Many people wonder what a law school exam is like. Most exams for an associate's or bachelor's degree are regurgitation exams where you quickly spit large amounts of memorized information out of your fingertips until your hands are sore from writing. Some master's degree exams are like that, too, but you may also be asked to create new research from existing facts and concepts and to document all of your findings. You will write several papers of 20 pages or more for several courses. Your master's degree thesis will likely be around 100 pages. At the Ph.D. level, your dissertation - a fancy word for a really big paper based on new research - will likely span 200-300 pages. Most people have trouble writing 2-3 pages, let alone 200-300.
Law school is quite different. A law school exam is not about creating something new, but rather deciphering facts, drawing multiple conclusions, and showing the lines of reasoning you devised to get to each of these conclusions. Knowing and understanding legal jargon and principles is a must and the only way to learn all of this is to dive right into the study of cases. Writing case briefs, or summaries of actual cases in your own words, is good practice for determining the principles introduced and applied in each case. Nobody will teach you how to do this. You figure it out on your own. Your exam is graded anonymously, so there is no opportunity for bias in grading. You are given X time to complete Y questions, so, for example, 3 hours to complete 6 questions. Each question could require an hour or more of time, so if you cannot quickly recall facts and cases, you're basically hosed. The only way to adequately prepare for a law school exam is to be fluent in your knowledge of the law and how to apply the rules of law to different scenarios. This is where active class participation can help you. If you typically tune yourself out in a classroom, you'll be in trouble. Exam questions are typically in the following format:
Blah blah blah... case details... case details about case details... blah blah blah for half a page to two pages of text... lots of details... too many details... some useless but they're all there...
The questions then appear in the following format (note the all caps):
WHAT LEGAL ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO YOUR CLIENT? IF PERSON X SUES PERSON Y FOR BREACH OF CONTRACT, WHO WILL PREVAIL AND WHY? WHAT IF SUCH AND SUCH DID NOT HAPPEN? WHAT WOULD YOUR ADVICE BE? WHAT IF SUCH AND SUCH DID HAPPEN? WHAT WOULD YOU DO? WHAT IF PERSON X DIDN'T DO THIS BUT PERSON Y DID THAT? HOW WOULD THAT CHANGE THE OUTCOME? ARE YOU FUCKING INTIMIDATED BY SOMEONE SCREAMING AT YOUR FACE HALF A DOZEN TIMES LIKE THIS?
If you get intimidated easily, then law school might not be for you.
Many people wonder what a law school class is like. In the more popular classes, you sit in a large room with semi-circular tables so that everyone can see you. The professor lectures a little and uses the Socratic Method to enhance your understanding of the material. Most people who've never experienced the Socratic Method will feel very nervous being cold-called. The professor calls your name, walks up to you, engages in a dialog with you, and everyone else watches. You don't have to know the answer to every question, but it helps your reputation if you do. If you guessed that the Socratic Method could be a lot like the exam questions I mentioned, you're right.
Many people wonder why I chose Penn Law to pursue my legal education. I feel the reputation of Penn Law speaks for itself. It's an elite law school that is ranked number 6 in the nation and only through a program like this will I be able to interact with a variety of world-class teachers and legal professionals. In my first semester at Penn Law, I got to see lectures by Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo, a Circuit Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, and Liz Abrams, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Department of Justice. In my Business Law course, we studied a case judged by Philadelphia District Court Judge Dan Anders and met Judge Anders in class to discuss that case. Once I complete the four foundational Master in Law courses, I will be able to take any of the Juris Doctor courses.
Lastly, many people might wonder why I'm studying law and why I chose to do so now. I was a pre-law major in college, then switched to pre-med, and then switched to computer science. Math and science were always easy for me, so computer science was the easiest way to support myself after school. Despite being in honors history and english classes in high school, I absolutely detested politics, so giving up my pursuit of law in college made sense at the time, but I always felt unfufilled, like I was meant to do a lot more. I found myself going back to questions of law every time I encountered issues of copyrights, entertainment law, torts, family law, and other matters that affected me personally. After delving into engineering, business, fine arts, and counseling courses at the master's and Ph.D. levels, I finally found a graduate degree program that is super-interesting and complements my work schedule.
LAW 511 U.S. Law and Legal Methods - Fall 2021 - Class Description: A basic understanding of U.S. legal principles is indispensable across a wide array of professional and academic landscapes. This survey course introduces students to all aspects of U.S. law through a combination of case law and some use of the Socratic method, both techniques unique to legal education. The course explores the structure of government and the constitutional foundations of the U.S. legal system and covers a wide range of topics in the areas of civil, criminal, and administrative law. The course will incorporate recent cases of note into the curriculum and provide an overview of legal issues which impact professionals in a variety of fields, including but not limited to law. Although the course's primary source material will be a textbook which has been successfully used in prior years, the curriculum will be supplemented by additional readings involving recent cases, many of them local and involving important constitutional issues, to ensure the class is brought current and to further stimulate discussions. My Notes: We discussed the details of 77 cases and referred to dozens of others throughout the semester. That's a lot of cases! I found Nexis+ and Quimbee to be very helpful in my understanding of the cases. I found that re-reading the textbook and class notes solidified my understanding of the material.
