Primer on Midterm Exams
Here's what you need to know about upcoming midterm exams:
1 – If you have one, it likely will be no more than a 45 minute to one-hour exercise featuring a single "hypothetical."1
2 – If you're at a so-called top-ranked school, you likely won't have a midterm. Not in any of your classes.2 Which is too bad. They provide useful insight into the disconnect between what happens in class and what is required on exams.
3 – Midterm exams in law school don't count toward your final grade, so don't sweat them! Yes, really, THEY DO NOT COUNT! Unless they assist your final grade.3
1. A "hypo" is a made-up fact scenario, within which lurk (legal) "issues" requiring resolution "as a lawyer." Hypos are normally fanciful, somewhat amusing, and a confusing hodgepodge. The exercise is also an unfamiliar exercise, for which tips such as "follow IRAC," "analyze as a lawyer," and "support conclusions" don't begin to solve the problem. (Especially as you are likely no closer to thinking "as a lawyer" than when you started law school!)
2. Why not? Because your (pampered?) professors aren't required to give them. Therefore, ... Well, it requires a lot of effort to give and grade a midterm. Your professors are probably also somewhat embarrassed to provide this preview of a practical exercise in performing "as a lawyer." Which has little to do with classes, in which you are expected to perform as ... a professor?
3. Here's the way it works. Suppose a professor says the midterm "can count up to ten, twenty percent of your grade." Note! She said "can" (or"could," or "may"), probably not "will." ?? If you blow the final, but did well on the midterm, the professor will use the midterm to boost your final grade. If you blow the midterm, but do well on the final, do you imagine the midterm grade will be used against you? Not a chance! Your professor will reason, "Okay. He figured things out."
Check this out with students who have had the professor. Should you miss the midterm, you probably won't have to make it up. So, again, don't sweat midterms. Regard them as useful preview and practice.
Over the years we have posted messages designed to both inform about LEEWS and provide useful free information. All of this is now superceded by what is contained in Gaming Emperor Law School, LEEWS founder/instructor, Wentworth Miller's, new book. (Currently a free download here!)
[In chief the book describes LEEWS, its 30+ year history -- origin, unique nature and approach, etc. --, and how current instruction in all law schools can be taken advantage of (gamed!), and rather easily. It also presents the history of law schools in America; how they were never intended to train practicing lawyers; how a resulting disconnect in classroom instruction versus what is required on exams (perform "as a lawyer") confounds efforts of the smartest students; etc. It provides a wealth of ancillary, helpful information -- e.g., explanation of complex, parallel state and federal court systems; exploration of cost disparity among law schools and prospects for transferring; how to interpret USNews rankings; and much more. It is recommended that all law students, but new law school admits (“prelaws”) in particular read this book. At least review the table of contents.]
Previous messages remain below. You may find them interesting reading. Once again, much (most?) is now superceded by Gaming Emperor Law School.
Contents: (The list of topics discussed is considerable. They've added up over the years. We think all contain useful information and insights. Prelaws might first check out Mr. Miller's “favorite story.” (Below but not listed as a topic.) It is a good introduction to LEEWS and the significant difference LEEWS can make. Continue with “Introduction,” after that “Congratulations new 1Ls!,” and, especially, “A portrait of new 1Ls first term.”
There is quite a bit below. (Yes, quite a bit at this website.) We have posted all the messages we deem helpful. We simply rearrange them from time to time, and occasionally add to them, depending upon what seems most useful at a given time of the year.
Note: If you are trying to compare LEEWS to competitor offerings — Flemings, Law Preview, Bar-Bri, the book, "Getting to Maybe," a program your school/professor is offering, etc., you'll want to click on How LEEWS is Different.
Newsflash: For an in depth explanation of the revolutionary 2-4 line case briefing, 1/2 page of notes per class hour option we tout, see the timely re-issue of an article on the subject by Mr. Miller at www.e-lawstudentjournal.com.
(Again. Superceded by chapters in Gaming Emperor Law School!)
Want a thumbnail sketch of how thoroughgoing, unique, and comprehensive LEEWS instruction is? Click Program Content and scroll down to view the track headings on the back cover of our audio CD program. Click to enlarge. You'll understand why an entire day is required to grasp LEEWS and why it is worth it. (You'll save so much more than a day when you avoid the wasted motion most law students engage in.)
Lest you be daunted by the many CD track titles and all that is on this website, be assured of the BOTTOM LINE. After LEEWS, live or audio, you'll know, finally(!!), HOW to analyze "as a lawyer" (and thereby HOW to properly learn the law). You'll have a proven system for taking control of ANY essay exercise and breaking it down into manageable components (revealing relevant issues). You'll present analysis in concise paragraphs that impress (roughly one per issue). You'll brief cases in 2-4 lines, take less than a page of notes per class hour, and produce 30-50 page course outlines. You'll both enjoy law school more and compete for the highest grades.
Apart from earning a living, these many years it has been my distinct pleasure to deliver LEEWS at a very affordable price because of the great difference LEEWS can make, not only in a law student's grades, but in his/her law school experience, outlook, career, and life. It is this effect that has continued to inspire my presentations. I very much enjoy doing a LEEWS program. The following is perhaps my best example. Just recently, however, another has come to my attention that bears relating. It follows this one. I think it is my second best story. It is a wonderful illustration of the transformative power of LEEWS in students' lives.
Some years ago (2001 or 2?) I asked a 2L from Saint Louis University School of Law ("SLU") who had taken LEEWS to be a rep — basically distribute advertising literature at the law school. His name was not "John," but I'll call him "John." John had taken the live LEEWS program in Chicago in his first semester, had very much enjoyed the program, and was happy to help out. We chatted a bit, and this was what he told me about himself:
John was in his mid forties and had six children. He was a true "working man," having been a shipyard worker in St. Louis before deciding to go to law school. He had gone to college later in life while working fulltime to support his growing family.
John had only scored 53 on the LSAT, and was grateful to be accepted at SLU. He had missed the live St. Louis LEEWS program in early October, because, although he saw the flyer advertising it, he had not felt at the time that he needed help. However, as the semester progressed, he had gotten increasingly confused and unsure of himself [familiar story]. He was briefing every case as instructed. He attended every class. But he was having trouble following class discussion. He wasn't sure he was "getting it." Indeed, although he had done well in college, he was beginning to have doubts about his ability to successfully complete law school. There was, after all, that low LSAT score. So he had driven to Chicago in late October to attend LEEWS live. He felt that he would do better doing the program live rather than audio.
[LEEWS note: There is no apparent difference in effectiveness between the audio CD and live programs. The important thing is to complete the program and do followup practice exercises to get good at facets of the approach. The difference is that the live program is a bit more energetic. You're there, you get it done [in 7 hours or so]. Students very much like the audio program, but you have to be more motivated to get through it. It contains a bit more instruction, and takes about nine hours to complete.]
John religiously practiced "The Blender" (disciplined, stepped approach to identifying issues in hypothetical fact patterns), writing and analysis (concise paragraphs, roughly one per issue), and other LEEWS techniques. He worked hard on his "toolboxes" (LEEWS term for course outlines). He found he briefed cases more concisely (2-4 lines is what we aim for!), took far fewer notes in class (1/2 page per class hour should suffice), and found that he was following the discussion easily. Most important, he shifted his focus from class preparation to preparing for all-important exams.
Following exams in December, John was, to his amazement, number 3 in his class!!
Number 3 in the class! One of John's professors pulled him aside to query, "How did you know to sue these parties?" The professor, who had written the exam exercise, hadn't identified certain legal possibilities John had discussed (but realized he should have).
John had been nervous about the second round of exams. Perhaps first term results had been a fluke. Perhaps his classmates now had things figured out. Perhaps their greater ability, as suggested by higher LSAT scores, would enable them to overtake him. [LEEWS note: There is no proven correlation between LSAT scores and law school grades. Possibly between LSAT scores and bar pass rates, but not law school grades.]
Not to worry. John became an editor of SLU "law review," and continued at the top of his class.
[LEEWS note: "Law review" is the name given to a student publication of scholarly legal articles. Every law school has such a publication. Membership on law review is by invitation only, normally based on grades (top ten percent of the first year class), but sometimes also based on a writing competition, and/or a combination of grades and writing. Membership on law review is a high honor, an editorship higher still, and law firms typically look to hire students on law review.]
Moreover, because John was a mature family man, a peer to his professors, and a very nice person, he was a favorite. He distributed LEEWS materials for two years until he graduated. (Typically, fellow students tended to view John as having "the right stuff" [see below] and discounted LEEWS' influence in his success.)
Last I heard from John, he had accepted a job with a law firm in Silicon Valley at a six figure salary, and he was heading west with his family.
Second favorite story:
Here is the story that more recently unfolded:
Although many more students take the live LEEWS program in the fall (when they are nervous, have more money, and often just follow their friends), LEEWS is probably most effective following a set of exams. I think the reason is that following the first set of exams students more fully appreciate LEEWS and apply themselves to practicing and implementing it. (They know we're on target and are not distracted by the ineffective advice of professors and others!) I truly wish I could convey that mediocre grades first term is not the end of the story. Winter/spring classes should be full of students not content with B's and the occasional C. But it is a tough sell. So intimidated are law students by exams, so uncertain of their abilities, that they are content to get B's (and be bored with classes) for the remainder of their law school careers.
Anyway, one Catharine Gagnon came to a typically small class outside Cincinnati in the spring of 2007. She was a 1L from Ohio Northern University School of Law, and during the program, from the way she responded to exercises, I judged her to be pretty smart. So I was surprised to learn in a conversation after the program that she was on probation after doing poorly first term. What she did not tell me at the time was that she has a learning disability (ADHD), for which she is given extra time on exams.
In August '07 I contacted Catharine about the possibility of representing us at ONU, our previous rep having graduated. I was also curious to know if LEEWS had pulled her safely into the mainstream, as it had done so many students over the years (many going from C's to A's!). (Law schools used to give well deserved C's. Those C's in this age of "don't hurt their self esteem" are now B-'s.) Here is the e-mail we received back:
"More than happy to promote the program! Even passed your information along to Marshall U's H.E.L.P. program that helps professional students with learning disabilities to succeed, especially those with late diagnosis. Went from academic probation with my lowest grade being a D+ in Civ Pro, to an A in Civ Pro second semester, the Book Award [highest grade] for Crim Law with an A+, and this summer I earned an A in Crim Pro. ... an awesome return on investment! Thanks for everything!"
