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Pre-Law Advising

Library at a law school with brown wooden chairs and tables in front of rows of bookshelves.

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Should i go to law school.

  • Why law school?
  • What skills do I need?

What can I expect in law school?

  • How much does law school cost?
  • What types of legal practice are there?
  • What does the practice of law look like?
  • How much can I expect to earn?

What is a law degree?

A Juris Doctor (J.D.) is the degree awarded to law school graduates. Most J.D. programs are three-year programs, though some are four-year part-time programs, and a few two-year accelerated programs are available. Graduates can practice any area of law after passing a state bar exam with the exception of patent law, which requires a technical undergraduate major (or substantial coursework in science courses) and a passing score on the patent bar exam. For more information on patent law requirements, go to the United State Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) .

A J.D. can also lead to a range of law-related careers in government, politics, business, higher education, alternative dispute resolution, consulting, public interest advocacy, and numerous other fields. If you are interested in earning a J.D. for any career other than the practice of law, make sure to investigate alternative pathways to that career, including other graduate degrees and work experience, to be sure law school is the most efficient path. 

Don’t confuse the J.D. with the LL.M., a masters of laws degree for students who have already earned their J.D. or for international students with a legal background who want to learn U.S. law.

How is law school different than college?

Case method :.

Law school is an academic challenge; most students agree the first year (“1L” year) is the most difficult. In part, this is because law school is taught using methods entirely different than the lecture method used in most college classrooms. Law school is taught using the Case Method in combination with the Socratic Method. The Case Method involves significant reading and preparation for class. Expect to spend several hours each evening reading cases (appellate-level judicial opinions). Here is an example of a case usually covered in a first-year contracts course:

Frigaliment Importing Co. v. B.N.S. International Sales Corp. , 190 F.Supp. 116 (S.D.N.Y. 1960).

The textbooks for first-year law classes usually include cases and excerpts of cases from across the country. You will not find explanations of the cases, summaries of the cases, or outlines of the pertinent information to understand in teh textbook.  It is up to you to “brief” each case. A case brief is a summary of the case, broken down into relevant parts. You must analyze each case in preparation for class.

Case Brief for Frigaliment Importing Co. v. B.N.S. International Sales Corp. , 190 F.Supp. 116 (S.D.N.Y. 1960).

Socratic Method :

There is no way to hide in a law school classroom.  Law professors usually don’t lecture; instead, they ask questions to help students learn how to analyze case law. Students often have assigned seats and the professors have a seating chart with pictures and names of students pasted to it. This makes it easier for them to call on students and ask questions about the assigned cases. For a particular case, the professor may ask questions designed to explore the facts of the case, to determine the legal principles, and to analyze the reasoning used. The professor may then use hypothetical scenarios to test a student’s understanding of the material.

Curriculum :

Most law schools have a highly-structured first year (referred to as “1L”) curriculum.

“As a first-year law student, you will follow a designated course of study that may cover many of the following subjects:

  • Civil procedure— the process of adjudication in the United States, i.e., jurisdiction and standing to sue, motions and pleadings, pretrial procedure, the structure of a lawsuit, and appellate review of trial results.
  • Constitutional law— the legislative powers of the federal and state governments, and questions of civil liberties and constitutional history, including detailed study of the Bill of Rights and constitutional freedoms.
  • Contracts— the nature of enforceable promises and rules for determining appropriate remedies in case of nonperformance.
  • Criminal law and criminal procedure— bases of criminal responsibility, the rules and policies for enforcing sanctions against individuals accused of committing offenses against the public order and well-being, and the rights guaranteed to those charged with criminal violations.
  • Legal method— students' introduction to the organization of the American legal system and its processes.
  • Legal writing— research and writing component of most first-year programs; requires students to research and write memoranda dealing with various legal problems.
  • Property law— concepts, uses, and historical developments in the treatment of land, buildings, natural resources, and personal objects.
  • Torts— private wrongs, such as acts of negligence, assault, and defamation, that violate obligations of the law.”

From LSAC, “What You Can Expect from Your Law School Experience” .

Exams and Grading :

After class, students create outlines of the course material from their classroom notes and case briefs. Study groups are encouraged to help students understand complicated concepts and case distinctions. Many students work on their course outlines in these study groups. Outlines are important because they can often be used on final exams. Most first-year law courses have only one exam at the end of the semester that determines 100 percent of a student’s final grade. A minority of schools have courses with mid-terms or assignments throughout the semester. These exams are often based on hypothetical fact patterns that touch on all of the concepts in the course and require the student to analyze and apply the law, rather than memorize it. Sample exams can be found online at various law schools. Many students find it difficult to assess how well they are mastering the material in the first semester as they assimilate to law school.

In the first-year of law school, many students find the Case Method foreign, the Socratic Method unnerving, and the lack of information about their academic progress troubling. This creates a stimulating, stressful, and competitive first-year experience that many students report is the greatest academic challenge of their lives. Some students thrive in this setting while others stumble.  It is critical for you to learn as much as possible about law school before you get there to determine if this environment is a match for your skills and goals.

How can I learn more about law school?

The activities and resources below can help you explore your interest in law school.

  • Subscribe to the Pre-law Listserv to learn about upcoming events, scholarship opportunities, and important updates. Click here to register.
  • Sit in on a real law school course.  There is no better way to learn about what law school is really like than to attend.  Many schools will allow you to sit in on a class during a scheduled visit to the school.  Consider sitting in on a class at one of Penn State’s law schools: Penn State Law at University Park or Dickinson School of Law in Carlisle.
  • Meet admissions officers from law schools at Law School Day during Graduate & Professional School Week held in the HUB each October.
  • Attend a free  LSAC Law School Recruitment Forum  held in major cities around the country.
  • Examine law school case books and other readings in the Penn State University Bookstore.
  • Join a student organization to learn more about law school.  There are several student organizations that host events for students to learn more about the law school experience.   Find out more about these organizations .
  • Consider a summer exploratory program at a law school.  Many schools offer 1-3 week programs designed to introduce students to law school and help them decide if it is the right fit for their interests and goals.

Katherine E. Garren, J.D. Pre-Law Adviser Division of Undergraduate Studies The Pennsylvania State University 101 Grange Building University Park, PA 16802 Email: [email protected]

Phone: 814-865-7576 Fax: 814-863-8913 Hours: 8am - 5pm (Mon-Fri, Eastern Time)

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LSAC - Law School Admission Council

What You Can Expect from Your Law School Experience

Law schools offer a range of programs to fit your career ambitions and schedule. Most law schools share a common first-year approach to educating lawyers, with much more variation in the second and third years, such as opportunities for specialized programs, judicial clerkships, legal externships, participation in clinical programs and moot court, and involvement with public interest and governmental agencies. Meet real students who share their stories of activism, public service, and international travel as part of their law school education. Law school can be an intense, competitive environment–but the rewards are considerable.

The First Year

Your journey officially begins. The work will be challenging, and professors expect you to arrive at every class thoroughly prepared. Most professors give little feedback until the final examination for the course, and most course grades are determined primarily from end-of-semester or end-of-year exams.

Free Tools to Help You Get through Law School

Law School Unmasked, a free introductory course offered as a part of LawHub TM Ultimate Law School Prep, provides a roadmap to your first semester. Learn the skills you need to thrive in law school.

The Case Method Approach

The case method is unfamiliar for many first-year law students. It involves the detailed examination of a number of related judicial opinions that describe an area of law. You may be asked questions designed to explore the facts presented, to determine the legal principles applied in reaching a decision, or to analyze the method of reasoning used. In this way, professors encourage you to relate the case to others and to distinguish it from those with similar, but inapplicable, precedents.

By focusing on the underlying principles that shape the law’s approach to different situations, you will learn to distinguish among subtly different legal results and to identify the critical factors that determine a particular outcome.

The Ability to Think

There is an adage that the primary purpose of law school is to teach you to think like a lawyer. This is reinforced through the case method approach. Although the memorization of specifics may be useful to you, the ability to be analytical and literate is considerably more important than the power of total recall. Because laws continually change and evolve, specific rules may quickly lose their relevance, but the ability to think critically will be of the highest value. This is why critical thinking ability is assessed on the LSAT as a predictor of likelihood of success, and why preparing for the LSAT helps students once they’re in law school.

The Curriculum

As a first-year law student, you will follow a designated course of study that may cover many of the following subjects:

  • Civil procedure —the process of adjudication in the United States such as jurisdiction and standing to sue, motions and pleadings, pretrial procedure, the structure of a lawsuit, and appellate review of trial results.
  • Constitutional law —the legislative powers of the federal and state governments, and questions of civil liberties and constitutional history, including detailed study of the Bill of Rights and constitutional freedoms.
  • Contracts —the nature of enforceable promises and rules for determining appropriate remedies in case of nonperformance.
  • Criminal law and criminal procedure —bases of criminal responsibility, the rules and policies for enforcing sanctions against individuals accused of committing offenses against the public order and well-being, and the rights guaranteed to those charged with criminal violations.
  • Legal method —students’ introduction to the organization of the American legal system and its processes.
  • Legal writing —learning legal research and writing are critical elements of most first-year law school experiences.
  • Property law —concepts, uses, and historical developments in the treatment of land, buildings, natural resources, and personal objects.
  • Torts —private wrongs, such as acts of negligence, assault, and defamation, that violate obligations of the law.

In addition to attending classes, you may be required to participate in a moot court exercise in which you must argue a hypothetical court case.

After the first year, you will likely have the opportunity to select from a broad range of courses. Most students will take foundation courses in administrative law, civil litigation, commercial law, corporations, evidence, family law, professional responsibility, taxation, and wills and trusts before completing their degree. Every law school supplements this basic curriculum with additional courses, such as international law, environmental law, conflict of laws, labor law, criminal procedure, and jurisprudence, and many law schools include clinical (experiential) opportunities as well.

Extracurricular Activities

Student organizations are a great supplement to classroom learning. Typically, these organizations are dedicated to advancing the interests of particular groups of law students, such as Black students, female students, Hispanic students, or LGBTQ students. Other groups promote greater understanding of specific legal fields, such as environmental or international law, or provide opportunities for involvement in professional, social, and sports activities.

A unique feature of American law schools is that law students manage and edit most of the legal profession’s principal scholarly journals. Membership on the editorial staffs of these journals is considered a mark of academic distinction. Selection is ordinarily based on outstanding academic performance and writing ability.

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Course Overview

First-Year Legal Research and Writing Program

1 North   Griswold Hall 1525 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge ,  MA 02138

Before you begin your studies in the First-Year Legal Research and Writing Program (LRW), it will help you to situate the course in the broader context of your legal education and your future law practice. To follow is a brief overview of the program, and an introduction to several themes that will recur throughout the year.

Program Overview

LRW uses a series of writing, research, and advocacy projects to engage you in the process of legal reasoning. The course instructs you in basic methods of legal analysis, effective written and oral communication of your analysis, and essential legal research tools and methodologies.

The first semester of LRW focuses on the writing of two predictive memos, in which you assess the arguments on each side of the issue and predict which side would prevail.  In the spring, you will learn how to write an appellate brief, in which you present your client’s best arguments to a court. For all three assignments, you will produce both a draft and a final version, the better to respond to feedback and hone your writing and analysis.  In practice, as in LRW, the writing process will help you take your internal understanding of an issue and make it external, so that you may hold it at arm’s length and examine it critically. As novice lawyers become expert lawyers, they develop greater ability to monitor their own level of understanding, and may resort somewhat less frequently (although not infrequently) to a formal written product like a predictive memo. Nevertheless, even when they eschew a formal written memo, they continue to apply the same analytical steps that are required to complete the writing assignments you will undertake in this course.

Lawyers cannot provide effective representation unless they master the necessary research skills. At a minimum, lawyers must be able to find and update the constitutional provisions, statutes, regulations, and cases that determine their clients’ rights and obligations. To that end, the legal research component of LRW will introduce you to core tools and methodologies that will be essential in your internships next summer, as well as in your future law practice. Indeed, without such skills you will have a difficult time satisfying your employers and competing with fellow students in summer practice and the early years of law practice. More advanced research instruction is available in upper-level elective courses.