LAW 511 Final Exam Preparation
I prepared for this exam in the same way I prepared for all of my important exams in life. RTFTA, or read the fucking textbook again!
December 7-8, 2021 - Re-read Chapter 1: Basic Principles of American Law that discusses Articles I, II, and III of the Constitution along with cases that support each. 9 textbook cases, 5 supplemental cases. 36 pp.
December 8-9, 2021 - Re-read Chapter 2: Constitutional Law: Individual Rights that discusses the Bill of Rights, Due Process, Equal Protection, Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses, Free Speech. 8 textbook cases. 58 pp.
December 9-10, 2021 - Re-read Chapter 5: The Legal Profession that discusses the duties and obligations of lawyers. 9 textbook cases, 2 supplemental cases. 39 pp.
December 10, 2021 - Re-read Chapter 3: Civil Procedure and the Federal Courts that discusses the different kinds of jurisdiction, federal versus state court considerations, and the anatomy of a trial in civil procedure. 6 textbook cases, 4 supplemental cases. 41 pp.
December 12, 2021 - Re-read Chapter 4: Criminal Law and Procedure that discusses the anatomy of a trial in criminal law. 4 textbook cases, 4 supplemental cases. 49 pp.
December 12, 2021 - Re-read Chapter 6: Contracts that discusses the elements of a contract, the different kinds of contracts, performance, and breach of contract. 5 textbook cases, 4 supplemental cases. 29 pp.
December 12, 2021 - Re-read Chapter 7: Tort and Product Liability that discusses the elements of a tort, intentional and unintentional torts (negligence), duty owed, punitive damages, and product liability. 6 textbook cases, 3 supplemental cases. 35 pp.
December 13, 2021 - Re-read Chapter 8: Property that discusses ownership and acquisition of property, leases, eminent domain and takings, and zoning. 4 textbook cases, 1 supplemental case. 33 pp.
December 13, 2021 - Re-read Chapter 9: Intellectual Property that discusses copyright, patent, trade secret, and trademark. 7 textbook cases. 39 pp.
December 13 to 16, 2021 - Review all thirteen recorded lectures. 26 hours.
December 17, 2021 - Final exam from 4:30pm to 8:00pm. It's an open-book exam in which you may only use your textbook and notes. Three and half hours might seem like a lot of time, but it's not, especially when you're trying to answer six out of seven essay questions where each one normally requires an hour to an hour and a half for a decent response. Ultimately, you need to be prepared and you probably shouldn't be looking up every word, phrase, or detail you need, because that cuts into your time. Some of my brightest classmates ran out of time trying to complete their exams. That's how difficult this exam is.
The Law School’s grading system consists of A, A-, B+, B, B-, C, and F grades, with a rare A+ awarded for distinguished performance.
LAW 528 General Business Law - Spring 2022 - Class Description: This course will examine the fundamentals of business law. The course will touch on the core legal issues faced by any business, including contracts, employment law, business organizations and governance, mergers and acquisitions, business torts, intellectual property, administrative/regulatory compliance, and litigation/risk management. At the course’s conclusion, students should be in a position not only to recognize potential legal issues but also better able to evaluate any offered advice.
Courses in my forecast:
- LAW 529 Navigating the Regulatory State / Howland
- LAW 522 Corporate Compliance
- LAW 536 US Legal Research
- LAW 515 Contracts and Negotiations / Shaffer
- LAW 576 Patent Law
- LAW 621 Copyright Law
Music Business-Related Questions and Answers
Disclaimer: The following are my approaches to specific problems and may not apply to you. They are not a substitute for your own legal counsel, so please refer to your own practicing attorney for advice that applies to your specific situation.
Q: I always DJ family events for free. My nephew is getting married and told me business and pleasure do not mix. He wanted me to charge him. I never charged a family member before. What do you guys think? I will have to DJ for six hours and he wanted me to charge him for that. I love my nephew, but I don't know what to do. Any suggestions? [January 4, 2022]
A: Taking a family member's money for any service is bound to cause headaches in the near future. If you take his money, you are now liable for specific performance of contract, which means if he doesn't like your services, he can sue to get his money back, which would surely cause a dent in your relationship with him. It's best not to take his money and if you did, give it back to the newlyweds as a wedding gift.
Q: I have this idea for a new mixing style that I'd like to copyright. [December 22, 2021]
A: Copyrights are for works. Patents are for inventions. You cannot copyright ideas, only actual inventions.
Fun Fact: If I had studied medicine instead of information technology, I'd probably be a teratologist working at The Mütter Museum.