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lawwal

Are the readings necessary?

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1L here. Haven’t done a single reading this entire semester but I have read upper year’s briefs, and my profs do a pretty good job of explaining the rules and analysis of each case. So I’m just wondering, is it possible to get a good mark on exams without doing any of the readings and just going off briefs and class? I feel like I have a good understanding of the rules of each case and how they would apply to a fact scenario. 

Edited by lawwal
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Is it possible? Yes.

Should you try it before even writing/receiving grades from your first law schools exams? Hell no.

I maintained above average grades throughout law school with minimal reading. I didn't slow my reading down until I AFTER I got my grades back from my December exams and could evaluate my study strategy.

For every person that gets by without reading, there's like 5 more that need to read at at least 51%+ of the material to achieve the same grades. Don't take those odds until you have some actual academic feedback.

Edited by canuckfanatic

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In my opinion, not doing any readings in the first semester of 1L is very foolish. At this point, you have no idea how this will affect your ability to do well on an exam.  I've seen people here post about not doing all the readings, but that is typically in 2L and 3L. I still think it's unwise but at least then, they have a somewhat good idea of what they need to achieve their desired grade (hopefully!).  

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I just want to add, entirely separate from the question of whether one can do well in law school without completing the readings, that being able to read cases in full and takeaway what is important is a vital skill for many if not most legal practice areas. When you are in practice there will not be a professor to spoonfeed the cliff notes to you and there will not always be reference materials to assist you. You're doing a disservice to your future self by not developing those skills now.

Edited by CleanHands
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I agree with all of the above entirely. And just to inspire some insecurity in you (which you seem to badly need) consider this. When you say you think you have a "good understanding" of the material even without doing the readings yourself, please consider what your "good understanding" will be compared to. It isn't a question of evaluating your work in a vacuum. Your understanding of the material will be compared to all the other students around you, most of whom are doing the readings and some of whom are even reading well beyond them. Virtually everyone in law school works hard, which is not true in undergrad and perhaps something you aren't accounting for. If your understanding of the material is weaker than most of the students around you, then there's simply no reasonable way to call that a "good" understanding at all, and your marks will reflect that.

Just something to think about.

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"is it possible to get a good mark on exams without doing any of the readings and just going off briefs and class?"

--> the straight answer to this is "yes" BUT...

Consider the possibility that an upper year's briefs/summaries/CANs could be incorrect. 

Even if the secondary material you are looking at is correct on the law, for most law school exams getting the basic law correct is only enough for a B. Many of the students who are separating themselves from the pack and getting As are doing so by saying some interesting or original stuff, or demonstrating a thorough/deep understanding of some parts of the subject. If your definition of "a good mark" is a B+ or better, then you'll likely be hard pressed to get good marks with a no-readings strategy. If your definition of "good marks" is mostly Bs with some risk of Cs, then a no-readings strategy might work? 

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One more thing to think about: working hard is a skill. You can get great grades by doing very little. That's what I did. What that does not do is nurture an ability to concentrate for long periods of time on relatively dry information. The ability to focus up for several hours a day and work hard is rewarded in practice (and in life more generally!). The ability to cut corners is not. 

Edited by TdK

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You'll probably want to read an entire case at least once while in law school so as not to become the lawyer that submits case law that actually argues against their case due to a misleading case header (looking at you, opposing counsel :)

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3 minutes ago, artsydork said:

You'll probably want to read an entire case at least once while in law school so as not to become the lawyer that submits case law that actually argues against their case due to a misleading case header (looking at you, opposing counsel :)

I had this once. The guy got up and started reading not from the holding in the case, but from the court's summary of the plaintiff's argument. Apparently he had been unreasonable in settlement talks all along because he thought that part was the law!

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Also consider how nerve-wrecking exams are: don't you want to feel like you've done everything in your power to do well? Only reading other students' notes isn't exactly a confidence booster, especially when they may be incorrect. The fact that you've posted this question here during exam season might attest to that. 

Edited by poshspice

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In general, I rarely did all the readings for all classes (not just for 1L, but law school in general). It's simply an overwhelming amount. But I usually did at least some. And I would recommend the same though I suppose it's certainly possible to do well in law school without doing any. 

Typically, I did readings for classes where I was having a more difficult time grasping the material and/or felt the professor's teaching left holes in my knowledge. 

But even if you don't do the readings throughout the semester, I would highly recommend looking through them during your exam preparation. Your exam preparation should (hopefully) give you a sense of where your knowledge lacks depth. And I would supplement your exam outlines with materials from the readings. 

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As a 3L I like to think that all readings are optional (just because it makes me feel better when I dont do them), but uh.... first semester of 1L? I'd probably be doing the readings. 

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3 hours ago, Jaggers said:

I had this once. The guy got up and started reading not from the holding in the case, but from the court's summary of the plaintiff's argument. Apparently he had been unreasonable in settlement talks all along because he thought that part was the law!