LRW’s learning model depends on the substantial feedback that we provide on your work. LRW will likely be the first law school course in which you receive any feedback on written work, and it will be the course in which you receive the most individual feedback by far. Keep in mind that our goals for your achievement are quite high, in keeping with your potential. Our feedback will naturally focus on areas for improvement, so you ought not interpret this emphasis negatively. Our feedback is intended not to discourage you, but to facilitate your learning.

LRW meets weekly in the fall and spring semester of your first year. LRW is graded Honors, Pass, Low Pass, and  Fail.

In the fall semester, you will complete two major writing assignments. The first is a  “Closed Memo,” in which you write a predictive memo based on a set of research materials that are provided for you. The second is an “Open Memo,” in which you must research the applicable law and write a predictive memo based on your own research.

In the spring semester, the major course assignment is the First-Year Ames Moot Court Program. Working in pairs, you will research and draft an appellate brief concerning a simulated case set in a federal or state appeals court. At the end of the semester, you will argue your case before a three-judge panel. Judges are drawn from Harvard Law School faculty, practicing lawyers, and upper-level law students. With this course overview in mind, we turn next to a discussion of several recurring themes in LRW.

The Conventions of Legal Discourse

Any discourse community has its own discourse conventions, and lawyers have done a particularly thorough job of developing theirs. LRW is intended to familiarize you with these discourse conventions.

LRW introduces you to the generally accepted modes of legal reasoning: rule-based reasoning; analogical reasoning; and policy reasoning. As you progress through the course assignments, you will see the interdependence among these three modes of legal reasoning. When LRW turns to advocacy, you will learn how lawyers use narrative devices to complement the conventional modes of legal reasoning and make their arguments more persuasive.

Discourse conventions govern not only the modes of argument, but also the authorities that frame the argument. You will learn what types of materials constitute acceptable sources of authority in legal discourse, as well as the different hierarchies within which those authorities exist.

Most concretely, LRW will introduce you to two basic forms through which lawyers communicate their legal reasoning. You will learn the conventions applicable to a predictive memo and an appellate oral argument.

Of course, you will be learning the conventions of legal discourse in all of your first-year courses, indeed in all of law school. LRW, however, is intended to focus very specifically on the conventions themselves, more so than in your other courses.

Legal Reasoning and Judicial Discretion

Throughout your legal education, you will encounter a debate over the role of judicial discretion in adjudication. At the extremes, some would suggest that adjudication is rationally constrained by the available legal authorities, while others would argue that adjudication is effectively constrained only by the judge’s own beliefs and values. LRW is not intended to resolve that debate. Nevertheless, your work in this course should illustrate several different concepts about the degrees to which legal authorities can constrain judicial discretion.

Over the course of the year’s projects, you should see that a series of authorities applying the same rule can restrict–at least to some degree–the decision in a future situation governed by that rule. For example, if a statute says “No vehicles in the park,” and the state’s highest court interprets the statute to mean no “motor vehicles,” you can be pretty sure that the statute won’t prohibit you from riding your elephant through the park.

One might think that the ever-increasing number of decisions necessarily increases the degree of constraint. That may be so in some situations, but several factors can have a destabilizing influence. One such factor is the contingent nature of language. You may have seen in other contexts, and you will surely see in your legal career, that saying more about a topic often creates more uncertainty, not less. Each new opinion creates the potential for misstatement and misunderstanding, enabling future lawyers to reinterpret the pre-existing rule. A second destabilizing factor is the social context of our legal system. Authorities rest on a foundation of policy, of societal goals and values, even if those values are not always stated explicitly. As societal goals and values shift, a body of law resting on the discarded goals and values may become obsolete, and eventually reoriented in support of a new rule.

Finally, you should recognize that the limits on judicial discretion are often less substantial than they might seem at first. Each of the major projects in LRW should demonstrate that, with regard to a given legal problem, there is usually more than one possible outcome, even if one outcome seems more likely than the others. Skilled lawyers read authorities with a critical eye, constantly on the lookout for the gap of ambiguity within a seemingly solid wall of legal authorities.

Tension Between the Abstract and the Concrete

To complete any substantial task of legal analysis, the lawyer must at some point bridge the boundary between the abstract and the concrete. Rules rarely, if ever, cover every situation imaginable. For example, the “No vehicles in the park” statute could simply list every make and model of car and truck in existence, to clarify that they are all prohibited from the park. But the rule would be unmanageably long, and new makes and models would come into existence after the rule’s enactment. So the drafters would instead choose a term to describe the category of situations to which their rule was addressed. Rules that denote categories rather than specific situations necessarily involve a degree of abstraction, whether a moderate degree (e.g., “motor vehicle”) or a substantial degree (e.g., “best interest of the child”).

Fortunately for us, this inherent uncertainty is one of the things that makes law practice a creative endeavor. For example, if the vehicles in the park statute referred to “motor vehicles,” would that include airplanes? Mopeds? Golf carts? The “Segway” personal scooters? Lawyers and judges would try to use the policies underlying the rule and analogies to prior decisions to decide each example. But the jump from abstract to concrete would involve a measure of uncertainty, and it is this uncertainty that allows lawyers to make plausible arguments on both sides of a case.

Your Audience

In the oral and written communications that you undertake in this course, you must focus not only on the substantive ideas that you try to communicate, but also on the way in which your audience will receive those ideas. Communication is a two-step process, and even brilliant arguments suffer if the audience is distracted by substandard prose. That is why the feedback in this course will consider the form and style of your writing.

Additionally, you must recognize that your audience has a particular task before it, and will be using your communication (i.e., your memo, brief, or oral argument) as an instrument in completing that task. The audience’s task will often be to decide how to advise a client or rule in a case. To be effective, your communication must be suited to your audience’s needs. So in a memo addressed to an attorney who must decide how to advise a client, simply stating your prediction is not enough. You must also help the attorney understand the applicable legal standard and its likely application, as well as any plausible counter-arguments and the reasons why those arguments would not prevail. Only then will your communication allow the attorney to make an informed decision about how to advise the client.

You are at the start of a fascinating journey. We in the First-Year Legal Research and Writing Program wish you great success and enjoyment as you begin your legal education.

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Being a student always means having to deal with loads of homework. This statement is true for all students, regardless of their academic level or the major they choose to study. However, while the scope of homework is about the same for everyone, the types of assignments can slightly vary depending on the subject that you study.

In this article, we are going to tell you about the four main homework types facing law students, in particular. So, if you are a law student yourself, read on to learn what will be expected of you in a law school. 

Practice Homework

The first and the most common of the four main homework types is practice homework. The core goal of such assignments is to help students expand their knowledge and reinforce their newly-acquired skills by means of putting them to practice. This kind of homework is the one that makes the most of the academic program, which is why law students struggle with it the most.

The most common assignment that represents this type of homework is essay writing. Just like the rest of their peers, law students are being assigned dozens of essays and other academic papers every year. A load of such assignments is so huge that students often look for the write my essay online writing services and platforms. But, it is an integral part of the educational process, so there is no way to avoid academic writing.

Some other examples of practice homework that you can face in a law school can include:

  • Memorizing local laws;
  • Reading court records;
  • Examining subject-related literature, etc.

Extension Homework

The second one of the four main homework types is extension homework. In a nutshell, this type of homework is used by professors to encourage their students to pursue knowledge individually and in ways that are more imaginative than simply reading a textbook. Also, extension assignments are used to help students connect what they learn in the classroom with real-life and apply their existing skills to expand their knowledge.

Common types of law assignments that represent this type of homework include:

  • Writing literature reviews;
  • Researching local law news;
  • Compare and contrast events, etc.

Creative Homework

Despite the fact that law students spend most of their time studying complex and serious subjects, there is still a place for the next type of homework – creative homework in their curriculums. As you can guess from its name, this type of homework often takes different creative forms. The key goal is to help students develop problem-solving and critical thinking skills through completing creative projects.

There are plenty of examples of creative homework assignments that you can face in a law school. Basically, pretty much any type of individual project can be considered a creative homework assignment. However, to help you grasp the idea, here are a few examples of the most common law assignments of this type:

  • Research projects;
  • Photo essays;
  • PowerPoint presentations, etc.

Preparatory Homework

Finally, the last of the four types of homework is preparatory homework. The key goal of such homework is to help students gain solid background on a specific unit of study in order to prepare them for future lessons. Simply put, preparatory homework is the type of homework that helps you collect initial knowledge on the subject you are studying. And it can also be called one of the most common types of assignments facing law and other students.

What assignments can be considered as preparatory homework? In fact, there are many. To name a few, here are some of the most common examples of this type of homework:

  • Tests and exams;
  • Completing exercises from the workbook;
  • Reading textbook chapters to prepare for the next lesson, test, discussion, etc.

The Bottom Line

Whether you are just planning to enroll in a law school or are already a law student, knowing about different types of homework that you will have to deal with can empower you for better academic achievements.

After reading this article, you should have a better idea of different homework types that you can face studying in a law school. Hopefully, this will help you prepare for your academic path and ensure success.

Camilla Uppal

Camilla Uppal

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What Are Law School Classes Really Like?

law class

You already know law school is challenging and fast-paced. Chances are you're prepared to tackle your law school classes with gusto. But, you may have questions about the amount of study time you'll need outside of class or wonder if you can fade into the background during a lecture. Learn what law school classes are really like by exploring answers to these questions and more. 

What Is the Method of Instruction?

Law school classes aim to immerse students in both doctrine and practice, allowing students to develop legal and analytical skills. For instance, law school courses zero in on your application of knowledge and long-term memory. Professors often use the case method, sometimes in combination with the Socratic teaching method (see below for more on these). Nearly everything you learn in law school is relevant in future courses. 

In contrast, undergraduate schools focus on memorization and critical thinking skills. Professors rely on didactic teaching methods such as lectures or instructional courses. Some classes and concepts may not apply to your major. 

Moreover, law schools provide experiential learning experiences, including law clinics, externships, moot court, and skills courses. Gaining experience during law school allows you to gain practical skills and the confidence to tackle tough cases in real life. 

The Case Method  

The Case Method is a well-known law school teaching practice. This approach makes students look at judicial opinions resulting in legal rules. During class, law professors may involve everyone in discussions about why and how judges made decisions. These discussions are frequently conducted using the Socratic method.

The Socratic Method

The Socratic Method can be unnerving. Professors may cold-call you, ask you to apply a specific legal rule or adapt your answer based on new facts, and press you to defend your answer. Law schools employ this active-learning method to bolster students’ public speaking skills and to encourage critical thinking by helping students identify the most compelling arguments on both sides of legal questions. 

After all, with fact-dependent material, a slight change in a legal situation may result in different outcomes or a need for a distinct approach. Knowing how to adapt your argument based on legal rules alongside theories and presumptions prepares you to practice law. 

What Class Sizes Can I Expect?

Although most law schools use similar teaching methods, class sizes can differ dramatically. For example, at ONU Law, the 2020-2021 incoming class size is 61 students. Smaller class sizes may provide more individualized attention and opportunities to a higher number of students. 

What Are Learning Outcomes? 

The American Bar Association (ABA), under Standard 302, requires all law schools to develop a set of learning outcomes. Law schools interpret the following ABA minimum competencies to form school-specific outcomes: 

  • Knowledge and understanding of substantive and procedural law 
  • Legal analysis and reasoning, legal research, problem-solving, and written and oral communication in the legal context
  • Exercise of proper professional and ethical responsibilities to clients and the legal system 
  • Other professional skills needed for competent and ethical participation as a member of the legal profession

ONU Law Learning Outcomes

ONU Law equips students to practice law by giving them the foundation required to understand and analyze difficult issues. Moreover, students learn how to apply their skills and talents in various situations to advocate for their clients. There are six learning outcomes at ONU Law that require students to demonstrate proficiency in:

  • Substantive and procedural law
  • Legal research
  • Legal analysis and problem-solving
  • Effective written and oral communications
  • Proper professional and ethical responsibilities to the clients and the legal system
  • Legal practice skills 

What Are Assignments Like in Law School? 