From time to time in recent years we have posted messages/advice we believe to be timely, informative, useful to the novice and prospective law student. Our aim is to steer that student through the competing and, in our view, largely misleading maze of information respecting what is required to be successful in law school. Naturally, we seek to persuade how and why doing LEEWS is a necessary expenditure of time and (relatively little) money amid the hectic and busy schedule of an entering and even advanced law student. Beyond what is offered at other parts of this website, we seek here to offer in depth insight into what is amiss in every American law school, and how what LEEWS offers to remedy the problem not only ensures improved performance on exams, but makes law school the meaningful, even enjoyable experience it can and should be.
So mysterious and different are the skills and insights needed to compete for rare "A" grades in law school, that even law graduates preparing for the bar find our instruction on preparing for and writing law essay exams to be both new and beneficial. (After 3-4 years of law school!!)
Surprisingly, across the spectrum of 200+ American law schools the experience has differed little, school to school, over the 35+ years since Wentworth Miller, LEEWS founder and instructor, fresh out of Yale Law School and beginning his career in Brooklyn, New York — first as an assistant district attorney, then an assistant United States attorney, civil division [EDNY] — got involved in the problem of bar passage, and especially how to prepare for and take the essay hypothetical-type exam featured on most bar exams and in all law schools.
[If you are unfamiliar with the law essay exam format, imagine a complex, fanciful, fact-rich story and the admonition to "Imagine you are a lawyer. Advise on all problems raised in the foregoing fact pattern." Better yet, click on the Sample Exams segment of this website.]
Indeed, the experience of law school has changed little since states began requiring that prospective lawyers qualify for the bar after attorneys and judges.
Message to 1Ls following the first set of exams: (Because, although you now surely doubt it, "A" grades in law school are not only possible, but probable – once you learn certain essentials law schools fail to properly instruct. Such as how to "think [analyze] as a lawyer.")
Fact! You studied longer, harder than ever before this past term. Nevertheless, exams you just wrote (typed!) were mediocre efforts, far from "lawyerly." You were confused, intimidated. You floundered. Virtually all 1Ls do, even at Yale, Harvard, Stanford.
Not to worry. Although you deserve C's and worse (you really do), you'll get B's, even B+'s, for which you'll be grateful. As a torts professor at UGA Law said to 1Ls, "If 100 points are possible on my exam, I'm expecting scores in the range of 25 to 35."
Correct. 35, 45 points out of 100 gets a rare "A" grade on law school exams!
Now what? Give up on getting A's? Content yourself with B's? (With a lot less work.) (Employers next fall won't be impressed.) Conclude you lack what it takes to be a "great lawyer" (able to exhibit mastery on exams)? Most 1Ls fall into this mindset following first term exams.
Trust us (and 30+ years of experience). There are no "geniuses of the law" right out of the chute. (I.e., you either have IT, or you don't.) 35, 45 points out of 100? That's hardly a genius of the law. Just relatively less incompetence than fellow classmates.
The good news. You can do MUCH better! You merely need to know what we instruct, but no one else does. No one! Certainly not your law school or professors.
Read Gaming Emperor Law School! Learn how and why the fault lies with law school instruction, not you, and how the situation can be taken advantage of rather easily, rather inexpensively. It's free.
Message of August, 2009: "Overwhelmed!," and a helicopter mom (with LEEWS) to the rescue: On August 31 (2009) I Wentworth Miller, LEEWS founder/instructor processed an overnight shipment of the LEEWS audio program. Curiously, it was to a motel address in an upstate New York college town. The CC was billed to the mother. (Okay. The town is Ithaca, the student recipient a Cornell 1L.)
Just after noon the next day I received a call from the mother. Where was the package?! Turned out the guaranteed delivery was 3 pm, and the package was delivered shortly thereafter to the motel where the mom was staying. Apparently her daughter had been a last minute admit, and the mom had traveled from the
I asked whether the program had been ordered at the behest of her daughter. "No." Mom had gone online, found this website, read the reviews (perhaps, especially, the one from Sean Akins, Cornell '07, describing his success owing to LEEWS), and decided this was something her daughter should do ASAP.
I sensed a lifetime of hovering, prodding, helping. It's sort of what a parent has to do to ensure success in a highly competitive world. (Don't fault them for it. Thank them!)
I agreed with mom (duh-h!), but said. “You're probably going to have a tough time persuading her to do it. My experience is that once law students get caught up in their studies, they're reluctant to set aside time to do my program.”
"Yes," said the mom. "She already told me she's 'overwhelmed' and doesn't have the time."
"Here's what you have to tell her," I said. "You're really going to have to do your mom job on this!"
All new 1Ls feel overwhelmed. The briefing they're taught is time consuming and can't be sustained. They begin falling behind. Despite the endless briefing, they can't follow what's going on in class. So they take pages of class notes, which they hope to make sense of later. But there's no "later." There's more briefing for the next day's classes. More note taking. And some students are already starting course outlines, whatever they are. Equals overwhelmed!
The sooner your daughter understands the law school game and how to play it, .... That the final exam is everything, that class participation doesn't count. ... That the briefing she is doing is ineffective, ... The better.
She has to learn how to do lawyerlike analysis from us, because case method instruction doesn't teach it. It just doesn't!! She needs to learn to extract what's called "black letter law" law from cases, and to be prepared to apply it to new facts. On exams. Moreover, you can't get all the law from cases. She'll need a commercial supplement. Which she should get second hand. She should get her casebooks second hand for that matter. ...
"I know you want to help her, "I continued. Success in law school is not so much about hard work and law school aptitude scores as it is about control. ... Who's in control student or exam? And knowing why you're doing what your're doing, and where it's all heading.
As soon as possible! Otherwise there's wasted motion, ineffective preparation. There's confusion and anxiety, and ultimately mediocre performance on exams.
Most law students, even at the Cornells and Harvards, merely survive exams. They don't come close to mastery. Trust me on this. I've been in this business 30 years. I know more than the professors. I taught many of them!
Your daughter is currently on the wrong track, along with most of her classmates. She's engaged in busywork. She has to take the time to work through our instruction, because it will clear things up. It will put her in control. It will save her time. ... Less briefing, a lot less note taking. A lot more understanding. ... Not less work, but more efficient work, pointing toward the only thing that counts in law school the final exam.
Otherwise, she's going to work like crazy, feel overwhelmed, and get B's.
You have to sell her on this!
Good luck! She'll thank you!
(And the mom thanked me.)
---------- / ----------
"The simple fact is that the great majority of law students, even at top law schools, have no shot at A's on time-pressured, essay hypothetical-type exams. None! The exercise is too different, too confusing, too intimidating. Students lack necessary new skills and insights. They are immediately put on the defensive. They flounder and stab at a response, rather than methodically, competently identify and analyze relevant issues. They lack control.
If you can write a reasonably competent exam, it will look so good in comparison to the rambling, mediocre efforts of others, that you will impress and compete for rare law school A's."
— LEEWS founder, Wentworth Miller, to LEEWS live attendees.
Congratulations on your admission to law school. We hope it turns out to be the right choice. If it wasn’t your top choice, do well and you can transfer to a higher ranking school if you choose. [If you get a few of those rare “A” grades first year, no one will care about a low LSAT or college gpa.] Moreover, what counts five years into practice is not where you went to law school, but maintaining your health, working hard, and caring about your client.
Rather than just blah blah at you about what a smart thing it would be to take LEEWS, we thought it would be more interesting and we might better get our message across by providing a detailed portrait of what happens first term for the great majority of first year law students ("1Ls"), no matter their LSAT score, school, or college gpa, and how things would differ had they taken LEEWS.
We’ve been in the business of instructing law students (well over 100,000!)
for over 30 years. Excepting significant grade inflation, especially
at top tier law schools, the law school experience — first through
third (or fourth) year — hasn’t changed much over the years. It is
remarkably consistent from one school to another. The essay "hypothetical-type"
exam format is featured at virtually all law schools, and we
show you how ALL such exams can be approached in exactly the same
[Law professors beg to differ. "They can't know how to prepare for my exam," they'll insist. But that's simply a function of what they DON'T know about exams, and we do!] We’ll provide some useful free pointers as we take you through this first year portrait.
We'll get to our portrait of first term. But first — part of our effort to disabuse you of the shock, awe, and intimidation inherent in starting law school:
A Brief History of Law Exam Writing Instruction in Law School:
(Why is this necessary? Because final exams and grades are EVERYTHING in law school.)
At the beginning of this nation in the late 1700s there were lawyers, but no law schools. (The first "law school" was but a course offering in the College of William & Mary in Virginia in 1779.) Lawyers were self taught (Abraham Lincoln) or learned their trade at the feet (in the offices) of more experienced attorneys (Alexander Hamilton), and were tested and/or recommended for admission informally by local bar associations or judges. You can still become a lawyer this way in some states, including California, New York, Virginia (!!). Apprentice as prescribed by the state bar association, then pass the bar exam.
Law schools were invented because it was thought that lawyers should be more broadly educated. They should be more than "skilled craftsmen." Doubtless also to limit who could be admitted to practice. Doubtless also because law schools are highly profitable and bring prestige (and power!) to universities they are affiliated with. Indeed, the precursor to #1-ranked Yale Law School was The New Haven School, essentially a for-profit enterprise started in the early 1800s in the offices of a local attorney with a collection of (then rare) law books.
Now, instead of learning the trade hands on — yes, lawyering is a trade! --, prospective lawyers (you!) listened to blah, blah about the role of law in society, law as an instrument of social change, etc. "Broader" legal instruction varied until Dean Langdell of Harvard adopted the "case method" of instruction in the 1870's. The idea was that students would learn how lawyers think and analyze by examining actual cases. Because of Harvard's size and prestige, the case method came to dominate legal instruction. It is now featured in virtually all law classrooms.
For the first hundred years or so (into the 1970's) there was generally no instruction respecting how to prepare for and write law exams other than "go to class and study hard."