Not quite as bad, but when I'd received a death case I did some research and found a Court of Appeal decision that was fairly definitive on point.  In between my research and the case going to trial SCC granted leave to appeal - which I completely missed.  Trial judge going on gut instinct ignored my "definitive" case and acquitted.  We appealed, SCC very decisively overturned my 'definitive' case, we withdrew our appeal.

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10 hours ago, lawwal said:

1L here. Haven’t done a single reading this entire semester but I have read upper year’s briefs, and my profs do a pretty good job of explaining the rules and analysis of each case. So I’m just wondering, is it possible to get a good mark on exams without doing any of the readings and just going off briefs and class? I feel like I have a good understanding of the rules of each case and how they would apply to a fact scenario. 

So I think it's been answered here: yes you can get by on just cans or summaries, but whether you should is a different story.

So @lawwal, this is your only post so I don't know anything about you.  I don't know what kind of stressed or time pressures you're under.  Maybe you're working part time, even full time, trying to support your family while going to law school.  Maybe you're suffering from some level of learning disability.  Or whatever.

My point is that if just reading the cans/summaries is all you can possibly manage to do, then for what little it's worth you have my blessing to do so.  You gotta do what you gotta do.  Almost nobody fails out of law school so I'm sure you'll do well enough to graduate.

But if you have the time, you really should do the readings.  There's almost invariably more nuance in a case than a summary will give you.  Reading cases is a big part of being a lawyer, so try to learn that skill while you're in school, and not trying to learn on real cases when it really matters.  You're also paying a staggeringly huge amount of money to go to law school - you really should do everything you can to maximize the value of that education.

Plus, if you want to do more than just ok - if you want to excel in law school - doing the readings is a must.

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10 minutes ago, Malicious Prosecutor said:

Not quite as bad, but when I'd received a death case I did some research and found a Court of Appeal decision that was fairly definitive on point.  In between my research and the case going to trial SCC granted leave to appeal - which I completely missed.  Trial judge going on gut instinct ignored my "definitive" case and acquitted.  We appealed, SCC very decisively overturned my 'definitive' case, we withdrew our appeal.

I once started a case triumphantly waving around a recent trial level decision confirming that there is no freestanding right to privacy in Ontario. In my final argument I had to explain why the facts meant that the new freestanding right to privacy in Ontario did not apply. Thanks Justice Sharpe!

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I agree with all the above posters. However, if you haven't read a single case at this point, it's too late to start before your midterms/finals. Just go off your notes/upper year CANs and practice the hell out of past exams. Then readjust your study strategy in second term.

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32 minutes ago, Jaggers said:

I once started a case triumphantly waving around a recent trial level decision confirming that there is no freestanding right to privacy in Ontario. In my final argument I had to explain why the facts meant that the new freestanding right to privacy in Ontario did not apply. Thanks Justice Sharpe!

The other day defence comes in to a drunk driving trial relying on a trial-level out of jurisdiction oral decision.  I mean it's not a strong authority, but yes it was on point with similar facts, and yes it did hold what defence said it did, and the judge did go on to exclude certain evidence that defence wanted excluded in my trial.

I pointed out however that if you read further in the case you'd find that notwithstanding some evidence being excluded, the judge still convicted on another basis and the same was likely to happen in our case.*  Defence didn't say anything directly to that but it did turn into a guilty plea.

 

* Judge acquitted on the Over 80 charge, but found there was ample evidence for the Impaired charge.

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47 minutes ago, Malicious Prosecutor said:

So I think it's been answered here: yes you can get by on just cans or summaries, but whether you should is a different story.

So @lawwal, this is your only post so I don't know anything about you.  I don't know what kind of stressed or time pressures you're under.  Maybe you're working part time, even full time, trying to support your family while going to law school.  Maybe you're suffering from some level of learning disability.  Or whatever.

My point is that if just reading the cans/summaries is all you can possibly manage to do, then for what little it's worth you have my blessing to do so.  You gotta do what you gotta do.  Almost nobody fails out of law school so I'm sure you'll do well enough to graduate.

But if you have the time, you really should do the readings.  There's almost invariably more nuance in a case than a summary will give you.  Reading cases is a big part of being a lawyer, so try to learn that skill while you're in school, and not trying to learn on real cases when it really matters.  You're also paying a staggeringly huge amount of money to go to law school - you really should do everything you can to maximize the value of that education.

Plus, if you want to do more than just ok - if you want to excel in law school - doing the readings is a must.

Thank you for this answer! I have been going through some mental health problems this semester and fell really behind as a result. I totally understand that I need to make use of this education as I'm not gonna get another chance to do so and right now is a really important time to learn the fundamentals. I do plan on doing most of the readings in the upcoming semester, or at least skimming them, as my April exams will be worth much more than the December exams.

 

 

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