Monthly Archives: March 2016

Set yourself up for success. Start on finals preparation now!

Many law students and college students are in the home stretch now, with final exams in the next two months.  That seems like a long way off.  It is not.  Now is the time to start thinking about finals –not the week before the exam.

It is an empowering feeling to walk into a final exam ready and prepared to the best of your ability.  It is an uncomfortable destructive feeling to go into an exam knowing you are winging it.  The choice is yours.  Start now!

How to take advantage of the lead time?

  • Prepare a timeline.  Note when any papers or other assignments are due between now and final exams.  Note when each of your exams will take place.  Write what each exam will test and in what format.
  • Try to clear your calendar as much as possible to prioritize your studies in these last laps. Tell people (family, friends, etc.) you will see them more in June (or after your exams are completed) and lay the groundwork to declining all social invitations when you need to prioritize studying.  Say No to any new commitments such as with organizations, clubs, and internships.
  • Plan a study schedule that allows you to spend time on each course respectively –paying attention to factors that allow you to determine which finals (which courses) will demand more of your time and energy to adequately prepare.

Future posts will provide other final exam preparation tips, but, for Today’s Tip of the Day, as part of your slow and steady final exam preparation:

  • Find out if any of your professors have released any of their former exams and if so, get copies of those exams.  Exams given by your professor(s) in the past will often give you insights into how particular professors test, what might be covered on the exam, etc.  In addition, it can be helpful try to obtain “practice exams” from other professors who have taught the same course.  It can be helpful to take past exams as practice exams, under timed conditions, to prepare.

Set yourself up for success.  Start on finals preparation now!

The Power of Peers: Network with those who are a year or two ahead of you.

In school, it can be most helpful to talk with –and network with– those who are just a year or two ahead of you in school. For juniors or seniors in college, and for 2L and 3L law students, talking to recent graduates can give you a leg up on what to expect, and how best to prepare for success. If someone survived freshman year successfully, they may have great advice for you who are now in your first year.

Why?  There’s a good chance, you are not the first person to struggle with whatever challenges you are currently facing.  And, a peer who is just a slight bit ahead of you may seem more credible than a professor who may have been where you are decades prior.  (I happen to believe that with age comes wisdom and thus seeking advice from those who are much older can be tremendously valuable.  But I do understand that many of my students find recent graduates particularly credible.)

I sponsor an Alumni Speaker Series in a number of my classes, hosting recent graduates to come back and share their bar exam and professional challenges, and wisdom.  Their stories help current students see what troubles may be lurking and provides advice on how to avoid the pitfalls and potholes in the road just ahead.

Recent graduates empower current students to believe that they too can navigate the rough waters and prevail.

If your have formal opportunities to meet and network with recent graduates seize them.  Ask questions!  Make your own plans based on what you hear worked and did not work for others.  Do adjust the advice of others to fit your own needs.  (“One size does not fit all” in life, law, or college.)  But, do listen.  Why repeat mistakes that just spending a few minutes hearing someone else might help you avoid?

If there are no formal opportunities, go on your own and seek out recent graduates or students in classes ahead of you.  Ask your ASP faculty or your favorite professor or Dean for the names of recent graduates they would recommend you talk with.  Ask a former leader of an organization you belong to, to sit and share his/her experiences.  Talk with someone who has just started working in a field that interests you.

And, be sure to send a Thank You after meeting with someone.  You will be surprised at how your networking opportunities expand your current successes and your potential for success in the future!

Slow down when answering essay questions.

How Quickly Do You Answer Essay Questions?

Great article for College Students!

How to Live Wisely, by JULY 31, 2015 

This is a must read for college students, but could also be tremendously useful to law students and others figuring out their path in life.  A particularly useful exercise for many could be the first exercise suggested, matching how the time you actually spend (your commitments) compares with what you value (your goals).

Many of us find our time is consumed by much that we really don’t value…. What to do about that is one of the greatest of questions!

Time Management Tip of the Day: Study Before Taking that “Time off”

How many times have you said:  “I’ll just stop by that party for a couple of hours, then I’ll study.”  Or, “I’ll study after work.”  Or, just generally, “I’ll study tonight.”  Then, when the time comes to pull out the books, you are too tired to focus well and end up either not studying at all or not studying effectively. (Ever read that same sentence six times only to realize you still don’t know what you are reading?)

