Tips for Pre-Law Students

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Are you planning to go to law school?  Or maybe, you intend to work in the criminal justice field.  You are now or will be in a college or a university, where you will take pre-law courses.

How do you do well in these pre-law courses?

You can prepare for your pre-law courses before you even step foot in a pre-law classroom.

Besides, writing is the key to good grades in college.  And, good grades lead to law school admission.

This blog addresses:

  1. High school and your other college courses did not prepare you to do well in pre-law courses.  You can still prepare on your own before you walk through the doors of your pre-law school classroom.    
  2. Once your pre-law course starts, find a system that works for you so that you can excel in your exams or papers.

I have taught or mentored hundreds of students who have completed pre-law courses or were law students or new lawyers. Below are two tips for success in pre-law courses.

High school and your other college courses did not prepare you for doing well in pre-law courses.  You can still prepare on your own before you walk through the doors of your pre-law school classroom.

Your high school or even college (or university) did not prepare you to succeed in pre-law courses.  In fact, college is not preparing incoming law students to think like lawyers.[1] Many students are not prepared for the rigorous analysis required.[2] One experienced law professor found that students who think unclearly write unclearly.[3] College students have deficits in critical reading, complex reasoning, and writing during the first two years of college. Rigorous college courses with extensive reading and writing requirements can result in true academic improvement.[4] What if you do not plan to take these kinds of courses?  You still can.  Nevertheless, you will be alright.

Logic is necessary to excel in the law, but many students of the law have not learned logic in college.  No one has taught college students how to create and construct legal arguments.[5] Indeed, incoming law students should, but do not, know the basics of classical rhetoric: the different modes of persuasion and how to identify fallacies.[6] After all, practicing law is a trade. What is the trade based upon? It is based upon: flawless writing, logical reasoning, and persuasive argument.[7]  Not surprising, these three skills have evolved from the classical and medieval curriculum of grammar, logic and rhetoric.[8] Many students do not possess these skills when they enter law school.

How can you develop logic and writing skills in which you may be deficient? And quickly? Consider taking a legal writing course. There are many good legal writing courses available online.

My course, Legal Writing Launch, is a great option because you can take it at your own pace and it includes the option for live instructor feedback. It is available at LegalWritingLaunch.com.  It is important to take a pre-law writing course to do well in your pre-law courses.

One commentator noted that students can harness educational technologies to develop some of the basic skills necessary for law school.[9] Legal Writing Launch is a legal writing intensive course. In this on-line, self-paced course, students will learn to draft power-packed packed paragraphs™ using the legal reasoning structure taught in law school—Issue, Rule, Analysis, and Conclusion, commonly known as IRAC. Another commentator has discussed the value of the Core Grammar for Lawyers on-line platform to prepare students for their first year of law school.[10] Legal Writing Launch offers Core Grammar as part of its focus in ensuring that students know the fundamentals of grammar in college.

Successful undergraduate students, who are pre-law, excel at:

  1. Strong essay writing
  2. Simplifying and communicating complex concepts
  3. Demonstrating excellent skills in grammar
  4. Understanding and developing legal issues
  5. Using the IRAC analytical structure (Issue, Rule, Analysis & Conclusion)
  6. Drafting strong paragraphs for exams, papers, legal memos, letters, and briefs.

Legal Writing Launch teaches these skills.

Once you start your pre-law school courses, find a system that works for you so that you can excel on your exams or papers

You must determine what works for you to do well on pre-law school exams and papers. Of course, it is fine to take advice from instructors. Frankly, your instructors will likely provide you no advice at all about how to study for pre-law exams or write papers for these courses.  And, there is a huge difference between preparing for class and doing well on a pre-law school exam. When I took Women and the Law, a pre-law course, back in the day at the University of Michigan, I distinctly recall that none of the three law school instructors taught us how to prepare to do much that was law-related.  One instructor showed us how to write a case brief (i.e., facts, issue, holding, rationale).  But, none of the instructors taught us how to transfer what we learned from briefing a case into an actual paper.  Legal Writing Launch teaches this skill.  One of the preeminent experts in legal writing, Bryan A. Garnar, notes that it is no wonder that even lawyers can’t write: law schools provide students with “poorly-written, legalese opinions that read like over-the-top . . . parodies of stiffness and hyper-formality.”[11]  Garner faults the law school system where professors offer little if any feedback on students’ writing on their exams or writing assignments.[12]  If law school is not going to teach students how to write for the law, it is likely that college professors, in pre-law courses, aren’t going to teach this either.

