Law School Success Tips: What To Do In Class

This is Part 6 of 10. These are links to Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.

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)?

Law school success means not wasting 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.

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