If you were to write a book for youngsters about how to play baseball, or an adult-oriented romance novel, your “audience” would be easy to identify. In the first example, you’d be writing for an age group between 7 and 11; the readers would all be interested in baseball; and they’d be, let’s say, beginner-to-intermediate level of capability and sophistication in the sport. In the second example, you could Google the demographics for who buys romance novels, and get a pretty good idea of who might purchase your book. Audience identification is critical whenever you write-and that’s the case when you write answers to law school essay exam questions as well.
When you write the answer to a law school essay exam question, your audience is fictional. Think of your audience (reader) as an informed attorney or a colleague (law student) who is quite familiar with the nature and purpose … Read More
“Legal problem solving – identifying and diagnosing problems and generating strategies and tactics to achieve client objectives – is a legally trained person’s most basic function. Most legal problem solving activity involves some legal analysis – combining law and facts to generate, justify, and assess a legal problem’s merits.” (Legal Services Practice Manual: Skills, 2010)
All lawsuits arise as a result of disputes involving facts. Our legal system revolves around resolving disputes through the application of rules of law to the facts of a case. Yes, trials and appeals are about “law,” but remember that the trial court judge, or the jury, is referred to as the “trier-of-fact.” Determinations of facts are so important that the Bill of Rights guarantees that facts once decided by a jury are pretty much the last word. The seventh amendment provides that, “…no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in … Read More
Law school essay examination answers that do not supply the explanatory information detailing step-by-step how each issue can be resolved are said to be “conclusory.” That is, they recite conclusions without stating supportive analysis. Here’s an example of a conclusory statement taken from an exam answer: “Because Adam’s intent manifested the malice required for murder, he will be convicted.” The problem here is that although the statement may be true, the writer has not told the reader (professor) precisely which of Adam’s acts show he had the malice required to prove murder, what degree or variety of intent the law considers sufficient to prove malice, nor what type or variety of malice is required to obtain a murder conviction.
Here’s a better way to handle the Adam/intent issue.
The intent required to obtain a conviction for murder is malice. Malice can be proven by demonstrating that the defendant had the … Read More
Law students ask, “Isn’t law school about more than just memorizing? The answer is clear: Absolutely!
But must law students memorize? The answer is just as clear: Absolutely!
Some professors erroneously tell students that “law school is not about memorization.” I say “erroneously” because law school IS about memorization… and so much more. But for the moment, let’s just focus on grades – and for most courses, that means focusing on exams.
In order to write a high-scoring essay exam answer, a student needs to employ many skills and strategies. Cogent presentation, high level analysis, sophisticated legal reasoning… yes, these are critical capabilities when it comes to earning “A” grades.
But one cannot earn an “A”… or a “B”… without being able to spot the issues that the professor expects to see analyzed. In order to find issues, one must “know” the law. In the deeper sense, to “know” … Read More