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Preparing for and Taking Law School Exams… Outlining.

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1 Preparing for and Taking Law School Exams… Outlining

2 You may have purchased commercial outlines or obtained copies of outlines from other students. Even so, you should also spend some time conceptualizing and synthesizing the course material for your classes on your own. (It’s not only the product, it’s the process)

3 Outlining You may be one of two kinds of students who has these thoughts about outlining: Type A: “My contracts outline rocks. I wonder if I can sell this to a 1L next year.” OR Type B: “Outline for Contracts? Have I been going to contracts?”

4 Regardless of what your approach to law school is, outlining is a very helpful way to prepare. It will keep you from “losing sight of the forest through the trees.”

5 How to Outline You will need your casebook, notes and syllabus (be careful with horn books and commercial outlines). Look over the Table of Contents of your course books, in order to conceptualize the “big picture.” These categories will be the major sections in your outline. Write a definition sentence/paragraph about the topic. Look for sub-categories to break up the main ones. Flesh out sub-parts with definitions, rules, explanations, further sub-parts. Look for relationships between terms and add cases and hypotheticals to exemplify them.

6 When to Outline Right now Start a daily routine (or at least a weekly routine) of summarizing your case discussions and class notes into an outline.

7 Preparing for Exams: The Six Weeks Plan Under this plan, six weeks out from your first exam, you should pick one subject and beginning studying your outline and notes. Some students prefer to spend as much as a week on one subject before rotating to another. I recommend changing subjects from one day to the next. If you run into problems, don’t stop preparing for class. Exams seem to disproportionately address material covered in the second half of the term.

8 As 6 Weeks becomes 5,4,3… Six weeks plans are sometimes rescheduled into five week plans, or even four. But unlike undergraduate school, a good cup of coffee the night before will not do it.

9 Study tools: Old Exams Old Exams Study Groups Acceptance- This year Thanksgiving... will suck.

10 Demystifying Legal Analysis Exam question: How many legs does a horse have, if you call a tail a leg? Credit: Abraham Lincoln

11 Answer #1 and #2: "Five." Grade: D "Four." Grade: D

12 Answers 1 and 2 are arguable as conclusions, but they show nothing of the the knowledge or reasoning. A conclusory answer is nearly as bad as no answer at all.

13 Answer #3: “4, because calling a tail a leg doesn't make it so.“: Grade: C Answer 3 gives an arguable conclusion, and some, but not all, of the reasoning. The answer does not, however, show the knowledge upon which the reasoning depends.

14 Answer #4: "An ordinary horse has four legs and one tail. Assuming that we're dealing with an ordinary horse here, the issue that will determine how many legs it has is the effect of "calling" a tail a leg. If calling a tail a leg actually makes it a leg for purposes of leg-counting, then a horse has five legs. If calling a tail a leg does not do so, then a horse has four legs.

15 The better view is that a horse has four legs. Horse tails and horse legs are vastly different in both appearance and function. Moreover, horse tails cannot perform the weight-bearing and locomotion tasks that are the primary purpose of horse legs. There is no reason to believe that "calling a tail a leg" (i.e., simply renaming it) could change these realities. Thus, even if you call a tail a leg, a horse has only four legs.“ Grade: A

16 Answer 4 contains the relevant information and use that information and valid reasoning to reach the conclusions while clearly stating all necessary assumptions. The crux of the matter is not the ultimate conclusions that you reach in your answers so much as the relevant information and defensible reasoning contained in those answers.

17 Demystifying Legal Analysis: “The life of the law has not been logic: it has been experience.“ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

18 Thus, a legal discussion may start with clear rules...

19 and then present nice, muddy facts...

20 The Curve- out of 45 students GradeNormNumber A5%2.25 (2) A-7.5%3.375 (3) B+12.5%5.625 (6) B15%6.75 (7) B-20%9 (9) C+15%6.75 (7) C12.5%5.625 (6) C-7.5%3.375 (3) D+/F5%2.25 (2)


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