Like everything in law school, assignments are meant to instill your understanding of the rule of law and teach you how to draw your conclusions based on the facts and precedents. Accordingly, homework tends to focus on reading casebooks and statutes to learn legal doctrines.

As part of your assignment, you'll be expected to read and comprehend individual court cases and notes from the author or editor. Assignments may range from 40 pages to 100 pages of reading per class per week. 

How Much Preparation Do I Need Before Class? 

In short, a lot. Unlike in undergraduate school, law students spend countless hours preparing for classroom instruction. Along with reading around 100 pages a week per class, you'll want to review your notes and create outlines. Plus, many law students find they need to read the same material a few times to grasp it fully. 

Many students get involved in study groups to discuss case briefs and build useful outlines to understand complex concepts better. A key thing to remember is that it's very hard to catch up if you fall behind. Everything you read is essential to your next day's class and for all future courses. However, your class prep time will get easier after the first year of law school, as you'll have a better grasp of the legal terminology, study requirements, and necessary lawyering skills.  

How Are Law Classes Graded? 

Although some classes, such as legal research and writing, may grade students on oral presentations and writing projects, most law courses do not. Instead, your final exam determines your grade. These exams differ by class but often use an essay format. 

Students must read various stories or fact patterns, then analyze the information and develop an essay outline. Next, students form essay answers or a written analysis showing an understanding of the law and the ability to apply it to the facts at hand. In these cases, the student is the judge or counsel charged with determining the case's outcome or arguments.

While some teachers may offer extra credit based on class participation or knock you down points for lack of preparation, scoring well on exams is what determines your grade. Moreover, during your first year of law school, you can expect exams to be graded on a strict grading curve, with few students receiving an A.

Can You Choose Your Law School Courses? 

During your first year, it's crucial to learn and adjust to the expectations of law school. To get you ready to practice, you need to start with the basics. Most law schools develop their curricula to ensure that students achieve the  competencies mandated by the American Bar Association and are well-positioned to succeed on the bar exam . This means you likely won’t have a lot of choice in the classes you take, at least not at the beginning. Later in your law school career you’ll be able to select more elective courses. 

Schools like ONU Law also offer certificate tracks . These allow you to tailor your courses to your specific interests. For example, you can choose to concentrate on criminal, corporate, or tax law, among others, at ONU Law. 

Skills-Based Classes

After your first year at ONU Law, you also need to complete a minimum of seven hours of instruction in skills courses . There are clinics, workshops, externships, and classes that aim to prepare you to practice law. You'll learn how to:

  • Interview and counsel clients
  • Advocate on your client's behalf
  • Draft legal documents
  • Navigate complex workflows
  • Collaborate with legal teams
  • Take into account your legal strategy's impact on clients 
  • Adhere to legal deadlines

Dual Degree Programs

Some schools offer students a combination of a Juris Doctor degree and a master’s degree fitting with their undergraduate degree. For instance, students who complete ONU Law's JD/MSA program receive a Master of Science in Accounting and a Juris Doctor degree. Furthermore, this three-year program earns you enough credits to sit for the certified public accountant (CPA) exam. 

Where Can Law Students Get Help? 

The fast-paced teaching methods and exam styles can leave law students feeling anxious or concerned about their grades, especially during the first year. Law schools offer students various levels of support. 

Before applying to law school , review the types of assistance offered to students. For instance, ONU Law offers a robust Academic Success program. This program encourages students throughout their journey from classwork to bar exam preparation. ONU Law also provides:

  • Career and professional development support: Get access to personalized counseling, use a job-search software platform, receive networking opportunities, and order professional business cards. 
  • Summer Starter Program: Designed for students with lower LSAT scores, the Summer Starter Program is eight weeks long, provides two first-year classes and earns you eight credit hours. You get one-on-one instruction and automatic enrollment into the fall class upon completion. Learn more about the Summer Starter program and whom it’s for on our admissions blog .
  • The Taggart Law Library: Along with electronic research tools, you'll find more than 463,000 volumes of state, federal, and international legal materials all within a quiet area with workstations and open seating. 
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Learn to Read, Write Like a Law School Student

College can give your legal education and career a running start if you focus on key law-related skills as an undergraduate.

Learn to Read, Write Like a Law Student

College student highlighting textbook

Getty Images | iStockphoto

To prepare for law school students should practice more rigorous methods of note-taking, including using color-coded highlights for different types of information.

After ramming through thousands of pages of homework and hundreds of pages of writing assignments, often at the last minute – perhaps a little too often – college students and graduates may think they are at the top of their game.

How Long and Difficult Is Law School?

Ilana Kowarski Jan. 14, 2019

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Law school, however, takes reading and writing to a whole new level. Compared with undergraduate texts, legal code and court opinions can seem written in an alien language. And many law students find legal writing to be the hardest core class they have to take in their first year.

There's no question that college makes you a better reader and writer, but the quirks of undergraduate writing can also leave you with some bad habits. To prepare for law school , improve your written communication skills by following this advice:

  • Take better notes.
  • Write succinctly.
  • Clarify your assumptions.
  • Don't show off.

Take Better Notes

The writers of the articles and textbooks you read in college often take great pains to communicate difficult concepts clearly and concisely. To prepare for class discussions and writing assignments, it is often enough to highlight key points and jot down a few notes or a brief summary.

Law school, however, is based on the case method . You learn by reading important legal cases and deducing common principles of how to interpret and apply real laws.

If you think your brain can recall all that information based on some highlighted passages, you may find yourself at a loss for words the first time a law school professor calls on you to analyze and critique a judge's opinion.

Instead, law students "brief" each case by writing down key facts and legal findings and compiling long, carefully organized outlines that integrate all those cases.

Before law school, you can get a head start on briefing by developing more consistent and rigorous methods of note-taking. Try using color-coded highlights for different types of information. Try reading an article, summarizing the argument as briefly as possible and then coming up with counterpoints.

Write Succinctly

College often rewards writing long. Written assignments are more likely to have a minimum length than a page limit, and it rarely hurts to throw in extra quotes and supporting evidence for your arguments. You may even get the impression that long-winded sentences sound weightier and more mature.

Legal writing, however, is more structured and focused. While legal papers can be quite long, every sentence must contribute to the overall argument. Law professors have little patience for bloated and meandering paragraphs.

Even if undergraduate professors don't explicitly require it, practice editing your papers to be direct and concise. Cut out redundancies and sentences that are not clearly related to your main points.

Clarify Your Assumptions

Because college is intended to cultivate independent thinking, students are often encouraged to share thoughts and reactions from their unique perspective.

In contrast, legal writing should be universal, because the law is meant to cover everyone equally. In order to develop your arguments, you need to carefully ensure that everyone can understand your reasoning from the evidence you present.

Even in college , you can start thinking about the unstated assumptions behind your arguments. Some of these assumptions may not be worth pointing out, like the meaning of common terms or agreed-upon facts.

Are there any assumptions that might not be so obvious to someone with a different background or perspective? If so, try to state those assumptions clearly, so all readers can understand how you came to your conclusions whether or not they agree with you.

Don't Show Off

College students have a reputation for pretentiousness. The word "sophomoric" is even used to describe writing that is immature, conceited and overconfident. No one can look back at his or her adolescence without cringing about some of the things he or she said or wrote.

Because law school is a professional school, students are held to higher standards. If you start bloviating, referencing ideas you don't understand or using big words just to sound smart, your law professors and fellow students will cut you down to size.

While college is a great time for taking intellectual risks, always be conscious of the limits of your knowledge. Great readers and writers focus more on what they still don't know than what they presume to understand.

Reading and writing are lifelong practices. Not only will practice help you succeed in law school, it will make you a clearer thinker.

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About Law Admissions Lowdown

Law Admissions Lowdown provides advice to prospective students about the law school application process, LSAT prep and potential career paths. Previously authored by contributors from Stratus Admissions Counseling, the blog is currently authored by Gabriel Kuris, founder of Top Law Coach , an admissions consultancy. Kuris is a graduate of Harvard Law School and has helped hundreds of applicants navigate the law school application process since 2003. Got a question? Email [email protected] .

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  • How to Prepare for Law School
  • How to brief a case
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How to write a case brief for law school: Excerpt reproduced from Introduction to the Study of Law: Cases and Materials ,

Third edition (lexisnexis 2009) by michael makdisi & john makdisi.

C. HOW TO BRIEF

The previous section described the parts of a case in order to make it easier to read and identify the pertinent information that you will use to create your briefs. This section will describe the parts of a brief in order to give you an idea about what a brief is, what is helpful to include in a brief, and what purpose it serves. Case briefs are a necessary study aid in law school that helps to encapsulate and analyze the mountainous mass of material that law students must digest. The case brief represents a final product after reading a case, rereading it, taking it apart, and putting it back together again. In addition to its function as a tool for self-instruction and referencing, the case brief also provides a valuable “cheat sheet” for class participation.

Who will read your brief? Most professors will espouse the value of briefing but will never ask to see that you have, in fact, briefed. As a practicing lawyer, your client doesn’t care if you brief, so long as you win the case. The judges certainly don’t care if you brief, so long as you competently practice the law. You are the person that the brief will serve! Keep this in mind when deciding what elements to include as part of your brief and when deciding what information to include under those elements.

What are the elements of a brief? Different people will tell you to include different things in your brief. Most likely, upon entering law school, this will happen with one or more of your instructors. While opinions may vary, four elements that are essential to any useful brief are the following:

(a) Facts (name of the case and its parties, what happened factually and procedurally, and the judgment)

(b) Issues (what is in dispute)

(c) Holding (the applied rule of law)

(d) Rationale (reasons for the holding)

If you include nothing but these four elements, you should have everything you need in order to recall effectively the information from the case during class or several months later when studying for exams.

Because briefs are made for yourself, you may want to include other elements that expand the four elements listed above. Depending on the case, the inclusion of additional elements may be useful. For example, a case that has a long and important section expounding dicta might call for a separate section in your brief labeled: Dicta. Whatever elements you decide to include, however, remember that the brief is a tool intended for personal use. To the extent that more elements will help with organization and use of the brief, include them. On the other hand, if you find that having more elements makes your brief cumbersome and hard to use, cut back on the number of elements. At a minimum, however, make sure you include the four elements listed above.

Elements that you may want to consider including in addition to the four basic elements are:

(e) Dicta (commentary about the decision that was not the basis for the decision)

(f) Dissent (if a valuable dissenting opinion exits, the dissent’s opinion)

(g) Party’s Arguments (each party’s opposing argument concerning the ultimate issue)

(h) Comments (personal commentary)

Personal comments can be useful if you have a thought that does not fit elsewhere. In the personal experience of one of the authors, this element was used to label cases as specific kinds (e.g., as a case of vicarious liability) or make mental notes about what he found peculiar or puzzling about cases. This element allowed him to release his thoughts (without losing them) so that he could move on to other cases.

In addition to these elements, it may help you to organize your thoughts, as some people do, by dividing Facts into separate elements:

(1) Facts of the case (what actually happened, the controversy)

(2) Procedural History (what events within the court system led to the present case)

(3) Judgment (what the court actually decided)

Procedural History is usually minimal and most of the time irrelevant to the ultimate importance of a case; however, this is not always true. One subject in which Procedure History is virtually always relevant is Civil Procedure.

When describing the Judgment of the case, distinguish it from the Holding. The Judgment is the factual determination by the court, in favor of one party, such as “affirmed,” “reversed,” or “remanded.” In contrast, the Holding is the applied rule of law that serves as the basis for the ultimate judgment.

Remember that the purpose of a brief is to remind you of the important details that make the case significant in terms of the law. It will be a reference tool when you are drilled by a professor and will be a study aid when you prepare for exams. A brief is also like a puzzle piece.

The elements of the brief create the unique shape and colors of the piece, and, when combined with other pieces, the picture of the common law takes form. A well-constructed brief will save you lots of time by removing the need to return to the case to remember the important details and also by making it easier to put together the pieces of the common law puzzle.

