Planet Law School II, by Atticus Falcon (Book Review)

The Best Book on Law School Success

To me, Planet Law School II (affiliate link) is the gold standard of a law school book on, well, law school success.

If someone pointed a gun to my head and said ”only one book on law school success,” this would be it.

(Don’t just buy one book for your law school prep by the way. Buy everything you need!)

I recommend this book to every law student I tutor.

I have mostly praise for PLS, and only a few criticisms, as I set out below.

But honestly, no other book currently on the market comes close to being honest about the law school game and how to beat it.

Planet Law School: The Good

The author, Atticus Falcon (obviously not his real name), provides a clear-eyed, thorough, and well-articulated critique of the entire law school system. 

No one describes in more rich and convincing detail the pathology of law school. Like, all of it: the dumb use of the Socratic method in class, and the bait and switch of it all (that you spend all your time out of class reading cases, all your class time watching your professor make the law much more complicated than it is, and then you’re tested on things you were supposed to have figured out on your own from this mess.)

Only Planet Law School, of all of the books I’ve read, puts together such a readable retelling of an ancient history (how over 100 years ago, Christopher Langdell came up with the method used to teach law school everywhere in the U.S.) that has such relevance to the lives of law students and that so few in the legal academy wants to revisit.

Why is it important to know the history of law school? 

If you know, before going to law school, how arbitrary and insane the curriculum actually is, and how far removed it is from actual legal practice, you will approach law school with the proper perspective.

You can detach emotionally from your instinctive and unthinking sense of obedience to do what the professor wants, and do the opposite–that is, do exactly what you need to in order to ace law school.

To do well in law school, you need to be at least a little bit cynical about law school. Once you have read Mr. Falcon’s history of legal education, you will never be the same again.

Just as you never want to sausage again after reading The Jungle, you will never again trust another law professor after reading PLS.

Planet Law School isn’t just full of history, however.

Most of it is extremely practical, actionable advice, most of which I agree with. For instance: 

  • Atticus Falcon recommends pre-studying, using commercial outlines, because the Socratic method/case study method does not make any sense in terms of mastering the black letter law which you are actually tested on law school.
  • Planet Law School also recommends not briefing cases because it is a giant waste of time.
  • PLS also emphasizes taking as many practice law school exams as possible.

Planet Law School: The Bad

I have a couple criticisms of this book. None of them prevent me from recommending this to law students, but you should be aware. Here they are in no particular order:

  • Disorganized. The book is refreshingly quirky in tone and in substance. But I wish it were not so quirky as to form. The chapters are not named in a straightforward way. I appreciate the literate and clever references (the chapter on the law school bait and switch is titled “The Walrus and the Carpenter”). But it is annoying to navigate this book to find the advice you want fast.
  • WAAAAY too long. Planet Law School weighs in at 800 pages, almost doubling the size of the original book, Planet Law School I. Many chapters should have been cut from the hard copy of the book. They could have been put in an online supplement for people who want to read more.
    • For instance, there is a whole chapter addressing criticisms of the first addition of his book. Why? Who, other than Atticus Falcon, cares? Certainly, the arguments are convincing. They become arcane and presume the knowledge that the student seeks to obtain. Too much detail that aimed at defending the methods set out in the book, but they quickly add to the student’s information overload.
    • In short, there is too much of a good thing. But while the book could be more reader-friendly, you might better view the book as a heavy reference volume (like a dictionary or encyclopedia) instead of a handy, quick start, “how to do law school” action guide.
  • Not a one stop shop. At 800 pages you would think that Planet Law School II would include everything you need to succeed in law school. It doesn’t. Atticus Falcon specifically tells you to buy other books so you can do well in law school. I’m fine with this, though, because I think you should buy everything you need. He recommends law school primers. Cool. You really should, as he said, buy them because they are important to your success in law school.
  • But you would think that PLS itself would contain enough methodology–concrete steps on how to do well on a law school exam. He recommends that you buy LEEWS, as well as books by John Delaney. Those are great resources, but he could have offered help with this.
  • In short, it would have been nice if Mr. Falcon had provided more specific, usable tactics on how to write a good issue-spotting law school exam. This would have been nice. He does, however, go through an exam in detail, which is nice.

