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Academic Success Tip - Take Care of Yourself during the Break

Congratulations!  You survived final exams.  Enjoy this time off and recharge your battery in preparation for the spring semester.  And, when you're ready, go ahead and get a head start on organizing your 2011 calendar by penciling in the following events:

  • January 5  Classes begin
  • January 7  “Welcome Back” treat for students, faculty, and staff 
  • January 11 Kentucky Bar Exam Program for graduating law students
  • January 19 The Brandeis “Brief” Break
  • January 20 1st Structured Study Group 
  • January 27 2nd Structured Study Group
  • January 27 Student Life Info Session:  Study Abroad
  • February 3 3rd Structured Study Group
  • February 8 2L Mandatory Bar Program on Financial Responsibility

University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law Seeks Distinguished Visiting Professor, 2011-12

The University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law seeks applications from renowned legal educators for a year-long appointment as the Ralph Petrilli Distinguished Visiting Professor for the 2011-12 academic term.  The Petrilli Distinguished Visiting Professor will teach a total of 3 classes.  One of these classes will be the year-long legal writing and analysis course in a small section of about 20 students.  [The legal writing and analysis course is entitled Basic Legal Skills.  It does not include legal research, which is taught in a separate course.  Given that it is a year-long course, the teaching package is the functional equivalent of a 4-course package.]  One course will be Professional Responsibility in an accelerated format in Fall 2011.  The third course, in Spring 2012, could include Domestic Relations (family law), an upper-level skills elective, or a seminar on a mutually agreeable topic.  The successful applicant must be a person "renowned for exceptional contributions to law, legal institutions or legal education."  To apply, please send a letter of interest and a c.v. to Professor Tony Arnold, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Faculty Development, Brandeis School of Law, Wyatt Hall, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY 40292 or tony.arnold@louisville.edu, no later than January 15, 2011.  Please contact Dean Arnold at his email address or at (502) 852-6388 with any questions.

Don't Forget to Return Study Aids

If you checked out study aids over the course of the semester, please return them to the Academic Success Office before leaving for the holiday break. 

Academic Success Tip - Collegiality

Collegiality and physical exercise and tension reduction are critical to maintaining an even affect during exams.  Everyone is under pressure.  Maintaining a sense of humor and understanding of what everyone is going through will make you much more likable.  Remember, your classmates will be your colleagues down the road.  Adapted from Law School Survival Manual - from LSAT to Bar Exam.

Academic Success Tip - Avoid being too Conclusory

Have your professors told you that your analysis is too conclusory? To avoid making that mistake again, try not to begin your analysis with a conclusion. Instead, the first sentence of your discussion of each issue should identify the problem in need of resolution. For example, you might begin your analysis of a torts problem by noting that “John may have battered Fred when he threw a stick over the fence that struck the plaintiff.” In contrast, avoid writing “John battered Fred when he threw the stick over the fence.” While beginning with a conclusion may be acceptable when writing a memorandum, keep in mind that these conclusions are usually based on a great deal of thoughtful reflection. When writing an examination answer, time is of the essence and you may be incorrect regarding your initial belief as to how the problem will come out. Beginning each problem with an issue statement, as opposed to a conclusion, addresses two related problems. First, it provides you with the flexibility to look at all sides of a problem before coming up with an answer. Second, it helps you to remain objective. When you start with a conclusion, the tendency is to support that conclusion even in the face of strong opposing arguments. (Adapted from Succeeding in Law School by Herbert N. Ramy.)

Academic Success Tip - Importance of Knowing Skeletal Outline

As soon as an exam begins, consider writing out your skeletal outline.  A skeletal outline is merely an organized list of principles and issues, created by you, which relates to a given area of the law.  Think about your master outline you have been creating all semester, but now force yourself to reduce it down to a one- or two-page checklist of topics and subtopics – this is your skeletal outline.  Writing out this list will give a few moments to compose your thoughts before digging into the exam.  Memorize the list for a closed-book exam and write it down on scrap paper after you are told you can start the exam.  In an open-book exam, place this list at the top of your outline.  Use it as a handy guide to see if you have forgotten anything in your outline of an answer to an exam question.  (Adapted from Succeeding in Law School by Herbert N. Ramy.)

Academic Success Tip - Analyze the Elements

Analyze each element of the relevant causes of action in your exam  answer.  The depth of your analysis regarding each element will depend on the complexity of the problem.  Forcing yourself to analyze every element will accomplish two things: (1) it will let the professor know that you understand that every element of a cause of action must be proven; and (2) it will force you to consider whether each element has been satisfied, thus avoiding the mistake of failing to discuss a complex problem that, at least on the surface, seemed quite obvious.  (Adapted from Succeeding in Law School by Herbert N. Ramy.)

 

Academic Success Tip - One Week to Go!

Congratulations!  You have completed your first week of law school final exams.  The good news is that there is only one more week to go, and after finals you will have a much-deserved long break.  While it is important to take some time for yourself this weekend, do not abandon your studies.  You want to end strong, so be sure to devote enough hours to studying this weekend.  Do not procrastinate.  Good luck!

 

Academic Success Tip - Legal Analysis

Your analysis is the most important thing that goes into a law school exam, so make sure it is in there!  Much of what students write when answering a law school exam is not legal analysis, and has originated in places other than the student’s mind.  The issues you will be dissecting were created by your professors and are contained within the examination fact patterns.  The same is true of the facts you will be discussing in your answer; they were created by your professor.  The law you will be relying on to resolve these issues originated in the cases and statutes you read during the course of the semester.  The only part of an essay answer unique to you is your commentary on WHY certain facts lead you to believe that a legal issue should be resolved in a particular way.  This commentary is legal analysis, and is the difference between the grades of “C” and “A” on a law school exam.  (Adapted from Succeeding in Law School by Herbert N. Ramy.)

Academic Success Tip - Use the Facts

You cannot perform legal analysis without discussing the facts.  There are few absolutes in law school, but including the facts in your answer to essay questions is one of them.  Remember, most law school essay questions are written in the form of a lengthy fact pattern or story.  The facts within these stories create the issues that you must discuss.  Almost every fact in these stories must be reproduced and discussed in your examination answer.  While it is true that your professors will know the facts in the problem, professors do not know whether you understand which facts are relevant to resolving each issue.  Including the facts in your answer does not guarantee success on your law school exams, but excluding the facts guarantees that you will perform below your capabilities.

To ensure that the facts are making their way into your essay answers, place a line through each fact as you use it.  Do not cross the fact out so that it becomes illegible, however, because a single fact may be relevant to more than one issue.  After you finish your essay answer, look back at the fact pattern.  If there are facts left over, one of three things has occurred: (1) the facts are truly irrelevant and do not need to be discussed (unlikely!); (2) the facts are relevant to an issue or issues that you have already discussed; or (3) the facts are relevant to an issue that you have not addressed at all.

As for supposedly irrelevant facts, professors rarely place information into their fact patterns that does not need to be discussed.  Most “irrelevant” facts are there so that you can explain why they are irrelevant.  (Adapted from Succeeding in Law School by Herbert N. Ramy.)