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Uriel

To the 1Ls, on the occasion of their first exams

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I was totally freaked out in September because I got in off the waitlist, so I was worried that everyone else was more capable or better prepared than I was. I was also concerned because I attended an undergraduate institution that is very small time. It doesn't even make the Macleans rankings. So I have been pleasantly surprised with my grades.

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grades are out already? this must be UT law specific unless it's happening at oz as well?

Osgoode grades won't be out until the end of the month.

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Western grades have been out for almost two weeks now. I did quite well, so my advice is study well in advance, make your own summaries, and start studying well enough in advance so that you can still go out in the middle of the exam period. Oh, and start well in advance. And make your own summaries. :mrgreen:

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Uriel this post is great for 1Ls!

I am well past that now, but I had a HORRIBLE mark in 1L (December) - and it counted!

 

I had tried so hard at those December exams but really, I had no idea what I was doing.

I met up with the prof that gave me that bad mark, and he confirmed that I had no idea what I was doing! Focusing on the wrong issues, totally disorganized, etc.

I was so worried that I was stupid and just couldn't hack it...But in reality, I had noticed all the correct issues, but had made a big deal about the wrong ones, and was all over the map.

 

If you get a bad mark and it is an exam that doesn't count in a full year first year class, my best advice is to see those professors - and find out what you did wrong. Don't worry if you cry in their office. They've seen it all. If you get the exam itself back, compare it to others you wrote where you did ok/good. You might notice a difference yourself, but if you don't - find out why the professor didn't like your exam.

 

Honestly, it doesn't matter which prof it is/which course it is - the more organized your exam is - the better your grade will likely be. And sometimes, professors don't want you to just throw every possible issue into the exam. Say its a constitutional/charter exam - and you discuss violations of s. 2a, 15 (then s. 1) - if you then notice a s. 7 issue but don't think its too relevant, some profs want you to say that you notice that there may be a s. 7 issue, but that you don't think it is crucial, and that you are not going to go through a s. 1 analysis.

On the other hand, some profs want everything including the kitchen sink - so best advice: Ask the prof! Ask during exam review! Say - "would you prefer us to discuss all issues, or focus on the important ones, and mention the additional ones?" - they almost certainly tell you - and if you aren't sure - ask a few upper years.

 

In the end - I organized my exams (i.e. the beginning - I would say: For Client X (or whatever the questions asks) the following issues are likely to come up - and then I would list them in numbers. I would then start with the first issue, and go through the process. Then, I would go on to the second issue (I would underline when it started - writing #2 - and the "title" I would give the issue.)

Think of all the exams your prof is reading - just for your class - not to mention the upper year exams/papers AND research they are doing themselves. Organization is so important and probably most overlooked during December exams when you are trying to spot the bunnies (issues).

 

My marks greatly improved from my December exams - likely because I became more concerned not with just learning the law, but learning HOW to write a law exam.

As Uriel said, the light WILL turn on February as to how the law works - but writing a good law exam is something you shouldn't overlook!

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I am also so glad this post exists... huge thanks Uriel! I'm not starting 1L until September, but have been panicking a lot already (and the boyfriend is starting to get annoyed with reassuring me I am smart and capable and etc etc etc). I will keep these positive vibes in mind next year when I'm sure my own personal negative vibes will have reached toxic levels. And big thanks to am85 for her insight as well! organization and positive energy... on est capables!

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I doubt law schools will give many Cs over the next few years as they change from curving on a mean to curving on a median. When my grandpa was a lad, C was an average grade in school. You had two letters above it, B and A, and two letters bellow, D and F. By the time my father was in highschool, few got Cs, but you saw Cs in university. By the time I went to university, As and Bs were the norm for marginal effort. But law school still had Cs apparently. Not so many anymore, I've had but one C in lawschool, and the only reason that happened was because my professor was an idiot. This has come with me studying an average of two weeks before exams. Truth is, grade inflation coincides with education inflation. In grandpa's day, getting a BA meant something. In my dad's day, a law degree was a sure thing. Now adays, the law degree still carries weight, but professional degrees today are yesterday's BAs. And so the trend continues. The reason for both grade and education inflation are economic. People will pay for school and schools now consider themselves a business. A business aims to make its customers happy, and that means better grades are handed out, but a business is also designed for repeat customers, and that means the schools need you to keep coming back to buy more education.

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Truth is, grade inflation coincides with education inflation.

 

Wait, aren't law school curves harder than the curves for most bachelors' degrees?

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Truth is, grade inflation coincides with education inflation.

 

Wait, aren't law school curves harder than the curves for most bachelors' degrees?

 

That depends on your definition of "harder". Law school curves are made challenging because of the caliber of your peers. Sufficiently strong undergraduate peers and a sufficiently weak law school could make it close.

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Truth is, grade inflation coincides with education inflation.

 

Wait, aren't law school curves harder than the curves for most bachelors' degrees?

 

That depends on your definition of "harder". Law school curves are made challenging because of the caliber of your peers. Sufficiently strong undergraduate peers and a sufficiently weak law school could make it close.

 

+1

 

In undergrad a large portion of your class is perfectly happy with a passing grade (i.e. C's) and put in just enough effort to pass - the same cannot be said for law school.

 

Also, undergrad exams test knowledge and demonstrating knowledge on an exam is usually pretty straight forward. Law exams do not test knowledge, they test your ability to spot problems in a fact pattern and use what you have learned to conduct some sort of analysis.