D. EXTRACTING THE RELEVANT INFORMATION: ANNOTATING AND HIGHLIGHTING

So now that you know the basic elements of a brief, what information is important to include under each element? The simple answer is: whatever is relevant. But what parts of a case are relevant? When you read your first few cases, you may think that everything that the judge said was relevant to his ultimate conclusion. Even if this were true, what is relevant for the judge to make his decision is not always relevant for you to include in your brief. Remember, the reason to make a brief is not to persuade the world that the ultimate decision in the case is a sound one, but rather to aid in refreshing your memory concerning the most important parts of the case.

What facts are relevant to include in a brief? You should include the facts that are necessary to remind you of the story. If you forget the story, you will not remember how the law in the case was applied. You should also include the facts that are dispositive to the decision in the case. For instance, if the fact that a car is white is a determining factor in the case, the brief should note that the case involves a white car and not simply a car. To the extent that the procedural history either helps you to remember the case or plays an important role in the ultimate outcome, you should include these facts as well.

What issues and conclusions are relevant to include in a brief? There is usually one main issue on which the court rests its decision. This may seem simple, but the court may talk about multiple issues, and may discuss multiple arguments from both sides of the case. Be sure to distinguish the issues from the arguments made by the parties. The relevant issue or issues, and corresponding conclusions, are the ones for which the court made a final decision and which are binding. The court may discuss intermediate conclusions or issues, but stay focused on the main issue and conclusion which binds future courts.

What rationale is important to include in a brief? This is probably the most difficult aspect of the case to determine. Remember that everything that is discussed may have been relevant to the judge, but it is not necessarily relevant to the rationale of the decision. The goal is to remind yourself of the basic reasoning that the court used to come to its decision and the key factors that made the decision favor one side or the other.

A brief should be brief! Overly long or cumbersome briefs are not very helpful because you will not be able to skim them easily when you review your notes or when the professor drills you. On the other hand, a brief that is too short will be equally unhelpful because it lacks sufficient information to refresh your memory. Try to keep your briefs to one page in length. This will make it easy for you to organize and reference them.

Do not get discouraged. Learning to brief and figuring out exactly what to include will take time and practice. The more you brief, the easier it will become to extract the relevant information.

While a brief is an extremely helpful and important study aid, annotating and highlighting are other tools for breaking down the mass of material in your casebook. The remainder of this section will discuss these different techniques and show how they complement and enhance the briefing process.

Annotating Cases

Many of you probably already read with a pencil or pen, but if you do not, now is the time to get in the habit. Cases are so dense and full of information that you will find yourself spending considerable amounts of time rereading cases to find what you need. An effective way to reduce this time is to annotate the margins of the casebook. Your pencil (or pen) will be one of your best friends while reading a case. It will allow you to mark off the different sections (such as facts, procedural history, or conclusions), thus allowing you to clear your mind of thoughts and providing an invaluable resource when briefing and reviewing.

You might be wondering why annotating is important if you make an adequate, well-constructed brief. By their very nature briefs cannot cover everything in a case. Even with a thorough, well-constructed brief you may want to reference the original case in order to reread dicta that might not have seemed important at the time, to review the complete procedural history or set of facts, or to scour the rationale for a better understanding of the case; annotating makes these tasks easier. Whether you return to a case after a few hours or a few months, annotations will swiftly guide you to the pertinent parts of the case by providing a roadmap of the important sections. Your textual markings and margin notes will refresh your memory and restore specific thoughts you might have had about either the case in general or an individual passage.

Annotations will also remind you of forgotten thoughts and random ideas by providing a medium for personal comments.

In addition to making it easier to review an original case, annotating cases during the first review of a case makes the briefing process easier. With adequate annotations, the important details needed for your brief will be much easier to retrieve. Without annotations, you will likely have difficulty locating the information you seek even in the short cases. It might seem strange that it would be hard to reference a short case, but even a short case will likely take you at least fifteen to twenty-five minutes to read, while longer cases may take as much as thirty minutes to an hour to complete. No matter how long it takes, the dense material of all cases makes it difficult to remember all your thoughts, and trying to locate specific sections of the analysis may feel like you are trying to locate a needle in a haystack. An annotation in the margin, however, will not only swiftly guide you to a pertinent section, but will also refresh the thoughts that you had while reading that section.

When you read a case for the first time, read for the story and for a basic understanding of the dispute, the issues, the rationale, and the decision. As you hit these elements (or what you think are these elements) make a mark in the margins. Your markings can be as simple as “facts” (with a bracket that indicates the relevant part of the paragraph). When you spot an issue, you may simply mark “issue” or instead provide a synopsis in your own words. When a case sparks an idea — write that idea in the margin as well — you never know when a seemingly irrelevant idea might turn into something more.

Finally, when you spot a particularly important part of the text, underline it (or highlight it as described below).

With a basic understanding of the case, and with annotations in the margin, the second read-through of the case should be much easier. You can direct your reading to the most important sections and will have an easier time identifying what is and is not important. Continue rereading the case until you have identified all the relevant information that you need to make your brief, including the issue(s), the facts, the holding, and the relevant parts of the analysis.

Pencil or pen — which is better to use when annotating? Our recommendation is a mechanical pencil. Mechanical pencils make finer markings than regular pencils, and also than ballpoint pens. Although you might think a pencil might smear more than a pen, with its sharp point a mechanical pencil uses very little excess lead and will not smear as much as you might imagine. A mechanical pencil will also give you the freedom to make mistakes without consequences. When you first start annotating, you may think that some passages are more important than they really are, and therefore you may resist the urge to make a mark in order to preserve your book and prevent false guideposts. With a pencil, however, the ability to erase and rewrite removes this problem.

Highlighting

Why highlight? Like annotating, highlighting may seem unimportant if you create thorough, well-constructed briefs, but highlighting directly helps you to brief. It makes cases, especially the more complicated ones, easy to digest, review and use to extract information.

Highlighting takes advantage of colors to provide a uniquely effective method for reviewing and referencing a case. If you prefer a visual approach to learning, you may find highlighting to be a very effective tool.

If annotating and highlighting are so effective, why brief? Because the process of summarizing a case and putting it into your own words within a brief provides an understanding of the law and of the case that you cannot gain through the process of highlighting or annotating.

The process of putting the case into your own words forces you to digest the material, while annotating and highlighting can be accomplished in a much more passive manner.

What should you highlight? Similar to annotating, the best parts of the case to highlight are those that represent the needed information for your brief such as the facts, the issue, the holding and the rationale.

Unlike annotating, highlighting provides an effective way to color code, which makes referring to the case even easier. In addition, Highlighters are particularly useful in marking off entire sections by using brackets. These brackets will allow you to color-code the case without highlighting all the text, leaving the most important phrases untouched for a more detailed highlight marking or underlining.

Highlighting is a personal tool, and therefore should be used to the extent that highlighting helps, but should be modified in a way that makes it personally time efficient and beneficial. For instance, you might combine the use of annotations in the margins with the visual benefit of highlighting the relevant text. You may prefer to underline the relevant text with a pencil, but to use a highlighter to bracket off the different sections of a case. Whatever you choose to do, make sure that it works for you, regardless of what others recommend. The techniques in the remainder of this section will describe ways to make full use of your highlighters.

First, buy yourself a set of multi-colored highlighters, with at least four, or perhaps five or six different colors. Yellow, pink, and orange are usually the brightest. Depending on the brand, purple and green can be dark, but still work well. Although blue is a beautiful color, it tends to darken and hide the text.

Therefore we recommend that you save blue for the elements that you rarely highlight.

For each different section of the case, choose a color, and use that color only when highlighting the section of the case designated for that color. Consider using yellow for the text that you tend to highlight most frequently. Because yellow is the brightest, you may be inclined to use yellow for the Conclusions in order to make them stand out the most. If you do this, however, you will exhaust your other colors much faster than yellow and this will require that you purchase an entire set of new highlighters when a single color runs out because colors such as green are not sold separately. If instead you choose to use yellow on a more frequently highlighted section such as the Analysis, when it comes time to replace your yellow marker, you will need only to replace your yellow highlighter individually. In the personal experience on one of the authors, the sections of cases that seemed to demand the most highlighter attention were the

Facts and the Analysis, while the Issues and Holdings demanded the least. Other Considerations and

Procedural History required lots of highlighting in particular cases although not in every case.

Experiment if you must, but try to choose a color scheme early on in the semester and stick with it. That way, when you come back to the first cases of the semester, you will not be confused with multiple color schemes. The basic sections of a case for which you should consider giving a different color are:

• Procedural History

• Issue (and questions presented)

• Holding (and conclusions)

• Analysis (rationale)

• Other Considerations (such as dicta)

Not all of these sections demand a separate color. You may find that combining Facts and Procedural History or Issues and Holdings works best. Furthermore, as mentioned above, some sections may not warrant highlighting in every case (e.g., dicta probably do not need to be highlighted unless they are particularly important). If you decide that a single color is all that you need, then stick to one, but if you find yourself highlighting lots of text from many different sections, reconsider the use of at least a few different colors. Highlighters make text stand out, but only when used appropriately. The use of many colors enables you to highlight more text without reducing the highlighter’s effectiveness. Three to four colors provides decent color variation without the cumbersomeness of handling too many markers.

Once you are comfortable with your color scheme, determining exactly what to highlight still may be difficult. Similar to knowing what to annotate, experience will perfect your highlighting skills. Be careful not to highlight everything, thus ruining your highlighters’ effectiveness; at the same time, do not be afraid to make mistakes.

Now that we have covered the basics of reading, annotating, highlighting, and briefing a case, you are ready to start practicing. Keep the tips and techniques mentioned in this chapter in mind when you tackle the four topics in the remainder of this book. If you have difficultly, refer back to this chapter to help guide you as you master the case method of study and the art of using the common law.

Have questions about law school? Check out our Facebook page , follow us on Twitter or start networking with law students and lawyers on LexTalk .

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More Helpful Links

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  • What’s the Most Challenging Part of Law School?
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Legal Writing Class Teaches More than Memos

An instructor at the front of a classroom speakings while standing in front of a whiteboard and next to a screen as a row of students seated at a table with laptops listens.

It’s a short course with lofty goals. 

That’s in the syllabus description for Introduction to Legal Analysis and Writing, an intensive course to help first-year students develop the essential skills of lawyering — all in their first seven weeks of law school. Known as ILAW, the course is primarily an introduction to legal writing. But ILAW takes a broader approach. Not only does the class teach students how to write one of the most widely used legal documents, it gives them a comprehensive range of lawyering tools. 

From the first class, ILAW places students in the role of a lawyer, Director of Legal Research and Writing and Senior Research Scholar Cecilia A. Silver explained. Students identify legal issues, investigate facts, find relevant law, make strategic choices, and present analyses and conclusions.

“Essentially, we’re giving students the tools to approach — and solve — novel legal problems,” Silver said.

A row of students sitting at a classroom table with laptops reading over printed papers together..

Training in legal writing for 1L students has always been a part of a Yale Law School education. Many alumni will remember first learning legal writing in their small group — the signature feature of the Yale Law School first year, when groups of 16 or so students take all their classes together — from teaching assistants known as Coker Fellows. The small group experience still includes instruction in legal writing, particularly briefs, and in legal research. 

In recent years, the Law School has expanded its introduction to legal writing by creating ILAW as a separate class that meets weekly for the first half of the fall term. The shift acknowledges that not all students come to law school with the same writing experience. By having all new J.D. students take the course at the start of law school, students begin their legal education on equal footing. In doing so, the course reflects two tenets of Dean Heather K. Gerken’s leadership of the Law School: an emphasis on teaching skills as well as ideas, and a commitment to leveling the playing field.

“Part of what ILAW does is give all students a baseline introduction to legal writing, regardless of their previous writing instruction or exposure to lawyering,” Gerken said. “We meet our students where they are and get them where they are going. By giving students a solid foundation in the first weeks of law school, we prepare them for the wonderful careers they are embarking on.”

