November 5, 2018

Visiting Law School Professors Office Hours

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Well, well, well. If it isn't finals, sneaking up right after you thought you were safe from midterms. Sucks, right? Yeah, in case you haven't noticed, "this sucks" is a general theme of law school and like you've probably noticed, it won't get easier from here but you're just going to get used to it now. If you're stressing about the idea of finals looming in, take this moment to take a breath and calm down but then resist the urge to run away from your responsibilities and finish this post. For my sake at least so I don't feel like a loser who makes blog posts that no one reads lol :) 

Anyways, let's talk about midterms real quick (and not the elections haha). Let me first acknowledge that most of you did worse than you were expecting. That's okay! It's rare to do well on your first law school test, and it's even rarer that anyone actually thought they did well and also happened to do well on it. It's just part of the fun, self-esteeming boosting method of law school 🙃 

So, when I was a 1L the ABA was just starting to recommend midterms because as you might've heard in the news, law school performances are all over the place and the ABA thought it might be nice for schools to realize that all of their students are struggling hard core before they're one final grade. I know midterms suck, but be grateful for them!!! Yeah you probably did bad. Remember how I failed one of mine? It's better to find out you were failing before the big test than in January when you find out you're on academic probation! This is a scrimmage game to help you see where you're killing it and where to improve. How do you know these things? Well, my friend, please refer to the title of this post!

Related: The time I almost dropped out of law school

Call ahead

Not literally, but do give your professor a heads up. It's not a great plan to just show up willy nilly at office hours expecting to get anything out of it. First off, there's a whole class full of people with the same intentions as you. You're not going to get to talk with your professors about their personal suggestions on how you could be an A student if there's 10 other people in their office trying to do the same. Second off, professors have a life and job outside of office hours so you don't want to be rushed trying to review the answer key before your professor kicks you out because he has another class in 10 minutes.

This is a very critical step in beating law school, so don't rush through this. Email your prof ahead of time and schedule a time to meet with them. You're an important ray of sunshine and you deserve a full hour (or however much they schedule it for) and deserve their full, undivided attention. I know that some professors will just be like just stop on by during office hours and if that's the case then fine, but don't just assume that and at least first try to get the solo VIP treatment that you deserve.

No matter the grade, GO

Luckily for the purposes of this blog, I've been through it all— from surprising myself with better-than-expected grades to embarrassing myself with WTFFFFF went wrong grades. Even if you got an A+ you still need to hop off your high horse and go see the professor about your test. Why? Because they is always room for improvement in the legal field. That's why it's called practicing law. Be a learner, not a knower! Trust me, even the top scorer from a T14 school has tons of room for improvement because you are far from being a qualified attorney. 

On the flip side, yep it's embarrassing as hell to participate in class and put forth all your effort and get a disappointing grade. Lick your wounds because I know it hurts. But, my dear, that is the way of the law. Every single person in this profession has thought they killed a cold call, exam, motion, trial, and ended up looking like an idiot. Anyone who says otherwise is a damn liar. So have a little comfort knowing you're not the only one who has messed up and take it from me that you can turn this semester around. Your mission (that you have no option of "should you choose to accept" because it's your future on the line, nbd) is to figure out your strengths to keep those up for next time, and figure out your weaknesses to strengthen up for next time.

Approach it with a game plan

Don't just come in and expect your professor to do all the work. Remember, this is law school so the hand holding pretty much ended at orientation. Take a notebook with you and find out these answers while you're there:

What was a model answer? Either from last year's final or a sample of one of your classmates of what they like to see.
Where was I the weakest at? Most 1Ls have a problem of stating a conclusion without backing it up (using "because" in their analysis). But some have a problem of missing the issue completely so their whole response is off. Some have problems articulating their arguments. And sometimes you just flat out didn't know the rule. 
What is one of my strengths? Find out the best one or two things you did on that paper, and learn how to improve them. This can help you go from getting 2 points on the conclusion to 3 points and all these 1 extra points can help you when it comes to the curve. Remember, no matter how great you are there's still room for improvement!

Multiple Choice
What areas of the law am I missing the most? (example, for Torts I somehow forgot that intentional torts existed and answered all of my questions based off negligence)
What type of questions am I missing the most? (do you know the rule but are missing the issue, spotting the issue but missing the rule, getting confused in the facts, missing double negatives in answers)
Are there any old tests I can review? What supplements do you recommend?
Why am I missing these questions? This is more for you to consider because a professor probably won't know. (were you rushing through it and will need to work on timing, are you misapplying rules because you don't know them well, are there similar rules that you're getting confused) 

Related: How to prepare for different law school test questions

Shoot your shot

This will not work for most professors, but like the heading says, shoot your shot. Come in with your outline (or schedule this later for time concerns) and ask your professor to look over it. Are you being too broad with the concepts and missing points by leaving out the details? Are you too hyper-focused on minute details that you're slowing yourself down? Don't ask them to edit your outline for you, but just ask if they think you're adequately studying the material.

This can actually be a major help for you if your professor is willing to do this. If you're zoomed too much out or in and they can help you with this, then you can improve your studying for the final. If your professor isn't up for this, try to have them steer you in the right direction for help, like to a tutor. And if you don't get this, still reach out to an upperclassmen who did reasonably well in this class with this professor and knows what they're looking for. Making your own outline is super helpful when studying, but also nerve-wrecking because you never know if you're doing enough or too much, and this is how you find out that answer. Remember, you never get what you don't ask for! 

Be professional nice

Hi do I sound like your mom yet? But for real, take this piece of advice seriously. I've felt and seen everything from walking in all hot because you just aced the test to wanting to cry because you're sucking it up to wanted to yell because you just can't believe you did that poorly. Resist all these urges. Go out with your classmates for drinks and get your emotions out before you even email your professor about your test.

This person in front of you has a lot of power, but it's easy to forget that. If you want a job next summer or a scholarship next semester, the person you're going to right now might be just the person to help you out through a little thing called a rec letter. And if you show up prepared and work with them on improving yourself, then maybe you'll be in a prime position to take them semester after semester and go from getting a B to a B+ to an A- and wow hello good GPA. Beyond that, remember that your professors are still remembers of the legal community and likely have a million lawyer friends (because no one else will put up with our lame law jokes) and can recommend you for a job or hook you up with a mentor later on. Basically, just remember to be strategic with your moves in law school because you're building up your reputation and career opportunities right meow.

Look, I know that visiting professor's office hours seems like one of those things that everyone says to do but you don't actually do it... but DO IT!! It's one of those things that feels like it'll be really awkward and embarrassing at first but then once you do it, you're sooo glad you did! Oh and once you go, make it a personal mission to go again at least once more and no later than 2 weeks before the final.

What's the most helpful question you've asked (or wish you would've asked) during office hours? And how often do you actually go to office hours? Let me and all your fellow law students know in the comments! 

let's be friends!


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