam time making sure that you see the issues at stake.
Rule Four: State the law clearly. This is the second third of your job. Your professors want to know that you have understood the actual law. On an open book exam, this is easy, but your ass better be super-extra precise in stating the law if you’re working open-book! I mean, there’s just no excuse for the use of synonyms, hedges, or other half-measures when you’ve got the statutes right there in front of you. State the law cleanly and plainly, and if you’ve done Rule Three properly, you’re two-thirds home (but those first two-thirds probably account for only half of your grade. The last third is the other half of the possible points, probably).
Rule Four: Apply the law thoroughly. Remember all the work you did/are doing in the Logical Reasoning sections of the LSAT? That stuff matters here! Don’t make assumptions. If you think that LaVonda didn’t have the requisite intent to get her for first degree murder, you can’t just say that she didn’t—you have to show why you think she didn’t! So, if she hit Jamal over the head with an aluminum bat (because of the whole “Erin’s Coffee Incident”), then you tell your professor that hitting someone with a bat may not indicate the intent to kill; instead, it may be that LaVonda acted with the knowledge that Jamal’s death was substantially certain to occur, even though she didn’t act with the purpose of bringing about his death. In other words, make your reasoning explicit. You have to show your professor that you know what this stuff means; she will 100% not give you the benefit of any doubt. Remember; like you’re teaching a bright sixth-grader.
Rule Five: Be organized. Hey, while we’re remembering stuff; remember all that work we did creating an organization within the Games section of the LSAT? Do that same kind of organization to your study plan for law school. Create an outline, or a flow chart, or an index (I personally have adopted an indexing approach—I organize ideas by topic, then point to the relevant statute. So for example, in Civ Pro I’ve got a section for Discovery, with a summary of the Federal Rules governing that part of a civil suit, along with notes for each rule. So if my Civ Pro professor asks a question about discovery on the Final, I’ll be very quickly able to find the precise rules, so I’ll have more time to spend on the analysis).
Rule Six: Finals prep starts on your first day of class. Your professors want their exams to serve the function of separating you from your peers. This means that they want to use hypothetical situations on their exams that will test the thick, fuzzy, dense concepts. When something seems hard to you in class, it’s hard for everybody! It WILL be on the final! Pay close and particular attention to those concepts that gave you most trouble; they will give you your best chance to put distance between yourself and your classmates. To write a good exam, you have to know what you’re talking about. The harder the material, the more likely you’ll be to impress your professor, create the distance, and win.
Rule Seven: It’s all a game. Don’t you ever forget that. The work you’ll do as an advocate for your clients will be real and meaningful. The work you do in law school has at best a tangential relationship to that end goal. Don’t sweat it. Use these rules, play the game, and you’ll be fine.
- Write short, direct sentences.
- Think about your exams the way your professor does.
- Spot issues, state the law, and then apply it succinctly but thoroughly.
- Organize your material throughout your semester so it’s at hand come finals time.
- Be cool. Your grades won’t define you nearly so much as the reputation you build yourself and the relationships you make. A lot like life, huh?
Questions? Comments? Complaints? Post them below, or shoot me an email.
Be good to one another, for we need it now more than maybe ever,
P.S. Looking for a smoking hot Velocity LSAT discount code? Use this code: DHALL10 at checkout to get 10% off your enrollment in any course! That code will work for the remainder of 2017.