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We have many law school interns and aspiring law students come through our law firm through the years. Many need strategic advice on how to ace their law school exams. So today, will go over tricks that will help you rack up those points on your next essay exam.

If you write a law school essay exam like you did in college, you will fail.  Law school exams are completely different and I am going to show you exactly how and exactly how to get an A on your exam. If you are watching this, you likely are in law school, meaning you did well in college. However, you absolutely cannot write a law school exam like you did in college.   

Prior to law school, I really thought I would be learning different types of law. I would have to memorize tons of law, perhaps know the variations of each law depending on the jurisdiction. And then I would be tested on my amazing ability to memorize loads of law. Welp, I was wrong.

Now there will be multiple choice exams too but the typical exam will include a fact pattern.  Sometimes more than one scenario, sometimes just one fact pattern that will encompass the whole quarter or semester of what you learned.  I actually had a professor who gave us a cartoon. And at the end he just wrote one word. “Discuss.”

Remember, your professor has to have an objective way of assigning points to each exam question. Your exam is not going to be graded on this “feeling” the professor has of how she thinks you have spent time memorizing all the elements of a particular law.  A law school essay exam is, first, graded based on your spotting of legal issues and then, second, based on your applying the facts to the issues.  Issues and Facts.

The first critical thing is for you to spot ALL the issues.  In my vlog, you can see an example of an actual exam. Each issue hidden throughout the exam will be assigned points. You miss the issue, you miss those points. So you can write a beautiful lengthy paragraph about one small issue that may have been 5 points out of a 100 point exam and miss the deeper analysis of another issue that would have given you 20 points. You miss issues, you miss points.  So, spotting the issue is arguably even more important than using the facts because if you miss the issue, you will miss ALL the points while if you at least just spot the issue you will get at least some points.

Remember that your professor will not directly tell you what issues you need to discuss. The exam prompt or question will not say, “Please discuss if you think Mr. Bells will be guilty of negligence” or “What are the elements of felony murder?”

The first thing to do is to turn to the end of the exam and look at the prompt. Some professors will give you an indication of what they want you to focus on. For example, the Professor might say at the end of the exam, “You are an associate at your firm and the Partner has asked you to write a legal memorandum about XYZ.” Once you have that, you will then know what to look for as you are reading through the fact pattern.

After you know what the Professor wants you are going to Issue spot.  And we will be going over a fact pattern in a bit.  So, your first reading will be to pull out the legal issues presented.  You outline your answer around the issues presented in the question.  This should be at least a quarter of your time because you CANNOT CANNOT CANNOT miss a major issue.

Now that you have an outline of the major issues you are going to move to the second part which is Fact spotting.  You need to make sure that EVERY fact given to you is used. Every fact in the essay is there for a reason. If it is not there to help your case, it may be there to give you a possible argument for the other side. But as you are reading through, every issue should lead you to facts to discuss that will rack up those points.

Now you have an outline of issues and under the issue the facts that apply to the issue.  This is your outline for a response.  Your issue and fact spotting should take up about 25-30% of your time, leaving an approximately 70-75% for actually writing your answer.

If you want to take a look at a sample exam that I go over, please click on the vlog above.

Ok, so let’s recap, once you have the issues and the corresponding facts, you write down the relevant law and discuss the facts. That’s it. This is not the time to discuss policy and the evolution of how the law came to present day. Just lay spot issues, lay out the rule and tie in the relevant facts and done.  Done and out.

Please let me know if this was helpful and let me know what other tips you would like to learn. Good luck!

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