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I'll do my best to keep this from being a long and convoluted story, especially since I'm writing it by phone! What follows might be a bit syrupy, but I would have wanted to hear it last November, so here goes.

 

There are going to be a lot of people over the next month telling you not to stress out over your first exams: that they don't matter that much, that a bad mark is not the end of the world. Do me a favour. Listen to those people.

 

My first mark at law school was a big, stinky C. The mark itself looked and felt like an open wound from a shattered beer bottle. It was the only mark I had in my pocket as I went home for the December holidays. I got to listen to the lamentations of my classmates at the end-of-term party: "I feel so stupid! I've never had a B+ in my life!" "Well, at least it's not a C+, man, that would be a kick in the face." "Ha! Yeah, that's basically code for, 'get out of law school'."

 

It was humiliating, depressing, and stressful in the extreme. Questions started to float, especially as my exam marks started coming back with Bs --- and those were the good ones. Was it a huge mistake to come to law school? Should I ever have quit that great job? Am I really so much dumber than everyone else?

 

What I didn't realize at the time was that just like me, anyone else who went through the same thing was too humiliated to talk about it. But I wasn't alone, and these things do happen.

 

Now, for the point! Most of you will do beautifully, and rock the hell out of your exams. That's what curves do. Almost all of you will ride those exams like an insolent mule and stagger lopingly into the ruby sunset.

 

But for those of you that do start slow, like me, don't lose faith in yourselves. You got this far for a reason, and no one gets into law school that can't hack it. (Though whether they want to is another matter.) I promise, there really is such thing as a slow start, and you WILL get better. Looking back on my notes, I can actually see the transformation around Valentine's Day. You won't notice it happening, and you will probably still feel like you bombed your finals, but you'll actually learn a lot from your first term and turn out more awesome than you think.

 

I got the word yesterday; I'm off to my favourite firm on Bay Street. I would have never thought it was possible any time last year, in the pressure cooker that is 1L. So please, do your families and friends a favour in the slim chance you're a slow starter too --- don't beat yourself up. It gets better, a lot better, and in the big picture your first term marks often couldn't be more irrelevant. Really. No, really. Shut up. Really.

 

There's more than enough paranoia to go around in 1L, but the truth is you'll be exponentially better educated in April than you can be in December, and when it comes time to find work, people are going to hire you, not your transcript.

 

So, I suppose, I'm putting this up in case anyone feels like they've had a catastrophe in January, or after exams. If you can't find anyone to talk to anonymously, please do send me a PM. People can go from the bottom of the class to the top. I know many who did, and I'm one of them. I bombed my first term, bombed December, and came back with enough rocket power that I absolutely shocked myself when our grades came back. Now the sun's in the sky and I couldn't be happier.

 

So get out there and give 'em hell, 1Ls! You'll be amazing! And even in the off chance you're a little (or a lot!) less than stellar, trust me --- it's far from over, and the wide horizon is still swelling before you. Though you will feel like cat vomit ground into shag carpeting. That's just what's up, I'm not going to lie, but once you get over the shock, I swear: those exams have definitely not heard the last of you!

 

You're my favourite person in the world right now. I owe u for this. So awesome. Thanks.

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So, I suppose, I'm putting this up in case anyone feels like they've had a catastrophe in January, or after exams. If you can't find anyone to talk to anonymously, please do send me a PM. People can go from the bottom of the class to the top. I know many who did, and I'm one of them. I bombed my first term, bombed December, and came back with enough rocket power that I absolutely shocked myself when our grades came back. Now the sun's in the sky and I couldn't be happier.

 

Offer's still open, by the way, for all you folks new to it this time around. :)

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Uriel, I read your OP today on my way to an exam. Thank you! That actually meant a lot!

 

its a great post, but don't take too much comfort in it bro, places like UofT and Western have their midterms at christmas where you can afford to screw up. Ur at Oz right? we're talking 100% finals for half courses, semestered system, any C's now will be staring at you on your transcript perminately, no room for mistakes lolz.

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Uriel, I read your OP today on my way to an exam. Thank you! That actually meant a lot!

 

its a great post, but don't take too much comfort in it bro, places like UofT and Western have their midterms at christmas where you can afford to screw up. Ur at Oz right? we're talking 100% finals for half courses, semestered system, any C's now will be staring at you on your transcript perminately, no room for mistakes lolz.

 

While that may be true, having a C or C+ on your transcript is not the end of the world, regardless of when it is. It's not like 1 C or C+ makes you unattractive to employers.

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You guys are right. It's different for us because our December exams are 100% finals for most courses.

 

But still, getting a bit of perspective on life, universe and everything that gets my head out of the exam craze and reminds me that there is life after this, no matter what, is nice and calming. It could only do me good. And it did!

 

Going into an exam with a postitive attitude and a calm mind can definitely mean the difference between C+ and B, or B and B+ so Uriel, you rock!

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Bumppppp.

 

Thanks, Uriel, for this post that you made two years ago!

 

It's 4 AM and just one week left till our exams start here at Windsor Law. I had a bit of a freak-out about impending midterms, so came to lawstudents to do a little search for some reassurance.

 

I keep hearing stories from upper-years about people they know who've gone from Cs and Ds on the midterms to As and Bs in the class. I'm still worried though. For what it's worth, none of mine are worth more than 35%, but people were freaking out about a 20% memo in Legal Research and Writing as well, and it's hard to not let the stress get to you! Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! We're all gonna be okay, right? It's not time to drop out just yet?

Edited by nee

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Ah yes, stomach churning pre-exam anxiety. Where were you all this time?

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