How (and Why) LEEWS Differs From (and Far Surpasses) All Other Exam Writing
/ Preparation Study Aids
- The ineffectiveness of conventional exam writing wisdom
- “IRAC” is not a “system”
- How LEEWS differs — a snapshot
- Competitor Comparisons —
- LEEWS vs. Study Aids in General (programs offered by professors, upperclassmen, etc.);
- LEEWS vs. free, 45-minutes BAR-BRI-sponsored exam writing session (including Eight Secrets to Top Exam Performance);
- LEEWS vs. book, Getting to Maybe;
- LEEWS vs. Fleming's 2-day workshop;
- LEEWS vs. Law Preview / BAR-BRI (1-week, 2-week simulated law school programs);
- More on How LEEWS is Different and LEEWS Content
I sat wondering why this was never taught first semester in law school. When law professors teach you to write exams they basically say, "Here are some engine parts. Go figure out how to put the engine together." But LEEWS says, "Here is what each engine part consists of and how it works, and this is how you put it together." Thank you LEEWS! I truly feel I have an advantage over my classmates.
— Maria Farias, Whittier (CA) '03
The study aids vying for the attention and money of over 100,000 law students at 200+ American law schools are numerous and growing — advice offered by upperclassman and in online law discussion forums; impromptu advice offered by law professors in class; longer formal sessions offered by law professors and law student groups. Many law schools have elaborate academic support programs that offer exam writing instruction (often focused on enabling more of their students to pass the bar exam). There are books (e.g., Planet Law School [perhaps LEEWS' greatest booster], Getting to Maybe, Law School: Getting In, Getting Good, Getting the Gold [2008. possibly an even greater LEEWS' booster], etc.); the chatty 45 minute Whitebread session sponsored by bar exam prep giant, BAR-BRI (possibly in limbo, as Professor Whitebread passed away in fall 2008); seasonal advice from "exam writing pros" in periodicals like The National Jurist; the long-established Fleming's Fundamentals two-day workshop; expensive prelaw week-long, simulated law school programs conducted largely by law professors (e.g., Law Preview); programs like Ace Seminars that have (deservedly) slipped into history.
All such offerings are critiqued below, many programs specifically. Please pardon us if, at times, our tone seems dismissive, even smug. After three decades in this business, working hard to perfect our single product – a system, a science of preparing for and writing the "A" law essay exam ––, we know what we know. We have no real competition!
The simple fact is that all of these offerings fall far short, because all seek to abet or enhance or facilitate the law school teaching process, which is itself woefully flawed, if the mission is to train a lawyer to resolve a legal problem. They are often constructed or conducted or written by law professors. They employ law professors and law school administrators. And all imagine that by making students more familiar with the techniques advocated in law school (e.g., conventional case briefing), or attuning students to the methods and thinking that law professors deem important (e.g., "IRAC" and exploring alternative outcomes [the "forks" of Getting to Maybe]), they will thereby enhance law student performance.
But here's the problem and the fallacy underlying all these efforts. They fail to realize or acknowledge that law schools and law school teaching (case method, etc.), across the board!, no exceptions! (sorry, mighty Harvard!), is woefully inadequate to the central task, tested on ALL law essay exams – training a lawyer to resolve a legal problem! That's right! We say it here and elsewhere. LAW SCHOOL FAILS, UTTERLY, IN ITS CENTRAL MISSION OF TRAINING LAWYERS! Ask any attorney. If he or she thinks about it, he/she will acknowledge that he/she learned to be a lawyer practicing law! ... Same as Abraham Lincoln and the many who learned to be lawyers before academia invented the money-making rite of passage and requirement known as law school.
It is precisely this failure on the part of law schools and law professors that LEEWS takes advantage of. By succeeding where law schools and their aping study aid counterparts fail – in training a reasonable facsimile of a lawyer –, LEEWS imparts an enormous advantage. All professors want to see the same thing coming off the exam page – a competent lawyer, well versed in the professor's subject area, discoursing in "lawyerlike" fashion on the topics ("issues") the fact patterns created by the professor ("hypotheticals") are intended to prompt as "relevant." And they know it when they see it! It's that simple, and yet that complex. Highly academic law school case method instruction, and the study aids that abet, follow, and otherwise track such instruction don't come close in creating such a test taker.
Thus, as Mr. Miller, LEEWS founder and instructor, emphasizes to attendees, "You don't have to write a great exam. The good news in law school is that most students, even at Harvard, write lousy exams. Your reasonably competent, lawyerly exam will vault you out of that disappointing pile of mediocrity into the rarified range of exams meriting a top grade." (It may be noted that law professors are generally severely disappointed when they read law exams. They typically excuse the mediocrity after a semester of their instruction by blaming the students. They didn't have the "Right Stuff" – an imagined innate genius for the law, that is widely believed to govern whether a student can write a lawyerly exam, or no.)
Example of the vast divide between LEEWS and others: Here's an example of the vast divide between LEEWS and its putative competitors, including, and perhaps foremost, law professors themselves. Across the board – law schools, law professors, Law Preview, BAR BRI, Fleming's, Getting to Maybe, even LEEWS booster, Planet Law School (but not 2008's Law School: Getting In, Getting Good, Getting the Gold. Finally, the light begins to seep through!) –, all without exception advocate a variation on the standard or "conventional" case brief that all law students are introduced to, immediately they begin law school (and that students abandon as impossible to keep doing several weeks into law school) – procedure, facts, rule(s), issue(s), holding, rationale. This document, prepared for each assigned case, is typically one-half to one page in length. This is the law school staple, what the student will refer to should she be the chosen foil/victim in the drama known as the Socratic method. "Brief your cases, go to class, learn the law, follow IRAC," professors will instruct, and "you'll be okay." Meaning, if you have the Right Stuff you'll be okay (do well, get a judicial clerkship, become a law professor). If you don't have the Right Stuff, then ... Well, your cause is somewhat hopeless. However, under relaxed and inflated grading curves (at higher echelon law schools), you'll likely get a B, even a B+. So not to worry.
Conventional case briefing is an exhaustive process that occupies most of a law student's study time. To save time, students soon adopt an abbreviated form of the conventional brief, known as a "book brief." The elements of the conventional brief are highlighted in different colors in the casebook itself, abetted by notes in the margin. From a law school classroom ceiling one would see a riot of color.
The irony is that for all the work put into conventional briefing, it isn't nearly enough (!!). Students can't follow what is going on in class. They haven't properly prepared for what counts, the final exam. Indeed, they remain clueless about the final exam and its relation to their briefs. For example, they don't realize that they will not on the exam see precisely the facts of the case they labored to memorize, but at best a variation on those facts. They have made scant progress toward the goal of becoming a lawyer, and being able to dissect and resolve a legal problem – the final exam exercise – "as a lawyer."
Contrast this with the LEEWS grad. He/she will brief cases in 2-4 lines, or close to it (and take no more than one-half to one page of class notes per class hour, versus the normal three and more). That's it – 2-4 lines! And yet in those 2-4 lines will be a far more in depth understanding of the case, and a far greater preparedness for the only thing that counts – the final exam. Facts, procedure, issue, holding, rationale? ... All for the most part in the student's head! Should this student be called upon in class, the professor will appreciate that she is talking to a fellow lawyer!
How can this be? How can a case be briefed in 2-4 lines, and a student be prepared? (Even more prepared?!) We've no doubt but that professors and our competitors will cite this very item to discount and dismiss LEEWS. But the answer is very simple – could a competent lawyer read and think about and digest a case, and go away with a 2-4 line brief/synopsis, and yet have a more in depth understanding of that case than most law students in a Harvard class? Answer: she surely could, and therein is your inkling into how very different and more advanced and insightful is LEEWS instruction.
All of our competitors offer at most variations on what we at LEEWS call “the conventional wisdom of exam writing and preparation.” E.g., “brief your cases, attend class, study hard, follow 'IRAC', paragraph frequently, read the facts carefully, develop a checklist, etc.” (See The Standard Advice — Free!) Add to this advice a couple practice exam exercises and a critique thereof (e.g., Fleming's), and students are surely helped. However, such advice falls far short of the insights and proven effective system developed and polished by LEEWS for nearly 30 years.
Students query, "Will I write lots of [practice] exams at LEEWS?" No. LEEWS is all about reducing exam exercises (normally "hypothetical" fact patterns) in disciplined, systematic fashion to a series of manageble components. The components correspond to "issues" a professor wants discussed. Analysis of each will be presented in roughly a paragraph. The task becomes not "How do I write the exam?," a vague, unwieldy, unhelpful concept, but "How do I identify and handle the components of each exam hypothetical?" The sum of each component handled effectively is an exam essay handled effectively.
The idea is that every exam essay exercise becomes a predictable and maneageble – a series of components (issues!), a series of concise, impressive paragraphs of analysis that will impress and garner rare law school A's.
Therefore, what is learned and practiced at LEEWS is a disciplined, innovative, 3-step, true SYSTEM for breaking down any and all fact patterns to reveal components, how to analyze components "as a lawyer," and presentation of analysis in concise paragraphs (roughly one per issue). You also learn how to do the aforementioned 2-4 line case brief, how to take less than a page of notes per class hour, how to construct a 30-50 page course outline, and much much more. You learn — finally! – how to be a lawyer and how to express yourself as such on an exam.