ILAW typically has about a dozen instructors each fall who represent a variety of legal careers. These practitioners include lawyers from area law firms, attorneys working for the government, practitioners serving the public interest, members of Yale’s Office of the General Counsel, and others who use legal writing in their day-to-day work.

The major assignment during ILAW is a closed-universe memo, or one based only on the research materials provided. A lawyer typically writes a memo to present an analysis to a supervising attorney, who uses that information to decide whether to assert a particular legal claim or defense, pursue a given case strategy, or advise a client to take a certain action.

Most law schools choose memos to introduce legal writing for good reason, Silver said. For one, memos teach organization and require students to keep in mind their audience — generally, other lawyers. 

Cecelia Silver gestures while standing in front of a whiteboard

“Not unlike learning a foreign language, you don’t just need to build a new vocabulary,” Silver said. “You need to learn new organizational structures and new cultural expectations.”

That was the experience of Jonathan B. Epps ’24, who had a typical undergraduate background writing academic papers. But when it came to writing a legal memo “there was nothing I could really compare it to from writing or anything I had done in the past,” he said.

Like many students, Epps found the highly structured format of legal memos challenging. He also discovered that it took some time to learn how to cite documents according to The Bluebook . The style guide for U.S. lawyers has more than 500 pages of rules that students often find difficult to learn.

“A sentence had to go in a specific spot, or it’d be wrong,” Epps recalled of his first attempts to organize a memo. As for Bluebook citations, “I had to stay attached to the manual, and even that was confusing sometimes.” But Epps said the class made what could have been a stressful learning process manageable.

Though ILAW lasts only seven weeks, in that time “many of our superbly talented 1Ls do master the basics,” said Robert Harrison ’74, a Lecturer in Legal Method. Harrison said the instruction in legal writing and research that Yale Law School students receive in their first year is a foundation for what comes next.

“And for the 1Ls who may feel that they need more than a one-semester introduction to legal research and writing, we offer a wide variety of more advanced courses,” added Harrison, who has taught advanced legal writing for more than 30 years.

Silver also noted that students can practice what they learned in ILAW in simulation-based classes like civil pretrial litigation, trial practice, or advanced written advocacy.  In addition, a substantial percentage of students hone their writing skills in the clinics, which often include opportunities to help write complaints, motions and other documents for actual lawsuits. Many students also receive additional writing practice in seminars and through independent work with faculty. The Law School’s instructors for advanced research and legal writing include practitioners, faculty, and Law Library staff.

“Lawyers send around 10,000 emails per year. That reality means that there are heaps of opportunities to stumble or thrive based on how well an attorney writes.” — Lecturer in the Practice of Law and Legal Writing Noah Messing ’00

To train students in memo writing, Silver designs the ILAW class assignment to mimic practice conditions. This year’s closed memo topic centers on a criminal law issue: specifically, whether a police officer’s questioning violated a client’s Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

“I like using criminal law problems because the students are typically familiar with the concepts from books, TV, and movies, and the cases often feature interesting facts,” Silver said. “Pedagogically, the goal is to have the students analyze and rely on the law — rather than their intuition — in formulating their conclusion.”

There is another reason the memo focuses on criminal law. All students encounter this practice area in their first year, so no student will have an advantage, Silver explained. All sections of the class have the same syllabus and assignment topic for the same reason.

Over the span of half a semester, students outline, draft, and revise their memos. Each week, the class reviews, discusses, and dissects both strong and less successful examples of legal writing — structurally, logically, stylistically. Then the class identifies ways for the author to improve based on the tenets of good legal writing the class discussed that week. 

When she took ILAW as a 1L, Nargis Aslami ’24 found it helpful when Silver provided portions of a memo, and the class identified ways that content could be refined, restructured, or made more concise.  

“One of the things I found most helpful was Professor Silver’s mantra of ‘human first, lawyer second.’ Aslami said. “She quickly dispelled this sort of trope around legal writing being riddled with complex legal jargon by showing how we can still persuasively express our messages by using simple and concise language.” 

The class’s “secret sauce,” according to Silver, is the detailed feedback that students receive. Along with their main assignments, students submit a written self-reflection to describe their approach. Instructors then respond in writing. For some assignments, instructors have individual conferences with students.

A student at a desk reading a printed page and marking it with a pen.

“We go line by line, word by word,” Silver said. “This process of examining examples, regularly practicing, receiving constructive criticism, and assimilating the instructors’ comments sets the students on a path to becoming great writers.”

There’s a practical reason for students to master memo writing early in their law school careers, Silver said. Memos are a staple of summer jobs. 

Cameron Averill ’24 found that to be true working in the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office last summer. He consulted his ILAW notes frequently while writing memos, “and my feedback from the office was nothing but positive,” he said.

Averill knows that legal writing will be essential to the career that most interests him, litigation. But even now, he finds memos useful for putting his thoughts about a particular doctrine in order.

“Elena Kagan has said that the key to clear legal writing is to really know the law,” Averill said. “I think the reverse is also true — sometimes to really know the law, you need to write it out.”

ILAW is meant to give students a solid background in memo writing, but the class also aims to produce lawyers who communicate well outside of legal documents. Today’s lawyers convey information in the workplace through a variety of means every day, Silver pointed out. They send emails, give PowerPoint presentations, and use messaging platforms like Slack and Teams. Though the class doesn’t specifically cover those formats, Silver said students who can write a solid memo will also be able to distill complex ideas into other concise forms.

“Reducing complicated topics to digestible, simple points under time pressure is the essence of being a good lawyer,” Silver said. 

Lecturer in the Practice of Law and Legal Writing Noah Messing ’00, who has taught advanced legal writing at the Law School for more than a decade and also teaches a section of ILAW, agreed that the ability to write has always been essential for lawyers. One of his advanced courses trains students to advocate for their clients in writing. In an increasingly competitive profession, he said, even everyday communications are important.

“Lawyers send around 10,000 emails per year,” Messing said. “That reality means that there are heaps of opportunities to stumble or thrive based on how well an attorney writes.”

Even beyond learning to communicate like a lawyer, Silver said ILAW aims to help students form good professional habits. Seven weeks is a short time to cover, for example, cultural competence in the workplace or how to maintain good mental and physical health as a lawyer — both of which appear on the syllabus. But by introducing these topics early, Silver hopes ILAW can set students on the right path.

“My hope is that this exposure will help the 1Ls feel confident and prepared to succeed in their first-term classes, second semester, first legal summer internship, and beyond,” she said. 

In the Press

Yale professor co-authors upcoming book on fighting back against mass incarceration, samuel moyn named next head of hopper college, interdisciplinary graduate course set to yield four two-family homes in newhallville, a president and his justices — a commentary by linda greenhouse ’78 msl, related news.

Professor Moyn at the announcement of being named the next head of Hopper College at Yale

Craig Newmark Renews Support for Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic

Garrett West

Garrett West ’18 to Join Yale Law School Faculty

Prepare for HLS Exams

Law school exams tips, research guides for 1ls, study guides and tools, take a study break, wellness at hls.

There's no doubt that preparing for law school exams can be stressful.  Check out this guide for some recommended resources to help make the process a little easier.  And don't forget to build in a study break or two!

assignments in law school

FEATURED RESOURCE!    Aspen Learning Library

Access hundreds of study aids -- from Glannon's Examples & Explanations to audio and video lectures -- on campus or at home, using your laptop or tablet.

  • HLS Registrar's Examinations page Everything you could want to know about HLS exams is located on this page from the Registrar's Office. Info includes schedules for exams and exam information sessions for students, exam policies, and information about exam software.

There are many books with strategies and tips for doing your best on law school exams. Here are a few.

Note: all book descriptions are taken directly from the publishers.

assignments in law school

Consult past HLS exams to get an idea of what might be in store for you in current exams. 

The HLS Office of the Registrar maintains an online exam archive containing exams from Fall 2010 to present. Digitized copies of past exams from 1871 through 1995 are available online from the library.  The library does not maintain print copies of old exams.  No exams are available between 1995 and 2010.

  • HLS Official Exam Question Archives, Fall 2010-present Harvard Key login required
  • HLS Exam Archives, 1971-1995 Alternate URL: https://id.lib.harvard.edu/alma/990004217910203941/catalog
  • HLS Exam Archives, 1871-1971 Alternate URL: https://id.lib.harvard.edu/alma/990041699240203941/catalog

We've created research guides to help you find the best study guides, hornbooks, and treatises on first year topics.

  • Civil Procedure Basics
  • Contracts Basics
  • Criminal Law Basics
  • Property Law Basics
  • Torts Basics
  • LexisNexis Courtroom Cast Access restricted to Law School users. Register for an account using your HLS email address. LexisNexis Courtroom Cast is the academic portal for Courtroom View Network. CVNs AudioCaseFiles provides audio recordings of opinions selected from cases commonly read in first and second year courses and video recordings of trials and trial court proceedings often involving well known and highly regarded litigators. The audio recordings are produced using professional voice actors and are available for download as mp3 files. CVN Videos are streamed using an embedded player and often include synchronized snapshots of digital evidence displayed alongside the video. Browse for audio recordings by law school course subject area or by casebook title. Browse for video recordings by case name, by practice area or by jurisdiction.
  • CALI Access is limited to the Harvard Law School community. In order to access the lessons, you must first register using an HLS CALI authorization code . CALI provides access to an extensive collection of interactive digital lessons covering a number of subject areas. The lessons are designed to augment traditional law school instruction and can be assigned as supplemental study material or integrated with other course materials. The lessons are written by law faculty and librarians and are regularly reviewed and revised. The format of the individual lessons varies according to the educational objectives of the author. CALI Lessons are available in one or more. Not all lessons are available in all formats.
  • Study Guide Collection The HLS Library Study Guide Collection contains print copies of Questions & Answers , Understanding , and other series to help you review legal topics. The Study Guide Collection books are held at the Circulation Desk and may be checked out for two hours.
  • Aspen Learning Library (formerly WK Study Aid Library) Access is available on the Harvard Law School campus. Off-campus access is available to current HLS affiliates and controlled by Harvard Key. The Aspen Learning Library contains electronic textbooks, ebooks, supplements, and reference materials for law school students. There are over 400 textbooks in more than eighty disciplines, reference book series including the Bouvier Law Dictionary, and supplements from popular series such as Examples & Explanations, Emanuel Law, CrunchTime, CaseNote Legal Briefs, Glannon’s Guides, and more.

Taking a study break can help you be more productive, retain knowledge, and be more creative--but don't take our word for it,  it's science !