Overall assessment

Despite my criticisms, and they are minor, I highly recommend this great book if you are about to start law school, or even after you start. If you find yourself at all lost or alienated by law school, but still want to do well, please get this book.

I have asked that most of my tutoring students purchase this book.

Most of them have found this idiosyncratic book eye-opening and helpful.

Law School Confidential (Robert H. Miller), A Book Review

The book Law School Confidential (affiliate link here), by Robert H. Miller, now in its third edition as of 2011, is a popular, ranked second on Amazon for the search “law school,” and is a standard law school success book.

I bought a copy years ago when I became a law school tutor.

But is this a good advice book?

In short: better books exist on how to succeed in law school, such as Planet Law School, but this book is not terrible.

There is a lot of helpful general information in Law School Confidential (and there are even some terrific passages, I will admit).

Overall, there is nothing ”confidential” about the book—it collects conventional wisdom about law school.

You should at least know the conventional wisdom.

But be clear what Law School Confidential is not — it is not a manual for succeeding on law school exams.

There is not a single page of advice on precisely how to write an excellent law school exam, i.e., one that will convince your professor to give you some kind of an A.

There is some general advice on how one prepares for exams, but not what to look for or what to write or how to write an answer on an exam.

To me, this is a big lacuna in a book devoted to law school success.

But let me give you the good, the bad, and my conclusions on this book.

The Good About Law School Confidential

I have some good things to say about Law School Confidential.

First, it is a post-apocalypse treatment of whether to go to law school, and is full of a lot of sensible information. That is, this book was revised after the great implosion of the legal job market in late 2008. I think much of the book fairly reflects the new post-apocalyptic reality. (I think this is true as of 2022 as well, with all of the weirdness in the last 2 years.)

Second, Law School Confidential is very well-organized, well laid-out, and easy to read.

This may sound like faint praise, but good organization and good graphic design matter. You want a book to be easy to read and approachable, and this book makes it extremely easy to find what you need or learn, very quickly, what this book does not provide.

(By contrast, Planet Law School — a book I otherwise regard as substantively superior to this one — is really poorly organized.)

Third, the book is comprehensive and starts from the basics. The book covers everything from the application process to law school itself, to graduating and passing the bar.

Miller does not assume that you know anything about law school, so you can read this and really grasp the basics about what it takes to apply to law school, choose a good one, excel, and graduate.

Fourth, I do like and agree with much of the specific advice Law School Confidential gives.

For instance, at pages 150 to 154, the book suggests that you avoid writing case briefs because it is a colossal waste of time. (As I’ve written elsewhere, I could not agree more.)

Miller also suggests, at pages 135 to 136, that you purchase certain supplements and read them no matter what the professor says (and they are usually tell you not to buy them). I also agree completely — reading cases and allowing the professor and a confused student to scramble your brains with the Socratic method are not recipes for success.

Fifth, and finally, there are a couple of interviews that alone are worth the cover price of Law School Confidential.

One is an interview (at pages 51 to 72) with Cornell Law Schools’ admissions officer, and another is an interview with two heads of recruiting for major law firms (see pages 284 to 313). I doubt interviews full of such valuable information are available in free, public sources; not that I have seen, at least.

The Bad About Law School Confidential

First, as I mentioned in my summary, my major complaint about this book is the lack of concrete tips concerning how to write good law school exams or, failing that, any advice as to where I else I can turn beyond this book on how to get such tips.

How did Miller get good grades? Do I use the IRAC method? Do I take Wentworth Miller’s LEEWS class (no relation to Robert H. Miller)? Should I read Getting to Maybe? Should I just do nothing?

Not a word.

In the few pages on “Examsmanship” (pp. 212-16) there is very general advice, such as “budget your time” because the failure to do so is the “most common and most destructive exam mistake made by first-year students.” (p. 213).

