Yes, 1Ls Should Use Commercial Supplements

The best way to learn to think like a lawyer is to read cases, but the best way to score highly on law school exams is to read and use commercial supplements developed for that very purpose.

Cost is not an issue: it’s trivial in comparison to the cost of a legal education and the potentially greater payoffs that come with good grades.

The 1L year moreover contains the most difficult subject matter you will encounter in law school. With the exception of Criminal Law (which really shouldn’t be mandatory or taught in the first year because it’s a putrid statutory swamp), 1L courses mainly deal in the common law. The uncodified nature of common law permits professors to teach it more or less as the please, with results that will vary by student. However, because the common law is coherent when understood, exams do not vary between professors to nearly the same degree.

Take the Rule Against Perpetuities for a concrete example. No matter what cases you read or who your professor is, the RAP is always going to provide that “no interest is good unless it must vest, if at all, not later than 21 years after some life in being at the time of its creation,” and it will always affect the same fact pattern in the same way. But not all property professors are capable of explaining this in a coherent manner, and some students are inevitably baffled by the complexity of the rules apprehension despite the relative simplicity of its application. However incompetent a teacher the professor may be, I assure you he can score an exam.

Law school exams are universally time-pressured; it’s not useful to be able to get everything right in 4 hours if you only have 3. By far the best way to improve your speed is to practice, particularly on something like the RAP which has several well known exceptions (e.g., Unborn Widow) that are confusing at first but become easily recognizable with experience. If you’ve worked through the Property E&E, you’re going to spot these patterns in a much shorter period of time than an otherwise equally capable student who has not done the practice problems. This is the difference between a B+ and an A.

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Commercial Outlines, Follow-Up

As an addendum to my previous post, it may also be noted that outlines are surprisingly cheap for law school supplements (usually around $30).

An important caveat however: I would hesitate to recommend the outlines to someone who does not already have a pretty firm grasp of the subject matter. They tend toward the reductive side of things and a student who relies too heavily upon them may come away with some dubious impressions. The really effective use of an outline is as a means of organizing material you already have a decent sense of — comparing the outline with your casebook’s table of contents is often instructive.

And a minor issue to go with that one: commercial outlines uniformly adopt the oversized form factor, but none of them use it to any effect. I don’t see the point in having larger pages if you’re just going to use larger font and put the same amount of information on each page. (Actually, I assume the theory is that students will take notes in the margins, but this doesn’t make a whole lot of sense as notes are always more flexibly taken on the computer and a substantial number of professors will not allow commercial outlines in exams.) It would be much more useful to pack more information into each page so that a high level view of the material could be obtained without sacrificing too much detail. As it is, many more or less atomic concepts are spread out over five or ten pages, which is not ideal.

Commercial Outlines

ImageI have mentioned previously that my all around favorite law school supplement is the Examples and Explanations series. Working the examples really is the best way to learn the material.

However, outlines really come in handy as refreshers and general cramming aids: the structure of an outline is more or less consistent with the issues you’ll need to spot on an exam.

Economic Populism Is a Dead End, But for Whom?

Accordingly to Jon Cowan and Jim Kessler, the Democrats.

This is a nice sentiment, and probably even true insofar as they’ll go down with the ship just like everyone else.

Attribution Error

As American Thinker reports, people are working hard to bring “the Middle East’s stultifying culture of conspiracy theories to America.” Munir Akash, a sometime visiting professor to Suffolk University recently asserted in a speech that Kissinger urged upon President Ford the following theory:

“We can’t annihilate Communism, but we can annihilate the Communists. How? The more people there are in the world, the more Communists there are. So let us tackle the roots of the problem — if we kill the poor, there will be no Communists.”

I cannot find any evidence that such a theory was articulated prior to this speech (at least in like wording), and Mr. Akash is clearly not a credible source. Moreover, I think we can be reasonably certain that no agency of the United States or Israel is currently executing a plan, as this Arab intellectual later claims, to sterilize “the women of the 13 countries.” The plan, such as it is, involves implantation of a microchip under the skin. Insofar as the goal seems to be regulation of fertility rather than wholesale sterilization, there might be an indication here that conspiracy theorists have evolved, as it were, since the halcyon days of saltpeter in fried chicken.

But irrespective of this, and whether or not Kissinger ever said anything of the sort, one has to admit the comforting syllogism of the scheme’s underlying logic.

No person of sound judgment will deny that “the more people there are in the world, the more Communists there are.” This is as much as a fundamental truth as the sentiment, apocryphally attributed to Stalin, that “Death solves all problems–no man, no problem.”