Since most law students, even at Harvard, are clueless about HOW to systematically identify issues in fact patterns, HOW to analyze "as a lawyer," HOW to present analysis concisely, and HOW to prepare for these tasks, the exams of LEEWS grads of even average ability stand out, impress, and routinely earn rare "A" grades.
The conventional wisdom of law exam writing/preparation has been around for decades and has never been especially effective for all but a small minority of law students. The vast majority of law students — over 80 percent, even at Harvard --, despite intelligence and hard work, cannot manage a single A first term. Not one! Despite grade inflation in recent years that has made B and B+ the norm at many top law schools, even at Harvard where most students have high LSAT scores and 4.0 college gpa's, often fewer than 10 percent of the grades in a class are A's. Never more than 15 percent.
LEEWS introduces unique insights and a system of preparing for and taking ANY law essay exam that goes far beyond conventional IRAC-centered wisdom. Given the cluelessness of the great majority of even the most intelligent and diligent law students, LEEWS enables students of even average ability to write exams that stand apart and compete for rare "A" grades.
"IRAC" (Issue, Rule, Analysis, Conclusion) is central to the exam-writing advice offered by law professors and most other sources. "Follow IRAC," "IRAC the exam," they will say. IRAC is said to be a "system," "all you need to know." But IRAC is merely a format for ordering presentation of the discussion of an issue. Some professors and law schools, largely to prep their students for the bar exam (where normally a statement of conclusion is wanted first), rearrange IRAC to CRAC. It is all the same and not enough.
Indeed, IRAC misleads. It suggests that the conclusion is important. The conclusion is somewhat important on bar exams, but rarely on a law school exam. Just as learned jurists can arrive at different conclusions following closely reasoned argument, so well-reasoned analysis can suggest different conclusions. To emphacize that it is the analysis they are interested in, more enlightened professors will instruct, "I don't want to see a conclusion."
The IRAC acronym indicates WHAT is wanted, but falls far short on HOW.
For example, given that a statement of issue and rule is wanted, HOW do
you find all issues in a hodgepodge of facts? (For that matter, what IS
an "issue?") HOW do you "analyze as a lawyer?" HOW do you present analysis
concisely on paper? LEEWS goes beyond IRAC to answer these questions, and
much more. For example, LEEWS instructs an innovative format for presenting
analysis of "issues" in concise paragraphs that takes the WHAT of "IRAC"
to the HOW of implementing IRAC.
If, as most new law students, you know nothing about writing law exams, IRAC seems an important insight — a revelation. However, it merely scratches the surface of the problem. It is hardly a system.
LEEWS differs markedly from all other study aids in several important respects. First, only LEEWS has diagnosed why and how law schools across the board fail in their essential mission — training lawyers, and how this failing translates into a disconnect between classroom and exam performance. Perhaps because they lack this insight, perhaps because they pander, no other study aid questions the cornerstone of law school instruction – the case method and conventional case briefing. "1Ls" (first term law students) busy themselves briefing cases and taking endless notes in class (as they have been instructed), and fewer than 20 percent manage a single A, even at Harvard (!!). Most law students question this colossal and largely fruitless expenditure of time and effort — but not until second term.
LEEWS alone teaches students to get far more out of class and cases while briefing in only 2-4 lines (!!) and taking less than a page of notes per class hour. Law professors scoff at such a notion. They point to this assertion as a reason for skepticism. Both they and our competitors have no idea how this is possible. But there is no mystery. If you knew how to "think as a lawyer" (which most law students learn only after they begin practicing law); if you knew how to think about not only how the law was applied in a given case, but you were further in the habit of thinking about its application in new situations (making up your own hypotheticals!), there would be more useful thinking and retention in your head (relevant law and an understanding of how to use it) and less busywork scribbling on paper.
Second, respecting the actual taking of exams, only LEEWS has identified a denominator common to all legal problem solving that enables students to approach every essay exam in exactly the same way. No matter the professor, the subject, the question/instruction posed — exact same approach, which consistently reveals the relevant issues! All other study aids suggest variations in approach depending upon the subject being tested. They offer helpful advice, but nothing new. Certainly not a true system of exam writing.
Unique to LEEWS is understanding how ALL essay "hypothetical-type" exams (the staple in virtually all first year law courses) pose the same exercise, and can be approached, dissected, and managed in exactly the same way. The only variable is the nature of the "legal tools" to be applied. (E.g., torts = tort law, evidence = evidence law, etc.)
Law professors level the following criticism at LEEWS — "They can't know what I want on my exam." Nonsense! Don't they all want to see a lawyer well versed in their subject matter coming off the exam page? What else could they want?
When a student understands how any and all exams can be approached in
exactly the same way, he/she gains confidence. Law school and law exams
become a game to get good at and even enjoyed. The student is in a position
to take control of the exam, not vice versa. Add skill at analysis and concise
presentation, and "A" grades become not only possible, but probable. Especially
given the cluelessness of the many law students who have not taken LEEWS.
Third, largely as a result of the first and second differences, only LEEWS can, does, and for over 25 years has guaranteed results — better grades if you already have grades, top 1/3 finish first term, B's minimum --, or your money back! (See Guarantees.)
There are other important differences between LEEWS and what all other sources offer. They stem not only from the unique insights that led Wentworth Miller, Yale Law grad, Rhodes scholar, and New York lawyer, to begin his program nearly 30 years ago, but from Mr. Miller's dedication to polishing and improving LEEWS ever since.
In essence LEEWS bridges the gap between the overly theoretical nature of law school instruction and the actual practice of law. (Botom line — law professors want to see a practitioner versed in their subject coming off the exam page.)
How did Mr. Miller come up with the unique insights that led him to found LEEWS? Not to belabor a question whose answer is but tangential to the subject at hand, it has to do with a unique circumstance. Unlike most practicing lawyers, who were confused in law school and say, "If only I knew then what I know now," but are too busy to ponder and pursue the matter further, Mr. Miller was brought back to the problem as a tutor in a program sponsored by the Bar Association of New York City. The program was designed to assist minority law graduates preparing for the essay component of the New York bar. Mr. Miller was involved with the problem several years while practicing as an ssistant United States attorney (EDNY, civil side). Initially he familiarized himself with all the exisitng knowledge on the subject — IRAC, etc. — and found it lacking. The circumstance that he was both practicing law while wrestling with the problem of addressing law essay exams that eventually led to his breakthrough insights.
Suffice here to say COMPARED TO WHAT LEEWS OFFERS — not only a proven effective system of preparation and exam writing, but nothing less than a sea change in perspective and understanding that can make law school the intellectually stimulating and even enjoyable experience it can be but rarely is — ALL OTHER EXAM WRITING INSTRUCTION AND AIDS MERELY SCRATCH THE SURFACE!
What is surprising is that over 25 years after LEEWS founding, with the exception of a professor here and there who took LEEWS, law schools and (to our knowledge) all other persons and programs that purport to instruct how to prepare for and take law essay exams still fail to incorporate the knowledge and insights needed for success that LEEWS has pioneered. However, this is precisely why LEEWS provides such an advantage. It goes so much further than all other instruction. As Mr. Miller is fond of saying to students:
“The good news in law school is that you don't have to write such an excellent exam. The good news is that most law students, even at Harvard, write lousy exams. In comparison, your reasonably competent exam will impress and earn rare 'A' grades.”
Naturally, we familiarize ourselves with what the competition is up to. (Actually, in recent years, as it has become apparent that others are truly persistent in recycling the same old, same old IRAC + helpful hints as "the only system," we have paid less attention.) In this section we compare LEEWS with the following competitor programs and aids — 1) LEEWS vs. Study Aids in General, including formal and informal advice sessions given by law professors, upperclassmen, and law schools, books, etc.; 2) LEEWS vs. Free, Hour-long, BAR-BRI-sponsored Exam Writing Session (featuring USC professor Charles Whitebread and his booklet, Eight Secrets to Top Exam Performance); 3) LEEWS vs. The Book, Getting to Maybe; 4) LEEWS vs. Flemings (Fundamentals of Law) two-day exam-writing workshop; and 5) LEEWS vs. One and Two-week Simulated Law School Pre-law Programs (e.g., BAR-BRI/NILE and Law Preview). And also the Law Preview day-long, term-time exam writing program.
We present a final segment (#6) entitled More on How LEEWS is Different and Its Content. We hope, thereby, to provide in depth insight into what LEEWS entails and accomplishes, how LEEWS is different and more effective, and persuade you that THERE IS SIMPLY NO ALTERNATIVE TO LEEWS — NOT EVEN CLOSE! (For a detailed listing of the contents of a LEEWS program, click to see the track titles on the back of the vinyl binder for our audio CD program)
This is what Wentworth Miller, LEEWS founder and instructor of most live programs, says about other offerings:
My program simply does a much better job than other instructional aids, including law school itself, providing students with an efficient, effective approach to day-to-day, week-to-week study, providing a disciplined, proven effective system for breaking down and handling ANY law essay exam well, and, perhaps most important, showing what, exactly, lawyers do, how they think and analyze (apply law to facts), and how to reflect this in every task posed not just in law school, but as a summer law associate, and throughout lawyering life.