A body of knowledge about how to prepare for and write law school (essay) exams began to be circulated in that decade. At its center was IRAC — Issue, Rule, Application or Analysis, Conclusion — and largely commonsensical advice (e.g., "argue both sides of issues, paragraph frequently, label clearly"). The gist of this knowledge can be found at this website — click on "Standard Advice — Free." In the same decade the multiple choice "multistate" question format was introduced on most state bar exams. This paved the way for introducing easier-to-grade multiple choice, true/false, short answer "objective" exams in law school. However, the predominant exam format remained the so-called "hypothetical-type" essay exam.
[Law professors, of course, pooh-poohed the idea of instructing students how to take exams. "Won't help," they insisted, subscribing to the still-popular, self-congratulatory notion that beyond going to class and studying hard, writing the "A" law exam requires some sort of innate genius or aptitude for the law. One may note that at one time there were no bar review courses, nor SAT and LSAT prep courses. They were also thought to be ineffective.]
Whenever law exam instruction is offered by law professors, upperclass law students, pre law school prep programs, and EVERY SOURCE OTHER THAN LEEWS (!!) — books, audio series, BAR BRI's "Eight Secrets of Top Exam Performance," Law Preview's "Conquer Law School Exams" instruction, even supposed new thinking on the subject like the book "Getting to Maybe" --, it is always IRAC and minor variations on this same 'ol, same 'ol standard advice, which has never helped more than a handful of students compete for A's on law essay exams.
In conclusion, all that can charitably be said about exam writing instruction in law school is that, formally or informally, in most law schools students at least get the standard advice. This is doubtless owing to the circumstance that when a student pays $40,000 and more for the privilege of attending your institution, you have to do something about the constant whining over exams. Note that such biggies as Yale, Harvard, Stanford, Chicago, Michigan, Duke, etc. still offer no formal exam writing instruction. They stubbornly adhere to the myth that beyond studying hard, writing good exams requires innate lawyering ability, and how to write the "A" lawyering effort cannot be instructed.
We say "NONSENSE." But more on that presently.
Oh, by the way. Lawyers STILL learn how to practice law and think like lawyers at the feet of more experienced attorneys. Law school is THAT INEFFECTIVE in its mission of training attorneys.
First week (or first few days) at more and more law schools features an orientation to law school. The dean addresses the newbies, professors and others say hello. 1Ls are told this and that (e.g., "beware of scam commercial study aids."). You are urged to attend class and study hard. Little or nothing is said about final exams and their overwhelming importance. You may or may not be introduced to "IRAC." Typically you ARE introduced to and strongly admonished to adopt an elaborate format of "case briefing" that cannot possibly be sustained. (Typically procedure [how the case came to its present posture], facts, issue[s], rule[s], holding, rationale [the why and wherefore of the case — policy aspects]). You are advised that such briefs are the key to learning the law and how to "analyze as a lawyer." They are the key to success in law school.
Briefing cases in preparation for class becomes the be-all and
end-all of a new law student's day. 1Ls become mesmerized and
preoccupied with filling in the blanks for each case. A
student was advised that he might spend two hours briefing but one case.
It is a regimen that 1Ls cannot sustain. Soon, to save time, they abandon
such "conventional briefing" for "book briefing" — marginal notes and highlighting
in the casebook. (E.g., facts in yellow, rule in red, holding in green,
Perhaps the greatest irony in law school is that preoccupation with conventional
case briefing almost ensures that a law student will be unprepared to benefit
as much as he/she might from class discussion, or to exhibit mastery on
all-important final exams.
Why? — 1) Because cases rarely contain the complete law. (Cases reflect only contested aspects of rules and principles. A supplement like a commercial outline — Emanuels, Gilberts, etc. — is needed to get the complete law.)
TIP: Immediately find out where used books are being sold — the bookstore?, the auditorium? Often upperclass students conduct such an enterprise to earn money. A commercial outline that goes for $30+ new can be had for $10. Or simply post a request on the listserv or a bulletin board.
... 2) Case briefing doesn't do a good job instructing HOW to "analyze as a lawyer." 3) Because they don't know how to analyze, don't know what exactly it is lawyers do (apply the law as a tool to achieve client objectives), and don't know what will be expected on the exam (application of law suggested by cases to new facts), law students don't take the critical step of going beyond the case brief to think about how the outcome might be altered if certain facts were changed, why one judge dissented and another wrote a concurring opinion, and especially in the more prestigious law schools, how and why the law could or should be changed (policy aspects).
In other words law students rarely get beyond the what of a case to think about new legal and factual possibilities — precisely what the professor seeks to encourage in class, much to the confusion and frustration of all but very few.
We may note that not only does the student who knows how to go beyond conventional briefing to creative thought about the law and new possibilities get more out of class and do better on exams (because he/she is learning the law better and practicing what is wanted on exams all along), but such a student briefs less and takes far fewer notes in class — the 2-4 line case briefing and 1/2-1 page of notes per class hour that we advertise. He/she does more thinking (about the law and its application) and less confused, busywork scribbling. Components of the conventional brief — facts, issue, rule, etc. — are absorbed as a byproduct of proper thinking about the law and its application.
Subsequent weeks are an exhilarating whirl of meeting
classmates, acquiring and lugging around unbelieveably thick,
heavy, expensive “casebooks.” (Again -- get used ones!) There is
finding one's way about the law school and the new town/city, and
settling in to classes where the discussion soon begins to confuse. Talk
of “res ipsa loquitor,” “stare decisis,” “black letter
rules,” “holdings,” etc..... You're not sure your're getting it. (You know you're not getting it!) So you write/type everything down
-- 3-4 pages of notes per class hour --, vowing to make sense of it later.
(But there is no later in law school. Each day more cases, more notes,
... You soon fall behind.)
Within days the so-called “socratic method,” whereby professors randomly call on students and seek to instruct via a discomforting Q and A, unnerves everyone. Classmates are observed being called upon and stumbling, while the professor keeps them on the hook for as long as 10-15 minutes. Some (very few) professors require that students stand while responding (!!). At the same time some few classmates offer responses that seem so learned you wonder how you ever got admitted.
The typical law student (let’s call him “Hotshot He,” because he did so well in college and aced his LSATs) is quickly chastened and intimidated. Doesn’t matter if he is at Harvard or Matchbook U. law. Law school rapidly degenerates from the stimulating intellectual exercise hoped for to a grinding exercise in ego preservation. Hotshot He totally buys into the elaborate and laborious format he is taught for briefing cases (facts-procedure-issue-holding-rule-rationale). He devotes endless hours to such briefing, lest he be called upon and humiliated in front of classmates.
[Note: Law school "hypothetical-type" exams (highly improbable made up fact patterns) typically feature fanciful names like “Hotshot He.” Click on the SAMPLE EXAMS portion of the website to view a couple "hypos."]
Never mind that Hotshot He has no concept of the nature or requirements of the final exams he is supposedly preparing for, and upon which his ENTIRE GRADE will depend (since he hasn’t seen any!). Exams are far off in December. “Just brief cases and attend class,” professors will advise should the subject come up. It is reassuring to devote oneself to the busywork of briefing cases, even if you still can't altogether follow the discussion when the case is covered. Hotshot He is increasingly uncertain and confused. But he doesn’t dare complain or admit this to anyone, lest his admission to law school seem a mistake.
Hotshot He now buys into the mythology prevalent in all law schools that there are some students who simply have it – THE RIGHT STUFF! — an intangible (innate!) aptitude for the law. Believing he lacks The Right Stuff, Hotshot He begins to give up his dream of competing for "law review" (top ten percent at most law schools). (Never mind that 9 of 10 students who impress in class and are deemed to have The Right Stuff will not get an A.) Alternatively, He buys into the rubric that “it clicks for some sooner than others.” While waiting for the “click,” law school isn’t much fun. However, Hotshot He has always been good at exams. He assumes, incorrectly, that the cram tactics successfully employed in college or graduate school will ultimately bail him out.
Contrast the pitiful but familiar and accurately portrayed Hotshot He with a classmate who has been through LEEWS. We’ll call her “Clever She.”
Lest you doubt even for a moment that our portraiture is dead on for the
vast majority (over 85%) of 1Ls, even at the Yales, Harvards,
and Stanfords, talk to any upperclassman. Talk to any lawyer.
Three weeks into law school you’ll think we were resident in your
head while composing this.
Perspective: A student recently told Mr. Miller that her
professor had said to the class, "If 100 percent represents a perfect exam
response [every issue identified and addressed as a competent, knowledgeable
lawyer], most students will fall into the 30-35 percent range. Those who
score 35 percent will get A's."
In other words, wholly in accordance with how we at LEEWS see things (based
on decades of experience), as measured by the standard of competent, knowledgeable
lawyer, virtually every law student writes a mediocre exam, an incompetent
exam. Forget about innate, lawyering genius as the key to law school success!
Some are merely less competent, less confused, and they get the rare "A"
The task is merely to be less incompetent than fellow students, including
the ones who so impress in class. It is an eminently achievable goal!
Clever She doesn’t for a moment buy into the hype, the confusion, the posturing of classmates, the posturing of professors, and especially the self-serving myth of The Right Stuff. [Since professors and students on law review will be deemed to have The Right Stuff, which is highly flattering, they are naturally pleased to subscribe to and promote this notion.] Clever she understands that law school and lawyering is an intellectual game with different rules that will require hard work on her part, but it is not rocket science. It is altogether comprehensible and doable by anyone of sufficient intelligence to gain admission to law school, once the nature of the game is understood and certain new skills are acquired. Moreover —trust us—, CLASS PARTICIPATION DOESN’T COUNT, MIDTERMS (at mid semester) DON’T COUNT.
From day one Clever She points toward the only thing in law school that counts—the final exam. [Your grade will depend entirely on your performance on a typically 3-4 hour final exam. Once you get A’s in law school you are golden. Profs want you as a research assistant. Employers want you. Judges want you as a "clerk." Other higher ranking schools want you, should you care to transfer.] She understands that she must know “black letter law” — rules, principles — cold going into class, as professors rarely teach the law. [Not knowing the law beforehand is one reason students sit in class confused.]
