LawFool Explains How to Take Law School Exams

No fool he. UM's LawFool gives very sound Exam Advice.

It's not an accident that in every exam talk I give I tell students that the most common error is failure to answer the question.

Here's the “advice” section from a recent exam of mine:

Some Advice. Read the questions carefully and think about your answer before beginning to write. Organization will count in your favor. Unless the question directs otherwise, don’t forget to explain why you reject seemingly sensible options as well as why you select them.

Make sure that each of your answers focuses upon the specific question(s) posed. Take the time to organize your answers around a discussion of the most relevant issues of law raised by those questions. Don’t just state your conclusions. You should attempt to make the reasoning behind your answer as transparent as possible, and demonstrate your knowledge of the assigned readings (and where appropriate the approaches and viewpoints they represent.) And, when you make any but the most obvious general statement, it's often good to include a specific example. But don’t waste time quoting more than a few words from the relevant materials – just cite to them when they are relevant.

If you need to make an assumption, identify it clearly, and state why you are making it. If you need more facts to answer the question, clearly explain why each missing fact is important, and what turns on it. And remember, whatever you do, remember to give reasons for your answers…ideally reasons that demonstrate a mastery of the assigned readings,

Don't use abbreviations not found in a standard dictionary unless you define them on first use.

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4 Responses to LawFool Explains How to Take Law School Exams

  1. Jaye says:

    Any suggestions on the Bar exam essays on the Texas Bar? Sort of a modified IRAC? Conclusion, Issue, Black Letter Rule, Analysis woven with particular facts? Rinse and Repeat?

  2. michael says:

    Follow the form recommened by BarBri: everyone else does, so it’s what they expect. It’s been a very long time now, but if I recall, you first state the elments of the tort/crime whatever, then apply it. Showing you know the elements of the whatever is at least as important as getting the right answer.

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  4. Courtney says:

    I just left a comment over at LawFool that I’ll repeat here — my strategy has always been to use 1/3 of my time outlining and 2/3 writing my answer. For an hour-long question, I would force myself to wait until :20 after before I started writing in my blue book. Having a well thought-out and complete outline that I could use to structure my thinking meant that actually answering the question was usually nothing more than transferring the outline into the blue book with the appropriate connecting words, modifiers, and punctuation.

    I’m in private practice now and use the same technique for all of my persuasive writing. I never start a draft until the outline (i.e., my thoughts) are fully cooked. I am sure it saves my clients money and leads to a better work product.


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