— Wentworth Miller, founder/instructor, LEEWS
1) LEEWS vs. Study Aids in General (including programs offered by law professors, upperclassmen, law schools)
The date is 10/29/13. I (Wentworth Miller, LEEWS Founder/instructor) am returning to this segment of my (yes, extensive) website for the first time in nearly ten years (!!). The reason for the long hiatus is that nothing changes much in the law school firmament. And, yes, the information below remains current. (I've changed "20+ years" to "30+ years.")
What prompted this return was searching "law exam writing," and seeing an offering from an outfit called "ehow." It's an online exam writing instruction site. I wondered, "Hmm. Anything new?"
Nada! Here's the first thing they say about addressing an essay exam:
"Read over your fact pattern carefully and preferably twice."
No, no, no! Precisely this plunge into the crazy quilt morass of facts to "read carefully" immediately confuses and intimidates. Yet all other study aids, all law professors (unless they are LEEWS grads) give this advice. (Well. Some say, "First read the question." Then it's "Read the facts.")
LEEWS alone understands the folly of willy-nilly reading facts. We understand that complex fact patterns must be approached piecemeal, with limited objectives. Otherwise, one gets overwhelmed. Eventually all facts will be read (much more closely than any but practicing lawyers can imagine). They will be digested. They will be paired with relevant legal principles to resolve issues that lurk within them. However, the process will be systematic, disciplined, comfortingly predictable. You, not the fact pattern, are in charge.
No one else believes a science of writing and preparing for challenging law essay exams exists. Thus, no one else has sought such a science. All other advice remains IRAC and the same 'ol, same 'ol hints and tidbits that has never enabled mastery.
LEEWS is the science others can't even imagine. Take advantage of it!
During the last 30+ years law school study and exam writing aids have proliferated. There are numerous books, law professor lecture series, CD roms, flashcards, audio programs, and even one and two-week prelaw simulated law school programs featuring law professors as instructors. In law school itself professors, upperclassmen, the student bar association, and other campus organizations have long conducted how-to-study and how-to-write-exams sessions varying from a single class period given over to the subject, to more formal programs meeting over the course of several weeks.
Such aids/programs offer instruction in whole or part on how to read and brief cases, how to study, substantive law [the assumption, not necessarily incorrect, being that you can't learn the law in class and from your texts], how to outline courses for exams, and how to write law school exams (including "issue" identification, analysis, and presentation), especially the curious and typical so-called "essay hypothetical" — so-called, because it consists of made-up stories or fact patterns ("hypotheticals" or "hypos") that present problems needing lawyerly resolution. The fundamental LEEWS difference and advantage is that it addresses all of these areas (!!) more innovatively, more thoroughly, and more effectively than any and all such aids/programs combined. Moreover, LEEWS offers both a money back guarantee of results and a free trial of both live and audio program.
For example, once you learn how to analyze "as a lawyer," which LEEWS instructs better than anyone else (including law professors!), you'll know how to learn and know substantive law from casebooks (supplemented by [used] commercial outlines). You'll begin, typically, to brief cases in 2-4 lines, take less than a page of notes per class hour, and construct course outlines of no more than 20-50 pages (!!). (Versus the typical 1/2 - 1 page brief, 3-4 pages of notes per class hour, and 100-150 page course outlines generated by most law students — all of which proves ineffective on exams.) (For more on the content of a LEEWS program see the Program Content section.)
In addition, law schools themselves sometimes offer study and exam writing skills programs. Catholic University in Washington, DC, for instance, invited in the long-ago discredited Professor Narissa Skillman to conduct her ranting (so we're told) program on how to prepare for and write law exams. UWLA (Univ. of West Los Angeles) and other lesser California law schools have invited in the Fleming program. John Marshall in Chicago has invited in the Law Preview program.
LEEWS does not seek the endorsement of law schools or law professors. LEEWS has been invited into law schools, more often by student groups than administration. However, in that LEEWS challenges the entire instructional orthodoxy of law schools and contradicts much of what law schools and law professors instruct — e.g., 2-4 line case briefing versus the standard 1/2 -page long procedure-facts-issue-rule-holding-rationale standard briefing instruction, an invitation by law school administration is seldom repeated. This in spite of students loving the program.
If an exam writing program is conducted by or approved of by a law school, you may be sure that it does not challenge such ineffective, time-wasting law school staples as conventional case briefing. You may therefore be sure that it breaks no important new ground in solving the problem of how to prepare for and write law essay exams.
In recent years prior to the start of the school year, more and more law schools have offered orientation programs intended to test and/or buttress the writing and analytic skills of provisionally admitted students, or marginal admittees whose skills are thought to need sharpening. Regularly admitted students may avail themselves of such programs for a fee. [E.g., some years ago Pace University Law School (Westchester County outside of NYC) started such a program — a simulation of law school, ending with a mini exam —, and charged regularly admitted students $700 or so to attend.] "Why?" you may wonder, would a law school admit students whose abilities may not be up to par? Answer — at today's tuition rates it is good business to fill classrooms. Just get those students up to speed.
Naturally, the existence of so many programs and aids, all purporting to be "just what any law student needs for success," creates confusion, or possibly a false sense of security. A professor says, "I'll tell you everything you need to know about my exam." Why would a newbie law student doubt this? Meanwhile, the SBA (campus chapter student bar association chapter) conducts exam-writing / study skills sessions. BAR-BRI (giant bar exam instruction company) conducts a free 45 minute program at which you get a booklet on how to study and write exams (see #2 below). Surely this is enough. Surely you now know all there is to know and all you need to know. For example, you know "IRAC." Professors and upperclassmen have said, "IRAC is all you need to know."
Nope! Not even close!
Should you peruse other sections of this website, especially letters in the Results section, Reactions of Students, the Table of Contents of the LEEWS Primer, the track labels on the back vinyl cover of LEEWS' CD audio program (at Regis/Order/Cost) and the review of (merely helpful) standard advice offered by professors and others, you'll perceive that what LEEWS offers beyond the instruction of others is more insight into the nature of legal problem solving, a true system for pulling apart the essay hypothetical to reveal relevant issues, and better instruction in lawyering skills, particularly analysis and presentation. 1
Law professors and others simply haven't thought about the problem of preparing for and writing law exams so long or closely as Wentworth Miller. (The likely reason is that they don't believe a SCIENCE of how to prepare and write law exams exists. If such did exist — and IT DOES!! -- it would diminish the idea that writing "A" law exams requires an innate lawyering aptitude — the "Right Stuff" --, which is highly the flattering to the egos of professors and students who have done well.) They lack the fresh — revolutionary, really — insights of the LEEWS approach. They don't come close to the hands-on, practical, "HOW TO" instruction LEEWS offers.
(featuring USC Professor Charles Whitebread and his booklet — Eight Secrets to Top Exam Performance)
No other program comes close to LEEWS. Just one example: Mr. Whitebread’s [BarBri free one-hour exam prep and writing lecture – see discussion below.] commentary is funny and cute, but simply lacks substance when matched against the LEEWS programmatic approach to actually doing what we came here to do – learn the law, and learn how to express ourselves so other professionals are able to understand our expressed reasoning.
– Earl B. Christy, U. Florida ‘99
Whitebread came to our school. ... Heh, heh, heh. He was as plain as his name. Thanks for the meat and potatoes.
– Paul, Benjamin Cardozo (NYC) '05
Straight off, evidencing a characteristic inattention to detail that LEEWS corrects, the good professor is needlessly vague and sloppy in defining the subject of the key task law students face when confronted with a complex hypothetical fact pattern — identifying "legal issues." He says:
“These are not necessarily black letter rules of law. They may well be principles of public policy or even principles from other disciplines which the professor has brought to bear in discussing the ramifications of competing legal rules.” (p.6)
In other words, "legal issues" are ... what? He means that identifying a legal rule or policy ground relevant to the fact pattern and the resolution of a problem will bring one to a "legal issue." But he is woefully imprecise. Contrast this with the definitions provided by the LEEWS approach. First, the only "issues" of interest in a law exam are "legal." Therefore, we dispense with the "legal." "Issues" then become "legal inquiries," the more focused, the better. Even more precisely, "issues" arise when "premises" are discovered, and the question is posed: "Will the premise succeed?" "Issues" may also be understood as occurring wherever the opposing attorneys (to a relevant conflict pairing) will fight. Where they would clash over a legal construct in a courtroom, there you will find an "issue."
Characteristic of law school and professorial advice, our itinerant scholar further promotes vagueness and imprecision by promulgating a misnomer that typically must be corrected in LEEWS attendees. He habitually refers to fact patterns as "questions," as in "the traditional 200 to 500-word, hypothetical fact pattern essay question." Indeed, in almost every law school one hears the expression, "call of the question," meaning the question or instruction at the end of the ... what? At the end of the fact pattern! A fact pattern is not a question. The "question" is the inquiry or instruction typically found at the end of the hypothetical fact pattern. For example, "What are party X's rights?"; or "How should a motion to dismiss be decided."
[Perhaps you're thinking, "That's a bit nitpicky, isn't it?" ... Indeed! Nitpicky is exactly what is implied in "lawyerly thinking." Normally law students learn how truly nitpicky "lawyerly analysis" is only when they begin practicing law (rarely in law school). A major key to success in law school is learning this now. We are the best at instructing the nitpicky mindset of lawyerly analysis. We may note that law professors, most of whom never really practiced law, don't have quite the nitpicky mindset of practicing attorneys. (Law professors clerked for a judge, and/or did research in a law firm, but they didn't personally take clients' cases to court.) But they recognize and love to see this quality on exams.]