However, Clever She also knows that she needs a “commercial outline” supplement to her casebook to get the complete picture of law that often only partially appears in cases. [These are the “Gilbert’s,” “Legal Lines,” etc. that professors will caution you against, because some students, usually upperclassmen, use them in lieu of purchasing textbooks. One professor called them “the crack cocaine of law school.” (Pretty funny.)] You can download the “Emanuels” commercial outline series free with the “lexis-nexis” research key you’ll be given upon registration. [However, we're told that such downloading takes forever. Better to just look for a used commercial outline. (See TIP just above.)]
Clever She does not waste time “briefing” cases in the conventional way suggested above. (Such half to page-long briefs, typed up by many 1Ls, are time consuming and, ironically, don’t go far enough in terms of getting what is needed from a case. Several weeks into law school most 1Ls begin “book briefing” – highlighting and making notes in the textbook itself. This takes less time, but is inefficient, as one must return to the case when constructing course outlines.)
HER CASE BRIEFS ARE TYPICALLY BUT 2-4 LINES IN LENGTH — just the legal “tool(s)” suggested by the case as being relevant to the final exam, and a ten word or less synopsis of the case. Everything else – issue, holding, rationale, etc. is in her head as a byproduct of understanding how the tool was applied in the case, how the result might be different if certain facts were changed, etc. She has “played with the facts” of the case beforehand, made up her own hypos, done exactly what one should do in preparing a case and preparing for the exam, and which few students ever do. If she was confused about the law, she has already been to the “hornbooks” in the library. [Also called “treatises,” hornbooks provide historical, philosophical, policy background, etc. for better understanding the wherefore and why of black letter legal rules.]
Clever She’s attitude going into class is “I think I understand this. Let’s see if there is anything new.” Since much of the class is wasted motion – fellow classmates fumbling about —, CLEVER SHE WILL TAKE NO MORE THAN A HALF PAGE TO A PAGE OF NOTES PER CLASS HOUR (versus 3-4 pages for most law students). At the end of each week Clever She has but 2-3 pages of notes and less than a page of case briefs for 3-4 hours of class (versus 10-15 pages of notes and several pages of briefs for the typical 1L). Her grasp of concepts is nevertheless superior. She now works on constructing "course outlines," which will be no more than 10-50 pages in length by the end of term (versus 100-150 pages for classmates). These outlines will be essentially complete by the last class. (Most classmates will now scramble to pull together outlines that will be incomplete, little understood, and largely ineffective).
Clever She is not worried about being called on. She knows that grading will be anonymous — Almost always! This protects professors as well as students. --, and class participation will count, if at all, at most a couple points. (Down, if a student is unprepared, say, three times. Up, if a student’s participation has been helpful AND he needs a boost because he blew the final.) Should Clever She be called on [She almost never volunteers, since she is not disposed to aid classmates.], she will acquit herself well enough and succinctly. Indeed, the professor will be impressed as Clever She drives straight to the heart of what the case stands for and shows the professor a lawyer’s view.
As the term progresses Clever She practices the LEEWS issue identification approach on old exams (often available in the library). She practices writing analysis of issues in concise paragraphs. She studies her professor (what are his/her particular interests?). She is strategic, scientific. She is confident, because SHE HAS AN APPROACH THAT WILL MAKE ALL EXAMS – no matter the subject, no matter the question or instruction posed – A PREDICTABLE, MANAGEABLE EXERCISE.
Taking an exam, Clever She doesn’t react to confusing hypos in the scattershot and confused manner that even the brightest students at Harvard and Stanford do. Rather, She immediately takes control with the disciplined LEEWS system for breaking ANY hypothetical-type fact pattern down into manageable components (which components in turn reveal “issues” the professor wants discussed). Having learned (as few law students do in three years!) how to analyze and present analysis “as a lawyer,” Clever She exploits the opportunity her exams offer to impress professors and earn top grades.
CLEVER SHE IS INTELLECTUALLY ENGAGED, UNDERSTANDS THE LAW SCHOOL GAME, AND USUALLY ENJOYS LAW SCHOOL. She outcompetes classmates on the final exam, including ones with higher LSAT scores, not because she is smarter or works harder – Most everyone in law school is smart and works hard. --, but because, unlike them, SHE HAS LEARNED HOW LAWYERS THINK AND APPLY LAW, TOOL-LIKE, TO FACTS, AND SHE HAS A SYSTEM FOR TAKING CONTROL OF ANY LAW ESSAY EXAM. Perhaps she will be like any number of our students. Their grades were so high that the professor told them, “I can’t post your grade, because it would skew the curve.” Of course they “Am Jured” (highest grade) and got A+ grades.
In sum, YOU CAN WORK HARD, LIKELY BE CONFUSED, AND HAVE LITTLE CHANCE AT RARE LAW SCHOOL A’s; OR YOU CAN WORK HARD, VERY LIKELY FIND LAW SCHOOL A STIMULATING INTELLECTUAL EXERCISE, AND HAVE A GOOD SHOT AT A’s.
Your professors will likely pooh-pooh LEEWS, even if they don’t know anything about us (excepting those many among the well over 100,000 law students we’ve instructed in 24 years who are presently law professors!). Law professors pooh-pooh all study aids. They resist the idea that handling their particular exam can be reduced to a formulaic approach. (“They can’t teach you how to take my exam,” they will insist.) But therein is what we know and instruct that goes far beyond IRAC (described under STANDARD ADVICE – FREE!) and the standard advice that everyone else offers. WE’VE DISCOVERED HOW ALL LEGAL PROBLEM SOLVING IS THE SAME EXERCISE AND CAN BE APPROACHED IN THE SAME WAY. Some professors may want more of a “policy” emphasis (discussion of the wider social implications of the law), but essentially the only difference course to course is the nature of the legal tools to be applied. (E. g., tort law — tort tools; property law — property tools; etc.)
Showing you this common denominator and how to exploit it (not just on law school exams and papers, but throughout your lawyering life), is the foundation of our unique and programmatic issue identification approach. Pulling apart ANY law essay exam becomes a predictable exercise.
Perhaps more important is our in depth instruction in how, exactly, to analyze “as a lawyer” (the KEY to impressing professors, and a skill few law students ever acquire). This instruction provides students with the true “Ah, ha!” moment. Few law students ever master “lawyerlike analysis.” (Most learn only when they begin practicing law. Learn or lose the case! ) Those who do have an enormous advantage. Only when you know how to “analyze as a lawyer” can you learn the law properly. Only then can you take away what you need from cases and brief in 2-4 lines. Only then do you have any chance of impressing and earning a top grade on all-important final exams.
We show you in addition how to present analysis of issues in concise paragraphs (roughly one per issue), how to brief cases in 2-4 lines and take minimal notes in class, how to construct a concise yet effective course outline designed to exploit the LEEWS issue identification approach, how commercial outlines and other study aids fit into the picture, policy versis black letter law emphasis, etc.
Grasping the full LEEWS approach to preparing for and taking exams takes a full day (7 hours live, 9+ in the audio program). Mastery of the many facets of the approach requires some practice, but it isn’t anything you shouldn’t already be doing (if you knew to do it). Anything less is mere IRAC and helpful hints. Useful, but not nearly enough.
Lest you doubt anything we’ve told you here or elsewhere, have a look at two books by Harvard law grads – David Kahlenberg’s Broken Contract, and Scott Turow’s One L. The confusion, fear, and frustration both express as being typical for 1Ls (e.g., Kahlenberg once skipped class, knowing he was next to be called on) is removed by LEEWS. Turow ended up getting very good grades, but with LEEWS he would have done so more predictably and with far less wasted motion. Also consider our guarantees of results and the FREE TRIAL we offer of both the live and audio program (click on GUARANTEES). No one else can or does offer such guarantees. We’re simply that sure you will be captivated by the system, insights, and instruction we offer, and it will vault you beyond your classmates.
Rummage around this website. There’s probably more than you want to know. It is our purpose and hope to give you all the information you need to make being successful in law school a near certainty, not a random possibility.
Question: Why do so few law students get A's? (Typically fewer than 10 percent of a class) Indeed, over 80 percent of first semester law students ("1Ls") don't get a single A (!!). And law students are smart, motivated types who have gotten A's all their lives. (It may be noted that professors are meeting the insistence at some [top] schools that more A's be awarded by giving A- grades.)
Answer: Law professors normally avoid the topic of exams. They'll say, "Oh. Don't worry about exams." Law students come to believe that what professors want on exams is subjective, even arbitrary. However, at a minimum law professors want to see something resembling a competent lawyer coming off the exam page. The standard of lawyerly competence is a fairly bright, clear line in every professor's mind. (They know it when they see it!) It is so rare that they see a competent lawyer coming off the page, they cannot in good conscience award an A grade.
Thus, even though the recommended first year curve is 20-30 percent A's at some few leading law schools -- e.g., U. Pennsylvania, U. Texas, Boalt Hall (Berkeley) --, we are told that professors rarely award more than 10-15 percent A's. They satisfy the curve requirement by giving A-'s, a grade that until recently did not exist in law school.
A's are so admired and hard to come by in law school that the few law
students who get them consistently (5-7%) can pretty much write their own
ticket. They are deemed "geniuses" of the law. LSAT score and college gpa
no longer matter. Such students are invited to be research assistants and
members of Law Review. Law firms covet them, no matter their school. They
can easily transfer to higher ranked schools.
Numerous LEEWS grads transfer to much higher ranked schools. E.g., to cite but a few that come to mind, Thomas Cooley to Washington Univ., Nova Southeastern to Duke, Chicago Kent to U. Michigan, Hofstra Univ. to Georgetown, U. Texas to Harvard. It came to our attention that two women from U. Tulsa law school who took LEEWS in the fall of '05 transferred to Georgetown Law. This was told to us by their friend, who along with several others who attended in Oklahoma City was on Law Review, and who agreed to be our U. Tulsa rep. (This result does not surprise us at all.)
Question: Can the skills necessary to write "A" exams be taught?