So what works? How do you do well on exams? The short answer is that you have to find what works for you. Every day after a law school class, I sat down and created a master outline (for that class)—from my class notes, a commercial outline (like Gilberts), and case summaries (like Casenotes.) As exam season approached, I made an outline of my outline. As the exams became closer and closer, I memorized my mini outlines and drafted answers to many practice-exam questions. My grades shot up! This is what worked for me in law school on exams.

Billionaire investor Warren Buffet states, “[b]y far the best investment you can make is in yourself.”  [13]  Buffett added that  developing one’s communication skills—both in writing and in-person—”can increase [one’s] value by at least fifty percent.”   [14

Click the button below to see if my course might assist you before you start taking pre-law classes.  One of our target audiences is pre-law students.  (View the introductory video, and access the actual contents of the course under any of the course levels—Basic Course, Assignment Editing Add-On, or Weekly Zoom Meeting [includes Assignment-Editing].

Click here to learn more about Legal Writing Launch

[1]Flanagan, The Kids Aren’t Alright: Rethinking the Law Students Skills Deficit (Kids Aren’t Alright) (2015) Brigham Young Univ. Educ. And Law Journal 136. https://scholarship.law.umassd.edu/fac_pubs/90/

[2] Kids Aren’t Alright, supra, at p. 175.

[3] Viatar, Adams & Reese, Legal Education’s Perfect Storm: Law Students’ Poor Writing and Legal Analysis Skills Collide with Dismal Employment Prospects, Creating the Urge to Reconfigure the First-Year Curriculum (Legal Education’s Perfect Storm) (2012) 61 Cath. U. L Rev. 735, 742, n. 26. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2142812#:~:text=Legal%20Education%27s%20Perfect%20Storm%3A%20Law%20Students%27%20Poor%20Writing,the%20Urgent%20Need%20to%20Reconfigure%20the%20First-Year%20Curriculum

[4] Legal Education’s Perfect Storm, supra, at pp. 735 & 755, n. 97.

[5] Legal Education’s Perfect Storm, supra, at pp. 735 & 755, n. 97.

[6]Legal Education’s Perfect Storm, supra, at p. 759.

[7] Legal Education’s Perfect Storm, supra, at pp. 755-756.

[8] Legal Education’s Perfect Storm, supra, at p. 756.

[9] Kids Aren’t Alright, supra, at p. 182.

[10] Kids Aren’t Alright, supra, at p. 175 and https://www.coregrammarforlawyers.com/.

[11] Garnar, Why Lawyers Can’t Write, 1, 2.  https://www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/why_lawyers_cant_write/

[12] Why Lawyers Can’t Write, supra, at p. 2.

[13]  Warren Buffet Says This 1 Investment Decision Will Be By Far the Best One You Ever Make, Inc.com (Jan. 2021).  

https://www.inc.com/marcel-schwantes/warren-buffett-says-this-1-investment-decision-will-by-far-be-best-youll-ever-make.html#:~:text=In%20a%202019%20interview%20with,by%20at%20least%2050%20percent.%22

[14]  Warren Buffet Says This 1 Investment Decision Will Be By Far the Best One You Ever Make, supra

https://www.inc.com/marcel-schwantes/warren-buffett-says-this-1-investment-decision-will-by-far-be-best-youll-ever-make.html#:~:text=In%20a%202019%20interview%20with,by%20at%20least%2050%20percent.%22

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