As for the "Eight Secrets," there is nothing new or secret about what the professor has to offer. It's the common sense, standard wisdom that has been around for decades, repackaged. [See The Standard Advice — Free! for the eight "secrets."]
A number of years ago students began suggesting to us that they liked the book, Getting to Maybe (GTM), and that we should look into it. In more recent years we only occasionally hear mention of it.
GTM was published in 1999 by law professors from U Miami and U. Connecticut
— Richard Fischl and Jeremy Paul — who had known one another while students
at Harvard Law School. Naturally, LEEWS founder and instructor, Wentworth
Miller, himself a graduate of the higher ranking Yale Law School, doubted
that anyone from Harvard could have much of significance to contribute.
Seriously, any time a law professor recognizes that law school exams are
problematic and help is needed, and deigns to descend from his/her lofty
pedestal to wrestle with the problem, we think it is a very positive thing.
So we looked into GTM, which has become a very popular purchase and, some
contend, a substitute for LEEWS. Trust us — it is not.
Here's what the authoritative book, Planet Law School II (2003), has to say about GTM:
“After years of further reflection [following an initial favorable review when GTM came out] ... what [GTM's elaborate system of 'forks' — see below] all amount to is a method for issue-spotting. [Original emphasis.] When it comes to conducting a lawyerlike analysis, the authors really only say 'just add reasons' (and they use that exact phrase). ... Well, gee. That doesn't help you much. ... So, ultimately, I [pseudonymous author, Atticus Falcon] am sorry to say, Getting to Maybe is not anywhere near as good as I'd thought in my initial burst of enthusiasm for it. Its main virtue is in the title itself. ... I'm now embarrassed to say that, at bottom, GTM is misleading. Its style is great. Its substance is lacking. ... you should give it your lowest priority as an aid to examsmanship. In fact, spending time on its overly elaborate system of merely finding forks will very easily get you 'forked' on your exams.” (pp. 171-173)
First off, a preview on our take on the substance of what GTM offers — possibly some useful advice at the more esoteric (read "policy emphasis") end of the exam writing process, but little in the way of new, practical, nuts and bolts exam writing instruction. GTM doesn't come close to offering a system. Not any more than the standard advice we offer here free (which some would insist is a "system"). Indeed, GTM continually refers to its own advice as “test-taking tips.” We found just a few new takes on the same old, same old, which, to a prelaw who knows virtually nothing, would seem very deep indeed. "And I only have to buy the book!"
The key problem, even assuming GTM offered anything new, is that it is merely a book. We learned long ago that it is awfully hard to convey something so complex as how to write law exams in a book, even a book with explicit diagrams. And GTM offers no diagrams, just text. For example, how hard is it to learn to do something so elementary as, say, assembling a bicycle, or installing a doorknob from a book? Imagine then how unlikely it is that you can learn to do something so complex as preparing for and taking a law exam from a book.
For example, The Exam Writing Primer that accompanies both our live and audio program sets forth our approach as well as one might imagine a sixth edition can. Nevertheless, students can't seem to grasp the approach overall from the book alone. They are aided by the book in the sense of useful insights and techniques here and there. However, students seem to need to be led, step by step, through the many facets of the approach by someone knowledgeable of the big picture. Therefore, until professors Fischl and Paul take to the road with a program of hands-on instruction, and test and polish and perfect that instruction with generations of law students, even assuming they have useful new insights and techniques to convey, their book alone must fall at best in the broad category of merely helpful advice.
As for the substance of Getting to Maybe, the authors correctly point out that "knowing the law is important, but not enough," and "knowing the answer" is not what doing well on law exams is all about. They also correctly point out that "legal educators [that means law professors!] don't do a very good job of teaching exam skills, at least not directly" (p.4). Reinforcement of this controversial proposition may be the most important contribution of GTM. However the authors quickly move to their main theme — what really counts in writing excellent exams is analysis, arguing on both sides, exploring "ambiguities" and "forks" lurking in fact patterns (which they, like most professors and others, misleadingly call "questions." See discussion of BAR-BRI/Whitebread below.). "The real trick," the authors assert, "is Getting to Maybe" (p.xiii).
GTM goes on and on with the theme of searching out and exploiting and reveling in the ambiguity hidden in exam "questions" [sic] as being the key to doing well. Unfortunately,while clearly pleased with themselves for unearthing this seeming key to exam success, the authors never do an adequate job describing, much less instructing, HOW, EXACTLY, one goes about performing such analysis. They wax ad nauseum about the kinds of forks, i.e., ambiguities, one might encounter on an exam — e.g., "twin forks," "linked forks," "reciprocal forks," "concurrent forks," "proliferating forks," "hidden forks," etc. (pp.87-102). They tell you "argue both sides" (of "issues," which are loosely and confusing defined as "meaning different things in different contexts," but generally occurring where one finds "exam forks" [p.21]). But when it comes down to HOW, EXACTLY, to perform the desired balanced analysis, GTM reverts to the disappointing generalities that law professors in general retreat behind.
They talk about "argument construction," arguments being "analysis that attempts to persuade" (original emphasis). They say "just add reasons," then "a concrete example may help you see vividly the difference between mere analysis and argument" (p.135). In other words, they know good analysis when they see it, and if you look at enough good and bad analysis, and further consider minority as well as majority views of legal rules, and pay attention to policy aspects, and further pay especial attention when your professor introduces ambiguities in class, .... Well, what is it that professors always say to students? — "You'll get it." "It will click for you."
What particularly disturbed us is the examples of "excellent answers" offered by GTM. Yes, good points and insightful arguments were made, eventually, and here and there. However, these answers rambled far too long. They lacked a structure that one could point to and say, "here, use this on your next response." They even lacked adequate labels. As for the idea that by looking at lots of responses and attempting to pick out "ambiguities" and "forks" (of all sorts), one can learn to get good at issue identification [That's right! That's their "system" for spotting issues.] and analysis, ... Well, good luck.
Curiously, GTM seems to offer a nod to LEEWS. On p.126 they note that "it's the conflict between parties ... that creates all the forks in the first place. ... Paying special attention to the parties and the nature of their conflicts will thus almost always help get you started on issue or 'fork' identification. We recommend thinking through your exam problems from the perspective of each party. If the plaintiff says this about the law, how will the defendant respond? If the defendant characterizes the facts this way, how will the plaintiff characterize them? This will get you into the right frame of mind for aggressively identifying and analyzing the relevant issues." LEEWS grads will immediately recognize elements of the LEEWS issue identification scheme here, if incomplete. However, GTM offers no more acknowledgment to LEEWS than it does to The Wizard of Oz, whose images it exploits on the cover and here and there. (A lawsuit in the making? That's how lawyers, not law professors, think.)
In sum, GTM makes the important point that analysis is key, and that students should go beyond mere black letter result-oriented analysis to exalt exploration of differing points of view as an end in and of itself. It describes WHAT is wanted, but doesn't come close to adequately showing students HOW to get to this "maybe." As noted earlier, given the zero knowledge of exam writing advice that prelaws and new 1Ls bring to the table, and the zero advice professors offer early on, GTM will seem a cornucopia of useful advice. The 22 "tips" offered at the end (pp.249-265), while nothing new (See Standard Advice — Free!), are a useful compilation. Even better is the Q and A of "frequently asked questions" (pp.267-285). The student in effect gets to talk to professors about such things as "should I cite cases?" ("both yes and no"), "should I type?" ("generally helps, but could backfire"), etc.
Although the authors beat up on IRAC (see Standard Advice — Free!), GTM is NOT against IRAC, as Atticus Falcon of Planet Law School reknown contends. They, as LEEWS, think IRAC is a useful start, but simply doesn't go far enough, especially respecting the analysis they want.
In sum, we think GTM is a useful but hardly essential addition, if one is compiling a library of study aids. If you pick it up before law school or early in law school, it will likely confuse and overwhelm more than help. It is certainly not an adequate blueprint of EXACTLY WHAT TO DO, and is nothing approaching the system LEEWS offers. However, later in law school, or after LEEWS, GTM won't hurt. It may tweak a few new avenues of ambiguity to think about.
I contacted 3 upperclassmen who took LEEWS, and all recommended it. 2 of the 3 made law review. I also attended Flemings [2-day exam writing workshop] in early Oct. The difference between the two is off the charts. F was a good intro to IRAC, but failed to give an effective method of how to issue spot. I like the way LEEWS taught to break it all down. Truthfully, after this instruction I am eager to get my outlines done and to start playing the game.
— Nicole Hudspeth, U. San Diego ’03
I’ve now done both Flemings and LEEWS. LEEWS is by far superior. I have some learning disabilities, and LEEWS took the fear and mystery out of briefing cases, course outlining, exam outlining, and simplified my writing, I believe LEEWS may save my career. Thank you, Wentworth.