Answer: Because the "case method" of instruction popularized at Harvard and followed in every law school is so ineffective in teaching students how to perform "as a lawyer," as evidenced by the across-the-board mediocrity of the exams they read at the end of term, law professors almost without exception come to embrace the idea that writing an "A" exam requires an innate aptitude for the law — the "right stuff." (What Planet Law School calls a "natural born genius of the law.") This notion gets them off the hook. It excuses the exam incompetence of the bright and diligent students they have instructed an entire term. Further, the circumstance that the professor likely got A's in law school, and it is highly self flattering to think (and have others think) "I HAVE INNATE GENIUS," serves to promote the idea that how to write "A" exams is not something that can be taught.
Respecting resignation and satisfaction with B's, respecting the idea that writing the A exam requires some innate layering aptitude (the "right stuff"), we say "nonsense." The skills and insights required to prepare for and write "A" exams can be taught. We have done so with great success for over 25 years.
Given the awe and intimidation the typical person feels in contemplating entry into an institution so august as law school, it is understandable that you would be skeptical if told that law schools without exception do a lousy job training lawyers. But the proof lies in our nearly 30 years of experience instructing what law schools don't. (We have yet to encounter even a third year law student who doesn't find what we instruct new and deeply helpful[!!].) It lies in the circumstance that newly minted law school graduates have no clue how to properly advise a prospective client (apart from what they may have learned in a clinical program at school, or "clerking" for a lawyer or law firm). It lies in the criticism of law schools by lawyers and even justices of the United States Supreme Court. It lies in the circumstance that the primary purpose of the bar exam (that almost all law graduates must pass prior to officially becoming lawyers) is to ensure minimal competence. It lies in the frustration most law students feel after working assiduously "briefing" cases and attending to class discussion, only to find they have no concept of how to handle all-important final exams with mastery.
As a University of Maryland law student put it in a recent edition of The National Jurist (a magazine distributed free at most law schools):
"Law school professors are always lecturing that you need to learn to 'think like a lawyer.' As a student, most of the time you have no idea what they mean. Think about what, my fee? About what shoes will best match my briefcase? What are they talking about?"
Simply stated, the emperor that is law schools has no clothes. We at LEEWS are sufficiently experienced, independent, and confident of what we are about to say so.
In a nutshell, for most the case method fails to adequately instruct HOW, exactly, lawyers apply law to facts in the process known as "lawyerlike analysis." However, this skill can certainly be learned. Law students eventually learn it the way lawyers learned it before there were law schools — in practice. The key is to learn it now — first term of law school!
Moreover, students don't know how to dissect confusing fact patterns (so-called "hypotheticals") to reveal issues. Even if they know how to analyze as a lawyer, they don't know how to present analysis concisely on paper. And because they are clueless about analysis, they don't get what they need from cases and class discussion to adequately prepare for all-important final exams.
Absent learning these skills (and some others, such as how to brief a case in 2-4 lines, how to take less than a page of notes per class hour, and how to construct an effective 30-50 page course outline), it doesn't matter how smart or diligent a law student is. He/she has no real shot at mastering a law exam and getting an A.
What surprises us is that law students think they can learn the several skills needed to have a chance at A's in an hour-long, chatty lecture (such as Professor Whitebread of BAR-BRI gives), or by writing a couple practice exams and simply going over the standard IRAC and do's and don'ts.
Sorry, dear reader. There are no shortcuts (although much wasted motion can be avoided). We need a full day of your attention to inculcate the necessary knowledge and skills. And a certain amount of followup practice.
However the reward in terms not only of good grades and all they will bring, but of enjoyment of law school, is incalculable.
"LEEWS is fantastic. It really explains how to write law school exams better than IRAC by teaching the specifics of analysis. It provides a sure-fire way to find most/all of the issues, and teaches students everything they need to know to prepare. It's the best kept secret in our school!"
— Kristin Ketelhut, U. Miami '08
Obviously, we are a business. We offer a product — a roughly 7+ hour program, live or audio CD (slightly longer), supplemented with a book, designed to enable a law student at any school and in any course to write an "A" exam. It is not simply a what-to-do-the-day-of-the-exam. It is also a what-to-do-every-day, every-week-leading-up-to-the-exam. It is a complete system of preparation and exam execution, polished and proven effective for over 25 years.
What troubles us is that we distribute advertising at over 170 law schools. However, typically no more than 5-10 percent of students at a given law school decide to purchase our product. (Sometimes word gets out and 20-25 percent of a 1L class attends or orders LEEWS, many out of self defense.) This is a good thing for our customers. (Seriously, the smartest and most diligent student at Harvard would have difficulty writing a better exam than a diligent student of average aptitude who does LEEWS [!!].) However, it suggests that we need to do more to overcome the extreme skepticism of law students that anything exists that can make a meaningful difference. This skepticism is abetted by the typical disdain law professors express toward outside study aids.
We have to show you how and why LEEWS is different from all other study aids, and how and why we make such a difference in law students entire experience of law school, not just exam performance, that they are reluctant to tell even close friends among classmates about us.
WE HAVE TO PERSUADE YOU THAT LEEWS IS NOTHING SHORT OF A REVOLUTION IN HOW TO APPROACH LAW SCHOOL AND LAW EXAMS(!!).
"They call for exams, you turn it in, and whew! ... You're exhausted. It's like everything's been sucked out of your brain. ... But you feel pretty good. I think most law students feel pretty good at the end of that first exam. Because you have a comforting sense of 'I survived it! ... Yeah, I passed.' ... That's a funny reaction, isn't it, for someone accustomed to getting A's all his life? But such is the confusion and anxiety engendered by the hypothetical-type essay exam, ... You're happy just to pass."
— LEEWS founder, Wentworth Miller, to LEEWS live attendees
"The first few weeks of law school I was excited and motivated to learn as much as I could. I actually found law school enjoyable. Then I hit a wall, and everything became a burden. I've taken some practice midterms, and the only strategy I had to rely on was IRAC. The "Blender" and strategies learned today [at live LEEWS program] will be primo. I believe! Once again I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Bring it on, Professor!"
— Gregory Smoler, Pepperdine '06
"The program re-invigorated me. I was feeling defeated by the prospect of [a second round of] exams, but now am eager to study and see if this works."
— Monica Brown, Duke '04 (attending spring term)
It is a great feeling to have completed first term law school exams. You've taken an important first step in becoming a lawyer. You are no longer nervous about law school and whether you have what it takes to get through. Why then are you not more buoyant as you return to law school? Indeed, why for the great majority of law students following first term does the remainder of law school loom as a boring slog to be endured, not enjoyed?
It has to do with the circumstance that despite intelligence, diligence, in many instances a near 4.0 gpa in college, and grade inflation, the great majority of first semester law students — over 80 percent, even at Harvard! — won't receive a single A grade (!!). Not one!
Typically, no more than 10 percent of grades in law school are A's. No more than 5-7 percent of law students manage more than one A. Those few who get A's are said to have "the Right Stuff," an innate aptitude or genius for the law. (They are mockingly called "natural born geniuses of the law" in the book, Planet Law School.) For them opens up the world of Law Review, research assistantships, judicial clerkships, and plum, high-paying jobs.
Most everyone else, over 80 percent of the class, a mere semester into law school and having worked diligently for B's and C's, conclude that they lack the Right Stuff. For remaining semesters they are second class citizens in the law school.
This needn't be the case. A's are imminently possible. Law school can be the stimulating intellectual experience it should be.
The first semester slide to mediocre performance and boredom
As described in the portrait of new 1Ls below, one begins law school with great excitement. You meet smart, ambitious classmates. You begin the initiation into the mysterious language and canons of America's most influential profession. The atmosphere is electric with anticipation. Law professors are godlike. You brief cases furiously as instructed, immediately recognizing the power inherent in legal knowledge. You marvel at the erudite responses of some classmates, sympathize at the squirming of others, and dread you own turn in the socratic hotseat. You're anxious, but you feel special.
By midsemester excitement has been replaced by fatigue and growing concern. Writing out case briefs has become impossibly burdensome. You abandon this for highlighting and notes in the case margins (so-called "book briefing"). Class notes are becoming mountainous. Most disconcerting, you've had little feedback on how you are doing, whether you are on the right track. A library research and writing assignment was exhausting and turned out merely so-so. Class discussion only occasionally makes sense. You're getting bored. A midterm exam is a splash of cold water in the face. You have no idea what to do with the crazy "hypothetical" fact pattern that ended with the cryptic instruction, "Discuss and resolve all legal issues." You wonder what exactly an issue is, but are afraid to ask.
As november approaches, the forbidding specter of final exams begins to loom. Despite professors' admonitions to "not worry about exams," you cast about for help. The chatty, 45 minute exam writing session offered by BAR-BRI, the bar exam prep colossus, is somewhat reassuring, although the free pizza was cold. Maybe you should get one of those commercial outlines professors cautioned against. A peek at an old exam is unnerving. Haltingly, you start outlining your courses.
The apprehension of the great majority of law students respecting exams and preparedness proves well founded. Far from an exercise in exhibiting mastery and control, ten minutes into the typical law school exam 85 percent of students, including those at Harvard, Stanford, Yale, are put on the defensive. Fact patterns confuse. Instructions like "Pretend you're a judge ...," "Contrast the holdings in ...," etc. make matters worse. Most telling, even when an issue is "spotted," almost without exception students haven't learned how to analyze "as a lawyer." So they flail and flounder and regurgitate legal precepts and give a nod to "apply the law to the facts," and ....
And this confused effort results in a mediocre product richly deserving a mediocre grade. In point of fact, because the grade inflation that has made nearly half of grades in college A's has infiltrated law schools, most law students, especially those at top tier schools, will receive B's and a C or two for their mediocre efforts. It is what the inflated grading curve mandates.
Despite having been "A" students beforehand, given their apprehension and inadequacy taking exams, most law students are reasonably happy to get B's. Having done everything they were told to do, having worked so hard to little avail, they reason that mastery of the exam process is beyond them. they buy into the self-serving notion of the Right Stuff that is prevalent in all law schools.
Having concluded they lack the Right Stuff, the great majority of law students now resign themselves to enduring more boring classes culminating in mediocre exam performance. The only solace is that there is no longer the fear of first term. Moreover, B's can be achieved with a whole lot less work. Inspiration and interest will now be sought in pursuits extracurricular to the classroom, such as membership on a lesser journal, moot court competition, or a prisoner legal rights project.
