Saturday, March 4, 2006
We tell our students to prepare for exams by taking practice exams throughout the semester, and well we should. The fly in the ointment, however, is that too many students, even after having taken several law school exams, are still unclear about what constitutes a good exam answer; so they dutifully practice the very strategies that undermine the effectiveness of their answers.
To help them spot and avoid some of those ineffective strategies, you might want to direct them to John H. Langbein's excellent essay, "Writing Law Examinations." Professor Langbein spells out the most common pitfalls students face in writing exam answers and gives concise, practical advice on how to avoid those mistakes. Students would find the essay a powerful guide for critiquing and refining their exam-taking strategies as they prepare for the next battery of finals.
Tuesday, February 28, 2006
I’ve been using a lot of cold weather sports analogies lately in discussing study habits and exams with students. I think it is the result of the Winter Olympics pre-empting my normal Law & Order three times a week schedule, but there are some truths to be found in the winter games.
Think about it: exams start and end with the same amount of
fanfare (ok, we don’t have fireworks, but there is a real sense of tension and
when exams are over, the celebration is enormous but similarly not well
remembered the next day…). There is a
lot of sweating involved. It seems that
all of our competitors, I mean students, in law school are living under one
roof during exams (known as the Library or Study Village).
Here are some more examples of how law school is like the Winter Olympics from the ASP point of view. Feel free to use these gems with your students and you too could earn a Gold Medal for odd analogies.
For example, I have been telling students that their exam issue spotting is a lot like the Giant Slalom. That is, they need to hit every gate and do it in a fairly artful way. Not only that, but they will be timed and that timing is key because they need to finish the exams.
Exam writing, however, is more like Speed Skating. You should be IRAC’ing each issue you spotted on the way down the mountain like a speed skater who is circling the track: the same way each time around. Also, your answers, like the circular track, must be complete in that they cover the defenses and counterarguments.
Outlining is a lot like Board-Cross. It combines two different events essentially: reading and class. There are few rules, but you should try to organize yourself around the law (or laws of physics…).
Multiple choice questions are lot like Luge. Stay on course: once you think you have the right answer, stick with it. The other answers are supposed to look compelling, but they are, in fact, a cold hard wall.
Practice exams are like the qualifying runs for Skiing. They should let you know if you are hitting your timing and style correctly.
Take-home (and open book) exams are a lot like Curling. You think it will be simple and easier, but it is not. You are expected to be more precise than on any other type of exam.
Study groups should never be like Ice-Dancing, but more like Figure Skating. Why? You should never rely on anyone else to hold you up or worse yet, throw you. If you don’t know the law yourself, then you can’t answer the questions .
Figure Skating is also a lot like the exams themselves: even if you practice well, you might still fall on your…., umm, ice. (ezs)
Sunday, February 26, 2006
The most recent (March 2006) issue of the ABA publication Student Lawyer includes (see page 34) a conference notice of interest. Quoting from the magazine ...
"The ABA Commission on Mental and Physical Disability Law ... in conjunction with ABA president Michael Greco and the EEOC, is sponsoring a National Conference on Employment of Lawyers with Disabilities. Participants will discuss ways to further the employment opportunities for and promote the hiring of recent law graduates and young lawyers with disabilities."
The conference is on May 22 and May 23. "The conference," the notice continues, "encourages law students to attend the conference. To support student participation, the commission will offer a reduced registration fee as well as scholarships to students demonstrating need."
Encouraging news: "With proper accommodations and open lines of communication, lawyers with disabilities have proven themselves to be as successful as their peers without disabilities."
In the academic support field, most of us work with students manifesting a variety of disabilities (visible and invisible); and many of us contend with comments by students, faculty and lawyers along these lines, "Why is she even going to law school? Who is going to hire a lawyer with (fill in the blank)?" Oh, that gets to me. Between your school's Career Services office and its Academic Support office ... somewhere ... we need to be able to provide accurate, up-to-date answers to these inquiries ... not only for those who ask the questions above, but, more importantly, for those who ask this question: "Will I ever get a job if they find out about my _________?"
For detailed conference information, visit the commission's web page. (djt)
Commenting recently on Dan Weddle's November 22 post (Thinking Like a Lawyer), a lawyer wrote to us this week ...
"This is an important little essay, I think. Especially where you say: Truly learning to think like a lawyer is a profoundly good thing. Without those who are willing to devote themselves to the intellectually and morally hard work of defining precisely the contours of justice, the nation is left to the murky reasoning of casual thinkers or, worse, to the calculated thinking of those who have no moral bearings.
I'm a lawyer taking his second bar exam due to a move to another state, and I still feel like the precise thinking required of me is a phantom I shall never seize. This is just idealistic enough for me to press on. Thanks!
You're gonna love this.
Your notes, student notes ... whaddya think?
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