— Norman A. Boatman (as a 2L), Lincoln University ‘02
Apart from programs offered by law schools and law professors, the workshop offered by California-based Fleming's Fundamentals of LAW (FFOL) is probably LEEWS' biggest competitor — in California. (Apart from Las Vegas, Fleming's does not offer live programs outside of California.) We at LEEWS do not regard Fleming's as any more competitive than offerings of professors, law schools, and anyone else in terms of breaking new ground and effectiveness. However, Fleming's advertises hard in California. Moreover, in fall of 2006 Atticus Falcon, pseudonymous author of Planet Law School and longtime LEEWS cheerleader, startled online adherents by giving a nod to Fleming's over LEEWS (discussed below). Therefore, in order that students make an informed decision in favor of LEEWS, we feel it is necessary here to closely examine the significant differences between LEEWS and Fleming's.
The immediate and obvious differences clearly favor LEEWS. LEEWS is a one-day program (a bit over 7 hours), Fleming's is two days (12 hours). The base individual discount LEEWS cost is $120, versus $220 for Fleming's. Most significant, LEEWS offers and has always offered a free trial of either live or audio program, as well as a money back guarantee of results — top 1/3 finish first term, better grades, B's minimum. (See Guarantees.) Fleming's does not offer a free trial, does not guarantee results, and to our knowledge never has.
However, the most important difference between Fleming's and LEEWS has to do with substance and effectiveness. Fleming's, first offered in 1983 (two years after LEEWS began offering programs), largely offers repackaging and practice of the same IRAC-centered conventional wisdom that has been around for decades, and that has provided but modest benefits to law students. It offers little that will not be learned from other sources. Once other students have become familiar with IRAC and conventional wisdom, and moreover have begun to practice with old exams, any advantage imparted by Fleming's largely disappears. One would do just as well writing out responses to a couple old exams of a professor and asking him/her to critique them, and save over $200.
LEEWS by contrast, and as described elsewhere at this website, provides a system for breaking ANY law exam essay down into manageable units corresponding to issues the professor wants identified and discussed. This approach makes handling any and all essays a predictable exercise. Together with the best instruction anywhere on how to analyze "as a lawyer," a unique format for presenting analysis in concise paragraphs (roughly one per issue), and a corresponding roadmap of day-to-day, week-to-week preparation for implementing the issue idenification approach, and students actually begin to look forward to taking exams(!!). By comparison with the breakthrough LEEWS approach, Fleming's, like all other exam writing/preparation aids, seems rudimentary.
Background to assist comparison
Typically, first term law students preoccupy themselves briefing cases and preparing for class. Only belatedly do they look at examples of the exams they will face at the end of term, and upon which, typically, their entire grade will depend. These exams normally consist of several complex, often fanciful, and almost always confusing fact patterns. The fact patterns, often made up (hypothetical!), sometimes drawn from events in the newspapers or current actual cases, are also known as "essays," "hypotheticals," "hypos."
As noted above, law professors and others often mistakenly refer to these fact patterns as "questions," as in "call of the question," meaning the question or instruction at the end of the fact pattern — e.g., "Discuss the rights and liabilities of all parties [as a lawyer would]" (in the foregoing fact pattern). A question at the end of the "question?" Does that make sense?
Jeff Fleming, founder and principal of Fleming's Fundamentals of Law (FFOL), a California-based company that prepares students for the California Bar Exam, conducts first year substantive review programs, and also offers a two-day, 12-hour exam writing/preparation workshop that has long been a competitor of LEEWS, sometimes writes articles on exam-related subjects (as does Wentworth Miller, LEEWS founder/instructor). In those articles Mr. Fleming routinely refers to law exam essays as "questions." He speaks of "issue spotting," an admission that he views the identification of issues as a somewhat haphazard, catch-as-catch-can process. He also does not challenge the prevailing orthodoxy of case briefing — facts, procedure, issue, rule, holding, rationale, etc. Such briefs typically run 1/2 page to a page in length, and students soon abandon this format as too time consuming.
By contrast, a LEEWS attendee learns to brief a case in 2-4 lines(!!). LEEWS takes the guesswork ("spotting") out of issue identification. Based solely on Mr. Fleming's use of the "question" misnomer, his subscription to "issue spotting," and his advocacy of time-wasting conventional case briefing, he must be judged as lacking in lawyerlike preciseness (as are most law professors), and married to outmoded thinking where law exam preparation and taking is concerned.
The Fleming's program
We at LEEWS have long been familiar with the California-based Fleming's exam writing program. Founded two years after LEEWS (in 1983), it is probably the best of the IRAC-plus-helpful-advice programs. Students are introduced to the IRAC-based standard wisdom on exam writing that we offer free at this website, naturally with Fleming variations. (See Standard Advice — Free!) They then write a practice "exam" to reinforce the instruction on "issue spotting," analysis, and IRAC formula presentation. This exam is critiqued to further reinforce the instruction, and they write another "exam" that is critiqued. This occupies a good portion of the two-day, 12-hour program that we are told is not nearly so fast paced as the 7+ hours of the one-day LEEWS live program. Students are then assigned a practice "exam" to be done at home and sent back for yet another critique on audio cassette.
We have placed quotes marks around exam, because that is what Fleming's touts at its website as its chief advantage over competitor programs — "Students actually write out exams."
"What's wrong with that?," you may query. Simply this. It is another example of unlawyerlike imprecision. As noted above, an exam will normally consist of several fact patterns. Fleming's students don't practice writing "exams." They practice writing components of exams — single hypothetical fact patterns (!!).
Whoa! Is this distinction, this nitpick important? The very essence
of lawyerlike thinking is a nitpicking mindset. Lawyers are more nitpicking
than law professors, because the practice of law requires and rewards nitpicking.
Skill at "analyzing as a lawyer" presupposes nitpicky thinking. It is precisely
their inability to inculcate this mindset that lies at the root of the failure
of law school teaching.
Neither law schools (Harvard, Yale, etc.), law professors, Whitebread, or Fleming's grasp this. They don't understand the gap, the disconnect between law school (academic, loose thinking) and the practice of law (precise, goal-oriented thinking). If they are themselves so imprecise and sloppy in their thinking, can they be supposed to offer much that will correct such thinking in law students?
Any Fleming's advantage must be short
As noted, the Fleming's website touts as a signal advantage over competitor programs that "Students actually write out exams." Given the vast ignorance of most new law students respecting law exams and how to address them, any instruction at all on the subject will seem a revelation and be much appreciated. We are not surprised that law students have good things to say about Fleming's. Law students regard IRAC as a revelation when they first hear it. As noted, many consider IRAC to be a "system," although it is simply a formula for presentation of analysis.
Therefore, give students a grounding in conventional wisdom on how to "spot issues" (e.g., "follow a checklist," "circle key words," etc.), how to perform analysis ("argue both sides," etc.), and how to present on paper ("follow IRAC," "paragraph frequently," etc.). Reinforce this instruction with exercises in writing essay responses, and further reinforce the instruction by critiqueing those responses. And clearly this student will have gained confidence. Clearly this student will be ahead of all who have yet to learn of IRAC and who have yet to attempt an essay response.
But what happens when there is no longer someone knowledgeable to offer guidance? Once a Fleming's grad has written his/her final essay response and had it critiqued, how does he/she continue to get better at the exam process?
Answer: Only with a great deal of work above and beyond what was learned at Fleming's!
Later in the term when fellow students learn about IRAC and get substantially the same generalized advice on how to address exams, and further seek to practice some of this advice on old exams, the Fleming's student will have little advantage.
Indeed, much more than Fleming's is needed to distinguish onesself from other students who make a habit of writing practice exams.
Proof that Fleming's alone is not enough
In January, 2007 in an online chat room a law student identified only as "Sunfunliving" announced that she had received a 4.0 in legal writing and also torts. She described herself as a "part-time student, single mother of 7 kids at home, who works full time." (Hm-m. Superwoman indeed!)
She credited Planet Law School II and Fleming's exam writing workshop for her success. Tellingly, she went on to describe the other underpinnings of her success.
Prelaw she had read the Aspen primers recommended by PLS II. Therefore, she knew about concepts like offer, acceptance, and consideration in a (contracts) course "taught completely out of sequence." She began her course outlines early, and also took Fleming's early. She noted that 4 hours of the 12 hour program was on "basics" like "issue spotting" and "course outlining," and 8 hours on "actual issue spotting/debriefing, exam writing/debriefing." "I got really good at writing the 'A' [analysis] part of the IRAC," she wrote.
What else had she done?
As a supplement to her course outlining she had used "course outlines with CD lectures from Fleming" to guide her own. "They are a bit pricey, but worth it." We may note that the only supplement to LEEWS and assigned casebook and course materials that we recommend is a commercial outline to flesh out the complete black letter law, and hornbooks in the library as background to assist in understanding confusing black letter concepts (e.g., the parol evidence rule).
We sell no outlines or first year substantive law summaries (as Fleming's does). We are confident that our grads are capable of understanding the law on their own (with the assistance of a commercial outline — Emanuels, Gilberts, Legal Lines, etc., and occasionally a hornbook), and constructing their own course outlines(!!).
Additionally, she had used canned briefs. She had purchased online versions and "cut and pasted them into a word document." "Canned briefs" are briefs of cases prepared commercially. LEEWS allows that a canned brief can be used as "a check against your own brief," but generally discourages their use. In that LEEWS attendees are taught to go beyond what is entailed in conventional briefing, the 2-4 line brief of a case they should end up with will be far more abbreviated than any canned brief (while yet reflecting greater understanding and preparation for the exam).
