Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Exams are here at many schools, and they are starting shortly at schools were they have not started already. The very short post-exam period is sometimes marked by drive-by students running past the ASP office on the way to a plane, train, or automobile taking them home for the holidays. This is a great opportunity to recommend books to read over the holiday break. Students now know what to expect from law school, but they may not have put all the pieces together yet.
Before I jump into my recommendations, I stress what things students shouldn't read:
1) Random blogs by other law students. They will just make them feel anxious about their grades, and overstress the importance of grades during the first year.
2) Anything content-related. They need to rest, and I rarely hear of students who found content-based reading helpful during the semester. Your brain can't be "on" all the time.
The most important thing students can do over break is enjoy themselves and reconnect with the reasons they chose law school.
And then I move on to my recommendation. First and foremost, holiday break is the time to read Getting to Maybe by Fischel and Paul. It uses too much content as examples to read before or during first semester. By second semester, students are ready for the material, and understand the technical law school terms-of-art that are used throughout the book. This book is the roadmap to "A" exams at most schools and in most classes.
My recommendation to students who will likely to be in the top half of the class is Charles Calleros Law School Exams: Preparing and Writing to Win. It is a bigger picture book, and it may be too abstract for students who are struggling with the basics. But for an analysis of the thinking and logic skills necessary for exams, it is excellent.
My recommendation for students who still don't seem to get the basic organization or structure of exam writing is Suzanne Darrow-Kleinhaus Mastering the Law School Exam. There are many of these students who tend to crawl out of the woodwork too late in the semester for an ASP professional to provide the intensive help they need. Suzanne's book is an excellent guide to breaking down the essential parts of a great exam answer for students who may need explicit instruction in the nuts-and-bolts of law school exams. These are the students you know you will see once grades come in, and this book gives them a foundation for your work with them in the spring.
And for students who are taking the bar exam in July...they need to get Denise Riebe and Michael Hunter Schwartz Pass the Bar! as soon as possible. The book is best used at the start of the 3L year, but it is perhaps most helpful, if not essential, to students who need checklists and timelines in order to get paperwork in on time. (RCF)