We're including a variety of ideas for things to do on a study break below, plus a link to our full study break guide. Enjoy, and remember--it's good for you!

assignments in law school

  • Play a game! Channel that competitive spirit and challenge a friend to a good game. Chess tables are available on the 3d floor (pieces are in the drawers; check out a timer from Circulation), and board / card games are available for 3-day loan. Learn more about what's available at this link. And if you're into jigsaw puzzles as I am, come visit the Reference area in 3 South and add a section or two to the ones we have out.
  • Read a book! Harvard has a good collection of popular fiction. Visit this page for suggestions on fun novels with legal themes from a variety of genres so you can enjoy something light but not feel too guilty!
  • Watch a movie - on DVD! Did you know that the LIbrary has DVDs to loan? Titles include documentaries, popular films and television series with legal themes, award winners, foreign language films, and some excellent comedies. Ask for them at the Circulation Desk.
  • Watch a movie - streaming on FilmPlatform! Film Platform is an on-demand streaming video service with a wide variety of documentary films for the academic world.
  • Watch a movie - streaming on Kanopy! Kanopy is an on-demand streaming video service for educational institutions. In addition to a huge variety of documentaries, it has a strong collection of early, classics, and foreign films.
  • Even more study break ideas! Visit our full guide to taking a study break for information about local attractions, planning day trips, increasing mindfulness, and more!
  • The Well: Health and Wellness at HLS Taking care of yourself is important at every time of year, but especially during exams. The law school offers programs, events, and resources to help you stay healthy and balanced in all aspects of life. Resources range from information about nutrition and exercise to mindfulness to getting help with stress, anxiety, and depression from lawyers and law students who have been there too.
  • Harvard Chaplains on call 24/7 617-879-8365 Harvard chaplains are on call 24/7 for both emergency and non-emergency consultation at 617-879-8365. The Harvard chaplaincy includes representatives of Baha'i, Buddhism, many Christian denominations, Hinduism, Humanist/Atheist/Agnostic, Islam, Judaism, Sikhism, Zoroastrianism, and others. Reach the Chaplains' office Monday-Friday at 617-495-5629.
  • Counseling and Mental Health Services (CAMHS) Harvard's CAMHS offers in-person counseling, a 24/7 mental health support line (617-495-2042) and workshops and support groups.
  • Last Updated: Apr 24, 2023 3:26 PM
  • URL: https://guides.library.harvard.edu/law/exams

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Law School Toolbox®

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Five Tips for a Great Legal Writing Assignment

September 25, 2012 By Lee Burgess 2 Comments

assignments in law school

  • Follow the format outlined by your professor. It is likely your legal writing professor has given you instructions for the overall format of your legal writing assignment. In addition, your professor may have given you formatting instructions for the body of your assignment, such as that you need to follow IRAC. Whatever the instructions, follow them . Sure, you may think it is an overly formal or a frustrating way to write—but to be honest, no one cares. You need to write for your professor . It is more important to write in the way your professor has outlined, than as you personally prefer. And it is not going to be the last time your writing will need to conform to someone else’s rules. As a working attorney you often need to write in the format requested by your boss or even by the court. So get used to it!
  • Remember, your writing doesn’t need to be full of legalese—the best legal writing is often simple! So many law students make the mistake of thinking that to “sound like a lawyer” they must use every possible legal term out there. This is just not the case. Often the most effective legal writing is very clear and concise and only uses legal terms or “legalese” when appropriate (say, when you are using a term of art). It is also important to work on writing in a clear, concise way because your assignments may have maximum word count. So using extra words to sound “more professional” won’t really help your grade in the end.
  • Answer the question asked by your assignment. Often students get so caught up in writing their assignment that they forget to focus on the question that was asked of them. It is important to read and re-read (and even read again) the assignment sheet. You don’t want to make a mistake and write something off topic. Remember, answering the question is key to getting a good grade!
  • Plan before you write. A great legal writing assignment is organized. And for most of us this means that you need to plan your paper just as you would plan an essay or any other project. Organization is key and it takes time to sit with the research and develop your answer. Make sure you build this time into your plan of how you are going to get your assignment done.
  • Proofread and double-check citations. As an attorney-in-training, it is very important to present yourself in a professional way. That means that you need to proofread your assignments to present yourself in a professional way to your professor as well. If your assignment is riddled with typos, it is distracting for the professor and likely will cause your grade to drop. Also, students often are lax when handling citations. You are typically graded on the accuracy of your citations. Citations are not hard, but you must be detail oriented and look things up! I have seen many a legal writing grade go down because students didn’t spend adequate time or energy on citations. Don’t let this happen to you.

Legal writing, like most things, gets easier the more that you do it. So do every practice assignment assigned and get as much feedback as you can. This will help you become an excellent legal writer, which is a critical skill in our profession.

Check out these other helpful posts:

  • Surviving the first weeks of law school .
  • Law school exam prep 101 .
  • Getting feedback on past exams is critical .
  • Pay attention in class, it can save you time !

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About Lee Burgess

Lee Burgess, Esq. is the co-founder of the Law School Toolbox , a resource for law students that demystifies the law school experience and the Bar Exam Toolbox , a resource for students getting ready for the bar exam. Lee has been adjunct faculty at two bay area law schools teaching classes on law school and bar exam preparation. You can find Lee on Twitter at @leefburgess , @lawschooltools , & @barexamtools .

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Thank very much for the tips i have just read they been beneficial to me because am a distance law school student.

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I need more guide to legal writing because am lecturing this course for Magistrates

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What You Need To Know About Law School

  • by Ryleigh J. Praker
  • March 27, 2024

Two students in business attire sit at a desk. They deliberate together over a yellow legal pad.

Do you enjoy learning about history and politics? Do you have a passion for serving underrepresented groups and fighting for social justice? Are you an ace at arguing, in-person or on paper? If you answered yes to any of these questions, law might be the field for you.

Before you can enter into law, though, you’ll have to think about law school. The idea of continuing your education beyond undergrad may be daunting, but don’t fret. Read on for a crash course on what law school is, how to get in, what law school is like and what you can do with a law degree.

Law school basics

A student wearing a commencement robe and tie displays a green stole embroidered with the words "Environmental Law Class of 2022 UC Davis School of Law."

What is law school?

If you want to be a lawyer, you’ll need to go to law school. A law school is a graduate-level educational institution where you can earn a professional degree in legal studies.

Can you be a lawyer without going to law school?

Although it is possible to become a licensed attorney in California without a law degree, the vast majority of lawyers go to law school.

What is a J.D.?

The basic degree you will earn by completing law school is a J.D. degree . J.D. stands for Juris Doctor and prepares you to enter the legal profession.

How long is law school?

If you attend law school full-time, it usually takes three years to complete your J.D. Of course, you will need to earn a four-year bachelor’s degree first, so the minimum education length for becoming a lawyer is about seven years. That’s a big time commitment!

Should I go to law school?

Anyone who is set on becoming a lawyer should attend law school. Since it’s such a large time and money commitment, though, you should make sure it’s the career you want before starting.

If you’re unsure about whether it’s for you, talk with an experienced advisor like those at the UC Davis Pre-Law Advising Office . You should also consider talking to current lawyers or law students, visiting a law school or finding a law-related internship.

What is law school like?

Two students sit at a desk in a library, smiling and looking down at the textbook open between them.

Law school is a challenging academic experience meant to build analytical reasoning and argument skills along with knowledge of case law. You will spend much of your time studying case law, honing writing skills and participating in mock legal exercises like moot court.

The first year of law school is fairly standard across programs. You will develop a foundation in constitutional law, criminal procedure, civil procedure, contract law, tort law and more. The remaining years allow for more customization, with students choosing legal specializations and participating in clinics or internships. By the time you complete law school, you’ll have plenty of knowledge, skills and experience under your belt.

Many law schools allow students to specialize in certain areas of law and earn certificates in that area. UC Davis School of Law offers eight areas of concentration , including business law, environmental law and health care law. Each of these areas includes a specific course of study and allows you to earn a special certificate.

To learn more about what law school is like, explore LSAC’s guide .

How to get into law school

A student in a blue commencement gown and regalia, including a stole with the words "First Generation" walks across the stage at the UC Davis School of Law commencement ceremony.

The list of requirements for law school is short. At minimum, you need a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university. There is no required undergraduate major — law schools will and have accepted applicants from a wide variety of majors. Some of the most common undergraduate majors for law students include political science, economics, philosophy and history.

Whatever your major, you’ll want to keep your GPA up. Law schools are competitive graduate-level programs, which means you need to perform well in undergrad for law school admissions boards to feel confident in your ability to succeed.

For a step-by-step breakdown of the law school application process, read our article “ How Do I Apply to Law School? .”

What can I do with a law degree?

A student in business attire stands at a podium, speaking into a microphone, while onlookers listen.

The most common end goal for law students is becoming a licensed attorney . Attorneys work all over the country, at companies large and small and in many different fields. As an attorney, you might work at a large firm or a small practice, for the government, for a legal aid organization or as an in-house lawyer for a corporation.

Attorneys also have a wide range of options when it comes to what type of law to practice. Although your first image might be a criminal defense attorney, you can also consider careers in environmental law, tax law, intellectual property law and immigration law. The options are endless!

Beyond the world of lawyers, people with law degrees may also go into politics, journalism, academia or financial planning. There’s something for any interest you might have.

Now that you’ve learned the basics about law school, hopefully you have a better idea of whether it’s something you want to pursue. Before setting off to apply: 

  • Talk to your family, friends and academic advisors about law school 
  • Learn more about different types of law you’d like to pursue
  • Research law schools that specialize in the areas that interest you

There’s a wide world of law out there — jump in and explore!

Check out our law school

How to apply to law school

R.J. Praker (she/her) is a third year pursuing a bachelor’s degree in political science with minors in professional writing and Russian . She currently works as a writing intern for UC Davis' Office of Strategic Communications and an academic peer advisor for the Department of Political Science . She also serves as chief copy editor at the Davis Political Review . R.J. is from Placerville, California and loves to hike in the Sierra Nevada with her family’s dogs.

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Statutes on Westlaw - Bonus Entries

Need some inspiration check out the statutes below., key numbers on westlaw - bonus entries, need some inspiration check out these key numbers by using the digest searches below., searching on westlaw - bonus entries, need some search inspiration for your entries check out the sample searches below.

Find helpful tools and gadgets

Because neurodivergent people often need visual prompts or sensory tools, it is helpful to figure out what works best for you. Maybe you need a quiet fidget to use under your desk in class to help you focus. Maybe you need to incorporate the use of timers throughout your day. If you struggle with time blindness, you can use hourglasses to help you visualize time. Perhaps you struggle with extraneous sounds and need to use noise-cancelling headphones. More and more tools and gadgets are being made for neurodiverse individuals that can help you throughout law school.

Find the best time to be productive

Society can dictate when you are supposed to be most productive. See the traditional 9-5 work schedule. However, that model does not always work best for neurodiverse individuals. Some people are not morning people, and that is fine. Figure out when you have the most energy during your day to be your most productive self.

Identify your organizational system

Find one system to use for organization and don’t change it. Trying too many organizational systems can become overwhelming. If your phone calendar works best, use that. If you are a list person, write all the lists. If you are a planner person, find the coolest one to use throughout the school year.

Write everything down

It would be nice to think that you can remember every task or deadline, but let’s be honest, that’s probably not true. Write down every deadline, every task, meeting, assignment, important date, etc. in the organizational system that you use.

Figure out your maximum focus time

Just like you can only put so much gasoline in a car, most neurodiverse individuals only have so much room in their focus tank. Figure out how long you can truly focus and apply yourself to a task before you need a break. That amount of time is typically shorter for neurodiverse individuals. If you can only truly focus for 20 minutes, study for 20 minutes, take a break, and then come back for another 20 minutes.

Find your friends

You may have started law school with your mind full of horror stories. Throw them out the window. Most of the people you attend law school with are genuinely kind and helpful people. Try to find a group or a couple of people that you can trust and lean on when necessary. Your law school friends can help you stay on task, body double, and even provide notes on the days you may be struggling. These friends can be one of your greatest assets throughout your law school journey.

Be honest with your professors

Only discuss your neurodivergence with your professors to the extent that you are comfortable. If there are things you are concerned about related to your neurodivergence, it can be beneficial to make your professors aware at the beginning of the semester. Whether you are worried about cold calling or need a topic broken down, most professors love opportunities to discuss their area of law! They can’t know that you may need help if you don’t let them know. This is especially important if you aren’t successful in getting accommodations from your school’s Disability Services.

Trust your methods

As a neurodivergent student, you may not fit the traditional mold of all the things a law student is “supposed to do” in order to be successful. You have been in school for years, and now is the time to trust yourself and not be afraid to be an “outside of the box” law student. There is no harm in trying new study methods, but never fear going back to your personal basics. If you need help figuring those out, see if your law school has a learning center or faculty member that can assist you.

Outlining with jury instructions.

  • On your Westlaw Precision home screen, click on Secondary Sources and then Jury Instructions .
  • On the Jury Instructions page, use the Jurisdiction filter to select your desired jurisdiction.
  • Search for your cause of action. (Ex. elements of libel in Federal Jury Practice & Instructions )
  • Open your relevant jury instruction and don't forget to check the related notes.
  • To see more instructions, check out the table of contents to your left or click on View Full TOC.

assignments in law school

Citation in a Click

  • Highlight the text you want to copy. Try it out with Miranda v. Arizona
  • Select "Copy with Reference" from the pop-up box.
  • Paste into your word document...and you're done!

