August 16, 2011
Giving 1L's a time line
As many ASPer's start orientation this week, I wanted to remind everyone that 1L's want (and need) a time line. I won't suggest a time line, because I think they are different depending on your school. Without a solid plan for their first semester, 1L's are left to rely on advice from the web and word-of-mouth regarding the proper time to start outlines, studying for exams, and working on practice essays. Here is a short list of things you might want on a time line for your incoming students:
1) Legal Writing Assignments: 1L's are always shocked at the amount of time they must devote to their first legal writing assignment. It's a good idea to give 1L's a rough idea of how many hours go into their first memo or brief. Encourage students to calendar the due dates and plan ahead. Students should understand that most professors do not want to see a "draft" 24-48 hours before the completed assignment is due, especially if they have been given weeks to complete the memo or brief. A time line should result in better assignments, and doctrinal teachers will thank you when they see fewer sleepy students the day after the assignment is due.
2) Outlining: I used to believe that there was a set time all students should start outlining. As I have gained experience, I realize this is something that is best decided school-by-school. Some professors finish a definable, set amount of material that allows ASPer's to tell students to start as soon as that topic is finished. Other professors start with an overview of the entire class, and then delve into topics in depth. When to start outlining depends on how your faculty teaches their courses and whether your school gives midterms. The only absolute advice applicable to all students is the need to start outlining before reading week.
3) Practice exams: Again, this is something that is best decided school-by-school. Some schools have midterms in each course, some have midterms in only one course, some schools still don't offer midterms. Students should take a practice essay or exam before a midterm, especially if it is a graded midterm. Another variable is the amount and availability of prior exams students can use as practice. If your school offers only a few exams to students to use as practice, students should start later in the semester. Practice exams are crucial to success.
4) Take-home assignments (if applicable): If professors offer take-home assignments, students should have a rough sense of what it takes to complete the assignment. Like legal writing assignments, without a time line, students will either over-or-under prepare the assignment. This is not a result of student laziness (most of the time) but 1L's misunderstanding about the difference between undergrad and law school assignments.
I am sure there are many other things that can go on a timeline to distribute to 1L's; this is just a short list of things that baffle 1L's.
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