Do you have a writing assignment to complete but can't seem to find the focus to get the project started? Consider these tips for more focused writing:
- Make sure you understand the parameters of the assignment before you begin – ask the professor if you are unsure
- Brief cases that you will use; make notes on general reference volumes that you have found; consider how you will use each source for the paper or project
- Outline your thoughts and the supporting materials before you start writing so that you will be more focused and clear
- Divide the paper or project into smaller sections and focus on one piece at a time while you write
- Review what you wrote previously for a section before you continue writing that section at a later time
- Review other sections that inter-relate before you start to write a new section
- Keep a pad handy to write down reminders about thoughts you have on other sections (or other tasks entirely) so that you can re-focus quickly on your task at hand
- Edit in stages rather than looking for everything at once: grammar and punctuation; depth of analysis; logic; clarity; writing style
To improve your understanding and recall of the cases you read, consider these tips:
- Read your cases at the times of day when you are most alert and productive and save “lighter” study tasks for other times
- Read the subject that is most difficult (or that you find least interesting) first each day so that you are your most alert and finish it early in the day
- Create a context for reading the case through a quick survey before you read: what is the topic; what is the sub-topic; what court are you in (federal or state; level of appeal); what are the party categories (buyer and seller of land; buyer and seller of widgets); what is in dispute; what is the holding (now you know the issue and its answer); what questions has the casebook editor included at the end
- Divide what you are reading into small “chunks” – paragraphs on facts; paragraphs on procedural history; paragraphs on precedent; paragraphs about policy
- Ask yourself questions about the chunk as you read to keep yourself interested and to draw out the most important points
- Write margin notes to distill the chunk to the most important points
- Re-read only the chunk you are on if you lose focus
- Prepare a brief after you read the entire case to see if you understand the case AND the bigger picture of this case in relationship to other cases and the topic
Tracey Roberts, assistant professor at the Brandeis School of Law, is new to Louisville and to the University of Louisville.
She's started a group called Louisville Faculty and Friends to help newcomers connect with other people in the community. UofL Today recently asked her about the group and herself.
UofL Today: Last year, you were a research affiliate with Vanderbilt University's Climate Change Research Network and held a fellowship with the Searle-Kauffman Institute for Law, Innovation and Growth. Before that, you practiced law in Georgia and Colorado. What brought you to Louisville?
Roberts: I have always wanted to teach law. At the University of Louisville, I feel that I am in a position to make an important contribution through my research and teaching to both academia and (hopefully) generations of students, attorneys and policy-makers. It is particularly gratifying to be doing this work back in my home state. I am originally from Franklin, Ky., a small town along the southern border, south of Bowling Green. I was also a member of the Kentucky Bar for nine years, though I practiced law elsewhere.
UofL Today: What is Louisville Faculty & Friends?
Roberts: Louisville Faculty & Friends is a social group designed to integrate faculty into the broader Louisville community, provide informational resources to newcomers, encourage cross-disciplinary and public-private collaboration, and generally have fun in Louisville and surrounds.
UofL Today: How can people get involved?
Roberts: Everyone should feel free to join our Louisville Faculty & Friends Google group.
Full Story: "20 Minutes with Tracey Roberts on faculty newcomer group" (UofL Today, September 14, 2010)
Do you ever feel that you have put in time but do not understand or recall anything that you heard in class or read in your casebook? Do you ever “zone out” during class or study time? One of the most essential study skills is the ability to focus. Here are some general tips that you might want to consider:
- Get at least 7 hours of sleep per night so that your brain cells can be ready to work productively for you
- Take short 5- or 10-minute breaks every 90 minutes of studying
- Take a 30-minute break after you have been studying for 3 or 4 hours
- Take a short 5-minute break if you completely lose your focus and cannot get it back with more active study strategies: asking questions; reciting out loud; talking with someone else about the material
- Find a setting where you can study without interruptions or distractions
- Have all of your supplies and study materials gathered and ready for use before you sit down to study
- Eat a light snack before studying to assuage hunger pangs: an apple; a box of raisins; a handful of nuts; a granola bar
- Use ice water to keep you alert instead of coffee or sodas
Wow! You have already completed four weeks in the fall semester. Congratulations. As you've probably noticed, time passes quickly in law school. Before you know it, finals will be right around the corner. If you've kept up with your study schedule and your study tasks, keep up the good work. It will pay off. If you've put study tasks off repeatedly, you need to re-evaluate your priorities and get back on track for success.
So, what should you be focusing on right now? Here are three suggestions:
- If you haven't already done so, now is a good time to make a list of questions to ask your professors. Plan when you will go see your professors this week to get their assistance. It is easier for a professor to get you on the right path if you ask questions early and often.
- This weekend is the perfect time to get caught up on your outlines if they are still non-existent or barely begun. You should have enough material in most courses to be able to determine both the “big picture” of the sub-topics or topics and how the parts fit into that whole.
- Now is a good time to use a monthly calendar to write down all deadlines for papers, projects, mid-terms, or assignments. Plan over the next month when you will work on specific tasks for those longer-range deadlines.
- "Ethics and Elder Law" by Bernard M. Faller, '01 (p. 1)
- "From the President's Desk: Freedom Sings" by Laurel S. Doheny, '92 (p. 3)
- "Notes from the Wasteland: All I Really Need to Know About Law, I Learned from ABC's Prime-time Schedule" by Jim Chen (p. 6)
- "Avoiding the Weary Time: Expediting Claims with the Use of On the Record Requests" by Gregory T. Schmidt, '03, and Jaime L. Patterson, '08 (p. 11)
Jennifer Siewertsen, 2L, shares her experience as the 2010 Ellen B. Ewing Fellow.
As a first year law student the law seemed like an intangible idea, an abstract thought presented in casebooks and lectures. The cases and the discussions have names and titles, but not faces or stories. For someone propelled into law with a background in social justice and advocacy, this pursuit of a faceless justice left a lot to be desired. I never imagined that in ten short weeks, my purpose and interest in the law would be renewed and redirected towards family law.
As the 2010 Ellen Ewing Fellow I was thrust headfirst into Legal Aid’s Family Law Unit. Working with a small and dedicated group of people, I worked with a variety of complex family and legal issues. I immediately began meeting clients and sifting through cases. What I found wasn’t a question presented or an issue, but individual people struggling to find safety for themselves and their children from domestic abuse. What may have been another day at the office for me was often a life-changing moment in the life of a client.
I spent the summer doing many of the same duties as any other law clerk, researching, writing, and observing in court. However, what I got out of the experience was wholly unique. The opportunity to interact with clients on a personal level and see legal issues through a human lens has given me a renewed sense of purpose for this upcoming school year. Though my time spent with the Legal Aid Society as the Ellen Ewing fellow was brief, the impact of that experience will be life-long.
Ms. Siewertsen is a native of Louisville, Kentucky and a 2008 Graduate of Centre College with a Bachelor’s in Religion as well as Government. She's active on the 2010 National Moot Court Team and the Moot Court Board as well as a candidate for membership in the Journal of Law and Education. She was a runner-up in the 2010 First Year Appellate Advocacy Competition (pictured above).
Jennifer and her classmate, Alex White, will emcee Lawalapalooza on September 30 at Phoenix Hill Tavern.
The School of Law received a thank you note this week from the Masonic Home, one of our locations for community service during the 1L Orientation.
Dama Maynard wrote:
"Thank you so much for coming to Masonic Home of Louisville and assisting our residents with scrapbooking. They really enjoyed spending time with each of you. They treasure moments with our greater community. Good luck to each of you and thanks again."