Monday, February 16, 2009
Many 1L's are confused about the time line for the spring semester. What should be due when? When should I get started? How often do I have to update my outlines? Here is my very brief, flexible time line for the spring semester of 1L year for a full-time student. Adjust the time lines according to the specific schedule at your school.
1) Outlines should already be underway for all classes.
2) I suggest updating outlines on rotating two-week cycle. Therefore, if your spring semester includes four classes--Civ Pro, Con Law, Criminal Law, and Property--I suggest updating two outlines a week, and rotating which two you update. A two-week cycle keeps you on track to finish outlines before the reading period, which should be devoted to practice exams and review. If you have six full-year courses, work on a three-outline-per-week rotating schedule and spend less time per week on each outline. (Time per outline should reflect credit hours per course per semester.)
3) Practice tests should start roughly after spring break. I do encourage students to take mini-assessments to gauge their understanding and progress throughout the semester. CALI lessons, questions from Examples and Explanations or the Lexis Nexis Q and A series, or Siegals are great ways to gauge your understanding before you are ready for "real" practice tests.
4) Create a semester schedule for completing Legal Writing projects. If your professor has not broken the projects into pieces, do that yourself and give yourself deadlines for each piece of the project. Despite advice to the contrary, no one writes better under pressure and without adequate time to proof read.
5) Ask for help NOW if you are struggling with the material or a life issue. It is much easier to take care of any challenges now, before the exam crunch. Professors want to help, but many are less pleased when they are bombarded with substantive questions from the entire semester during reading week.
On another note, many of you have asked if I am moving on to another position. Indeed, I am moving on from Vermont Law School. I have chosen to delay the announcement to my students in order to keep the focus on them and their progress over the semester, and not on my plans. But a big thank you to everyone who has emailed me; as the semester draws to a close, I promise to update everyone on my new home. (Rebecca Flanagan)