By Andrea Woods
Many of us are striving to do our best in law school and sometimes we get discouraged when we don’t make the A’s we were expecting. Well, I’m here to let you know to get up and keep trying! Sometimes, we look at the A student and ask what are they doing that I am not. This question brings us back to the basics we learned in Intro to Law. Those skills are worth remembering and the class was worth taking seriously. So let’s get back to basics.
John Mamaligas is a WMU Cooley graduate who finished law school in 7 terms, in the top 10 % of his class, and earned cum laude honors. He has been tutoring law students for 19 years. Remarkably, John has had students who have come to him on double academic probation and made Dean’s list the following term after receiving his help. At a recent seminar on how to improve your grades hosted by Amnesty International, John assisted Cooley students in Lansing in getting back to the basics because they have frequently proven themselves helpful in causing success.
John has a 40/30/30 Rule for final exams: 1.) 40% is knowing the actual material before starting your final reviews, 2.) 30% is learning details through the multiple choice, and 3.) 30% is writing out essays.
What kinds of things should you do to prepare for finals?
1. Work on as many multiple choice questions as you can
2. Know your professor’s specifics and buzz words
3. Issue spot and write out old exams under time constraints
· Each time you write out the same things, whether it is a definition, paragraph, etc., you get faster just like assembling something
· The more fact patterns you look at, the more you see that they start to repeat
4. Have attack outline
· They organize your thoughts so you know what order you will discuss things
· They save time since your thoughts are already organized and ready to go!
MC tests you on the details of the law. The good news is the answer is provided for you. Eliminate wrong statements of law and then read through the remaining choices and see which facts fit your fact pattern better.
The BIGGEST problem comes up when students combine rule and FACTS instead of doing them separately.
- Have attack outlines or mnemonics ready because this is a reminder of what issues may come up in a particular situation. You are more likely to spot issues if you are looking for it, rather than just reading the fact pattern to see what issues seem to be there. Look at as many old exams and practice questions as you can. The more practice you do you will see how a certain issue gets hidden OR how certain issues ALWAYS come up together. Read the call of the question first because that tells you what you are looking for when reading through the fact pattern and what to concentrate on.
RULE- When you use a buzz word, define it. When you state the rule on an exam, do NOT combine it with the facts. Make sure to use the general rule before exceptions and also make sure not to jump right to defenses. Use flash cards, poster boards, or record yourself.
ANALYSIS- Do NOT do analysis until AFTER you have given a rule. Many students never give a rule. Analysis shows the reasoning for what the facts mean. Every fact is in the fact pattern for a reason. Use the facts! Do NOT summarize facts! Use the EXACT facts!
CONCLUSION- Always make sure you conclude one way or the other. Do not leave the call of the question unanswered! Sometimes you have to write a memorandum, sometimes you are the judge, sometimes you have to analyze whether a directed verdict would be granted, whether a person’s objection will be overruled or sustained, etc.
Some more tips……
Make sure your writing is legible. If your professor can’t read your writing, you can’t get points! Also, try to watch your spelling and grammar or it will take away from your credibility.
To contact Mr. Mamaligas, you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at (517) 484-3040.
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