I have worked with hundreds of students who re-claim control over their study schedules by a pointed strategy to start studying earlier, before partying, before work, or before the day takes its toll and makes us too tired to absorb what we are studying.

“Work before play.”  Sounds like just another old person lecturing at you, right?  Well, don’t view it that way!  Consider it as a power tool strategy to do more of what you want, effectively.

It’s one thing to “do it all” then see mediocre results.  It’s another thing to “do it all,” do it well, and have fun!

Note that at some points in time, you simply cannot “do it all.”  There are legitimate “crunch times,” for example during midterms, finals, or while studying for the bar exam, where everything but studying must take a back seat.  More on times when you must “hibernate” and do nothing but study in another Time Management Tip post.  But, for much of the academic year, a more strategic balance of study and extra-curricular, and more strategic timing, can propel you to achieve greater success and enjoy the process!

If you are in school, college or law school, you likely want to succeed. Let’s make that assumption!  You want to get high grades on papers and exams, you want to do the reading and come to class prepared.  You also want to party with your friends, to go to all the organization events you care about, and you likely need to work (paid jobs and internships).

So, try this for a bit.  Try putting in at least an hour of studying first thing in the morning, right when you wake up.  Try also studying at or around noon.  (While others may be eating, just grab a quick (healthy) meal and head to the Library for a couple of hours.)  And, then, after your day time commitments, before any evening activity starts, find a quiet place and study for an hour or two more.  Even if you get there a few minutes late, you will enjoy yourself much more at an evening event,  party, or socializing with friends if you arrive after having finished a concentrated study block, and after having completed whatever is due the next day.

The other way around, trying to work late at night after the evening activities is often a no win: you go out feeling at least a little guilty about the fact that you did not complete your work.  Result?  You don’t get your work done and you don’t have as much fun.

Some readers may be thinking, “I don’t feel guilty.  I just do ‘all nighters’ after going out.  Studying all night may be something one must do on occasion, but hopefully it is not a habit.  Even occasional all nighters are typically not as productive as regular study blocks at times when you are most wide awake and alert.  And repeated all nighters take an eventual toll on your health as well as your productivity.  (They can be especially dangerous for students who commute and drive to and from school on no sleep.)

Instead, try fitting studying in earlier in the day.  See what happens.  I often meet with students who tell me their dedicated study time is between 9pm-midnight.  I ask them to just *try* for one month studying at least one hour in the morning, one hour at noon, and one hour between 5-7pm. Almost always, people come back at tell me that they feel more in control, and they retain what they are studying much more effectively. Give it a try!

What is your Time Management Tip of the day?

 

IRAC or IRPC?

WHAT IS IRAC?   An acronym for Issue, Rule, Analysis, Conclusion.

HOW IS IRAC USED?  IRAC is a template for logical writing, most helpful on law exams, specifically on bar exams. But the IRAC terminology often confuses people, particularly the word “analysis.”  A better term for many may be IRPC: Issue, Rule, Proof, Conclusion.

Some people hear the word “analysis” and think of the complex and varied wrinkles in legal theories and reasoning; they picture lengthy, detailed exchanges in law school classes, breaking apart and trying to understand case law.  Others hear “analysis” and think of a layered literary analysis in a college English class, reflecting on the meaning, style, and value of a novel or poem.

As you will see below, a more useful mental picture for effective bar writing may require a flashback to geometry in middle school (or “junior high”) and the simple logic in a basic “proof,” rather than thinking of college or law school.  Why?  The term “analysis,” for many, conveys a more complex and often longer written discussion than is required for most passing bar answers. However, the word “analysis” may well represent what law professors expect on law school midterms and finals. Many law professors wish to see students weave relevant cases into their discussion, analogizing and/or distinguishing the facts in the exam to facts from cases and/or hypotheticals studied throughout the term to reason to thoughtful conclusions. Your professor may also expect a rich policy discussion in your law school exam answers, possibly noting relevant implications the issues you are discussing might have on third parties, society at large, past precedent, or future evolution of the applicable law. Bar writing is often much simpler, and heavily dependent on straightforward logic.

