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by Vault Education Editors | September 27, 2010


Starting your first year of law school this fall? Here's some great advice from Law School Podcaster on how to succeed as a 1L and survive professors like Charles W. Kingsfield Jr.

Law School Survival Guide: Advice to Hit the Ground Running as a 1L and Beyond

You're about to start law school and in case you haven't heard, the first year is not for the faint-hearted. It's a long haul and it's full of challenges, but there are strategies that will help you make it through successfully. On this show, we speak with professors who teach first-year law students and with authors of some helpful guides to tackling your first year of law school and beyond, like Professor of Law at Boyd University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Nancy Rapoport. "Law school doesn't have to be intimidating, but you do have to take it seriously. It doesn't mean you can't have fun while you're there."...

Law school classroomIt's no secret that the first year is vitally important. Chapman Professor Henry Noyes says it sets you up for a successful career. "First-year grades determine those two factors, membership on law review and class rank for interviewing during the beginning of your second year. And those grades follow you throughout being able to starting off a long race with a big head start if you do well with the beginning and actually gives you some advantage over other students if you do well at the beginning."...

The hard truth: Law school success means doing well on exams

Success in law school comes down to one thing, mastering exam taking and the trick to that. Chapman Professor Henry Noyes says that law students don't need to know everything on every single subject. "Taking a law school exam is more about having a framework for approaching a new set of facts so that you can put them into sort of the right boxes and compartments and address them and respond to them rather than telling the professor here is everything I know about civil procedure or even here is everything I know about personal jurisdiction."

Law School Ninja author, Gary Young, advises you to go get all your professor's old exams that are published and in the library. "Take your exams, the old exams, and just practice. Not by doing them and writing a whole answer, because that's just specifically too hard on people and they end up not doing it as exam prep. Instead, outline each of the answers to the old exams. You do four or five old exams with the particular professor in a property or in a property class and you get to worry your outlining all of that professor's exams beforehand. You do that four or five times and you are not only going to be able to do well in the exam, you're going to be a machine because you have trained yourself already how to outline the answers to each of those exams. You've trained yourself how to think in the way that that exam wants you to be thinking. And you go into that exam and you're much better off than the person who sits down on the exam. And the first time they'd ever thought about how to structure that professor's exams is when they flip over the actual exam. There's just no comparison and how well prepared you're going to be compared to others."...

Outlining your class notes helps you prepare for your exams. Chapman Professor Henry Noyes reveals the secret of outlining. "It's not about gathering more. It's about boiling things down to what's going to tip me off for this kind of question. And once I know what this kind of question is, what's the rule that I'm going to have to tell the professor? On the exam, to be successful, you have to do more than that. You have to do analysis. But that's not really part of outlining. Outlining is a sort of to help you identify and spot issues on the exam and then state rules very quickly."...

Law school classes are scary...but they don't have to be

Be sure to talk to your law school professorsYou may wonder whether it's a good idea to force yourself to participate in classroom discussions or how to handle the stress of the professor calling on you using the Socratic method. Chapman Professor, Henry Noyes says other professors may disagree with him but the level of participation shows up in the professor's syllabus. Follow that, and beyond that, participate as much or as little as you want. Participation has nothing to do with your grade. "Class is your time. Use it the way you want to. If you're more interested in listening what's going on and taking notes, then do that. If you want to participate, good. But make sure you're participating not because you want to grandstand and you want the other students, the fellow students, to think you're so smart. You can show them that by doing well on the exam...."

If your first semester grades aren't good, you should first remember that they are graded on a curve, suggests Chapman Professor Henry Noyes. "First thing is don't lose hope. Second thing is, make sure that they become engaged rather than become disengaged if they don't do well on their first semester. Go meet with every one of your professors, go over your exam. Figure out what the themes of what you're doing well and what you're not doing well and make sure that you can correct for that. Whatever problems or whatever reasons that a student might give during their first year to explain why they didn't do well, make sure you eliminate those as possible cause of problems in the second semester and seek help..."

If you have a bad first semester, don't worry. Brigham Young Professor Jim Gordon says, "You know, 90 percent of the lawyers out there did not graduate in the top 10 percent of their class. Most students get jobs. Most students get good jobs. And so it is helpful to keep things in perspective."...

Here's a list of things to avoid from Law School Ninja author, Gary Young. "I would avoid spending my time in the library worrying about what everybody else is doing. Are they--do they have some understanding of what I should be doing better than I do? Are they looking at the right case and I'm not? These types of worries just drive 1Ls crazy. And you know what? Again, it's the same thing. Trust yourself."

One more piece from Nancy Rapoport. "Yes, in terms of avoiding things just, generally speaking, don't be a jerk. Be nice to the people that you come across. It's good practice for life." Law School Ninja author, Gary Young, passes on this good advice. "Swim in your own lane."...

To listen to the whole podcast and/or read the full transcript, visit


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