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Key To Success At Law School: Organize And Process Information Learnt Effectively

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Whether you're considering applying to law school, whether you've been accepted and are anxiously awaiting the first class session, or whether you're a second-year student who hasn't done quite as well as you'd hoped, you may feel that the legal profession is an intricate, incomprehensible puzzle that you'd like to be a part of-if only it weren't so, well, intricate and incomprehensible.

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For all of you, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that the material taught in law school is completely understandable by anyone with the intelligence to be accepted for admission in the first place. This is because law, unlike nuclear physics or biochemistry, is an institution regulating human activities on a very visible, familiar level. If you are aware of society itself, you can understand the subject matter of the law.

What's the bad news? Consider just how many aspects of society must be regulated.

An example: Jane Doe, Esq., wakes up in the morning to her clock radio, makes coffee, heats rolls, and eats breakfast with her husband. She then takes the elevator to the lobby, says "Good morning" to the doorman, and leaves the building to dodge traffic on the way to the subway that will deliver her to downtown Manhattan, where she is a partner in a large law firm. A simple scenario. But let's look at what a lawyer sees in those few facts:

In the sale of the clock radio, coffee maker, and toaster oven, a lawyer would see federal and state trade regulations and antitrust laws, a state statute called the Uniform Commercial Code governing the sale of the appliances, and the law of negligence and products liability that would govern rights should the toaster, say, catch fire.
  • In the food Ms. Doe and her husband ate for breakfast: the same rules as above, plus federal and state health regulations and statutes.
     
  • In the gas and electricity in the apartment: state laws and regulations governing the sale and distribution of utility power.
     
  • In Ms. Doe's relation with her husband: statutes and cases known as domestic relations law.
     
  • In their apartment lease: the law of real property, contracts, housing and residential building codes, and landlord and tenant law.
     
  • In their relation with the doorman: the law of agency.
     
  • In the traffic on the street: state and city traffic laws, insurance law, negligence law, the Uniform Commercial Code again, consumer protection law, "lemon laws," and banking law (for financed cars).
     
  • In Ms. Doe's law firm: partnership law, workers' compensation law, tax law, social security law, constitutional and anti discrimination law, and general tort and contract law And working in conjunction with all of these laws is the body of procedural laws that govern how the courts enforce those other rights.
In sum, the bad news is simply this: Law may regulate everyday events, but it deals with a staggering number of them and it does so in a very complex and detailed way. To be a successful lawyer you must differentiate among and organize all these rules and regulations; to be a successful student, you must do the same.

Irrespective of the type of law you want to eventually practice, corporate lawyer or a public prosecutor, your accomplishing your goals depends largely on how well you do in law school. The better your grades, the better will be the firms that will hire you, the better the firm the more the money. Students, who do well and have the grades to show, will earn top salaries even after their first year out of school. Most students borrow money and are heavily burdened under student loans and as the tuition debt mounts, a regular income does come in handy.

It is a proven fact that law students who have great report cards are the ones who end up with getting judicial clerkships and federal jobs.

Most successful lawyers find that their success had little to do with intelligence or magic study techniques. The students who did well had two keys to success: One, they were disciplined and two, they were good at organizing the mass of information they were taught.

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Unlike other graduate courses, in law school you will be allocated hours upon hours of intense and intricate reading, and you will have to examine and comprehend every word of it. It is also worthwhile remembering that your grades are characteristically based completely on just a single examination held at the end of the semester.

Presuming that you have somehow managed to do all the reading and committing to memory the mass of detail it still does not mean that you will get the grades that you need – you have to have the ability to apply what you have learnt and this is where organizing and processing all the information becomes all the more important.

Furthermore, your grades in law school are characteristically based entirely on just one exam at the end of the semester. Even if you manage to complete all of the reading and memorize the material, you are far from guaranteed a good grade, as law school exams are based on your ability to apply what you have learned.

