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Law School IL Final Exams: Best Kept Secret to help with Torts, Contracts, and Criminal Law

PASS Study Guides

The PASS Study Guide series is a set of interactive workbooks designed to help students prepare for law school exams and the Bar Exam.  The Guides are not meant to serve as a comprehensive course treatise, but as streamlined tools that will help you hone in on heavily tested rules and concepts, to learn the rules and how to organize the concepts. The guides also contain tips and suggestions for writing effective exams.

Buy the guides at LegalBooksDistributing: PASS Torts, PASS Contracts, PASS Criminal Law.

The essential legal rules in each Guide are set out in easy-to-memorize formats that include an element-by-element breakdown.  And they are set out in the order you will likely need them on an essay question!  Logical organization is key to success on law essays and these Guides help you learn the law in the way you need to access it.

Fluency with legal terminology will help make you exam-ready.  To help with gaining a command of the terms in each subject, the Guides contain fill-in-the blank spaces to help you learn and memorize terminology, as well as a glossary of selected terms.

In addition to learning the law and memorizing key rules, the most important way to pass your exams is to practice.  (Practice, practice, practice.)  Each chapter contains short-answer Test Yourself questions, with spaces to write your own answers and explanatory so that you understand the reasoning behind the correct answers.  Working through these Q & A as you study will help you master the concepts and skills of applying rules to facts in the context of each subject.  In addition to short-answer questions and answers, each guide also has full-length practice essay questions with explanatory answers as part of the Appendix.

 

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Final Exam Success Tip of the Day

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!

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Are you studies ever hampered by procrastination?

A great read that may help combat procrastination and get back on law school and bar exam success is at http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/academic_support/2016/03/a-plethora-of-procrastinators.html

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Rule statements: mastery of legal vocabulary

One important task for law students, and for law graduates studying for the bar exam, is mastery of legal language.  Just as when we study a foreign language, we need to know what words mean and how to use them in context.  When writing in a foreign language, we also need to learn to spell words correctly.

If you are a 1L, 2L or a 3L law student, and especially if you are planning on taking and passing the upcoming bar exam, you should be able to define all of the following criminal law terms.  Take 20 minutes.  Ready, set, go!

Crimes Against a Person

  1. Assault 
  2. Battery
  3. Mayhem
  4. Kidnapping
  5. Rape
  6. Homicide

Theft Crimes

  1. Larceny
  2. Embezzlement
  3. False pretense
  4. Robbery
  5. Extortion
  6. Theft
  7. Burglary
  8. Receipt of stolen property
  9. Arson

 Inchoate crimes

  1. Solicitation
  2. Conspiracy
  3. Attempt

 

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IRAC or IRPC? That is the question!

IRAC or IRPC?

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Top Ten Reading Strategies for Success Exams

Just heard an amazing presentation from a colleague about the use of facts, or, more precisely, the failure to adequately use facts, being one of the most significant problems for law students on law exams.  An example was referenced regarding a cause of action that required that the party in question have a close relationship with the deceased in order to prevail.  A number of students missed key words that clearly revealed that relationship.

In order to write an effective exam answer, the first step is successfully reading the question –a topic I have frequently addressed in this blog and in my book, Pass the Bar: A Practical Guide to Achieving Academic & Professional Goals  (which, FYI, can be as helpful while you are in school as when you are taking the bar exam.  Just replace the words “bar exam” with “final exams” as you read. You will get practical help right now and strategies for long range success.)

For all students reviewing your midterms and thinking about how to improve on final exams, here are today’s Top Ten Reading Strategies for Success on Law Exams:

  1. Read the fact pattern slowly.
  2. Read the fact pattern more than once.
  3. Start at the call of the question, then read the facts, then re-read as necessary, then outline, and then write your answer. (You must outline to organize before writing!).
  4. Read the facts aloud (under your breath, but so that you see and hear them at the same time.) By reading aloud and touching each word as you read, circling, underlining and highlighting as necessary, you read with three senses and are much less likely to miss key words and much more likely to see the significance of every critical word. (As noted in Pass the Bar Exam, all credit for teaching the power of reading with three senses to UCLA Hillel Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller).
  5. Interact with the reading.  Any time you see a word that triggers or possibly triggers an issue, write that in the margin. (So for example if on a criminal law exam you see a person “breaking” into a building, underline the word “breaking” and in the margin write: “burglary ?”)  Any time you think of a potential issue, note it either in the margin or on scratch paper.  Many students when polled after exams say they “saw” issues but forgot about them when writing their final answer.  (Credit here to one of my brilliant law professors, Kenneth Graham, for teaching us the power of writing in the margins, and not just highlighting but taking thoughtful notes while reading).
  6. Pause after each paragraph to think, then draw a line or make a note in the margin indicating what cause of action, crime, defense, or other legal theory these facts relate to.  (This is especially helpful if there are multiple interrogatories).
  7. Diagram the scene -especially helpful on real property exams; (Forgive the walk down memory lane but this point was reinforced every day I had the honor of being in the late great Jesse Dukeminier’s property class). 
  8. Make a chronology of important dates (particularly helpful in certain subjects such as contracts, causation in torts, or in community property, where key facts may be out of order and the order and/or dates may be legally significant).
  9. Circle parties’ names (all credit here to my colleague, Professor Steve Bracci, for constantly reminding students that the first time a party is mentioned in a bar exam fact pattern, there is often descriptive language about who that party is and the role that party will play in the “story.”  If later on as you read or write, you forget who someone is, just look for the circles and you see that description. By tracking parties throughout, (circling the first time and underlining the next times you see those names), you will connect key facts about those people that may be revealed at various points in the fact pattern. Bar Examiners and law professors love to put legally significant facts out of order to test whether students are reading carefully and thinking critically.  And,
  10. Cross out facts as you use them in your answer.  If while you are writing, you look back at the fact pattern and notice a whole paragraph where you have not crossed out any facts, ask yourself what is legally significant about the facts you have not yet used, what issues do they raise, how can they help you draft your answer.

 More suggestions on exam taking strategy to follow in future posts.

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Ask a Trusted Mentor how to ask your questions: Third Post in Series on Asking Questions

Recently, I found myself in a situation I’ve been in many times, a super helpful situation I thought I’d share a bit about to help others.

I had an important meeting with someone I do not know well.  So, I went to someone I know fairly well who knows the person I must meet with, and asked for a few minutes to pre-plan my upcoming meeting.  I told the person I know, quite candidly, that I was asking him for advice on the best way to approach a certain topic, and even on logistics of how and when to raise particular questions I had.  The person I met with was incredibly helpful and generous with his time and understanding about my concerns. Having the pre-planning meeting gave me a level of confidence I will now take into my next meeting.

When you need to meet with someone who is busy and important (your professor, the chairman of your department, the Dean, President or Chancellor of your school), you want to prepare before your meeting.

If you have questions, think them through carefully ahead of time, including how you will phrase them, what you want to know and why, and what you hope to get out of the meeting.  Often times, because the person is busy s/he will appreciate that you came prepared, and you will be better able to get the answers you need. (Some of the people you meet with on a college campus will get hundreds, even thousands, of emails a day and have very little time to answer questions –so preparing ahead can make all the difference!)

Sometimes, it can help you to do a trial run and/or ask a trusted mentor for help. For example: Let’s say you have to meet with your professor about something simple. It often makes sense to walk right in to office hours and ask away.  (Remember, though, in previous posts I did note that if the question is something you could easily look up, do that before asking.)  

But, let’s say you are asking for something a bit more serious, a letter of recommendation, or about a possible TA position. It might help to talk first with your current TA and get some information before approaching your professor.  You might ask your TA if s/he knows whether your professor prefers a certain time of day to talk or has a certain system for hiring new TAs.

The point of this post is not to stifle your desire to go talk with people and ask questions. After all, I’ve been writing a series on asking questions and even issued a throw down challenge that you ask a question a week.  Rather, this is to help you see that you can ask for help even in how you go about asking questions.

 

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Asking for Help is a Good Thing: Second Post in Series on Asking Questions

NOTE: This is one post in a series on asking questions.

Many new students, whether new to undergrad, law school, or any course of studies, are afraid to ask for help.  Why?  What are you thinking when you hesitate:

  • They will think I am stupid for asking this;
  • I should know the answer;
  • I should not need help.

So, let’s take these in order, as to the first point, rarely will someone think less of you for asking for help, be it from a professor, your financial aid office, the career center, registrar, student health services, or any number of campus facilities.  The whole purpose of these offices is to help you, students!  People who work on your campus are also particularly aware that some of you are new to the school and may be lost.  They want to help.  And, most often, what you ask is something others before have asked about, so the person you are asking will not be surprised or put off by your asking.