True enough.

Also, the book suggests taking time to just read the question. Also to spend time just outlining an answer before actually writing it.

Again, totally agree as to both points

But what and how do I write on the exam? Law School Confidential doesn’t say. Assume that I budget my time and read the question and outline an answer. What should the answer look like? What is a good answer, and what is a bad answer? Again, silence.

Second, the advice at times is trite, which is too bad for a book on law school success.

Really, people need to be told to “[m]aintain a sense of humor” (p. 172)? Or not to act like arrogant jerks towards other students (p. 174-176)?

Perhaps I overestimate law students, but this is general LIFE advice. In any case, some paragraphs in a book on law school will not convince humorless people or arrogant jerks to not be.

Third, the testimonials on the book are quite vague.

What I mean is: Is there a single person who read this book and got As, or better grades than they had before? No? Then what benefit are the students getting?

To me, tellingly, the testimonials near the front cover are book reviews by other publications.

Not a one is by a student who read the book before starting law school and excelled as a result.

Fourth, the book chooses completeness over clarity and priority. This is the disease of mediocre lawyers and law students.

For instance, one of the most confused sections is the chart called “First Semester Performance Evaluation” (pages 218 to 222).

It is supposed to be a post-mortem, self evaluation asking you to offer information as to 35 different factors, including “Did you write in blue or black pen?” and “Did you take a bathroom break to clear your head?”

Seriously? Blue or black pen? Did you go pee-pee?

To me, this chart is almost a parody of the paranoid, common-sense-free and perspective-less mindsets that law students often adopt.

It is a comically comprehensive chart that I challenge anyone to actually use, much less benefit from.

There is also no evidence of anyone ever having used the chart to accurately self-diagnose and correct habits to get excellent grades.

But all of this comes back to a question that I think Law School Confidential never answers: what really matters?

Can there really be 35 different factors, all of which really influence your grades (the most important thing in your time at a law school)?

Um, no. The simple answer is: it doesn’t matter if your wrote in blue or black pen.

What matters is: did you understand the law (i.e., do you remember each and every element of each cause of action or defense that may be relevant), did you use the law to spot issues, and did you apply the law coherently and intelligently (say, on a torts exam) (and for an A, creatively) to the facts?

If you haven’t practiced writing a good law school exam — and you’re on your own because law professors will never teach you how to do this — then everything seems like a crap shoot.

You might do well or you might do poorly, depending on, I don’t know, your pen color and your bladder’s fullness.

Conclusion

I really wish this were a better book, especially because it is a best seller.

Abook that has confidential in the title should give you some secrets on law school success.

To me, and perhaps self-servingly, good advice must dish some secrets on how to succeed on law school exams. 

Without that critical component, what is the point?

Aren’t you in trouble if you need to be told to use rudimentary table manners at a law firm lunch? I quote: “When you sit down, don’t forget to place your napkin in your lap.” (p. 281)?

Here is my bottom line.

If you buy only one book on law school success, skip this one.

(By the way — you should not just buy one book—you should buy everything you need to succeed in law school.)

But if you are buying a bunch of books and don’t feel super organized, do it Buy a copy of Law School Confidential as your third or fourth book.

Standard of care: nail negligence issues on a torts exam

I have kids.  (Hold on– I’ll get to the standard of care and negligence and how to use them on a torts exam soon.)

My kids, like all kids, are sometimes clumsy and have accidents.

They trip and fall . . . over their own feet.  Or mine.  Or my wife’s.

I am a super cool dad, like Phil Dunphy from Modern Family!

Self-awareness is hard.  Really, I am not calm when they trip.  I find myself shouting useless things like “don’t fall!’ when they fall, or “don’t drop shit!” when they drop shit.

What students get wrong about the duty of care

What does my shitty parenting have to do with the standard of care (or the duty of care as it is also known)?

I’ve noticed in grading a practice law school exam that many students take the “don’t drop shit!” approach with negligence issues on a torts exam.

