Wednesday, May 30, 2018
Make Your Students’ Lives—And Your Life—Better
The following is by Tom Holm of Thomas Holm Legal Consulting and former director and instructor for the Lawyering Skills Clinical Program at UCLA School of Law and is sponsored by West Academic.
Teaching 1L students is incredibly difficult. They need to understand everything before they can really understand anything at all. And they are often burdened by reliance on rote learning skills and misconceptions about law school teaching methodology. So students often seek the right answers rather than the best arguments—demanding certainty when embracing ambiguity is ultimately their goal.
If you would like to help students “get it” more quickly so you can focus on higher-level teaching, augment your students’ casebook and classroom experience by assigning Cracking the Case Method. My co-authors—Paul Bergman and Patrick Goodman—and I wrote this second edition of Cracking to help “clear the underbrush” for novice students and provide them with a framework for understanding your instruction.
For example, Chapter 1—The Case Method and its Myths—could help you demonstrate that the Case Method helps students learn how to identify legal issues and construct arguments regarding those issues. Similarly, few professors want to focus their valuable class time on briefing skills. Establish your expectations by assigning Chapter 7—Briefing Cases—to teach students why they should brief and how they can brief efficiently and effectively. Students could then brief the two sample cases in the chapter and compare their briefs to the accompanying annotated case briefs. Chapter 4 illustrates the full panoply of arguments lawyers offer to support their clients’ positions, further amplifying the fundamental goal of the Case Method: learning the process of legal argument.
Cracking the Case Method helps demystify law school by teaching students how to take full advantage of your instruction. With Cracking, you’ll get better prepared, more analytically skilled students—students who seek arguments, not answers. It provides concise, clear, and in-depth instruction on all aspects of academic success, including such topics as:
• Overall strategies for approaching students’ 1L semesters, including:
• Reading cases and preparing for class efficiently and effectively;
• Practicing legal analysis and extracting crucial information from their classes; and
• Preparing for law school exams.
• The Case Method: why professors rely on it and how studying cases helps students develop rigorous analytical skills.
• How to expertly read cases to extract legal issues, rules, and judges’ rationales for adopting and applying those rules.
• The major types of legal arguments, including illustrations of each type of argument.
• Sources of law and hierarchies of authority.
• How to skillfully prepare case briefs—with two annotated sample case briefs.
• How to use class discussions to practice legal analysis, illustrated with annotated excerpts from actual first-year class discussions.
• Exam preparation tools, including:
• Structuring outlines to clearly state rules and their underlying policies in order to provide an analytical framework of the law—with detailed examples and sample annotated outlines;
• Developing checklists, flow charts, and mind maps—with illustrations; and
• Practicing exam-taking skills with prior exams.
• A transparent approach for analyzing and writing exam-answers, including:
• Identifying relevant legal theories and issues;
• Marshalling and using facts in arguments;
• Structuring and writing their analysis—with sample annotated exam answers that respond to actual 1L exam questions; and
• Using time-management strategies during exams to ensure they develop more sophisticated arguments.
In addition to helping individual students, Cracking can be used to enhance any orientation course your law school may provide; it can also augment the outlining and exam-taking sessions your students may attend.
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