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Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the purpose of briefing?
Briefing has three purposes: (1) to practice dissecting a case, which is vital for law school exam taking; (2) to prepare for class; and (3) to use when preparing a substantive outline.
2. How should I prepare for class?
The professor expects that you read the assigned materials and briefed the assigned cases, which includes identifying the relevant facts, issue, rule, reasoning and conclusion. When preparing, focus on the court’s rationale by making sure that you know why the court decided what it did.
After you read and brief the assigned case, ask yourself the following questions: What was this case supposed to teach me? What did I know about this issue or legal topic before I read this case? What do I know now?
3. How can I synthesize cases and materials for an exam that is three months away?
You will need to create an outline. Outlining will help you understand how all the rules fit together and will be a vital component of your exam preparation.
4. What can I do to adjust to the Socratic Method?
Remember that your professors are not trying to intimidate you or make you feel stupid; rather they are trying to challenge your mind to go further than you thought was possible. As you prepare for class, try to anticipate some questions that your professor may ask.
5. Why does it take me 10 minutes to read one page of a case?
Some subjects are very difficult to comprehend. For example, constitutional law and civil procedure are new and foreign, while torts and criminal law may contain more familiar language and fact patterns. When reading a case that is difficult to understand, use your law dictionary to assist you, but try not to get lost in the details. Instead, ask yourself the following questions: (1) What is this case supposed to teach me, and (2) How does it fit with the case I read yesterday? This will help you understand where the case fits within the "big picture" of the course.
6. Because there is little feedback in law school, how can I determine how I am doing throughout the semester?
To make sure you are on track, attend the Academic Success Program study skills workshops, outline throughout the semester, practice hypothetical questions throughout the semester, and try taking several practice exams during the last month of classes.
7. How do I manage my time effectively?
It is important to determine what works best for you. Do so by setting a schedule and sticking to it. Click here for time management tips.
8. How do I form an effective study group?
You should consider including persons whom you respect and share similar study habits. Try to keep your study group to a maximum of 4 people and include persons who have different strengths. Finally, make sure that the study group sets some ground rules before getting off the ground!
9. There are a lot of students who seem "freaked out" about law school and make me nervous. Should I avoid these people?
Yes; you are in law school to learn and succeed and you do not need to interact with people who will stand in your way. Stay focused on your strategy and schedule without allowing others to affect your goals.
10. Is it normal to feel confused and overwhelmed?
Yes; remember that law school is very different from undergraduate and other types of graduate education. You are responsible for learning a large amount of information and must apply it in a way that is new to you. As with all new endeavors, it takes some time to adjust to the rigors and challenges of being a law student.
Take advantage of the Academic Success Program, which offers study skills workshops and individual tutoring to all first year law students. (If you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed, contact the Director of Academic Success to discuss your concerns.)