That is, the way you spot a negligence issue is noticing some kind of harm (someone falls or drops shit.)

So what students do is they march through the elements of negligence.

They formulate a standard of care (the basis of the duty of care that the defendant owes the plaintiff) by reverse-engineering the harm.

But most students do this in way that is too simple and too cookie-cutter.

They borrow from my Cool Dad Playbook and write “The standard of care is NOT doing [the injury from the fact pattern].”

For instance, here are the types of duty of care they identify:

  • Duty not to [accidentally crash into my car]!
  • Duty not to [drop shit on my head!]
  • Duty not to [leave toxic waste in my swimming pool for my guests to choke on]!

The right way to write the standard on a torts exam

There is a different, better way to articulate a good duty of care.

In short three tips will help you both find the standard of care and get it right on a law school exam.  In short:

  • Find harm: identify the specific action that caused the harm.
  • Get 1-2 levels more abstract:  Draft a standard of care by identifying what the defendant should have done in language that is 1 or 2 levels more general or abstract than the specific action that caused the harm.
  • Be affirmative: formulate a duty of care in the affirmative (i.e., say what the defendant should have done or how he should behave), not negative (i.e., “Don’t do what you just did!”)

Watch this video for a deeper dive on these three tips:

Law School Success Tips: In class, listen for 3 key things

Law school success depends, in part, on you focusing on the right things in class.

But what are those things?

Watch the video below, and then read a bit more of the text.

Listening for law school success

In short, listen carefully for three things:

FIRST, look for your professor’s specific wording of the rule of general application of any case that is discussed.

You might read about the elements of battery in Emanuels. Your professor might have a different way to word it or even different elements.  Use your professor’s exact wording (if she even tries to describe or define the black letter law.)

The example I use is my 1L crim law professor.  The defense of being “intoxication sufficient to negate specific intent for crimes of specific intent” was, for him, “Leningrad drunk” or even “LD.” He insisted you use that specific wording on the exam.

SECOND, listen carefully for what I call “fact triggers.”  That is, when a professor is grilling a student in class with hypothetical variants of the cases you were supposed to read.  Watch for the professor’s reactions to student attempts to grapple with them.

Usually you will know when your professor says “Suppose . . . we change one fact in this case” or “what if we changed this one fact…”

THIRD, listen carefully to forms of general argumentation the professor likes.  What does your professor respond (happily) to when she is listening to students talk about cases? (This is whether or not they are discussing hypos or fact triggers.)

Watch carefully his or her reactions to student arguments.

  • Does your professor like counter-intuitive arguments?
  • Does your professor like law & economic arguments?
  • Is your professor into fairly academic or theory-based arguments?
  • Is your professor very practice-oriented (i.e., lived in the trenches of litigation for many years)?

To succeed, do not waste time on these things:

  • Use class discussion to obtain general understanding of cases (you should study the black letter law directly to do that.)
  • Write down very much of what other students say (unless the professor says something like “did everyone here what Ms. Smith said?”).
  • Write down anything that is clearly unusable – really general history, procedural posture, stupid trivia, non-famous precedent the case follows.  Anything, in short, that you know you will not be able to use.

For more law school success tips, check out links to:

Law school success depends, in part, on you focusing on the right things in class.

But what are those things?

Watch the video below, and then read a bit more of the text.

Law School Success Tips, Part 4 of 10: The Black Letter Law

This is Part 4 of 10.  These are links to Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Last time we discussed how to study the law — not by reading cases, but by studying the law more directly.

The “law” I refer to here is the black letter law — the most stripped down form of the law.  I set out more in the following video:

When I mention that it is necessary to focus on or memorize the black letter law, I am talking about several things here.

  • The major rule, those that set out all of the elements or factors needed to make out a given claim or defense.
  • The network of sub-rules.  These sometimes set out exceptions or ways to apply a given element or factor.  They are often specific applications of certain fact scenarios, generalized to other scenarios (what I refer to as Rules of General Application.  This is, of course, redundant, because a rule should be generalizable).

