Is it the fact that each law school exam gets a smidgen easier? Is it the fact that I just don't care as much as I did 1L year? Is it the fact that I know how to prepare? Or is it the fact that I wore my underwear inside out?
I don't know what it is! But someway, somehow, miraculously, law school exams don't seem so hard. I completed my second exam in three days and, surprisingly, I feel very good about both exams. This never happens. I ALWAYS feel like I did terribly the second I walk out of the exam room. The main reason is that I never feel like I have enough time. Definately, I would say that time is an examming lawstudents' worse enemy (and a small bladder, and the girl in front of you who keeps blowing ridiculous amounts of snot out of her nose).
I had a Professional Responsibility exam on Thursday. It began at 8:30am (horrible!). The truth about this class is that I did not do ONE assigned reading the whole semester. Then three days before the exam, I started reading the assignments. They were pretty short, for a law school course. I learned the Model Rules like the back of my hand- by that I mean I used 10pt font to summarize the rules applicable to each "ethical problem." We were allowed to bring in one double sided 8.5 x 11 paper. I saw at least five students with miniscule, telescopic font printed in at least five columns across their page- I think they fit their entire outline on there! I zoomed through the problems and was finished with 30 minutes to go! I even had time to go to the bathroom and review my answers. But the amazing thing is that I felt confident about the whole thing. What the??? This isn't right. Something must be wrong!
Then I figured out the secret that I wish I knew all along. After my seemingly breezy exam experience, I went to the bathroom and realized that I had put on my underwear inside out by accident. (I am a lawstudent, I can analyze death defying, three page hypos in under the time limit, but I can't put my underwear on right!). Since I felt so confident about the exam, I was convinced that inside out underwear was my lucky charm. So I decided to do the same for my Trusts & Estates exam- I'm telling you, it WORKS!
This morning (8:30am on a SATURDAY!) was that Trusts & Estates exam. It was open book and open note. You all know what that is code for right? It means "Ha ha, you're f*cked! This exam is so hard it's going to extract the retinas from your eyeballs!" So, I didn't exactly study a lot, I just prepared a really basic outline of 15 pages (for a law school class, that is a SHORT outline- am I right?). It was short enough that I could easily find each topic.
Can I tell you all what I think the secret to a good law school out line is? Not thoroughness. Nope. You should try to be as brief as possible. You should take each potential issue or cause of action, write the basic rule down and then summarize in TWO SENTENCES each relevant case from your book. But only use the cases that actually help you understand how courts apply the rule or that give helpful context to the elements of a cause. If you write more than two sentences, it's just a waste of your time. Even if you have a closed book exam, this is the best way to condense the information into something somewhat memorizable.
So back to T&E, I only had one day to prepare the outline that I would bring in to the exam with me. This was a mistake. I didn't complete the outline until 11:35pm. And we don't have a printer at home and my school print center would not be available when I got to school early the next morning. So I had to ask my husband to drive 15 minutes to his OFFICE to print my outline- at midnight! After I eventually fell asleep at 12:30, my son woke up screaming at 1:30. I couldn't fall back asleep for an hour and I had to get up at 5:20. I only got 4 hours of sleep! Times like that really make me wish I had it as good as nonparent students.
I have more advice for soon to be law students. If you have the option, DON'T COMMUTE. Be as close to campus as possible! See, when I lived 1 mile from campus, I could wake up an hour before my exam started. Although I go to Seattle University, I actually live on the Kitsap Peninsula- a one hour ferry ride from downtown and a 25 minute walk to campus. And I'm dependent upon the inconvenient ferry schedules. So, to get to my 8:30am exam on time, without freaking out or feeling rushed, I had to wake up at 5:25 and catch the 6:20 boat to Seattle. Another reason not to commute is that you really miss out on on-campus opportunities and social events. I never felt it was worth commuting 3 hours for an hour long school sponsored dinner, speech or happy hour.
Ok, ok, again back to T&E. The exam was littered with issues to spot. But as I read the questions I was able to make an outline on scratch paper of all the ones that jumped out at me. Then I could immediately start to tackle each issue as identified. Later I could always go back and look for more hidden issues. When I completed the exam, I had a whole five minutes to kill! Woo hoo! I defied a reasonable lawstudent standard and instead of going back to review my answers, I sat back and chilled. It felt amazing!
If you are a 1L and think law school exams are the most horrible things on the planet, I have two things to say, (1) you're correct- they are horrible, and (2) but it gets easier! I don't think the exams themselves get easier, but you eventually learn how to prepare for them and how to take them. You eventually figure out what your professors actually want from you. You'll figure out what works best for you and it will be all right in the end. The problem is, you might just have to wait until your last semester to figure all that out. Of course, take my advise with a grain of salt until I actually find out what my grades are.
P.S. Insurance Law exam: here I come- inside out panties and ALL!