Black's Law Dictionary

Don't guess the meaning of a legal term. know it., by using black’s law dictionary, exclusively on westlaw , you’ll know the meanings of key terms that will help you understand your cases faster, be prepared for cold-calls and beef up your class notes. 1. access black's law dictionary on westlaw., 2. type your term into the dictionary term box. (ex. demurrer ) if your term contains multiple words, place the terms in quotes. (ex. "rule against perpetuities" ), 3. open up your desired term, copy it and paste it into your notes., looking for some inspiration here are a few legal terms to get you started contracts - collateral estoppel - consequential damages civil procedure - minimum contacts - in personam jurisdiction torts - negligence - invasion of privacy criminal law - mayhem - wobbler, where can i learn more about a firm so i can ask good questions in an interview, news is an excellent source for learning about a firm. you’ll see the clients and matters they represent along with the accolades they earned from their communities. 1. click on news under “specialty areas” on your westlaw edge home screen., 2. start by trying a plain language search for your firm. (ex. gibson dunn crutcher ), 3. to up your search game, consider running a terms & connectors search with an index field. (ex. gibson /2 dunn /s crutcher & in(law lawsuit legal) ), start writing your brief without starting from scratch, what is a brief, a brief is a summary of a case in your own words that includes the key facts, procedural history, issues addressed, along with the court's holdings. how can i find a case on westlaw, cases on westlaw contain a synopsis, a summary of the main facts, issues and holdings of a case, and headnotes, summaries of points of law organizes by topic. you can locate cases on westlaw in a variety of ways. find by citation: if you know your case's citation, just type one of the citations in the search box. (ex. 113 sct 2217 ), find by party name: if you know the names of your parties, just start typing them in the search box and select corresponding case from the drop-down menu. (ex. international shoe).

assignments in law school

Note: If your case has common party names, you may need to enter more than one party.

Download your synopsis and headnotes: once you've pulled up your case, click on download under delivery options, select brief it under what to deliver and click on download..

assignments in law school

The right search terms can make a difference. Here is an easy way to come up with smart search terms.

assignments in law school

Rules, Codes & Restatements

Exporting tables of contents, exporting a table of contents is an easy way to get access to a list of rules, codes or restatements that you can reference on the fly and add to your outlines, as needed. locate your rules, codes or restatement: to export a toc (table of contents), you'll first want to locate your resource. restatement of torts restatement of contracts restatement of property federal rules of civil procedure ucc article 2 federal rules of evidence united states constitution, export your toc: click on download, select outline of current view under what to deliver and then click on download..

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Restatement of Contracts 2d

Counter-offers.

(1) A counter-offer is an offer made by an offeree to his offeror relating to the same matter as the original offer and proposing a substituted bargain differing from that proposed by the original offer.

(2) An offeree’s power of acceptance is terminated by his making of a counter-offer, unless the offeror has manifested a contrary intention or unless the counter-offer manifests a contrary intention of the offeree.

Negligence Defined

Restatement (second) of torts 282.

In the Restatement of this Subject, negligence is conduct which falls below the standard established by law for the protection of others against unreasonable risk of harm. It does not include conduct recklessly disregardful of an interest of others.

Black’s Law Dictionary (10th ed.2014)

Demurrer: A means of objecting to the sufficiency in law of a pleading by admitting the actual allegations made by disputing that they frame an adequate claim. Demurrer is commonly known as a motion to dismiss.

(2) An offeree’s power of acceptance is terminated by his making a counter-off, unless the offeror has manifested a contrary intention or unless the counter-offer manifests a contrary intention of the offeree.

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Negligence defined

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Assignment is a legal term whereby an individual, the “assignor,” transfers rights, property, or other benefits to another known as the “ assignee .”   This concept is used in both contract and property law.  The term can refer to either the act of transfer or the rights /property/benefits being transferred.

Contract Law   

Under contract law, assignment of a contract is both: (1) an assignment of rights; and (2) a delegation of duties , in the absence of evidence otherwise.  For example, if A contracts with B to teach B guitar for $50, A can assign this contract to C.  That is, this assignment is both: (1) an assignment of A’s rights under the contract to the $50; and (2) a delegation of A’s duty to teach guitar to C.  In this example, A is both the “assignor” and the “delegee” who d elegates the duties to another (C), C is known as the “ obligor ” who must perform the obligations to the assignee , and B is the “ assignee ” who is owed duties and is liable to the “ obligor ”.

(1) Assignment of Rights/Duties Under Contract Law

There are a few notable rules regarding assignments under contract law.  First, if an individual has not yet secured the contract to perform duties to another, he/she cannot assign his/her future right to an assignee .  That is, if A has not yet contracted with B to teach B guitar, A cannot assign his/her rights to C.  Second, rights cannot be assigned when they materially change the obligor ’s duty and rights.  Third, the obligor can sue the assignee directly if the assignee does not pay him/her.  Following the previous example, this means that C ( obligor ) can sue B ( assignee ) if C teaches guitar to B, but B does not pay C $50 in return.

            (2) Delegation of Duties

If the promised performance requires a rare genius or skill, then the delegee cannot delegate it to the obligor.  It can only be delegated if the promised performance is more commonplace.  Further, an obligee can sue if the assignee does not perform.  However, the delegee is secondarily liable unless there has been an express release of the delegee.  That is, if B does want C to teach guitar but C refuses to, then B can sue C.  If C still refuses to perform, then B can compel A to fulfill the duties under secondary liability.

Lastly, a related concept is novation , which is when a new obligor substitutes and releases an old obligor.  If novation occurs, then the original obligor’s duties are wiped out. However, novation requires an original obligee’s consent .  

Property Law

Under property law, assignment typically arises in landlord-tenant situations.  For example, A might be renting from landlord B but wants to another party (C) to take over the property.   In this scenario, A might be able to choose between assigning and subleasing the property to C.  If assigning , A would be giving C the entire balance of the term, with no reversion to anyone whereas if subleasing , A would be giving C for a limited period of the remaining term.  Significantly, under assignment C would have privity of estate with the landlord while under a sublease, C would not. 

[Last updated in May of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team ]

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Nashville school shooting updates: Students demand gun control; shooter fired 152 rounds

As a public service, The Tennessean has made this content free. Continue to follow updates in our new blog here.

Recap:  Three children and three adult staff members were killed Monday at Covenant School in one of  Tennessee's deadliest school shootings . Audrey Hale, 28, entered the school at about 10:11 a.m. armed with a rifle. Officers who responded to the scene killed Hale about 14 minutes later.  Video footage  shows a timeline from when Hale first got to the school until police fired the fatal shots.

911 calls  from inside the school released Thursday by Metro police give more details as to the timeline of the shooting , as do a pair of officer radio clips released by police.

Gov. Bill Lee said Friday he would propose a measure to increase school security measures statewide and was open to the idea of considering something similar to red flag laws, which has been enacted in other states including Florida.

15 MINUTES OF TERROR: 15 minutes of terror: How the Covenant School shooting and Nashville police response unfolded

EXCLUSIVE: Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee moves to boost school safety funding, open to some gun reform after shooting

Hundreds gather in Tennessee Capitol over gun control

Hundreds have already packed into the Tennessee Capitol, with more waiting to get through security, ahead of floor sessions Monday night. Many are parents who brought their young children. The crowd chanted “What do we want? Gun control. When do we want it? Now!” House members will be arriving soon and will have to pass through the crowd to get to the chamber.

Civic TN Coalition demonstrating at state capitol

Hours after students walked out of school to protest the Covenant School shooting at the state capitol, another group of protesters took to the capitol with a group of students singing "I want to learn by ABCs."

Walking for hope

Roxanne McClain is a mother and grandmother. As speakers from March For Our Lives addressed the crowd she sat on the capitol steps cheering.

McClain has written, texted, and emailed every legislator at both the state and federal level.

She said she can't explain to her own 9-year-old grandson why he lives in a world where people in positions of power act so irresponsibly.

"I cant fathom a world where our legislators will say, 'We're with you, our thoughts and prayers are with you, we're here to assist if we can - and they do nothing!" Said McClain. "They do absolutely nothing, they're not here to assist us. They're here to fill their pockets and to support the NRA and to support laws that by any imagation are irrational and unfathomable!"

McClain struggled to speak about her grandson.

"How do I tell him, 'You dont have to be afraid to go to school next year?' The two windows that you have walking into your school look just like the ones at Covenant School," she said.

"I don't know if I have hope yet but I'm walking toward that."

March for Our Lives

Thousands of students, parents, caregivers and concerned Tennesseans marched Monday to the state capitol demanding action to gun laws in response to the Covenant School shooting.

MNPS leader praises students for honoring victims

MNPS Director Adrienne Battle said she was proud of the students who participated in "walk-in" rallies hosted across the district on Monday.

She called the rallies honoring the victims of the Covenant School shooting and advocating for action and change, "meaningful and poignant."

“I appreciate all the school teams and student government associations who quickly worked together to hold these events in a way that allowed for an equitable and safe venue for students to build school community and voice their hopes and concerns," Battle said.

The district did not have an official count on the number of students who walked out to join the March for Our Lives rally that ended at the state capitol. Thousands attended the rally. MNPS spokesperson Sean Braisted said they will not receive disciplinary consequences if they work with their parents and school to follow attendance or checkout procedures.

Battle also said she appreciated the students who attended the Capitol rally, and that the vast majority appeared to do so by working with the parents and schools to follow protocols.

“While most students aren’t of age to vote, their voices in this conversation matter greatly, and I hope lawmakers and officials will listen and hear their calls for action and change as we work to build a safer society for all," Battle said.

Wilson County Schools protest Covenant Shooting

Wilson County Schools spokesperson Bart Barker said about 200 students from Green Hills High School walked out Monday. There were around 25 students from Mt. Juliet High School.

Barker said he wasn’t aware of any other school walkouts within the Wilson County school district.

Absences and tardies are subject to school policy and will be handled accordingly regarding today's walkouts, Barker said.

Democratic lawmakers stripped from committee assignments

House Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, stripped two Democratic lawmakers of their committee assignments on Monday as punishment for their role in a protest and demonstration in support of gun control at the Capitol.

Sexton took the action against Rep. Justin Jones, D-Nashville, and Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville. On Thursday, Jones and Johnson, along with Rep. Justin Pearson, D-Memphis, interrupted a debate about an education bill to lead protesters in calling for gun control. Pearson does not serve on any committees.

The three House Democrats approached the podium without being recognized to speak — breaching the chamber’s rules of procedure.

With a bullhorn, the three led protestors in the galleries in several chants calling for gun reform. At no point did any demonstrators make their way onto the House floor.

Sexton immediately recessed the chamber, halting legislative business for nearly an hour before it resumed, and ordered security to clear the House galleries.

Sexton said other sanctions, including expulsion, will be considered.

The last time the House expelled a sitting lawmaker was in 2016 when the chamber voted 70-2 to remove then-Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin , from the House for alleged sexual misconduct. At the time, it was the first expulsion since 1980 and only the second since the Civil War.

Last year, for the first time in its history, the Tennessee Senate voted to expel a senator, stripping Sen. Katrina Robinson, D-Memphis, of her elected position following her federal conviction on federal wire fraud charges.

Gov. Bill Lee wants to beef up school security

Serious conversations on how legislatures strengthen school safety bill that was already in budget prior to Covenant School shooting.

"Today is the next step , but it is not the last step," Lee said. 

But Lee would not commit to backing any gun reform this year.

More: Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee moves to boost school safety funding, open to some gun reform after shooting

"There is a desire to find a way forward that protects kids in schools and in a better way than we have today," Lee said in response to the thousands of young people who marched to the Capitol on Monday. "We care very much about them coming home safely, and we will work together to find agreement on a way to move forward."

In the budget proposal, Lee is asking for $30 million to expand statewide homeland security network with 122 agents serving students at both public and private schools.

Here is a breakdown of the bill proposal.

  • $140 million to establish a School Resource Officer grant fund to place a trained, armed security guard at every public school.
  • $20 million for public school security upgrades.
  • $7 million for private school security upgrades.
  • $8 million for additional school-based behavioral health liaisons across the state.

Police release details on Hale's deadly attack

Metro Nashville police said Monday afternoon Hale fired 152 total rounds, 126 from a rifle and 26 nine millimeter rounds from a pistol they carried in mass shooting. Police also said Hale acted alone.

