Imagine a world where the imaginations of law professors are set free. The law school exam universe is filled with outlandish hypotheticals, but even the most unrealistic scenario is still designed to allow for legal analysis. So a military defense contractor using a taser on an eggshell extraterrestrial being in Antarctica, while far-fetched, could still be rationally analyzed under the right legal frameworks. For instance, consider the following issues that could be packed into such a hypothetical:
- Constitutional Law: state action doctrine, due process, extraterritorial jurisdiction, standing;
- Criminal Law: assault/battery, self-defense, intent;
- Property Law: trespass, adverse possession;
- Torts: negligence, intentional torts, infliction of emotional distress, respondeat superior, damages;
- Civil Procedure: personal jurisdiction, subject matter jurisdiction, venue, service of process, expert witnesses; and
- Contracts: breach of contract, disclaimers and releases, scope of contractual liability to third parties.
Along with course outlines, law school practice exams are a great tool for any law student. They not only acquaint you with the dark recesses of your professor's mind but also, more importantly, her grading methods. When utilized throughout the duration of a course, practice exams can also serve as helpful learning aids for complicated legal concepts.
Where Can I Find Law School Practice Exams?
Many law schools maintain a database of past exams for their students' use, sometimes with their library resources and sometimes on a professor's own website. However, these databases often require a student login to access. Some law schools provide practice exams for public use, such as those listed below:
- Catholic University Law School
- Gonzaga Law School
- Harvard Law School
- U.C. Hastings College of the Law
- University of Dayton School of Law
- Wake Forrest School of Law
Ideally, you'll want to use practice exams from your specific professors as these can better prepare you for their finals. However, if none are available, you can always search for practice exams from professors who teach the same class. If all else fails, there are general practice exams and sample answers available online. If you're going to invest in a bar preparation course while still in law school, like BarBri, Kaplan or Themis, many also offer practice exams and other resources while you're still in law school.
Other possible sources for practice exams, which can also give you an early taste of the bar exam, are state bar websites. The State Bar of California, for example, contains an archive of past exam questions.
Getting the Most From Law School Practice Exams
The point of a law school practice exam is to help you understand testable concepts and, possibly more important, to hone your answering skills. During your first year, you'll likely take a legal research and writing course to learn writing skills and tips, but when working on practice exams it's important to focus on the fundamentals.
Spot the issues, then whack the moles.
The key to any exam is knowing what to write about. Professors are meticulous in the words they use and there's a reason why they include certain facts in any question. When reading through a practice exam, it's always helpful to note the issues as you see them in the facts. Flag the issues in the margins, then check them off as you address them.
One of many four-letter words you'll use in law school, IRAC (which stands for Issue-Rule-Analysis-Conclusion) is the best way to structure your writing and, ultimately, the way you think. Getting into the habit of singling out issues and relevant rules, then applying them together and drawing a conclusion will pay dividends during law school and the bar exam, as well as down the road as a practicing attorney.
Just "because" is not enough.
One thing that can irritate law professors reading through exam answers is when students make unsupported assertions such as, "the extraterrestrial in Antarctica lacks standing to sue the federal government." One way to force yourself to support your statements is to use the word "because" at the end of an assertion like the one above. If you can't write anything after "because," then that's a good time to review the facts and reevaluate what you're arguing.
What's Next for You?
When you're going through law school, sometimes you may feel more like the tortoise than the hare. But even though it may feel like a slow process, you'll later look back as an attorney and be amazed at how quickly the time passed. There are a lot of opportunities in law school and some are not always that obvious. Keep in tune with the attorneys at FindLaw for Law Students to learn more about those opportunities and how to leverage them to your advantage.