This may seem a simple concept but it is important enough to understand that this is the what you are after when you are studying the law and reading cases.

What is funny to me is that few enough professors will define the black letter law for you.

They just mention it in passing.

Oh, and by the way, come exam time, professors assume you know it by heart– however little it is explicitly address in class.  Well enough to apply it on an exam.

The Black Letter Law – Get It From Commercial Outlines

Study the black letter law directly from commercial outlines if you want to get ahead in law school.

This tip will help you immediately reduce your study time, while retaining just as much important information.

Watch the video and then read the rest of my explanation below.

What is the black letter law?

You now know (from here and other sources) that the socratic method or the case method is a long, indirect path to learning the black letter law you need to do well on issue-spotting exams.

So judo-flip that shit.

Study the law directly: memorize the black letter law.  

By which I mean:  you can generally boil down a 2 to 3-page case on murder to a legal definition of murder (“the black letter law”).  Here is an example:

Intent-to-kill murder:  the (1) unlawful (i.e., without a legal excuse) (2) killing (3) of a human being; (4) committed with malice aforethought, which includes (a) intent to kill (b) intent to inflict severe injury or (c) reckless indifference to an unjustifiably high risk to human life.

Other cases can be different. They may not identify a legal definition, but rather apply it to a specific situation.  

You can boil down such a case like so into a single line of black letter law in an outline (I don’t go over every element here):

Intent to Kill Murder [definition]

. . . Malice aforethought . . . (a) intent to kill

Yes, guilty:  sudden impulse to kill, w/ no pre-planning, is enough intent for intent to kill (Commonwealth v. Carrol)

Now, this is a single sentence summary of Commonwealth v. Carrol, a case about a guy who saw his wife beat their children, argued with her later and, consumed with anger later, shot her; he made no plans, before grabbing his gun, to kill her.  (Jeez.)

For your purposes on an exam, the quick 1-sentence summary of Carrol (“sudden impulse to kill = intent”) is all you need. It helps you make arguments on behalf of one party and resolve claims.

Other cases create more specific principles that apply the general legal definition.  

You just need a quick line that sets out those facts.

You won’t find these in your case book.  

F’ing Chris Langdell made sure of that.

How to find the black letter law: Commercial outlines

The black letter law is set out in commercial outlines (like Emanuel’s or Gilbert’s), the modern day treatise for students.  

Commercial outlines will save your life.

Buy them new or used for $40 each.  

Get a BarBRI Conviser Mini Review (available on Amazon or eBay), which is what people use on the bar exam and contain all 1L subjects.

Print out free outlines you find on the web.

It doesn’t matter that much.

You can even buy old outlines (they are cheaper).  Don’t spend a fortune on them.  Borrow them from a friend.  

Read these outlines.  Memorize the “legal definitions” (the elements or factors of each claim, like murder, or defenses, like self-defense.).  Commit to memory the case blurbs that apply the definitions.

You can do this before law school starts.  You can do this during law school, studying the black letter law before reading cases.  Emanuel and Gilbert outlines are keyed to the most common casebooks you read.

Yet other tips

  • You don’t have to master the black letter law completely.  Read to understand so that (1) you can start atking practice exams (see Shortcut 3 below) and (2) so the key legal concepts are familiar when your professor discusses them or you come across them in your case book reading.
  • Don’t over do it.  That is,do not buy or read more than one outline per law school subject.  This will become repetitious or just make you confused.
  • Read short commercial outlines.  I prefer Gilbert’s or Emanuel’s because they are brief.  Just study the summary outline at the front. It is 50-70 pages.  If you study from a free outline, only do so if the outline is short, less than 50 pages.  You may be tempted to buy a big hornbook or treatise.  These are very comprehensive and might confuse you.  (Such books are really meant for practicing attorneys.)

But: your professor’s black letter law trumps the outline  

Just use commercial outlines to prepare for class and to learn enough law to take practice exams.  