Sunfunliving had focused on "getting the rule and/or exceptions to the rule in cases." Okay. She had used lexis (online legal research tool) to get headnotes of cases (summaries of legal points preceding the case in the West case reporting system, but not included in law school casebooks), and therefore "had all issues listed when called on."
"Important!," she said. "Write lots and lots of practice exams!" She had used previous professors exams and "noted patterns." She practiced "writing on things professors seemed to like testing, like landowner duty for negligence." She had further "bought several books to practice multiple choice questions."
Whew! What we have here, if a fulltime working mother of seven may be believed to have had time to even show up for class, is a classic example of the student who simply outworks everyone else, and thereby excels. What we have here is an individually concocted regimen for which Fleming's was not central or integral, but merely one facet among many. Fleming's did not show this person how to properly learn the law, how to not merely follow and attempt to anticipate what the professor wanted, but to show the professor analysis and presentation that caused him/her to say, as professors often comment to LEEWS Grads, "How did you learn to do this?!"
Clearly, Fleming's helped this person. However, it is likely, given her energy level and dedication to practice, etc., she would have done just as well had she learned IRAC and the standard exam writing wisdom elsewhere (and thereby saved over $200).
We at LEEWS have never insisted that everyone must take our program to succeed in law school. We have always recognized that a small group of students, perhaps 5-7 percent in any class, unpredicted by LSAT score and college gpa, is going to consistently emerge at the top of the grading curve. Some simply have a knack for the nitpicking "lawyerlike" analysis that impresses and earns A's. Some go to Herculean lengths. A student comes to mind who credited his success to "writing fifty practice exams." Another swore by carefully constructed course outlines that each exceeded 200 pages.
What we would like to emphacize is that given the confusion and ignorance of the vast majority of law students at the end of a semester of instruction, even at Harvard (!!), ONE NEED ONLY SHOW A PROFESSOR A LAWYER VERSED IN THE PROFESSOR'S SUBJECT AREA COMING OFF THE EXAM PAGE TO BE AMONG THE FEW AT THE TOP OF THE CURVE WHO ARE AWARDED A's.
LEEWS grads don't need Aspen series, canned briefs, or course outlines prepared by others. Yes, tendencies, likes/dislikes of professors should be taken note of — we advise our students to do a lexis-nexis search for any articles written by their professors in the past 2-3 years and read them. However, we are confident that our system for identifying ALL issues in ANY essay, our format for presenting analysis in concise paragraphs (roughly one per issue), and especially our matchless instruction on how to analyze "as a lawyer'" (over 2 hours in our program, and the key to learning the law properly, 2-4 line case briefing, 30-50 page course outlines, etc.), will enable even a law student of average ability to outshine classmates on exams and earn A's.
Our grads work hard. They must to learn the law properly and construct outlines for effectively implementing the LEEWS' issue identification approach. They also practice writing and analyzing. But never entire exams. Rather, a paragraphed analysis of an issue here and there. Perhaps 3 or 4 per week. 15-30 minutes exercises. And they can compare these with the model among tens of paragraphs of analysis in the back of the LEEWS Primer, and thereby, as their response gets closer to the model in concision and insight, better and better at analysis and presentation, and more and more confident.
The game of lawyering understood, the necessary skills in hand, LEEWS, casebook, and commercial outline are the only tools needed(!!). This diametrically contradicts the view of Atticus Falcon, pseudonymous author of Planet Law School, respecting what is required, which has occasioned the contretemps that will now be discussed.
A contretemps with the author of Planet Law School
The Fleming's program was described as "possibly as good as LEEWS" in the first edition of Planet Law School (1998). However, "Atticus Falcon," the pseudonymous author of PLS, admitted that his knowledge of Fleming was hearsay. Five years later in Planet Law School II (2003), presumably after further research, there is no mention of Fleming's — nothing! Meantime LEEWS, which Falcon attended in person at least twice, is praised to the skies as "a Godsend." Wentworth Miller is likened to Moses bringing the truth down from the mountaintop. Falcon laments that he did not think of the LEEWS precepts himself. He describes and attempts to implement much LEEWS instruction in his own advice on exam writing.
Imagine the stir in fall of 2006 among adherents to Falcon's online discussion group when Falcon opined that "Fleming's is better than LEEWS." He offered this rationale for his switch in allegiance: "Fleming's is two days, and LEEWS is only one. .... Fleming has you do zams [Atticus word] during the workshop, and goes over them. Best of all, [Fleming] has you do a zam at the end of the workshop, ... you turn that in, and he has a qualified person grade it, critique it, and return it to you with the comments. LEEWS doesn't do that." Why had he pushed LEEWS so much? "Law sudents are lazy. ... I figure if I started pushing a TWO-day program, even fewer would take my advice."
This contretemps points up both a longstanding disagreement between LEEWS/Wentworth Miller and Falcon (whom Wentworth Miller has gotten to know well over the years), and, related thereto, Falcon's seeming incomprehension or refusal to accept that LEEWS offers instruction and techniques that renders most other sources and aids (including PLS!) unnecessary.
In both versions of Planet Law School Falcon advocates, in addition to LEEWS, an exhaustive (and expensive) regimen of supplementary books and guides. LEEWS, which successfully instructed law students at least 15 years prior to Falcon coming on the scene, believes that no supplements beyond a commercial outline are needed in any given course. Falcon conceives of law school as a complex and forbidding challenge requiring a full court press of approaches and aids. LEEWS posits that handling law school is a more or less straightforward exercise once certain insights, skills, and approaches are required.
We may suggest that wanting law school and what is required to be successful on exams to seem so complex, so mysterious, so arduous, as to be beyond the capabilities of all but a very small elite is a conceit favored by those who have done well — law professors (who typically got A's), top students, perhaps Falcon. It makes them feel so special if the cause of their success is innate, something in the DNA. Needless to say, such persons strongly resist the idea of a science that makes preparing for and writing the sort of exam that stands above the mediocre norm a predictable process.
The exhaustive regimen of "Sunfunliving" described above is precisely what Atticus Falcon believes is necessary to be successful in law school. As noted, he, like law professors(!!), seems to believe that law school is such a mysterious and complex challenge that, unless one is a "natural-born genius of the law" [PLS phrase], superhuman efforts are needed.
For example, Falcon advocates supplements — foremost the Aspen series — to assist law students in learning and understanding substantive law. LEEWS does not. LEEWS posits that once a student understands how to "analyze as a lawyer," then he/she is capable of learning the law from the casebook with the supplement of just a commercial outline (to flesh out the complete law). Nothing in our near 30 year history with well over 100,000 students contradicts this.
Falcon seems not to grasp the idea that writing/critiqueing practice exams is nothing new. He certainly does not grasp the breakthrough implied in the LEEWS components/paragraphing approach. Or perhaps because he is so invested in the multiple facets of approach and endeavor advocated in his book, it is too much of a cognitive leap to understand this difference.
To one new to law school, the Fleming advice, the personal critique, etc. seems invaluable compared with the "hide the ball" goings on of law school. You feel better. You feel prepared. You feel ready to go. But you aren't. You've gotten lots of useful advice. It has been reinforced through practice. But it's just standard advice. You're considerably ahead of where you were coming in (assuming you are a 1L who has never taken an exam). You're temporarily ahead of your classmates. But you haven't learned a true system — not by LEEWS standards.
You haven't learned anything approaching our 3-step approach to pulling apart ANY hypo or fact pattern so as to make handling any and all forms of hypos — whatever the subject, whatever the cryptic instruction posed by a professor — a predictable exercise. (E.g., "Draft a set of jury instructions to guide deliberations on the foregoing facts," or "Imagine a conversation between [Supreme Court] justices Scalia and Ginsburg on the following topic ....") In particular, you have gotten less than satisfactory instruction in how to do the "lawyerlike analysis" that impresses professors and earns A's. Perhaps that is why Fleming's doesn't guarantee grade performance — never has.
Additional proof that Fleming's isn't enough is that Jeff Fleming, the founder, later wants to sell you review tapes for first year courses. In other words, the implicit assumption is that even after attending the two-day program, you are not capable of learning the substance adequately on your own. You need yet more guidance.
LEEWS grads, having learned exactly how lawyers analyze and use the law as tools to achieve client goals, are more than capable of learning what they need to know from that point on ON THEIR OWN! We merely suggest that they acquire a (used) commercial outline as a supplement to the casebook.
5) LEEWS vs. One and Two-week Simulated Law School Programs (e.g., BAR-BRI, Law Preview) and Law Preview's One-day Exam Writing Program
LEEWS is easily worth five times what you pay for it! I took a week-long (5 day) Bar Bri prep program, which was beneficial, but not as beneficial as LEEWS, because there wasn't a precise system or science of taking exams. The price was 6 or 7 times more.
— Susan Bassal, U. Tennessee '07
I took the week-long BAR-BRI class. I think this was much more effective in preparing me to write law school exams. This class was excellent. I think it will help me be a more effective lawyer as well. Thanks.
— Cathleen Donohoe, Stanford ’03
Great presentation. Packed with real advice on how to do well. I took both Law Preview and LEEWS. Law Preview was good at many things, but LEEWS gave me the tools I need today in learning the law and preparing for exams.