On the second point, you “should know” the answer.  Well, let’s explore that.  If it is a question that is easily answerable on a school or professor website, then, Yes, definitely look it up before going in to ask a question, emailing, or calling.  Or, if you do ask, then phrase your question as “wanting to confirm” what you found online.  That way, the person you are asking will see that you tried to find the answer yourself, but that you want to be certain you got it right.

Confirming information is incredibly useful.  You feel reassured that you are on the right path.  And, it often leaves open an opportunity for the person you are asking to give you additional, related, and helpful information that you may not have known about either.  (Making contacts with people who can help you later on when you have other questions is also a critical step on your path to future success.  Note the names and contact info for people who help you in your phone and keep a quick note on what you asked and when to remind you of who the person is should you need to follow up down the road.)

On the last point, you “should” not need help.  Re-think that one.  Every success story had, has, and will continue to have a great deal of support.  Help is not doing something for you, but assisting you.  Receiving help does not make you less than, it makes you stronger in the long run.  Teamwork in nearly every professional endeavor also requires that you ask questions and listen to the answers and use the information wisely, so getting in the habit now, while in school, of inquiring is great.

Asking questions is such an important part of your educational experience that I would actually issue a throw down challenge: once a week for this first semester find someone new to ask something of.  Keep “Notes” in your phone every time you think of a question you want to ask, then find the right person to ask.  (You may need to ask one person who the best person is to answer another question.)

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Starting Law School: think carefully about what you put in your law school application

Just led a seminar for incoming 1L law students, an orientation where I spoke about the bar exam.  You may think it a funny thing to be talking about the end when they are just at the beginning!

Not really, often, knowing where we are headed helps us get where we want to be.  In the case of law school and the bar exam, this could not be more true.  There are many reasons why the two (1L and the bar exam) are intimately connected, and I’ll blog about those in the days and weeks to come.  But, just one example today: moral character.

To become a member of the bar, students or graduates will need to complete a moral character portion of their bar exam application.  It is lengthy and takes time to fill out.  You need references, and fingerprints, etc.  You also have to take and get a high enough score on the MPRE.

Both the moral character portion and MPRE can be started early (and should be!).  No need to wait until you pass the bar exam.  That will only delay being sworn in and licensed to practice law.

But what is the immediate connection, right now, for a beginning 1L?  Your law school application.  If you have issues that may affect your moral character that you will disclose (because you have to disclose) on your bar exam moral character application, that you do not disclose on your law school application, that discrepancy may come back to haunt you.  (It may later look like you were deliberately hiding something.)

Inquire now, but do so with this caution.  Unless you are speaking with a lawyer who is representing you, what you say may not be confidential.  Non-lawyers are under no obligation generally to keep your confidences, and any law school staff or professors you reveal details to may in fact (ironically) be obligated to disclose what you tell them.

So, if you need general information, call your state bar and do some research about what need be disclosed when.  (Many offices have information hotlines where you can ask a question without giving your name.)  And, it may well be worth a couple hundred dollars to make an appointment now with a lawyer who handles state bar issues if you have something in your past that you are concerned about.

You can speak to your Dean of Students generally (without details) and, you may still have time to amend your law school application. That is the timing part that is critical.

But, again, if you have some criminal conduct or even a past civil lawsuit in your background (depending on the facts of that matter), especially anything that suggests dishonesty or moral turpitude, now may be a good time to sit for one hour with a reliable lawyer with experience representing lawyers before your state’s bar, and get some good advice on the front end, so that when you graduate and pass the bar exam you won’t be caught off guard.

More posts to come on looking at the end goal (bar passage) from the starting point. (One L).

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Deadlines for October FYLSE coming up soon.

FYLSE Timely filing deadline = August 1, 2014       FYLSE Final deadline = September 15, 2014

Review the deadlines at http://admissions.calbar.ca.gov/Examinations/DatesDeadlines.aspx

Need help preparing to pass the October FYLSE?  Sign up today for PASS The FYLSE, and get started studying with the expert, Professor Steve Bracci.  Pass this October’s Baby Bar.

Create your free account today.  Enroll in PASS the FYLSE.  And, get all the applicable the rules straight in Torts, Contracts and Criminal Law.  Get hours of online lectures and practice tests.  And, a full simulated FYLSE exam with debriefing of essays and 100 multiple choice questions, by Professor Steve Bracci and essay review by Professors Steve Bracci and Sara Berman.

The secret to success on the baby bar: Bracci’s PASS the FYLSE.

 

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