The purpose of this article is to give you a technique for key number two - a system for organizing and processing all the information you get in your classes. It is called the Legal Concept Management system. Following this system will certainly help you do well in law school.

The Legal Concept Management system approach requires a lot of work. Either you're willing to work hard in law school or not. And if you're not, there’s not much can be done but if you want good grades, if you want to get the most out of law school, and if you're willing to work diligently, then following the Legal Concept Management system will provide you with a distinct advantage.

You might ask yourself at this point: Why bother to do well in law school? You think: "I'm going to a good school. As long as I pass, I'll land a job. No problem." Well, sad to say, the world has changed from the days when your mothers and fathers went to law school. "Take-over" fever has become "take-cover" fever, and the number of plush jobs in classy firms has fallen in direct proportion to the clients who have gone under or cut back on operating expenses. While the number of students applying to law school seems to have stabilized, firms are being much more selective in their hiring and-what was unheard of as recently as ten years ago-are now firing attorneys who don't live up to their expected potential.

The short answer to the question "Why bother?" then is this: To get the job or clerkship you want. By "job you want," however, it does not necessarily mean the most lucrative type of legal position. People choose law for reasons other than money, such as its potential for improving society, as a stepping stone to public office, or as a mentally stimulating way to spend the workday.

If these are your goals, it is no less important to do well in school. Why? Because the most important, most interesting, and most rewarding legal jobs-whether they pay well or not-are avidly sought after by graduates. For instance, the Manhattan district attorney's office typically receives dozens of applications for each opening in the office. And that position pays about one-third the going rate in Wall Street firms. Similar competition is common at the Legal Aid Society and other public interest groups.

If you aren't attending a prestige law school, you will need to push a little harder than those students who are. I do not believe that these prestige schools produce better lawyers than other schools. But law firms in the process of hiring attorneys and judges hiring clerks often have a different view, and you may find a decided prejudice against graduates from non-prestige schools unless you can demonstrate through your individual academic performance that you are a potentially outstanding attorney.

Such self-interest isn't the only reason for doing well, however. In school, you are working pro se, as the legal expression goes-working for yourself only. In no time at all, though, you'll be representing clients who need your help. The attorney - client relationship is one of great trust. For these clients you are bound morally (and legally) to do all you can to solve their problems within the bounds of the law. You cannot represent clients half-heartedly; when their property, liberty, and even lives are at stake, you must make every effort on their behalf. Get accustomed to this attitude of hard work and diligence now; after all, you're only a few years away from becoming an attorney.

Now, what is this Legal Concept Management system that claims will catapult you to the head of your profession? It's quite simple. The Law School Success System is a method for:
  • Gathering information from class notes, digests of court cases (called "briefs"), and notes from outside of class.
  • Creating a single master outline for each course.
  • Using this outline and several other short lists in a very structured way to prepare yourself for the final exam.
  • Taking the exam according to a highly effective method of analysis.
  •  Preparing class papers.
That's it. A lot of work, yes. But the results will be well worth the effort.

The most important thing that you need to be able to organize and process your class work is to ensure that the notes you take in class during the lectures are methodical, systematic and precise. It always help to come prepared and complete the assigned reading as the professor is most likely to teach, expanding further on the assignments and if you have done your reading it will be easier for you to understand the lecture and take notes.

Later on in the privacy of your study room you can convert the key terms and concepts that the professor mentioned into questions and outlines that will be a ready guide when you revisit the notes later during examination time.

Revise your notes as soon as possible when things are still fresh in your mind. You can also highlight or underline parts that you feel are important. Marked matter will be extremely helpful and when you return to your notice will be a good reminder of what the key parts of the lecture were.

The Law School Success System can be divided into five systems.
  • Law School Success System I - Classroom Techniques
  • Law School Success System II - Briefing Cases
  • Law School Success System III - Preparing A Course Outline
  • Law School Success System IV - Preparing For And Taking Exams
  • Law School Success System V - Preparing A Course Paper



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