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Thursday, October 2, 2014

How to Prepare for Law School Exams

Today I get to share another new guest post from one of my favorite guest bloggers and supporters here! Read Ashley post below to learn more about preparing for law school exams! 

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One of the law students that I tutor, who I’ll call Brad, ran to me in a panic right before his law school exam study period last year. Brad had been diligently reading and briefing the cases all semester but then, a couple weeks before final exams, study period began and there were no more cases assigned.
“What should I be doing?” He asked me. Without any assignments and without much guidance, he did not know how to prepare for law school final exams.
While it might not be your final exam study period yet, law school final exams are not far away. Maybe you find yourself feeling like Brad – wondering what to do once all of your reading assignments are over. Or maybe you even want to begin to prepare for law school final exams now. After all, the earlier you begin preparing, the higher the chances are of boosting not only your confidence, but also your grades.
So how can you best prepare for your exams? To answer that question, you have to answer the question: What do law school final exams test?
Law school final exams test two things:
·         First, whether you know the law; and
·         Second, whether you are able to apply it to fact patterns.
So really the question, at a fundamental level is, “How I can I better learn and apply the law?” This is a two-part question which has a two-part answer. We’ll look at each in turn.

First, how do you learn the law?
The best way to learn the law is to outline and learn your outlines. Think of making an outline as putting pieces of a puzzle together. You organize the important bits and pieces from your class notes, your cases, and supplements and create a big picture of the law in your outline.
Outlining is the best way to learn all of the material you have learned throughout the semester. It is best to make your own outline (build your own puzzle!) rather than using someone else’s outline. Why? Because the process of outlining – of putting the pieces together - helps you more than anything else! You are cheating yourself out of really internalizing the material if you simply use outlines that others have made.
What should you do when you’re done making your outline? You learn it! It is not enough to just have the outline (even if you have an open book exam!). You need to know your outlines as well as possible.  

Second, how do I get better at applying the law?
You have to practice! Some students make the mistake of simply reading a lot of theory about how to get better at answering exam questions. They read books about how to answer exam questions and they obsess over different strategies and different ways to make arguments. And that’s fine – but it’s not enough. In reality, whether you use the IRAC method (Issue, Rule, Analysis, Conclusion) or something else, the best thing you can do is practice taking exams. This is true whether your exam is essay exam (the most common), short answer, or multiple choice. 
If you wanted to get better at tennis, you wouldn’t sit around and read books about how to play tennis all day – you’d go to the courts and actually practice!  So get a hold of as many past exams you can. Look at your professor’s past exams. Look online. Consult supplements such as Examples and Explanations supplements or Glannon guides, which usually have plenty of problems available for you to review.  Practicing will truly help you to perfect the skill of taking law school exams.

What shouldn’t you be doing?
There is no reason to spend extra time reading cases, briefing cases, or doing anything that doesn’t directly help you to learn or apply the law when you begin to study for final exams.  A lot of first year law students make the mistake of obsessing over cases – reading them, rereading them, and briefing them to prepare for exams. However, most professors do not test on cases – in fact, many professors will tell you that you can get an “A” without citing one case on your exam!   
If you keep in mind that you will be tested primarily on whether you know the law and whether you can apply it to fact patterns – both now and during your final exam study period - you will be well on your way to succeeding on law school exams.
Ashley Heidemann graduated as the number one law student out of over 200 students in her class of 2011 at Wayne State University. She now works as a tutor for law school and the bar exam. She also teaches an Online  law school exam preparatory course. For more information, and to find out more about the Law School Exam Preparatory Course, visit her site at http://www.excellenceinlawschool.com.


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Lawyer-Versary

This week marks one year as an attorney. I can't even believe how much I've learned and how much I've grown. I went from dreading....hating...almost breaking down in tears when I knew a hearing was a month away, to going to court multiple times a week without batting an eye. I still wouldn't say I enjoy the courtroom, but I can tell you its a necessary evil that I've gotten over. I think of it like cleaning a toilet, its not fun...and you don't particularly want to do it, but you don't dread it, you simply do things in life that sometimes you don't want to do.

Don't get me wrong, there have been a couple times I've actually really looked forward to it. It's all about the preparation. The more I do it, the more I just become accustomed to it. Maybe the legal world will make a litigator out of me yet.

The experiences I've received at a mid-sized firm (8 attorneys is mid-sized in Omaha) has been amazing. I've been working with my own clients since day 1 and handling my own case load. I am now so grateful that I'm at a firm that throws you into everything to get experience.

Also, I still laugh at the looks I get from people when I tell them I'm a lawyer (especially on the weekends when I'm dressed more like an artist during my part-time photography job that I refuse to give up!) I like to think I'm helping shed light on the legal world, maybe even helping get through the stereotype that all lawyers are evil.



Don't get me wrong, sometimes at work I'm pretty sure all lawyers are evil. I think that has been the most eye-opening thing for me this past year. What they teach you in law school really has very little impact on the real legal world. They teach you to think like a lawyer in law school, but not to BE a lawyer. Discovery deadlines? 90% of the cases I deal with no one follows them until forced. So much of being a lawyer (in my line of work) is simply holding a client's hand, breaking down the process, and repeating what you say multiple times to reassure them it is being taken care of. In my first year I've learned its about learning to "teach" yourself how to do new processes and new things. Every case is different, and hopefully the things you learn will help you in something similar down the road.