— Deborah Mesdag, Indiana U. - Bloomington '06
I wish I could have the 10 days and $2,000 I sunk into [prelaw program sponsored by major bar review program] back. They taught me less in 10 days than I gained here in one. What a waste! I’m glad I didn’t give up on other programs like LEEWS!
— Telly Fathaly, Washington & Lee ‘03
Here's what Planet Law School II (2003) has to say about the BAR-BRI and Law Preview simulated law school offerings:
“Despite their claims, Law Preview and BarBri do not prepare you for law school. They're a week-long "feel-good" program ... you'd do better just to take a week and visit a law school and sit in on every class in each course for that week."”(pp. 442 and 446)
In the early nineties a program called "NILE" began offering a week or two-week long simulation of law school for soon-to-be 1Ls. The idea was to acclimate pre 1Ls to law school by giving them a two-week dose of actual torts, contracts, and other first year law classes, conducted by real law professors in a law school setting. Students learned to read and brief cases, just as they soon would in law school, they were given an orientation to law school life, and they received instruction in how to prepare for and write exams. They did this in smaller, more student-friendly classes. Indeed, they met with instructors to go over their work and ask questions. At the end they took mini exams that were graded. The program cost $1,000-2,000, about ten times what law school costs, pro rata. What a concept!
Or “What a waste of money! I learned more in one day at LEEWS than I did in ten days at NILE.” This has been the typical reaction of the many students over the years who have taken LEEWS after taking NILE.
Yes, you will feel less anxious and more prepared entering law school. Yes, you will feel you have an advantage vis-a-vis other students — at least initially. Imagine how it would calm you, knowing before you enter law school how to "properly brief a case." [More below on whether you would in fact be properly briefing a case.]
However, the instruction — on briefing, course outlining, exam writing, etc. — is essentially the same as that fellow law students will soon receive in law school — from professors, upperclassmen, other programs, etc. —, if more programmatic. As real exams approach, you will be equally unprepared. You'll also be out of pocket $1,000-2,000!
In 1999 Law Preview came on the scene as an alternative/competitor to NILE. Meanwhile, NILE had been purchased by BAR-BRI, the corporate entity that dominates the lucrative bar exam preparation field.
From what we hear, out of the chute Law Preview has a better program than BAR-BRI/NILE. (So much for what may be gleaned from experience.) However, unless the concept of a pre law school simulation of law school has merit sufficient to justify its considerable expense — we don't think so! —, then which of the two is better is irrelevant. Since we are familiar only with Law Preview's materials, we'll use their program for our critique of such programs in general.
First of all, the persons organizing such programs doubtless genuinely believe they are benefitting law students. Behind most study aids are lawyers, and lawyers generally operate on a higher moral plane than business types (whatever the public image to the contrary). However, charging law students so much to essentially do little more than duplicate what they will soon get in law school seems the height of the charge often leveled at commercial study aids — "preying on law student insecurities."
And make no mistake. We found nothing new or of special benefit in the superbly printed and presented Law Preview curriculum and materials. Indeed, we feel strongly that just as what is instructed in law school is often counterproductive and/or flat out wrong, so, too, is much of what Law Preview offers. For example, Law Preview, like most law schools and law professors, instructs an elaborate, roughly one-page-per-case briefing format that is wholly overdone, unnecessary, and, like most conventional case briefing formats — procedure, facts, issue, rule, holding, rationale —, ultimately insufficient.
Writing so much down about each case initially gives students a comforting sense of being prepared, especially in the event of being chosen by the professor for one of the heralded and much dreaded Socratic give and takes. (E.g., "Who can give me the facts of Consolidated Gas versus Whipple Supply, Inc.?" ... "the rule?" ... "the holding?") It also probably provides a structured bit of homework for Law Preview instructors to go over with students. However, it is overly time consuming, and most law students abandon it six weeks into law school. [What do they do instead? — They "book brief," meaning they highlight desired information IN THE CASEBOOK in different colors (e.g., yellow for facts, and red for rules) and make notes in the margins. The problem with book briefing is that you have to go back to the cases prior to exams, which are once again unfamiliar — VERY INEFFICIENT!]
I took the week-long BAR BRI [NILE pre law school] class. I think this [LEEWS] was much more effective in preparing me to write law school exams.
– Cathleen Donohue, Stanford ‘03
This is not to say that such elaborate case briefing isn't what many law professors and likely the principals of Law Preview themselves did and were successful with. That is precisely the problem with much instruction on how to study for and write law exams. It worked for someone, therefore it is thought that it will work for all. (E.g., we heard of a student who got A's, who habitually wrote 50 [!!] practice exam exercises in each subject. Writing practice exams is a good idea [once you know how to approach exams(!!)], but this was clearly excessive.) However, if students know how to analyze as lawyers, and how to think about not just the application of law in an assigned case, but how the result might be different if facts are changed slightly (precisely what will be encountered on the exam — changed facts!), they will get more out of a case while writing down much less. Thus, LEEWS grads, as noted elsewhere, typically brief cases in no more than 2-4 lines (!!). (Rule(s), plus a ten word synopsis of the case. That's it! Everything else is either in their heads, or irrelevant to the exam [e.g., procedural aspects, unless the course is Procedure]. MORE THINKING, LESS BUSYWORK SCRIBBLING!)
Likewise, we find fault with the elaborate 100+ page course outlining format instructed by Law Preview. LEEWS grads often outline courses in 10-30 pages, and rarely more than 50. Again, more thinking about the law and its application means less scribbling.
Mr. Miller, LEEWS founder, was in fact invited to provide LEEWS as the exam writing segment of Law Preview. After reviewing the curriculum and materials, he declined. He realized that were he to deliver a LEEWS program at the end of two weeks of Law Preview (or Bar-Bri/NILE, or any similar law school simulation), students would be puzzled, then angry. They would wonder, "Why wasn't I taught this at the beginning? I would have briefed a lot less, while getting a lot more out of the substantive instruction!" Moreover, he has a philosophical objection to such a costly program on top of the exorbitant cost of law school. So who teaches the Law Preview segment on exam writing? See four paragraphs down.
In sum, given the unfamiliarity, majesty, and mystery of the law and its application (cases and the case method of instruction!) to young, impressionable, insecure, and highly ignorant (of the law, etc.) pre 1Ls, it is predictable that a program featuring real law professors, who are moreover approachable and friendly (as they doubtless are paid and instructed to be), cannot fail to impress and encourage its attendees. Certainly the blurbs of customers posted on Law Preview's impressive website indicate they were satisfied. If money is no object, it probably won't hurt to do Law Preview, or BAR-BRI/NILE, or a similar program. [Qualify that. It WILL hurt in the sense of getting you off on the typical wrong track of doing too much (yet too little!), and having a false sense of security.]
Since some of the Law Preview, BAR-BRI/NILE, etc. attendees are bound to be successful (as any percentage of law students are), such programs can always lay claim to having provided a foundation for success. But did they? Since there are never any prior grades, and these programs as yet offer no guarantees of success, unless a control group is set up, it can never be proven or disproven that such programs provided more than a temporary boost.
Doubtless, a student who arttends one of these programs will gain confidence. However, a student who attends LEEWS, even months or over a year into law school, will gain even greater confidence. The difference is that the latter's will be well founded, and will grow as she briefs less while understanding more. The former will grow increasingly uneasy, as her "advantage" fades.
It may be noted that Jeremy Paul, a law professor at the University of Connecticut and co-author of Getting to Maybe (critiqued above), instructs the exam writing segment of Law Preview. Apparently, from Law Preview's perspective exam writing instruction is fungible.
One must also wonder about law professors supporting a program (by agreeing to work for it for pay) that mirrors what their own institution seeks to do, yet at an significant additional cost to law students. If such a program indeed performs a useful service to pre 1Ls, shouldn't they get their own law school to incorporate it into the curriculum at a much reduced fee, if not free? (Actually, law schools are starting to do this, but they charge for it. Recall the example of Pace University in the LEEWS vs. Other Aids discussion above. They, too, have no apparent qualm about milking law students' insecurities.)
We don't know much about the program. We surmise that it replicates the instruction offered in the summer program, and therefore the observations set forth above would apply. Unless Law Preview has radically altered its same 'ol, same 'ol traditional briefing and IRAC-plus--helpful-hints instruction, we would have to judge their offering to be the same, slickly packaged fare that doesn't come close to a true science of exam preparation and writing that LEEWS has pioneered.
To our knowledge Law Preview does not offer a grade guarantee or free trial.
Update: In fall 2006 we heard that, owing to lack of interest, the one-day Law Preview programs will be discontinued.
Thirty years ago, while practicing law and occasionally tutoring students preparing for the essay section of the New York State bar exam, Wentworth Miller, Yale Law graduate ('77), Rhodes scholar, and LEEWS founder, perceived that all legal problem solving — the cases, issues, fact patterns that attorneys habitually grapple with, which are mirrored in all law school exams — can be understood in terms of conflicts, and resolution of conflicts between competing entities or parties (individuals, corporations, governments agencies, lobby groups, etc.). The idea that some essay hypotheticals can be organized in terms of one party against another was not new. Often professors point to such an approach by instructing that party A's rights be evaluated as against parties B and C. However, no one had perceived how such a perspective might be further developed and employed to made sense of any and all hypotheticals, indeed, to break fact patterns down into manageable units, no matter the subject matter, the law to be applied, or the question(s)/instruction(s) posed by a professor or bar examiner.