The myth and fallacy of the "Right Stuff"
"The mystique about law school exams is perpetrated largely by those who have done well. They want everyone to think that they have an uncanny ability to master the whole supposedly esoteric process. There is nothing uncanny about it at all. It's simply a matter of organization and application. I now realize that I'm as capable as my peers who received better grades. They just happened to learn about LEEWS before me."
— Carol Vassallo, Georgetown '85
We term the notion of the Right Stuff self serving, because those few who do well in law school — your professors, members of law review — are pleased to be thought to have IT. More to the point, it serves to excuse the obvious circumstance that the great majority of heretofore academically able law students sit bored and uncomprehending in class, and after a semester of instruction perform at such a mediocre level on exams. Is the deficiency in the instruction of the student? The right Stuff notion suggests the latter and takes professors and law schools off the hook of blame.
Note, however, that the supposed superiority of exams that warrant A's is as much a function of the mediocrity of other students' exams as of any special aptitude or ability of the student writing the "A" exam. To paraphrase Mr. Miller's quote that opens this web segment:
"It's not so much that you have to write an excellent exam to get an A, as that most law students write lousy exams. If you can write a reasonably competent exam, by comparison with others it will seem excellent."
This is why LEEWS could guarantee B's long before grade inflation made B's the norm. This is why so many LEEWS grads, doubtless no smarter, no more hard working than classmates, not only consistently write "A" exams, but so often "Am Jur" their classes (get the highest grade). Instances have been reported to us where a professor called a LEEWS grad aside to say, "I can't post your grade, because it is too much higher than the curve." (E.g., a 109 when 85-100 merited an A.
"My first attempt at a legal memo followed many LEEWS ideas. My memo was used as an example in class. The teacher asked, 'Where did you learn to write like this?'"
— Alec Egizi, Loyola (Chicago) '08
We've read many model "A" exams that professors keep on file. Usually we're unimpressed. the analysis is pedestrian by standards of competent practicing lawyers. However, the great majority of law students are so poorly schooled in the nitpicking dialectic of "lawyerlike analysis," that by contrast with other exams the effort impresses. Introduce a little "policy" (discussion of what the law could or should be, the underlying social policy implications), and you have an "A" exam.
Of course there is also the problem of not being overwhelmed by complex "hypothetical" (made up) fact patterns and cyptic instructions (e.g., "Draft a set of instructions to guide a jury in resolving the issues in the foregoing fact pattern"). There is further the problem of presenting analysis concisely.
The failure of the case method of instruction
READING AND DISCUSSING CASES SIMPLY DOESN'T CUT THE MUSTARD IN TERMS OF INCULCATING WHAT IT IS LAWYERS DO AND HOW THEY THINK IN APPLYING LEGAL PRECEPTS TO FACTS.
Law students must be disabused of the academic mindset most bring to the study of law. The case method of legal instruction, popularized at Harvard and followed in almost all law schools, supposes that by encountering legal precepts in the context of actual cases setting forth arguments and reasoning of lawyers and judges, law students will learn how to "think as lawyers."
Not at all. No more than lectures in a classroom will instruct how to ride a horse or negotiate a curve at 150 mph in a NASCAR vehicle. Excepting a very few students who catch on by dint of a mindset acquired prior to entering law school — often math/science/philosophy types given to a close, nitpicking, analytic thought process analogous to that of practicing lawyers --, it doesn't work.
Here's an example. Imagine a case (legal/factual scenario) introducing the tort (injury meriting legal redress) of battery. The professor calls upon a student to give the facts, procedure, issue, rule, holding, rationale of the case (standard components of a "case brief"). The focus of students in preparing (the night before) for such a request is to gather information they may be required to regurgitate. Ah! Gather and regurgitate information! It is something every new law student has done and probably done well since grade school.
But suddenly the professor says, "How might the result (holding) be different if ..." The professor alters the facts and wants analysis — application of law presumptively known and understood — not to the facts of the assigned case (that application is already set forth), but to new facts. The professor has introduced a "hypothetical" (made up fact scenario). The professor wants the principle of battery applied to new facts to determine a probable outcome that likely will differ from that in the assigned case. Moreover as the student endeavors to respond, the professor will challenge by interjecting with more "what ifs." This is the intimidating, so-called "Socratic method."
Problem is, the assigned case is invariably an appellate opinion, wherein only those elements of the legal definition of battery that were actually contested at the trial level will be discussed (perhaps intent or privilege). Therefore, the complete law of battery, including elements not contested (perhaps caontact and offensive) may not be set forth in the case. Moreover, presentation in the case of corollaries to the law (e.g., a definition of the element of privilege — creating subelements!) have likely further muddied understanding of what exactly constitutes a battery. Further, students have not been instructed that in analyzing whether a battery occurred, a lawyer or judge will alanyze each of the (four) component elements separately. Indeed, if one attempts to analyze "battery" all at once, in effect trying to alayze four things at once, the likely result is confusion as different strands of analysis overlap.
"Professors talk about how the most important thing is analysis, but they give no systematic approach whereby 1Ls can grasp this prior to ruining their gpa."
— Stephen Smith, Florida Coastal School of Law (Jacksonville, FL) '08
In other words the professor expects students to glean the art of lawyerly analysis by reading examples of analysis, but never stops and, hands-on, shows students, step by step, the mechanics of analysis — how lawyers in a courtroom would argue, element by element, carefully parsing facts relevant to each element being contested (seeking additional facts if need be), en route to establishing whether the overall precept of battery obtains. Nor, of course, is the perspective of what lawyers do ever given (achieve client objectives by means of legal strategies!). Such perspective would make the classroom exercise far more meaningful. Battery would be understood as a tool the student might one day use in practice on behalf of a client, rather than merely a concept to be explored as an academic exercise.
Nor does a law professor normally stop and enunciate (or elicit) a clear and complete "black letter" definition of battery. As noted, the words "lawyer" and "attorney" are rarely heard in a law school classroom.
Here is a serious error made by most law students — they fail to apply themselves to learning relevant "black letter" rules prior to class. Why? Because they expect the professor at some point to enunciate such rules.
However, law professors don't see themselves, nor do they want to be seen as mere facilitators of bar exam success. By definition disposed more toward teaching and academics than assisting actual clients (practicing law), law professors want to inspire students to "think" about the law and its (new) possibilities. It doesn't seem to occur to them that this is not possible until students are grounded in what the law IS. Law professors know the law, but tend to be bored by it. they are more interested in what the law could or should be — "policy" aspects. They convey this bent in classroom discussion rife with theorizing and speculation about economic and social science underpinnings of never clearly articulated legal precepts. They abet rather than counteract the academic bent of their students.
Then suddenly, jarringly, on the exam the professor wants students to be lawyers. The instruction at the end of a confusing fact scenario typically says, "Imagine you are party X's lawyer," "Imagine you are a law clerk preparing a memo."
"Finally someone who just tells you what to do, how to do it, and why!"
— Viral Mehta, Boston U. '08
Eager, bright, and diligent students typically only begin to learn how to analyze and perform as lawyers when they work for a law firm in a summer clerkship and are guided by actual attorneys (or in a moot court or mock trial exercise).
Arguably, there is no need for law schools! Would-be lawyers could learn their trade by apprenticing in the offices of experienced lawyers, as they did prior to the advent of law schools. Arguably they still do. Certainly apprenticeship was good enough for Abraham Lincoln and Clarence Darrow, both still recognized as highly skilled lawyers.
THE FAULT IN SUM DOES NOT LIE WITH LAW STUDENTS THAT THEY SIT PERPLEXED IN CLASS AND CANNOT ANALYZE AND PERFORM "AS LAWYERS" ON EXAMS.
Getting A's in law school isn't a matter of innate lawyering aptitude. Analyzing "as a lawyer" is something anyone of reasonable intelligence can learn very quickly if properly instructed. As noted, most every lawyer two years into practice has IT, or a reasonable facsimile of IT — what professors wanted them to get back in the first semester of law school.
Those very few who manage to pierce the fog of law school instruction and manage something approximately lawyerly analysis on exams (and thereby impress by looking better than their clueless classmates) are merely a bit ahead in the learning curve. There is no "you have it, or you don't." There is nothing innate, no Right Stuff. It's just who acquires the requisite and eminently learnable skills sooner.
This is what LEEWS instruction takes advantage of — the confusion of the great majority of law students who labor intensely but cluelessly, and who listen to professors who pooh-pooh a program like LEEWS. This is why students who do LEEWS perform so well and won't tell others about LEEWS. Law students are not so different in ability. However, those who by luck, knack, or proper instruction catch on to certain skills will perform so much better than their peers.
Law school as the stimulating, even enjoyable experience it can and should be
Contrast with the above the law student who from day one of the school term understands the following:
1) One day he or she will represent a client who has sought legal assistance because of a problem that warrants the considerable time and expense entailed in engaging a lawyer.
2) As a lawyer he/she will define the client objective (damages, clear title to property, etc.), and the facts of the case, coupled with the lawyer's knowledge, will map out the law and legal strategy to be employed and pursued.
3) Moreover, the student has learned how to "analyze as a lawyer," and knows he/she will be called upon on the final exam to parse "issues" from fact patterns and apply the law encountered during the term to resolve those issues in an exercise similar to what lawyers do everyday.
4) And further the student knows how to do this parsing and analysis, and how to present analysis in concise paragraphs (roughly one per issue).
Now we have a student for whom reading and briefing cases and attending class makes sense. He/she is being introduced to legal tools that not only may be relevant on the final exam, but my be of practical use one day.
He/she learns the law by thinking not only about how it was applied in the assigned case, but by altering the facts, making up his/her own hypotheticals (!!), much as the professor will do in class the next day. If need be, additional sources — a commercial outline, a hornbook — are consulted to flesh out and clarify the black letter rule(s). All of this prior to attending class. However, very little is actually written down. ) Only the black letter law and a ten word synopsis of facts to trigger recollection of the law's application in a case whose precise facts will never be encountered again — hence a 2-4 line case brief[!!].) MORE THINKING, LESS SCRIBBLING!
He/she is curious. ... About what nuance of interpretation or argument or fact caused one or more judges to dissent, and another to write a concurring opinion, etc. The point is not to memorize the facts, etc. of an assigned case. Rather, the point is to know the law introduced so as to be able to apply it to new facts.
