(Message to the many who ordered LEEWS this summer, and who will do so this fall.)
I—Wentworth Miller—had a recent exchange with a soon-to-be-1L who had just finished doing the LEEWS audio program. "I feel I've learned a lot, but I'm a bit overwhelmed," she said. "What do I do now?"
She had misplaced her (bright green) bookmark (later found). As you know, the first sentence of the AFTER LEEWS segment on the bookmark reads, "You'll likely be somewhat overwhelmed." One is then told what to practice as follow-up, that "practice is key to mastery," etc.
This woman had received a first assignment in one class—several cases to be briefed (in laborious, conventional fashion). She was told that study and exam-taking advice would be offered in her writing class. She had met upperclassmen who had offered advice. She was concerned her assignment and the advice would confuse implementation of LEEWS, which she believed in, but had yet to practice and fully grasp.
Indeed. This is a problem faced by all who do LEEWS prior to starting law school, or during first term.* [Per usual, addressed with the benefit of 30+ years of experience.]
If one does no follow-up after doing LEEWS, one nevertheless has in depth understanding of law essay exams and the special challenge they pose, a rudimentary grasp and understanding of a systematic process for pulling apart [any and all] exams to reveal relevant issues, an appreciation of what "lawyerlike analysis" looks and feels like (how it is implemented) and some experience doing it, a formula for presenting analysis in concise paragraphs, and an appreciation that legal tools should be gathered in "toolboxes" beginning ASAP. One knows that IRAC is not a "system," but merely scratches the surface of what needs to be known.
Thus, ACHIEVING B's AND B+'s SHOULD NOT BE A PROBLEM. Perhaps even A-'s.** However, achieving rare, precious (solid) A's requires more.
[NOTE. Diligence is assumed. Given cluelessness of classmates respecting how to prepare for and address law exams, even at Yale, Harvard, Stanford, intelligence necessary to complete college and gain admission to law school is sufficient. (Truly!)]
WHAT IS REQUIRED TO ACHIEVE A's IS REFLEXIVE SKILL AT APPLYING LEEWS IN ALL ITS FACETS. This requires follow-up practice to the point that not only is reflexive skill achieved, but one is immunized against the confusing welter of advice respecting study and exam taking, both anecdotal and programmatic, that one encounters upon entering law school.
Very top law schools—Yale, Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, Chicago, NYU, UPenn—still tend to eschew offering anything resembling systematic exam-writing advice. The firm belief is that beyond briefing cases, attending class, and "studying hard," nothing will assist more than those select few with "innate genius for the law" to write "A" exams.*** Thus, little more than bits and pieces of (standard) advice from professors and upperclassmen will be heard. (E.g., I do not recall hearing "IRAC" while at Yale Law.)
At all other law schools, in varying degrees (coinciding, it may be noted, with rise of tuition above $20,000 quite a few years ago), there will be hand-holding respecting how to study, how to take a law (essay) exam. This will occur during 1L orientation. It will occur during the "writing class." There are often student academic support (and retention) programs, particularly at lesser-ranked schools.
NOTE. None of this advice is new. None of it is a true science or system. None of it has ever proven effective in assisting more than a small handful to do well, which persons already had advantageous habits of (lawyerlike) thought acquired prior to law school.
When one encounters conventional advice without first mastering LEEWS, it distracts, confuses, waters down the proven effective LEEWS science. One falls between stools in terms of fully grasping and implementing what is needed to excel. As suggested, one likely get B's (which one feels grateful for, given the challenge of exams).
This has been the case with many over the years who did LEEWS prior to start of law school or during first term, but did not do the follow-up necessary to master LEEWS approaches, and particularly skill at analysis and presentation.
For example, ONE SHOULD REPEAT THE PROGRAM SIX WEEKS INTO LAW SCHOOL! It is hard to find time amid the cascade of new information, but you must. DO IT!
[NOTE. It is difficult to resist the pollution of competing advice, especially that offered by one's professors. (It is difficult to accept that LEEWS is right, your professors and law school are wrong.) If mediocre exam performance results, it is my hope that one does not give up on LEEWS or the possibility of achieving A's. Properly chastened, one now dedicates oneself to practicing and mastering LEEWS.]
It will be difficult to accept that your smart, hard-working classmates have it totally wrong. Their endless class note taking, for example, is busywork, folly, a reflection of their confusion and inability to follow the professor in class (as they don't know black letter law or how to analyze "as a lawyer"), their failure to understand what they should be taking away from class. (Ditto laborious case briefs that quickly morph into book briefs.)
On the other hand, once LEEWS skills and approaches are mastered, one is relatively immune to "helpful advice," "helpful tips and hints" one hears (including "IRAC"). One puts such advice into a larger context of understanding. Adjustment to accommodate a professor who says, "This is what I want on my exam" (all of which is largely cosmetic), is easily made. (E.g., "Place conclusions at the outset"; "I want a statement of issue"; "avoid conclusions,"; "argue both sides [a/k/a "be objective"]; "paragraph frequently,"; "show me you know the law'; "analyze as a lawyer," etc.)
It may be noted that most advice one hears—conventional wisdom—is not incorrect. However, it is piecemeal. It is merely helpful bits and pieces, what seemed to help someone achieve good results once upon a time. (Which good results were what—35, 45 points out of a possible 100?)
In the end such advice proves not very helpful at all, as it is not a fully evolved science. It merely confuses.
Immunize by practicing and gaining mastery. Especially write practice paragraphs of analysis. Confidence on paper, knowing how to learn and apply the law, 2-4 line case briefing and minimal class note taking, indeed appreciating and grasping all aspects of LEEWS—it all flows from achieving skill at the critical art of analyzing as a (practicing) lawyer.****
* Second term 1Ls (and 2 and 3Ls) do not have this problem. They know that IRAC and conventional wisdom and instruction is ineffective. They fully appreciate the science LEEWS offers. They dedicate themselves to mastery.
** It may be noted that the grade of A- did not exist in law schools ten years ago. It came into being to satisfy inflating grade curve requirements of 20-30 percent A's at some school (e.g., U Penn, U. Texas). A- is the new B+, and law students are very happy to receive an A-. THE PURPOSE AND OBJECTIVE OF LEEWS IS TO MAKE SOLID A's, EVEN A+'s, NOT JUST POSSIBLE, BUT PROBABLE.
*** They have witnessed too many generations of the great majority of high-LSAT, high-GPA students flounder on exams. Moreover, it suits the pride o style="font-size:11px; line-height:14px;"f the few who do well—including almost all law professors—to propagate the myth of a superior few possessed of "The Right Stuff."
**** Analyzing "as a lawyer" is the single most important skill to be acquired, if one is to impress and compete for A's. It is a skill that anyone of average intelligence can acquire. (It is does not reflect any sort of "innate genius.") However, it is a skill, a mindset that is unfamiliar to non-practicing lawyers (which includes the smartest law students). Sitting in yet another classroom ruminating in academic fashion over appellate opinions—law school instruction—is ineffective in conveying the precise nature and application of the skill. WRITING PRACTICE PARAGRAPHS OF ANALYSIS—first UBE, then standard English (modeling on examples in the Prime—IS THE ONLY WAY TO HONE THIS SKILL. At the same time one learns to be confident and concise in presentation. One learns HOW black letter law must be learned in preparation for exams.