Familiar with the existing conventional wisdom and advice respecting exam writing and preparation [see section The Standard Advice — Free], Mr. Miller began to experiment with his new insight on various hypotheticals. In 1981 he offered his first instructional programs to law students. A Harvard 1L reacted thus:
LEEWS offers the first scientific approach to breaking the mystique of the law school hypothetical. Invaluable for 1Ls.
— Weldon Williams, Harvard '83
Since 1981 LEEWS has proven its' effectiveness with well over 100,000 students from over 190 law schools. Not that Mr. Miller has been content to simply reiterate his initial insightful instruction. LEEWS has constantly evolved and improved, reflecting Mr. Miller's aim to establish a structured, practical approach that would accommodate the most cryptic exam exercise. (See the example in a footnote.) 2
The initial dialectic of plaintiff/defendant became movant/respondent to reflect the circumstance that in the give and take of litigation, a plaintiff is not always the initiating party in pursuing an objective and advancing a legal theory of entitlement. A mathlike format for presenting bare bones, yet effective analysis in concise paragraphs was developed. It is called "ugly but effective" analysis, or "UBE", and it is like nothing you will ever see or hear anywhere else. Not that you would use UBE on an actual exam. It is but one of several innovative teaching constructs employed by Mr. Miller to instruct the lawyering skills professors want to see in an exam response.
What happens in a LEEWS program is somewhat difficult to describe. As many attendees attest, "You have to experience it." The effect is something greater than the sum of the parts. However, in a nutshell, in a process of lecture and demonstration, followed by brief exercises, the student is shown how all exam exercises, at base, are the same, and therefore predictable. The only variable is the nature of the legal tools to be applied. (E.g., torts exam implies torts tools; evidence, evidence tools; corporations, corporations tools; etc.) And all professors (and bar examiners), whatever the question(s) / instruction(s) posed, want exactly the same thing — show me relevant law, show me lawyerlike thinking. I.e., respond as a competent lawyer would. (Versus the common belief that "different professors want different things.")
The consistent objective for every hypothetical, a LEEWS attendee learns, is to identify relevant "premises" that one party or the other to a relevant conflict pairing would advance to secure a relevant objective. (The given facts suggest relevant pairings, objectives, and premises.) Such premises inevitably reveal relevant "issues" (legal inquiries; constructs that the lawyers for competing parties would contest the existence of). The examinee now analyzes the feasibility of each premise/issue in roughly a paragraph, much as a lawyer would. Thus, the response to every exam hypothetical becomes, predictably, a series of concise, well-crafted paragraphs, each corresponding to a premise — i.e., issue the professor wants discussed.
The meaning of these concepts, and how a student goes about applying the disciplined steps that reveal conflict pairings, party objectives, and relevant premises in any hypothetical fact pattern, in any exam in any subject, occupies about one half of a seven hour plus LEEWS program. How to analyze in the way that impresses professors and earns A's, how to present analysis in concise paragraphs (roughly one per premise), how to construct a course outline to implement the LEEWS approach (a collection of possibly relevant premises, organized for quick reference), an exam-focused alternative to time-wasting, conventional briefing, use of secondary source materials, policy versus black letter law emphasis, open book versus closed book exams, and more (everything you need to know!) constitutes the remainder of the instruction and exercises. Then you have to practice what you've learned — on exercises with model responses in the LEEWS text, then on old exams on file in the library.
Clearly, something different, more in depth, more programmatic than standard IRAC plus do's and don'ts instruction is implied here. Given that (as LEEWS demonstrates) all exam exercises are fundamentally the same, the idea is to give the student the ability to manipulate seemingly different formats — different questions, different instructions, different subjects — into a predictable, familiar exercise. The examinee never reads all the facts (as standard advice dictates), never considers a fact pattern as a whole (because to do so would simply confuse). Rather he or she breaks every fact pattern down by means of the same disciplined steps into a series of units corresponding to relevant premises, some more deserving of attention than others ("major" versus "minor issues"). Each unit (premise/issue) is then addressed separately (roughly one paragraph per). Writing exams thus becomes a predictable science. Plus we add the best instruction on how to analyze, how to present on paper, and other necessary skills that few develop in law school.
[Note: Law professors and others will vigorously disagree with the proposition that all exams are essentially the same exercise, all professors want the same thing, exams can be made predictable, exam writing and preparation can be reduced to a science, etc. Why? Perhaps because they dislike having the mystique that enshrouds law school exam writing stripped away. Mostly because they haven't thought about the subject of law exams as long and carefully as Wentworth Miller. They don't know (actually, more and more do) what he knows and instructs. Indeed, when law professors attend LEEWS, they typically end up furiously taking notes — although we discourage note taking.]
Once the similarity and predictability of law essay exams, and how to break them down, becomes apparent, so, too, does the daily exam-focused briefing of cases, weekly outlining, etc. become a standard and predictable exercise. Indeed, how to address any aspect of the lawyering process — memos, briefs, moot court exercises, etc. — becomes predictable. Which engenders a lot of confidence.
Accomplishing all of the above is not easy. It requires a full day of instruction and practice afterward. But LEEWS programs, even the audio version, are surprisingly entertaining, as the many reactions of students attest. And the effect in terms of confidence and efficiency in all aspects of law school is immediate. Students typically report briefing cases in 2-4 lines, taking less than a page of notes per class hour, and outlining entire courses in 10-30 pages. (How is this possible? ... When you understand the law as a tool and how to apply it, and you get in the habit of thinking about the application of law to facts — facts of the assigned case, facts the professor introduces, facts you make up —, all of which is great practice for the analysis professors want to see in exam responses, you'll remember what you need to remember, and do a lot less busywork scribbling of irrelevant information.)
In short, LEEWS simply does a much better job than any other instruction, including law school itself, in showing students what it is that lawyers do, and how to reflect this in every task posed not just in law school, but as a summer law associate, and throughout their lawyering life.
A bold claim, we know. Lots of bold claims. Unbelieveable claims, you may be thinking. But proven by years of consistently impressive results.
1. Consider, for example, an excerpt from a letter in the Results section from a purchaser of the audio tape program, Mr. Scott Hyder, Arizona State U. College of Law, class of '96. Mr. Hyder had taken ten courses before purchasing the LEEWS audio program in September of his second year. He had had only two grades above 80, the highest being an 84. In his third semester, following use of the tapes, he received grades of 92, 89, 87, and 84! As a 2L, Mr. Hyder was presumably familiar with the standard advice offered by professors and upperclassmen. He wrote in part:
First, the content of your program is fascinating, mainly because it prescribes an orderly and methodical way to spot, organize, and present [analysis of] issues in an impressive manner to a grader. Your concept of premise and counterpremise is extremely helpful. Identifying conflict pairings is a superb method to make sure you are focusing on issues involving certain parties in a hypothetical. Every law student is told to "spot all of the issues" and "use IRAC." With LEEWS you actually learn how to find hidden issues, organize your answer, and impress your professor with a comprehensive, intellectual answer.
Second, I cannot express how important your advice is about incorporating such legal jargon as "supra," "infra," and "arguendo" in an answer. Such language shows a professor that you are writing in a lawyerlike fashion. It also makes it easier to refer to ideas you have already written or plan to discuss later on in the answer. In addition, your advice on using separate paragraphs for each issue is extremely important. This is such an easy concept, and I kick myself for not being conscious about doing this last year. It forces the writer to keep answers brief, concise, and organized. Most importantly, it makes it easier for the professor to see the issues you discuss. I would think that students mainly concentrate on LEEWS' issue spotting strategies. [Yes, they do.] However, the way you write your answer is equally important in order to improve grades. I would stress this even more in your tapes.' [We did in our 1995 edition, and even better in our current 2000 edition of the audio program.] Back
2. A professor at Duke offered as a two hour exam the following: "The words 'if not, then' in the context of the Rule against Perpetuities . . . . What do you have to say about that?" No facts, only the question.
The topic, obviously, is the Rule Against Perpetuities. The professor wants to see thinking centered around "if not, then," with a likely policy emphasis. After a period of moaning and groaning, most students wing it. The response will likely be overly academic and shallow, laced with considerable BS. = B-C grade.
Such an exam would be organized under the LEEWS approach as follows. First, where no facts are given, literally create a hypothetical fact scenario tailored to the subject. Thus, write: "Suppose the following facts . . ." Then describe, reiterating the facts of a case read, or something raised in class, someone two or three generations removed seeking to take under a testator's will. Step One posits the executor, state, or someone or entity whose bequest would be negatively impacted versus the person seeking to take. This affected party asserts the Rule Against Perpetuities as a bar. Posit additional facts to illustrate points and possible negative and positive results as needed.
A dialectic centered on actual facts makes for a much more interesting and thoughtful discussion respecting merits and demerits of the Rule, and how honoring a testator's intent must be balanced against society's interest in not having the reach of a 'dead hand' carry overly far into the future. Such discussion, of course, would be guided by and centered around the intent behind the phrase "if not, then," and what precedes and follows that phrase (very likely discussed in class). = Likely "A." Back