By Andy A. Edited by Lemon Law School
Here are some things you can do to prepare for 1L while on vacation as a 0L. First, complete the LEEWS workbook to familiarize yourself with a law school exam. Second, read Getting to Maybe and 1L of a Ride. Third, read 1L guides written by top students (details below). And finally, build and maintain healthy habits during your vacation.
I want to note that some people advocate for doing no preparation during your 0L summer vacation, and it’s certainly not required to do what I did to perform well. That being said, this advice, along with steady study habits through 1L year got me into the top 10% of my law school class. I did all of this while I was traveling through Cuba and Asia. You don’t need to hole yourself up in the library to prepare.
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- 1. Complete LEEWS to familiarize yourself with a law school exam.
- 2. Read Getting to Maybe and 1L of Ride.
- 3. Read all of these 1L guides (links below).
- 4. Build and maintain healthy habits during your vacation.
- Final Thoughts
1. Complete LEEWS to familiarize yourself with a law school exam.
If you want to get ahead of the curve, the best thing you can do is become familiar with the law school exam format and learn how to write an A+ exam response. Every semester, you get one chance to make your grade in each course. So, get ahead of the curve.
LEEWS (Law Essay Exam Writing System) is a book that teaches you how to write an exam answer and provides sample problems and responses. I spent two hours every morning for one week straight sitting on a hotel balcony completing this workbook. LEEWS definitely gave me an advantage over my classmates when my first final exams came around.
Here’s how it works:
First, you learn common legal terms that show up on each 1L course that you will be taking. For instance, you learn the definition Battery or Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress inTorts. You repeat this for other 1L course topics (e.g., Contracts, Property, Criminal Law).
Second, you learn how to dissect an essay question and to spot issues. These essay questions are usually fact patterns that can span 2-3 pages on an actual exam. You must learn how to organize your thoughts and spot important issues in these fact patterns.
Third, LEEWS teaches you to format an exam response in the way all law school professors want them. There are many acceptable variations to this format that you will learn to develop, but in the end, this format is a good place to start. Here’s a short summary of what the format for discussing a spotted issue looks like:
You must first, state the issue (what’s a colorable argument that you can make based on these facts?), then the rule (also known as the black letter law). Then you apply the rule to the facts. Then you state your conclusion.
The application of the rule to the facts is the most important part of your response. If you don’t explain the “why” of your ultimate conclusion, then you’re not thinking like a lawyer. For instance, if you state that a party had “intent” without explaining what shows that they had intent and why they had intent, then your statement is over-conclusory. You’d be leaving exam points on the table.
Let’s go over a quick example to see what I’m talking about. Let’s say that Bill and Jill got into an argument. At one point, Bill taunted Jill and beckoned her to punch him. Jill became angrier, aimed her fist at Bill’s face, and punched him square in the face. What can Bill sue for?
“Bill can attempt to sue Jill for battery because she punched him in the face. Battery is the intent to make contact without consent. Intent means to purposefully cause contact. Contact can be physical or indirect (as in the case of blasting music in someone’s face). Consent can be express or implied. Here, Bill can argue that Jill had intent because she purposefully clenched her hand into a fist, positioned her arm behind her to accumulate speed and strength in her arm, aimed it at the center of Bill’s face, and quickly propelled her fist into the center of Bill’s face. Intent is likely to be established because no one could refute her intent based on these actions.
Contact is likely to be established as well because Jill’s fist physically touched Bill’s face. Bill will argue that he certainly did not give express or implied consent to Jill for her actions. Jill will argue that he gave implied consent when he taunted and gestured to her to “bring it on.” Bill will argue that a reasonable person would not have construed this as an actual invitation to get punched in the face. In [Case X], the defendant taunted the plaintiff into hitting him in the face. The court held that the defendant had not given the plaintiff implied consent to hit him in the face because no reasonable person would think that this was an actual invitation to do so. Thus, a court may hold that Bill had not actually given consent to Jill. Thus, Bill is likely to prevail on his suit for battery.”
Notice how the exam response goes into detail about why Jill met all the elements for battery (intent, contact, without consent). A bad answer would state something like, “Jill clearly intended to punch Bill in the face” without more.
And finally, LEEWS discusses the proper approach to answering policy questions. Policy questions can require you to provide three different types of responses. First, it can require you to provide a rationale for why a certain law is formulated the way it is. Policy questions may also ask you to determine the effects of a piece of legislation on certain parties in a certain field. Lastly, these questions can also ask you to identify shortcomings in the current law and propose legislation to fix these issues. Not all professors will ask these types of questions on their final exams, but you should be familiar with them anyways because you will encounter a professor who will ask them.
I also want to note that some professors will have a multiple choice section on their exam. Obviously, LEEWS will not help you in that part of the exam. But nearly all professors will have some sort of essay portion on the exam.
Also, when you are taking a law school course, you are learning about the professor’s interpretation of the law. You need to use your professor’s legal interpretation on the exam to score well. For instance, your torts professor may state the definition for “battery” in a different way from the sample exam response above. Remember to use LEEWS to familiarize yourself with a law school exam rather than as a resource for learning substantive law.
LEEWS is sold as a book (the “primer”) and gives you an option to purchase an audio program that basically guides you through the book. In my opinion, the primer was sufficient for me. I didn’t even buy the audio program. If you want to save money, just buy the book and go through it yourself. You can find the LEEWS book here.
2. Read Getting to Maybe and 1L of Ride.
Getting to Maybe by Jeremy Paul & Richard Fischl
This book gives you insight into how professors write their exams and how to write an effective exam response. There is a proven way to write a law school exam, but many students simply don’t know the framework and write their first exams incorrectly. Many students do it the wrong way when taking their first exams. It’s well-written and well-organized. You can find it here on Amazon.
1L of a Ride by Andrew McClurg
This book is written by an actual law professor. He does a great job of providing you with an accurate illustration of what 1L will look like with real life examples. I used it mostly as a quick look into the life of a first-year law student. If you’re short on time, go through the table of contents and read the topics that you personally have questions about. You can find this book here on Amazon.
3. Read all of these 1L guides (links below).
Aside from LEEWS, this is probably one of the most important things I did during my summer before 1L. I spent a lot of time before my vacation scouring through Google and a forum called Top Law Schools to look for these guides.
Read every single one of these guides. They are written in excruciating detail by fellow graduate law students who crushed their first-year grades. Everyone has a different learning style, so find the advice that works for you. These guides provide a pretty comprehensive picture as to what you need to do to obtain good grades. If you squint your eyes, you’ll see a lot of similarities among all of these guides. Read them twice. Read them three times. Do everything you can to absorb this information.
I studied these guides while sitting in a tea shop at the top of the Shanghai World Financial Center skyscraper. You don’t need to buckle down in some library or office to learn this information. Enjoy your summer before law school because you may be in for a wild ride during 1L.
You can find my compilation of 1L guides here. I also wrote my own 1L guide here.
4. Build and maintain healthy habits during your vacation.
I know enjoying your summer vacation can be tiring (in a fun way, of course), but you need to keep your health in check. Make sure you get in the habit of sleeping well and eating well. Get some exercise while you’re on vacation, and keep it up during the school year. Exercise clears your head and makes you more receptive to absorbing new concepts.
I hope this information was helpful. This is exactly what I did to prepare for law school while on my summer vacation. Again, keep in mind that different things work for different people. If you have any questions, feel free to comment below or contact us.