However, if your professor says something different about a law or a case than your outline, the prof’s words win.  

Your job in law school is to understand your professor’s view of the law and apply that to an exam if you want a good grade.

That’s it.

Briefing Cases Is Busy Work (Don’t re-read cases, either)

Briefing cases is the king of law school busy work and, as I have said elswhere, you need to avoid busy work in law school at all costs.  

See the video on why, and then look below in the text for other time-wasters to avoid.

Avoid busy work like briefing cases

Generally, you want to avoid busy work, like briefing cases. And please don’t re-read cases.

(Sidenote:  This, to me, includes avoiding any 1L extracurricular activities, like moot court.  Only your grades matter to potential employers.  Packing your resume 1L year won’t help you get a job.)

Also, for the reasons we explored in the last post, most case-related studying is busy work.

Now, go ahead and read assigned cases in your case book.  

That’s not busy work (for reasons I explain elsewhere.)

But do only the bare minimum: read the cases once, and only the night before they are covered in class.  You can follow what happens in class.  If called on, you might mess up.  (So what?  No one will remember, trust me.)

Beyond that, do not worry about cases any further.  

Why it is hard to avoid busy work

Now, without exception, you will feel pressure to read and re-read cases.  And to be briefing cases.

There is pressure to master the details of cases.  

Most profs still cold call people in class.  Everyone fears humiliation.  Everyone hates looking stupid.  (Some profs even threaten to dock the grades of the unprepared).

But as I already showed you, cases themselves are not the key to performing well on issue-spotting exams.  

Students who don’t know this (most students) will put every effort to understand cases they assigned .  

Students who don’t know this (most students) will spend their time briefing cases.

But you know better.  

Cases are not the law.  Repeat:  CASES ARE NOT THE LAW.

You will not get good grades because you can cite an obscure detail from a case from week 13.  

If you spend too much time reading or analyzing cases, and you will have no time to focus on activities more likely to get you good grades.  

It can ruin your academic life to re-read cases.  I saw this with my own eyes as a tutor to law students (who came to me after doing this).  Is anything worse than working really hard for nothing.

What to avoid, again (um, briefing cases)

To be even clearer, for your own sake, avoid the following:

  • Briefing cases.  Briefing cases is a law school tradition.  A stupid one.  A “case brief” is a case summary you write that identifies in painstaking detail parts of a case (the parties, their claims, the holding, procedural posture, dicta, background).  
    • None of this helps you on an exam.  You will get 0 points if you try to recite these details on cases.
    • This is insanely time intensive:  my first two students briefed cases 40-50 hours a week. They got crap grades.  I asked them stop briefing.  They got better grades.
    • PLEASE for the love of god DO NOT BRIEF CASES.  
    • Even if professors make case briefing mandatory the first week or so, stop it as soon as you can (i.e., after they stop checking).  
  • Re-read cases.  Read cases once before class.  More won’t help you.  The secrets to good grades are not in your case book.  
  • Read cases in advance.  This sounds like a time saver for eager beavers.  But if you read on Sunday for a Wednesday class, you’ll likely need to re-read on Tuesday.  It is a sin to re-read cases! Bad!

Law School Success Tips, Part 1 of 10: Why Is Law School So Confusing?

Here is an important question:  Why is law school so confusing?

It seems easy in concept:

  • Read case book.
  • Go to class.
  • Study hard!
  • Take the exam.

But in practice it makes very little sense.  It’s more like this:

  • You read a bunch of stuff.  It is terribly written and makes no sense.
  • You go to class and hope that your prof will talk about this stuff that makes no sense.
  • Instead, your professor asks questions of students who make no sense in trying to make sense of the stuff that makes no sense.
  • You then take an exam that makes no sense and appears to have nothing in common with the stuff you read that makes no sense or that your professor asked questions about that made no sense.

Got it?

So why is law school like this?

Understanding the mystery of law school — and why it is confusing — will help you understand how to make it un-confusing.

Law school used to be simpler.

