Thursday, March 4, 2010

Ask Aunty - 1 - Law Woes.

So, a young man with whom I am quite friendly, and who is currently a law student, contacted me recently asking me for help about law school.

I had to spend several minutes wiping pesto off my tie after that I'm afraid, as upon reading the letter, the thought that someone thought me as academically advice-worthy caused me such mirth that snorted into my bucket of luncheon pasta.

Anyway, I tried to help the guy out, as he seems to have hit a rocky patch in his newfound educatia, and therefore, I launch my new column, ASK AUNTY:

Hey Conor, I've run into a few problems this week and was wondering if you could offer me a bit of advice (no contract pun intended). I know you don't need reminding but I'm doing law up here at uni. To be honest, I've run into a few problems this week and was wondering if you could offer me a bit of advice (no contract pun intended).

In first term I did the typical student thing of messing it up a bit- the social/laziness aspect beat the academic side hands down. The January exams were a kick up the backside so my work ethic's been a lot better this term. The only thing is I don't feel I'm getting as much out of the work as I'm putting in. I'm in the library 3-4 hours daily on top of lectures but I'm just not getting the improvement I expected.

So before I get too indulgent in self pity here, it would be great if you had any tips for improving learning/information retention/concentration levels.


Hey man,

First of all, don't beat yourself up. It's the silly bollocks who spend all their time in the library who end up doing badly, if that doesn't sound like an oxymoron. I was never a great shakes at study, but I managed to scrape through.

The key thing is to absolutely ignore a good 75% of what people around you say. Most of what they claim about study is bullshit, and they say things like 'OMG, I spent like 9 hours in the that enough?" They're the sorts who have no lives, who play mind games (like hiding books at exam times wtf?) and who sincerely believe that class rankings matter for more than self aggrandisement.

The big thing about fact retention in Common law is the head notes of a case. Don't spend 3 hours reading some criminal judgment when all you need to know is that there's been a slight change in Judicial practice, or that the Court dynamic has changed a wee bit regarding x, y ,or z. The bare bones of a case is all you need, with maybe a memorable detail to keep it locked in there:

R v. Conor (2010) Ct Crim App.

-killed guy with novelty oversized dildo
-plead insanity
-fact had mentioned owning a dildo "just in case I need to cock that big guy up"

Something like that. Then when you've got a list of a few cases per issue, or per aspect of law. Write them over and over so that you develop a free hand. Honestly, my final notes looked like a list of Star Wars robots in a lineup, and I was able, because I had intensely learned them, what they meant.

The old adage of ILAC is best once you have your bare facts down.

Issue (what's the controversy here?)
Law (current law)
Apply (application of law to facts)
Conclusion (what the court did or should do)


I - a) is a rubber cock a weapon?
- b) if so, does owning it = premeditation
L - giant rubber phallus a weapon if the intention was malicious.
A - in this case "for cocking that guy" = malicious
C - was a weapon = premeditation = murder.


The second big thing is choosing your topics. Try and get a feel for what may come up in the exams. A large percentage of what you study during the year is useless for two reasons.
1) It'll be obsolete or changed by the time you graduate or
2) It won't be examined, and you'll never use it
a) if you practice or,
b) you don't practice, which accounts for about 85% of law grads anyway,

You can prune a lot of stuff out by playing a guessing game based on trends/ the prof/ the size or detail that went into teaching it.

If you cover, sticking with the crime example, Infanticide in one lecture (which btw, from experience, is prob the one Crim Law lecture you should definitely NOT show up to drunk) and spend three weeks doing defences...

Well, it sounds obvious, but it really isn't when the chips are down. Another good way to compress or prune is to base the core of your learning on the Seminars. The lecturers have designated them as either
a) alternative time to teach you new stuff and
b) extra time to make sure you understand important stuff.

Figure out which stuff is 'B' and learn it.

The final thing is this, if you feel that you're fucked, utterly, in the arsepipe, with a rusty genital appendage from a metaphorical Truck driver of exam pain, take a look at the dribbling fuckwits in your class...the one's who can barely tie their shoes or who almost forget not to soil themselves regularly, and breathe deeply. Lavender helps for this.

Hope it helps


ps - you can ask aunt conor yourself by contacting me thru the old blog or by emailing me - :)

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