The law student comes to class with the law pretty well understood and curiosity about what in addition the professor and classmates can contribute. ... For example, does the professor have a quibble with an element of the definition? ... This would be new law or alternative law. ... So two versions of law should be noted and applied on an exam, and the differing results contrasted and evaluated (with the professor's version ultimately being favored!).
You're following the professor as he/she introduces new facts that alter the analysis. A completely irrelevant tangent introduced by a clasmate can be ignored (no notes!). What is the professor really interested in? Was a law review article mentioned that should be consulted?
The idea, always, is WHAT DO I NEED FOR THE FINAL EXAM? The idea is to brief case in no more than 2-4 lines, and take no more than a page or less of class notes per class hour. Which notes will be merged into the growing course outline on a weekly basis.
This student is thinking, not scribbling. Class discussion is comprehensible. The student knows where it is all heading, and feels confident, in control. The mind is stimulated, not numbed. Class is sometimes boring, but there are sufficiant thought-provoking aspects to maintain interest.
Law school still entails a lot of work, but it is meaningful work focused on a clearly understood goal (the final exam). There is little mystery and little anxiety. Rather, there is excitement, anticipation of testing one's knowledge and thinking against fellow students, the professor, the exam. Third year of law school still seems unnecessary, but there are electives that may amuse. Law school overall is palatable, often interesting, and more often fun.
1) When should I take LEEWS?
In winter/spring of 2008 the following message was posted. We repeat it for winter/spring 2009:
Now — first year following the first set of exams — is the very best time to do LEEWS!
Why? Because ...
— Having experienced exams, you will understand and appreciate what we offer and do so much better;
— Understanding their importance, you're more likely to do the 10-20 minute practice exercises necessary to perfect and implement facets of the LEEWS approach — inter alia, writing concise paragraphs to master the critical skill of "lawyerlike analysis";
— It would be great to start the new term with renewed hope and confidence, not the discouragement most students feel after not getting a single "A" grade, and little to do different other than focus on learning black letter law, and begin outlines earlier;
—"A" grades ARE possible! (A high LSAT; IRAC; being a "good writer;"
an "innate lawyering aptitude that you either have or don't"
[the "Right Stuff"] — the standard things said to be necessary
to do well in law school, are of little relevance.)
— Law school can and should be much more enjoyable than it is;
— Given what law school costs, $100-160 invested in a proven science of preparing for and writing "A" exams simply makes sense.
Second year and even third year of law school is not too late to finally learn how the game is played. You'll brief in 2-4 lines, take far fewer notes, and construct an effective 30-50 page course outline, while comprehending and getting much more out of class and cases. Suddenly law school will make sense. You'll have confidence and focus.
Law school graduates preparing for the bar gain confidence and a new perspective when they do LEEWS. However, the program is focused on first years. An hour and a half or so of the instruction will be irrelevant to a law graduate.
The summer before law school is a good time to do the audio program, then again six weeks into first term. We don't think anyone should go through the confusion and disappointment most law students experience first term. However, there is no question but those who do LEEWS after the first set of exams predictably grasp, appreciate, and implement the instruction best.
The missteps of the first set of exams are not ingrained, and the experience of having had exams reassures that LEEWS is on track. You are more likely to do the necessary followup, less likely to pollute and dilute our instruction with advice gleaned from professors and other sources (which is not necessarily wrong, but is always partial and often misleading). The important thing is that you gain confidence and renew the enthusiasm for school that has likely been lost or severely diminished.
The foregoing notwithstanding, as noted previously, even a week before exams is not too late to gain substantial benefit from LEEWS. The gulf between what the typical law student knows and needs to know is that great.
2) Audio CD program or live program?
Both programs are up-to-date and effective. The audio program costs more ($150 vs. $120 [less for groups]), because you pay for the CDs, case, diagrams, packaging and shipping. However, you can use it more than once and later re-sell it. You move along at your own pace. Often students share the cost and get extra books.
The advantage of the live program is that it is more energetic. You're there, you get it done. The book that accompanies all programs is sufficient for followup practice and review of anything that remains unclear. Doing the audio program requires self discipline. You have to start and go through the program. It is longer than the 7-hour live program (9-10 hours), because there is somewhat more instruction, and additional time is needed to refer to diagrams that are simply gestured at in the live program. The audio program is independently produced, interesting, and fewer than 1 in 100 take advantage of the 10-day free trial of the program (!!). (See "Registration/Order/Cost" section of website for details.)
Those who work their way through the audio program seem consistently to do well. However, some never get around to doing the program or do not get all the way through. (The critical skill of analysis is not addressed until CD #6.) This is why we do not extend the grade guarantee to the audio program.
Thus, you must know yourself. LEEWS is effective even days before exams. However, the earlier the better if you want to take advantage of the instruction respecting day-to-day and week-to-week preparation, if you want the confidence, focus, and sense of control LEEWS provides. Our advice is GET THE AUDIO PROGRAM NOW, AND DO IT!
3) Is it too late in the term for LEEWS to make a difference?
In November (or April) as exams fast approach and 1Ls suddenly realize 1) Oops!, I need to start nailing down black letter law; 2) I am far from completing course outlines, and I am unlikely to have time to wade through the mountain of notes taken in each class — [Correct. They are largely useless!] --; and 3) having finally looked at some old exams, I have no idea how to address them [Indeed, what is an "issue?"; the following is what someone visiting this website wants to know:
Is it too late in the term for LEEWS to make a difference?
Answer: The sooner you have perspective on what lawyers do, learn (finally!) how to do analysis, and understand what you want to extract from cases and class discussion in preparation for exams as you progress, day-by-day, week-by-week through the term, the better. That being said, students have done the LEEWS audio program during the exam period and benefitted greatly. Mere days and weeks before the exam period is ample time for LEEWS to provide a significant boost in exam performance. Here's an example:
June '05 Letter from a Fall '04 Student who took LEEWS one week before her first exam:
I took your class in Miami less than one week before my first law school
exam. Indeed, of my 3 friends who attended, I was the skeptic.
Imagine my surprise, astonishment, etc., when fall grades came
back — A, A, A, B+, B. I made Dean's List (top 20% of the class)!!
I didn't think it could possibly get any better. ... BUT, somehow (OK, due to your system) it did. Spring semester grades came back yesterday, and (drum roll) ... A, A, A, A, A!!!
I was amazed. Thank you so much. Your program was incredibly informative and gave me the skills I needed to perform the way I did. I still cannot believe how wonderful your program strategy and my grades are!
It's remarkable how much the LEEWS method changed my perception of law school exams. Call me crazy (or a complete nerd), but I actually had FUN taking my exams this past semester, in whole because I was confident and prepared, not only with respect to the material, but more so with respect to the method/strategy of how to approach and structure an exam.
I will be a mentor for the incoming 1L class. I am telling them about LEEWS asap!
Regards, Lauren J. Grous, University of Miami, 2007
[Indeed, the "Lauren Group" of 14 attended the following fall's live Miami program. Thanks, Lauren!]
[Here's what Lauren said on the evaluation questionnaire she filled out at the 11/28/04 live program: "Very valuable Program. Exams begin 12/3 (next Friday), but I feel as if my possible study/freak-out time was well spent. Thank you!"]
The reason is that even the smartest, most diligent law students never learn how, exactly, to "analyze as a lawyer." Without this skill, "A" grades are out of reach(!!). LEEWS instructs the art of analysis better than anyone else. Once the dialectic of analysis is grasped, with minimal practice (a few 10-20 minute exercises) you are suddenly among the few with a chance to impress and compete for rare A'. Add to this newfound skill our system for pulling apart any essay hypothetical fact pattern to reveal issues other students overlook, and our instruction on how to present analysis in concise paragraphs (roughly one per issue), and improved exam performance is inevitable.
Of course, two weeks before exams is better than during exams. (More time to implement LEEWS instruction re building a course outline geared to implementing the issue identification system.) A month prior is better yet, as you will begin to implement the 2-4 line case briefing technique, as well as taking fewer class notes and building even better course outlines.
-- / --
Adviso posted in the introduction at the home page in December, 2008 (Essentially repeats the foregoing and advice offered elsewhere,
but here it is again. We plan to lift and post it at said introduction
every December. As always, there may be some additional useful
kernels of information.):
However, at this point in the term -- December exams fast approaching;
mountains of class notes to make sense of; just getting started
on course outlines; midterms (or looking at old exams) having
persuaded that you face a major problem --, what you want to know
IS IT WORTH TAKING A DAY OFF FROM OUTLINING TO ATTEND A PROGRAM IN
A HOTEL SOMEWHERE (OR DO THE AUDIO PROGRAM)? ... CAN LEEWS
REALLY HELP, ... MAKE THAT BIG A DIFFERENCE?!
Our emphatic answer is "YES!" Early in the term would have been better,
but anxiety over approaching exams will make you very energetic
and efficient in the next couple weeks. Here's some good news!
The cluelessness of even the smartest law students respecting what
is required and how to address confusing law essay exams is your
great ally. (They've been busy mostly briefing and taking [largely
useless] class notes just like you!) If you can acquire skills and
a system that they lack, you'll be among the front runners.
Consider the reaction of one Lauren Grous (U. Miami '07), who attended
a live LEEWS program at the end of November in her first term
(one of over 900 attested student reactions at this website, from
over 190 law schools!):
“Very valuable program. Exams begin 12/3 (next Friday), but I feel as if my possible study/freak-out time was well spent. Thank you!"”
[Indeed! Lauren wrote us in June '05. (Letter reprinted under “Results.”) She received 3 A's, a B+, and a B first term. More practice with the LEEWS system and instruction in spring term (which term she described as "FUN!") resulted in all (5!) A's. Of course, Lauren went on to make law review, become a TA (and send 14 of her tutees to LEEWS), land a federal clerkship, etc. Hers is a LEEWS story repeated over and over.]
Here's the deal, the so-called "bottom line." What your professor wants to see, what every professor in every law school wants to see (!!), whether they know it or not, is a lawyer well versed in his/her subject area coming off the exam page. (What else could they want?!) Only those few students who approximate this, identifying relevant issues and applying relevant law to relevant facts in the dialectic known as "lawyerlike analysis," will compete for rare law school A's.