More: Nashville police: Shooter fired 152 rounds in Covenant shooting, acted alone

Police officer Rex Engelbert fired four rounds from his rifle and fellow officer Michael Collazo fired four rounds from his department-issued nine millimeter pistol, according to MNPD.

Police say Hale considered the actions of other mass murderers. Evidence collected from Hale's vehicle and bedroom show journal entries planning the attack on Covenant School months in advance.

The MNPD’s Homicide Unit is leading the investigation into the murders of the six victims. The Cold Case Unit is working with the TBI in the investigation of the fatal police shooting.

Father of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting speak out

Nikolas Cruz, 19, opened fire on students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in the Miami suburb of Parkland, Florida on Feb. 14, 2018, killing 17 people and injuring another 17.

The father of one of those children spoke out in Nashville during Monday's protest.

“I’m not asking you to break the law, I’m asking you to break the norm,” said Manuel Oliver, father of Joaquin Oliver, a victim of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.Oliver urged students, teachers and parents to practice civil disobedience.“I’m not asking you to break the law, I’m asking you to break the norm,” he said.He also called for universal background checks, red flag laws and the banning of assault weapons.

Speaker Cameron Sexton backtracks on Jan. 6 comparison

Following protests last week, House Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, initially compared the events in Nashville to the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection in Washington D.C.

“You had people outside the chamber who rushed the state troopers to try and get inside the chamber,” Sexton said last week in a radio interview.

There is no evidence anyone rushed state troopers. THP reported no arrests or damage on Friday.

By Monday, Sexton backtracked, writing on Twitter his Thursday comparison to Jan. 6 was directed at three Democrat lawmakers, not the peaceful crowd of protesters .

Hume-Fogg student loud and proud

Jasmyn Milliken, a senior at Hume-Fogg and an organizer of the protest said they heard of the protest being organized by March For Our Lives and wanted to participate.

They were told that if they participated they would be suspended or face other disciplinary action such as having diplomas held and after school detention.

They organized the protest to begin off of school property as a way to abide by the rules.

"We're going to be loud we're not going to be silenced." She said. "We're hoping to send the message that youth stands for gun reform, we want to live to see the future, we want our loved ones to see the future."

Vanderbilt professor, MNPS board member speak out at protest

Eric Dyson, a Vanderbilt professor a media personality, stepped up to the microphone during the protest. “Guns are weapons of mass destruction, especially AR 15's which needs to be banned," he said. "Don’t ban books. Ban the idiotic, white supremacist, right-wing ignorance.”On Monday, Dyson suspended his own class at Vanderbilt's Divinity School so students could attend the protest, not just to talk about God, but to talk about justice.Cheers erupted from the audience as he blamed toxic masculinity and transphobia.

Abigail Tyler, a Metro Nashville Public School's board member, parent and former teacher, asked students to raise their hands if they remember a time before lockdown drills. Hardly anyone raised their hand.“I am so sorry … but we’re here to remind them that you are worth protecting,” she said.She urged people to vote and to find out what candidates support “common sense gun laws” and support them.

Students protest in Cordell Hull

Dozens of students entered Cordell Hull and are now staging a sit in outside the office of House Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville.

They screamed “Kids are dying, do you care” as Tennessee Highway Patrol shut the office doors.

They’re joined by Rep. Justin Jones, D-Nashville, who is facing sanctions as severe as expulsion for leading protest chants from the House floor on Thursday.

The students began pounding on the floor in time with their chant.

"Blood on your hands," they yelled. "Blood on your hands."

MNPS student: 'I'm tired'

At least 1,000 students and staff packed into the gym at Martin Luther King Jr. Magnet High around 11 a.m. Student speakers took to the podium in front of six chairs with white bows on them — one for each victim of the Covenant shooting. 

As student Trey Madison read a poem he wrote, students took turns lighting six candles. 

"I'm tired," Madison's began. "I'm tired of turning on the news and seeing another bloody massacred that could've been stopped." 

Madison expressed exhaustion, anger and hope alike as at those gathered sat with silently with somber faces. Some had their heads in their hands, some had arms around each other, others wipe away tears as a few sniffles rippled through the crowd. 

"The ball is in our court for as long as the bullet is still in the chamber," Madison said. "Do not let those precious children have died for nothing. Do not let those selfless teachers have died for nothing."

Madison continued to press for a call to action as the poem ended.

"We are the future. It's time to take it back," Madison said. "I'm tired. I'm angry. I'm hopeful. I'm done."

Nashville college students join the debate

More protestors from Belmont and Vanderbilt universities arrived at the Capitol doubling the size of the crowd. Many of them also wore red and held signs denouncing gun violence.As they ascended the steps of the Capitol building, they chanted.

“What do we want? Gun control," they yelled. "When do we want it? Now!”

Others slowly passed through security inside the Capitol and started chants in the rotunda.

Several young people stood at the top of the steps inside, overlooking the line of protestors waiting to pass through security.

“Do your job!” they chanted at lawmakers passing by.

Students walk-out to protest at Capitol

Students from Nashville area schools walked out Monday to protest at the Capitol in the wake of the Covenant School shooting last week. High schoolers from Hume-Fogg walked the half-mile to the Hill chanting and carrying signs.

“Hey Hey, Ho Ho, the NRA has got to go," they said.

State Rep. Justin Jones joined in with the crowd as hundreds gathered outside the Tennessee Capitol in misting rain to demand gun reform from state lawmakers. The lawmaker last week interrupted House proceedings to demand actions as protestors chanted in the rotunda outside the chamber doors.

At 10:13 a.m., the same time the first 911 call came in about the shooting, protestors sat for a moment of silence. Some bowed their heads and clasped their hands together in prayer.

"No one here, no one in that building should be able to do their job. No one in that building should be able to vote on anything else or even bills that regard this without thinking about the lives that have been lost last week, last year or for the many years this has been happening and nothing has been done about it," a student said at a bullhorn on the steps of Legislative Plaza.

Hillsboro High School students: #ProtectOurStudents

About 16 students sat on stage in the Hillsboro High School auditorium. Many of them were involved with student government and helped to plan the rally in support of The Covenant School.

At 10:13 a.m., students began streaming into the auditorium and filling the seats. A PowerPoint presentation was projected on the stage showing the message: #ProtectOurStudents.

Many students, both on stage and in the audience, wore bright red shirts for the six victims of The Covenant School shooting.

Hillsboro is home to more than 1,200 high school students grades 9-12.

Martin Luther King Jr. Magnet High School hold "walk-in"

About a dozen students who had parental permission to walk out gathered near the main office of Martin Luther King Jr. Magnet High School at 9:53 a.m.Over the loud speaker, a woman’s voice read: “Hallie Scruggs, age 9.”The remaining students gathered in their advisory rooms, where they met with teachers who track with them for their entire career through high school.The school had plans through the morning for a “walk-in” as an alternative to the walk-out, including a rally.

The names of the other victims were read over the PA as students settled into their rooms. A special video address by MNPS Director Adrienne Battle was shown as the walk-in events got underway.Sophomores inside Cindy Montgomery’s classroom were each given a piece of a red paper heart to write their feelings and thoughts in the wake of the shooting. A few worked to tape the heart together as others finished writing their messages.“Wish you’d listen,” one read.“Students should never fear for their safety,” another said.Another message elaborated more: “The government should care more about the lives of 9-year-olds than the rights of gun owners. Will I be next? Those kids had so much life ahead of them. It’s not fair. Ban assault weapons.”

Community Foundation fundraiser exceeds $600k

T he Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee established the  Caring for Covenant Fund  to manage donations to the school "because of the outpouring of love from our generous and thoughtful community," CEO Hal Cato said last week.

As of this morning, the foundation has raised about $601,860 from 3,840 donations, an average of about $156 per gift.

Donations can be made at www.cfmt.org/covenant.

Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet High School students: 'We demand action'

Students at Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet High School began their planned walk out with a demonstration outside of the school Monday.

A small group of about 30 students gathered behind the school about 9 a.m. Many of them wore red as a way to honor the victims of The Covenant School.

One student organizer, Wyatt Bassow, took his shirt one step further adding the phrase “I don’t want to be your statistic,” and added a target on his back.“Student and teachers are filled with the fear of losing their lives yet they do nothing … They don’t care about us, so we have to make them care. We demand action,” one of the student speaker's said.“In our age range the number once cause of death is not car accidents but homicides by guns … I’m afraid to be out here and going to school in this country where guns are so easy to access,” student Nathan DeWitt said.

Walkouts against gun violence expected Monday

March For Our Lives, a prominent national nonprofit advocating against gun violence, is organizing a student walkout for Monday morning. The organization is encouraging area students to walkout of classrooms at 10:13 a.m. and meet at the Capitol at 10:45, where demonstrators will call on legislators to support gun reform.

Ahead of the student walkout, Students at Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet High School are planning a demonstration outside the school starting at 9 a.m. The demonstration will lead into the March For Our Lives walkout. Hume-Fogg students are planning the demonstration ahead of time so they don't walk out of classes and potentially face discipline, according to an Instagram post.

Organizers of the Hume-Fogg event ask students to not step on Hume-Fogg's grass, stairs or upper parking lot. Also, speakers who are already signed up will not speak about Metro Nashville Public Schools or potential discipline related to the walkouts. "This is focused on gun reform," an organizer said on Instagram. Participants are encouraged to wear red.

A rally for elementary-age kids and families is also planned at the State Capitol later on Monday starting at 4 p.m. "Our goal is to remind lawmakers of the lives that are at stake if they do not take action," said a post advertising the rally . "This is a peaceful rally with singing and chanting." Clergy and teachers are also welcome, and participants are encouraged to wear orange.

Demonstrators gathered Thursday at the State Capitol and on Saturday in Franklin to protest gun violence.

Comfort kits for Covenant School

Kris Wylder, a local Realtor and social-media personality, set out with a simple plan after the shooting at Covenant School — take care of those families.

What began as comfort kits for one Covenant class turned into $30,000 raised. Now, she hopes to schedule therapy dog and equine therapy sessions for Covenant School students and staff.

"It just kept growing and growing," she said. "Once a month we will check in with the families to provide anything that can offer comfort."

Wylder is still accepting donations via her Venmo account: kris-wylder7. She's reachable on Instagram @running.wylder .

Rutherford County Schools closed Monday for safety review

The Rutherford County Board of Education announced Saturday that all schools in its jurisdiction will be closed Monday for security reviews.

Director of schools Jimmy Sullivan said principals, teachers and support staff will use Monday to "debrief the situation that occurred in Nashville and review all safety procedures before students return," in a message to parents, students and staff.

Last Monday's shooting prompted questions from parents and staff, Sullivan said, so his staff made the decision to extend Spring Break by a day to review those practices and policies.

Who were the victims of The Covenant School shooting?

Police identified  the victims of the shooting  on Monday afternoon as:

  • Evelyn Dieckhaus , 9, a student
  • Hallie Scruggs , 9, a student
  • William Kinney , 9, a student
  • Katherine Koonce , 60, the head of school
  • Cynthia Peak , 61, a substitute teacher
  • Mike Hill , 61, the school's custodian

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  12. 9. Assessments and Assignments in Law

    This chapter looks at some of the many different forms of assessment a law student may come across, depending on where they are studying and the subjects they choose. These include coursework, exams, multiple-choice tests, advocacy or other oral presentations, posters, and reflective reports. The chapter also considers dissertations and other research projects, and group work for assessment ...

  13. Law School Time Management Basics

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  17. Legal Writing Resources

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    Typical university assignments will be anything between 1000 and 5000 words (usually around 500 words per 10% allocated, e.g. an assignment worth 40% of your total grade will usually require you to write 2000 words). An assignment question can be framed in countless ways, including: • Discussing a particular case; • Summarising a body of law;

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  23. assignment

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    About a dozen students who had parental permission to walk out gathered near the main office of Martin Luther King Jr. Magnet High School at 9:53 a.m.Over the loud speaker, a woman's voice read ...