That being said, I know each of my classmates in law school has a unique experience their first year. Some are doing contract review, some aren't specifically using their law degree, others are at large firms where they continue to do research and memos, some chose alternative careers, while others started their own practice...its all over the board.

It has been amazing and so fun to reflect back on how much has happened over the last year. I've learned a ton at work, paid off all of my law school debt, learned (and still learning) to balance a career as a newlywed and simply can't believe how much has happened since I first decided to go to law school.

To those of you thinking of going to law school, I wish you the best and hope you make the right choice for you! For those in law school, its not to late to quit and do something more fun :) Just kidding, you'll make it through! Just put in the work, you've made it this far!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

New Whovian Etsy Items



As you know, Kevin and I operate a thriving Etsy shop. You may also recall that we love Doctor Who. We were approached by Buildasign.com to review their products, and jumped at the chance! It took us a week to think and determine what Kevin would be designing for the shop (and for our own personal use) and we came up with this:


We love every single one of these. My personal favorite is the fridge magnets. The price on these were great, and I could see so many cool opportunities for fridge magnets. I envision brides using them as save the dates, or it'd be a great way to show off your business instead of business cards! 


Kevin LOVES how the decal looks on his blue jeep too! So fitting seeing as how its a big blue box (and bigger on the inside).

Our items arrived just when they were supposed to, arrived safely and looked great
Great product, great website, great prices! 






*this is a product review request. I received product compensation in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Extraordinary Rendition: Book Giveaway

In law school I decided it was time for me to branch out and learn more about the lawyer shows and books that everyone had been talking about. Lawyer shows often gave me the creeps, as criminal law is just to spooky and yucky for my taste! I decided to start with some John Grisham books. About 15 books later, I'm still learning about criminal law through these books :) 

That being said, I've loved reading fictional stories about lawyers. I was approached by the publicist of "Extraordinary Rendition" to share this book with my readers. One of you will get a free copy to read as well! 



What is the book about?
When Ali Hussein, suspected terrorist and alleged banker for Al Qaeda, is finally transported from Guantanamo Bay to the US mainland to stand trial, many are stunned when Byron Carlos Johnson, a pre-eminent lawyer and son of a high-profile diplomat, volunteers to represent him. On principle, Johnson thought he was merely defending a man unjustly captured through Rendition and water-boarded illegally. But Johnson soon learns that there is much more at stake than one man’s civil rights.</p><p>Hussein’s intimate knowledge of key financial transactions could lead to the capture of—or the unabated funding of—the world’s most dangerous terror cells. This makes Hussein the target of corrupt US intelligence forces on one side, and ruthless international terrorists on the other. And, it puts Byron Carlos Johnson squarely in the crosshairs of both.Pulled irresistibly by forces he can and cannot see, Johnson enters a lethal maze of espionage, manipulation, legal traps and murder. But when his life, his love, and his acclaimed principles are on the line, Johnson may have one gambit left that can save them all; a play that even his confidants could not have anticipated. He must become the hunter among hunters in the deadliest game.Written by no-holds-barred-attorney Paul Batista, Extraordinary Rendition excels not only as an action thriller, but as a sophisticated legal procedural as well. Batista’s keen legal mind and feel for suspense bleed onto every the page. Smart. Fast. Heart-pounding. A legal thriller of the highest order. (Description from Amazon)



I was also given a copy to read as well, who wants to read it with me? Enter to win by letting me know what your favorite legal book/movie/show is and why!

Giveaway will be open for 1 week til 8/5/14

Friday, July 11, 2014

A Letter to Those Taking the Bar Exam

I had a friend message me today who will be taking the bar exam this summer. She was going through what many recent graduates are going through this time of year...and they are probably going crazy. She asked for advice. There may be more people out there that need to hear this, so here is my letter to those of you that may need to hear this right now:

Hey! I know its hard, I was a total mess. I'd feel great about it one minute, and totally bomb the multiple choice questions the next minute.
That being said, I don't have a great answer for you. I walked out of the bar thinking "I 100% just failed this" and ended up doing awesome...better than most everyone I knew.
To me, it was putting in the time. I forget if you have Barbri but they have an ipad/iphone app with multiple choice. Sometimes I needed to get away, sit outside, and just run through them to do something new. Sometimes I needed to just play the video before I went to sleep and listen to it rather than watch.
I heard barbri questions were harder too (she had asked if it was true that Barbri questions were harder than the real exam) . I would have to say they must be, because I never did great on the practice stuff, but did well on the test. If you're like me, I was never very consistent. One day I'd get 30% of the questions right, the next was 80%.
I will not say that you will pass. I will say that you won't ever regret putting MORE time into studying. I passed with plenty of wiggle room, but I would not go back and exchange one day of studying for a day of relaxation.... every day that went into it could have been the day that made me go from passing to not passing.
That probably didn't help much, but you will get through it. If you're like me, nothing I can say will actually comfort you unless its a lie I can tell you by far passing the bar has been the best feeling I've ever felt, its a big accomplishment, and you CAN do it.

So there you have it. Those are my words for those of you taking the upcoming bar. If you'd like to go back and see what I was like during bar prep, I blogged a couple times as I was going through it-- Look here
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