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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.)

Don't Forget to Return Study Aids

After exams this week and next week, remember to stop by the Academic Success Office to return any study aids that you checked out over the course of the semester.  And, if you would like to clean up your space and get rid of any study aids that you have purchased since you started law school, donations are welcome!  You may claim a tax deduction for your donated items up to the amount of their cost. If you have questions, please see Ms. Kimberly Ballard, Room 212.

Academic Success Tip - Organizing Your Exam Answer

Before answering an essay question, you must outline and organize your response.  When the exam begins, too many students read the first paragraph in an essay exam question, recognize an issue, and are so overjoyed at finding an issue that they spend the next 20 minutes responding to it.  The problem with this approach is that the fact pattern was probably over a page long, and the writer just spent more time than was necessary in responding to a relatively straightforward issue. 

While different students outline differently, students who perform well on law school exams take the time to read through the entire essay question, create a list of the various issues contained therein, and then take a few more minutes to separate out the major issues from the minor ones.  This approach will give you a better sense of how much time you have to complete your entire answer.  (Adapted from Succeeding in Law School by Herbert N. Ramy.)

Avoid a Computer Exam Disaster: Part the First

Never, ever, ever trust an exam on computer to batteries only.  Always bring your computer's AC adapter and be sure it's plugged in and providing electricity before starting Exam4.

Academic Success Tip - Read the Instructions

Read the instructions!  This is the most obvious advice imaginable, but every exam period one or more students will lose points on an exam for not following a professor's directions.  Most students get flustered at the start of an exam, so this type of mistake is more common than you might imagine.  When the exam starts, take a deep breath, slow yourself down, and read the instructions.