Years ago — like over 100 years ago — there were a number of ways to become a lawyer.

You could go to law school, apprentice with a lawyer, or even study yourself (looking at you, Abe Lincoln).

Everyone studied books called treatises that collected bodies of law and clearly described the law. (Lincoln studied Blackstone’s Commentaries.)

All that changed in 1895.

A jackass named Christopher Langdell, who became dean at Harvard Law School despite being a totally unremarkable lawyer, decided law school was too easy.

Langdell thought students should learn how to think about the law, whatever that means.

So he scrapped the old method (actually teaching students the law) for a new one: make them figure it out for themselves.

More specifically, under Langdell’s new method:

  • Students read real court cases (from a case book, not a treatise) in which the law is applied but not explained.
  • Professors ask questions about the cases.
  • Students magically learn the “legal reasoning,” supposedly learning general principles of law by reading specific cases.

Under this method, the professor should not tell students what the law is.

Nor do professors teach students how to apply the law to new situations, even though that skill is exactly what final exams test.

If Langdell’s method sounds crazy, it is.

For more than 100 years to this day, every law school in the U.S. has taught Langdell’s way.

When students take bar review courses (like BarBRI), they are going back to the pre-Langdell way of studying law.

These prep courses do two things:

  • They actually teach you the law, rather than make you figure it out from cases (. In bar prep, law school professors (the same ones who spend the school year not teaching you the law) actually teach you the law (i.e., “the elements of murder are A, B & C”). Insanity! CHAOS AND INSANITY!!!!!
  • They also (kind of) teach you how to apply the law. Not a lot. But they try. UNLIKE in law school, bar prep courses give you some instruction on exam writing (maybe a lecture on IRAC, see my videos on here and here), and some feedback on exam writing. That’s it. (And it costs about $5,000, which your employer often pays for.)

To top it off, the bar exam is much harder than law school exams.

A law school contracts exam calls for contracts issue spotting.

On the bar exam, anything goes: contracts, torts, evidence, civ pro, your mother, anything.

So, a recap: law school exams and the bar exam both involve applying black letter law to an issue spotting fact-pattern essay exam.

But law school takes the annoying scenic route to your destination by making you figure out the law yourself by reading cases.

Bar prep courses take you straight to the same destination. No detours.

Now, isn’t that interesting?

Do you see what I see?

The Solution: 3 Shortcuts Inspired By Bar Review Courses

By comparing law school with bar prep, we can see a potential “hack” or shortcut to studying in law school.

Treat law school like the bar exam.

You can strip away the unnecessary and get a simple recipe to law school success (simple in concept, anyway):

Avoid case-related busy work.

Study the law directly. Practice issue spotting daily.

That’s it!

Do three things – follow just 13 words! — and you will get better grades and feel more relaxed than 90% of your classmates!

This is simple in concept but harder to execute.

You have to be willing to do things that other students aren’t doing, and that maybe your professors won’t like (if you told them).

Next time we’ll look at each short cut in detail.

Law School Exam Tips: What Is Issue Spotting? What Is An Issue?

I am stuck in a mantra-rut if you haven’t noticed. It goes like this:

  • Getting a good job requires getting good grades in law school.
  • Getting good grades in law school requires killing it on your final exams.
  • Killing on your law school exams requires you to master the skill of issue spotting.

But wait, Larry Law Law, what the hell is issue spotting?

What the hell is an “issue,” for that matter?

Lucky, I will show you instead of telling you.  Two videos for you today.

The first video concretely describes what an “issue” may look like on a law school exam (including my own drawings of Smurfette and Papa Smurf with beer and a shotgun.)

The second video explains the subtle threshold for identifying an issue. Before law school, the law seems like a black and white thing, like a science. But in law school, you recognize shades of grey (ha ha), and that law is more of an art. (Certainly, on law school exams this is true.)

The key word — almost guaranteed to be new to you if you have not gone to law school, and absolutely guaranteed to be important — is colorable:

In short:  welcome to the mind of a law student.

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