The idea that only a few students are capable of this, and therefore deserving of A's -- i.e., have an innate lawyering genius or aptitude ... The Right Stuff! -- is a myth, a self-serving myth. (Justifies the failure of law schools and law professors to adequately train lawyers; flatters those who get A's, including law professors.) Some few students do have a habit of mind that lends itself to such analysis, normally acquired long before long school, but every law student is capable of such analysis. Most will learn the art only when actually practicing law. Law school "case method" instruction is ineffective at conveying it.
Because law school instruction fails utterly to convey HOW, exactly, lawyers pull apart and analyze complex fact patterns, the great majority of law students, even at Harvard, will have no shot at A's (!!). Confusing, intimidating essay "hypotheticals" will immediately put even those students who seem brilliant in class on the defensive.
Most law students (over 85 percent) flounder, flail, and produce a rambling effort that bears little resemblance to what a competent lawyer would produce. The B's awarded as a matter of course at most top schools are a gift. In fact they are a bribe, an attempt by professors and the schools to mask the ineptness of their instruction (!!).That's where LEEWS makes the difference. No one has devised so effective a process for breaking down ANY essay fact pattern to reveal relevant issues. Not even close. No one instructs the art of analysis so thoroughly and effectively. And no one has developed a format for presenting analysis in concise paragraphs that impress -- roughly one per issue -- that approaches ours. So inept are the great majority of law students, that even students who attend our 11/30 live program in NYC will compete for top grades in their classes. It has been so for 28 years!
"I learned more about 'thinking like a lawyer' in one Saturday [at LEEWS] than I have from reading hundreds upon hundreds of casebook pages in my first five weeks of law school."
— Tom Misteli, SMU '08
"It bothers me that I learned more about lawyerlike skills in one day for $105 than I learned in 2 years of law school for $60,000. I'm so completely satisfied that I'm at a loss for words ... Shocked."
— Kalimah Ahmad, Seton Hall '04 (as a 2L)
"Excellent tool for becoming a lawyer. Learned more about lawyerlike analysis than in 1 ½ years of law school or 4 months working at a firm."
— Katherine Bierwas, Seton Hall ’02 (as a 2L)
"If only I'd known what I know now when I was in law school, things would have been very different." — typical comment of practicing attorneys
What lawyers mean by this is that they would have approached their studies differently, and they would have performed better on exams. What is it that lawyers typically learn AFTER law school that would have made such a difference?
If you practice law for a year or two, you understand that the role of lawyers is to assist clients (an individual, a corporation, etc.) in achieving goals (obtain money damages, stay out of jail [the reverse as a prosecutor], stop a business competitor from stealing trade secrets, etc.) by employing legal strategies and legal precepts suggested by the facts and circumstances of the "case." The legal precepts will be rules, principles, statutes, precedents set forth in prior cases, etc. You understand that legal precepts are in effect tools employed by lawyers to assist in achieving client goals. Further, you develop skill at applying legal tools to facts so as to persuade judges, jurys, local, state, and federal agencies and regulatory bodies, etc. on behalf of client aims and interests. You develop skill at "lawyerlike analysis."
Surprisingly (disturbingly?), for the vast majority of law students none of this comes clear in 1-4 years of instruction at any of the 200+ American law schools. Not at Harvard, Yale, or Stanford! Law professors do not say (as they should), "All roads at law lead potentially to a courtroom. Courtrooms presuppose an adversarial proceeding. The job of lawyers is to assist clients in such proceedings, skillfully employing any and all relevant facts and legal strategies they can muster." Indeed, the words "lawyer" and "attorney" are seldom heard in law school classrooms.
If in addition to this perspective and skill at analysis you had a system for breaking down the so-called "hypothetical" fact patterns that are the mainstay of ALL first year law exams to reveal relevant "issues," and further for presenting analysis of these issues in concise paragraphs (roughly one per issue), not only would you likely write rare law school "A" exams consistently, but you would have much more focus and understanding in your classes. Law school would likely be the stimulating and even enjoyable intellectual experience it should be.
"Why don't they teach this week one in law school?!"
— Toby Koenig, Wayne State '08
To know what lawyers know and the great majority of law students do not, in particular to learn how to analyze "as a lawyer" (prerequisite to learning the law properly) and a proven effective system for breaking down "hypotheticals" and presenting analysis concisely, cannot be gleaned in a 45 minute to two hour recitation of timeworn and ineffective advice and strategies, followed by administration and review of a practice exam. If that is what you are looking for, go immediately to the "Standard Advice — Free!" segment of this website. Digest it, find and attempt an old exam or two, then ask a professor to go over your response(s). You'll have the gist of what all other exam-writing study aids offer, including sessions your professors and upperclassmen may conduct. You'll surely be in a better place than you are without such knowledge. You'll feel better. But you will likely continue to sit confused and bored in class, and you are unlikely to write a single "A" exam. (Over 80 percent of law students don't get a single A first semester, even at Harvard!)
In short, if you want what we offer and the results we guarantee, it will require investment of a minimal amount of money ($95-145), 7-9 hours of instruction (depending upon whether you opt for a one-day live program versus the somewhat longer but equally effective audio CD program, and whether you register singly or as part of a group — see details at "Register/Order/Cost"), plus several hours of followup practice. You'll make up this time by avoiding the many hours of wasted motion ALL law students engage in (including the ones who do well without our assistance). But, of course, you'll have to trust us in that regard (and our near 30 years of experience).
"As a 1L [first term law student], it's easy to feel like you're just keeping up — treading water. LEEWS has given me a sense of confidence, because I now have a plan. That sense of security and preparedness is priceless."
— Kevin Y., Vanderbilt '08
Because this is often the result. ...
June '05 Letter from a Fall '04 Student who took LEEWS very late in the term
I took your class in Miami less than one week before my first law school exam. Indeed, of my 3 friends who attended, I was the skeptic. Imagine my surprise, astonishment, etc., when fall grades came back — A, A, A, B+, B. I made Dean's List (top 20% of the class)!!
I didn't think it could possibly get any better ... BUT, somehow (OK, due to your system) it did. Spring semester grades came back yesterday, and (drum roll) ... A, A, A, A, A!!!
I was amazed. Thank you so much. Your program was incredibly informative and gave me the skills I needed to perform the way I did. I still cannot believe how wonderful your program strategy and my grades are!
It's remarkable how much the LEEWS method changed my perception of law school exams. Call me crazy (or a complete nerd), but I actually had FUN taking my exams this past semester, in whole because I was confident and prepared, not only with respect to the material, but more so with respect to the method/strategy of how to approach and structure an exam.
I will be a mentor for the incoming 1L class. I am telling them about LEEWS asap!
Regards, Lauren J. Grous, University of Miami, 2007
[Indeed. The "lauren group" of 14 attended the following fall's live LEEWS program in Miami. Thanks, Lauren!]
[Here's what Lauren said on the questionnaire we handed her at the 11/28/04
live program: "Very valuable program. Exams begin 12/3
(next Friday), but I feel as if my possible study/freak-out
time was well spent. Thank you!"]
If LEEWS is so helpful, why don't professors recommend it? Why isn't LEEWS incorporated into law school curriculums?
"Now I know why upperclassmen who cared about my performance recommended LEEWS."
— David Mink, U. Alabama '08
Several years ago, midway through a March presentation in Los Angeles, Mr. Miller, LEEWS founder and primary instructor, was approached by two students from UCLA, a young man and woman. They were fresh-faced and eager, but exasperated. As most law students in first semester, they had worked diligently, attended every class, briefed every case. Then they had gotten all B's on their exams. They had approached one of their professors, a "brilliant" young woman (as all newly hired law professors are deemed to be) not long out of Harvard and the requisite federal judicial clerkship. "What was the problem?," they had queried. "What was wrong with their preparation?" They felt they had known the law, prepared with old exams, etc. The professor, with whom they had developed a relationship, agreed that in class they had acquitted themselves well. She would have predicted a better result. [Note that B's are still good grades in many law schools, but nothing special at schools like UCLA where the curve has inflated to a B+ class average.] Then she advised confidentially that perhaps they might want to check out a program that she herself had found useful as a 1L — LEEWS!
Say what?! She had not introduced them to the perspective and insights she had gained from LEEWS that she now tacitly acknowledged had contributed to her success? Mr. Miller admits being troubled ever since by the implications of this interchange. So prevalent is the notion of The Right Stuff that a professor would not want to let on that her own success could be due to anything other than innate aptitude. So comfortable is the normal gulf of understanding between a law professor and a 1L that a professor might be loathe to divulge some of the insights that would put law students on a more equal footing.
More to the point, this instance supports Mr. Miller's own assessment based on numerous times he has been invited to deliver his program at law schools (usually by law student groups, but sometimes by law school deans and administrators desperate to improve their school's bar pass rate). The science of law exam taking and preparation offered by LEEWS so thoroughly strips away the mystery and mystique surrounding law exam success, and thereby undermines the regard enjoyed by those deemed to have The Right Stuff, that a professor who has herself benefitted from LEEWS would be reluctant to advertise that fact, much less advocate that the LEEWS system and insights be incorporated in a law school curriculum. Even though that results in that professor's own students feeling the same needless uncertainty and incompetence that led that professor to seek outside assistance when she was a 1L.
Many times students who've done well after taking LEEWS will only tepidly acknowledge that, "yeah, [LEEWS] helped." Years ago a woman Mr. Miller remembered as having sat near the front smiling and enjoying the program, later called to inquire about a refund pursuant to our guarantee. Had she done poorly? Not at all. She had gotten straight A's first term. But she didn't want to credit LEEWS. Why? Our supposition is that she didn't want to share the credit. When everyone praises and admires you as having The Right Stuff, you don't want to be reminded that a science of approach might have made your success fairly predictable. It's simply fun being thought of as having special innate abilities.
Atticus Falcon, author of the provocative Planet Law School II, has this to say on the subject:
"It just amazes me how many law professors and law review editors say, 'Oh yeah, I took LEEWS. And I aced my finals. But LEEWS didn't have anything to do with it. I would have aced my finals anyway.' There are others who will not even admit at first that they took LEEWS." (p.372)