Let’s look at the following example as an albeit over-simplified but useful analogy to bar writing style, what I call and will explain below as “IRPC.”

       An IRPC example in math

Picture a triangle, then read the passage below:

  • What sort of figure does the shape above represent? ISSUE
  • Three sided figures with sides coming together in three corners are generally known as “triangles.” An equilateral triangle is a three-sided figure where all three sides are equal in length and all corners have the same degree angle. RULE
  • Here, side A measures x inches, side B measures x inches, and side C measures x The three sides are touching and meet respectively in three corners. And, each angle measures y degrees. PROOF (or “analysis”)
  • Therefore the figure represented above is an equilateral triangle. CONCLUSION

This logic may sound more mathematical than legal but it is highly instructive for bar writing. Let’s consider another IRPC example, this one using an everyday driving scenario, and you will see the same sort of logic but in a situation that more closely resembles a law-type fact pattern. Note here we will also add a policy consideration to our logical writing (“IRPPC”). Policy concerns, while not essential in bar writing, can be helpful in improving your score. As long as you have written about all the discussable issues, using the basic components of an IRPC correctly for each, and you finish answering the entire question, adding policy considerations may indicate a further mastery of the application of the rule of law that a grader may appreciate.

The defendant and his passenger, Witness X, both testified that the defendant’s car was in the left turn lane, the green arrow was blinking and it was 3:00pm when the turn was made. Did the Defendant’s turn from Elm Street onto Main Street on December 1st violate traffic regulations?

Now let’s say you know (because you have learned the relevant rule of law) that left turns are permitted at the intersection of Elm and Main from the left hand turn lane, when the green left turn arrow is blinking, at times other than 4pm-7pm weekdays. (From 4pm-7pm weekdays such turns are not permitted even if the arrow is green.) How would we logically deconstruct the validity of the turn in question?

       An IRPC example in law and daily society

Did D’s 3:00pm left turn at Elm and Main violate any traffic laws? [ISSUE]

Left turns are permitted at the intersection of Elm and Main from the left hand turn lane, when the green left turn arrow is blinking, at times other that 4pm-7pm weekdays. [RULE]

D was in the left turn lane (so in the proper location for the turn). D saw the turn arrow blinking (so D had a signal that it was safe to make his turn). D made the turn in question at 3:00pm (thus the timing was appropriate for this type of turn). Note: since it was 3pm, it did not matter which day of the week as the only bars to turning are from 4-7pm. [PROOF or analysis] Last but not least, policy would dictate that even if D had followed the technical requirements for turning, D must also confirm that it was generally safe to make the turn –i.e. there were no other obstacles, emergency vehicles or unanticipated conditions that would make the turn unsafe. Assuming D did so confirm there is no reason to indicate that the turn was unlawful. [POLICY]

Therefore, D’s turn from Elm onto Main appears to have been lawful.[CONCLUSION]

      IRPC works!

Are you starting to see why IRPC makes sense?  If IRPC is clearer and more helpful for you than IRAC, think IRPC.  They mean the same thing, but IRPC may just make the idea a little clearer.

One of my professors once explained bar exam writing something like this: “Many of you came to law school from lofty colleges where you theorized, you studied literature and history and the like. You read poetry and wrote beautiful essays. You sought to include metaphors and alliteration in so your words would flow. You want to continue that sort of writing now, in law school. Your minds are creative. You want to think, ‘Well, I’ll start by discussing A, but then let me foreshadow Z, then I’ll get back to B, maybe then toss in a bit of H and J to make things more vibrant.’” He then hollered, “No!” Everyone in class jumped. “Cut that out right now! From here on, instead of flowery prose, it’s “A+B+C=D. Period.”

Bar writing, in many ways, is indeed A plus B plus C equals D.

IRPC for bar writing is straightforward.   IRPC makes sense. It is not mysterious or intriguing. IRPC is not eloquent. It is simple and direct.  It is mathematical, likeA+B+C=D.  IRPC works!  Try IRPC as you write practice bar exam essay answers.

This page is excerpted from:

Pass the Bar: A Practical Guide to Achieving Academic & Professional GoalsPassTheBar_COV2

For more on IRPC and all sorts of tips on bar exam and law school success, read PASS the Bar Exam.