Study Aid Spotlight- Getting to Maybe: How to Excel on Law School Exams

Welcome to Study Aid Spotlight! This is a new, semi-regular series that will pop up at the Blackacre Times from time to time, especially as we near exam season. As the name suggests, each installment of Study Aid Spotlight will take an in-depth look at one particular study aid, discussing what it covers and why its useful. Go here if you want some study aid-related tips (alongside some choice iambs), or check out our Study Aid Finder for an easy entryway to the library’s collection. In this first installment of Study Aid Spotlight, Digital Services Librarian Gerard Fowke takes a closer look at Fischl & Paul’s classic Getting to Maybe: How to Excel on Law School Exams.

Here at the Blackacre Times, our ‘all-time’ most popular post is ’14 grad Hanish Patel’s convincing case for Glannon’s CivPro E&E as the ‘all-time’ #1 study aid. And it’s easy to see why the CivPro E&E might warrant such effusive praise: Professor Glannon’s masterful hypos force students to think critically about these storied doctrines, and his witty presentation makes this rather dry material quite memorable.

But I’m here to tell you that Richard Michael Fischl & Jeremy Paul’s Getting to Maybe 1 gives Glannon a run for its money.

Why? Well, it’s right there in the subtitle. ‘Law Schools Exams’ can seem awfully important, and G2M is all about ‘How to Excel ’ on these challenging and mysterious assessments. And unlike Glannon, which will only help in CivPro, G2M’s focus on exam-related skills will help you in all of your classes. Every. Single. One.

Study Aid Spotlight- Getting to Maybe: How to Excel on Law School Exams

Notably, this helpfulness even encompasses those classes without a traditional law school exam. That’s because this study aid’s exam-oriented focus is really just the tip of the iceberg. Although its strategies will undoubtedly prove helpful when untangling an end-of-semester issue-spotter, that’s only because everything about law school revolves around G2M’s true topic: legal analysis.

For example, take Chapter 6, titled “Forks in the Facts.” Here, Fischl & Paul start by telling us they plan to look at a “variety of ways in which laws are structured by category” and explain the challenges of categorizing “a particular set of facts.” Then they proceed to do just that, with subchapters on oft-seen iterations of this analytical concept, such as “Rule vs. Exception,” “Categories as Elements of Legal Rules,” and “Facts on Both Sides.” For each, the authors illustrate their ideas with clear examples drawn from the casebook canon (some even involving everyone’s favorite fictional estate).

But this “categorical” habit of thought will only help you succeed on an exam because it’s an important aspect of legal analysis. And it has rarely (if ever) been given this straightforward of a treatment: the authors have cleared away the jurisprudential rabbit-holes and distilled the essence of “categorical reasoning about the law” into fewer than 20 pages.

In Maybe‘s remainder, they work similar wonders with kindred concepts like “Forks in the Law” and “Patterns of Ambiguity.” Students will walk away wishing they could stop thinking like a lawyer.

Of course, this approach means that Getting to Maybe is less of a reference work than something like the Glannon E&E. It’s not the study aid you’ll grab from the nightstand for that day-before-the-exam Erie refresher.  Instead, most students will want to read G2M once or twice (preferably before the exam ‘crunch’ begins), absorb its analytical framework, and move on. This quality alone probably makes it a perpetual underdog in the study aid “World Series.” Still, few books so effectively capture the essence of what law school seeks to impart and assess. The E&Es and Nutshells of the world would do well to watch out for the weird, scrappy study aid known as Getting to Maybe.

1 I couldn’t help but to completely and utterly geek out when I noticed that Professor Paul’s faculty profile mentions that a new edition of Getting to Maybe is expected for 2021. The first (and only) edition has been out for 22 years. UPDATE: According to Carolina Academic Press (by the way of the Jones School of Law Library’s Gigi Panagotacos) the new edition won’t be out until Fall 2022. Can I even wait that long?

Finals Resources and Assistance

Another tough semester almost complete! We wanted to remind you of some of the resources available to help you prepare for exams, get research assistance from the librarians, or take a break from studying! As a reminder, we will be open to the GSU Law community for normal Spring 2021 hours through the end of the exam period, May 12th. Keep an eye out on our Facebook and Twitter pages for exam and graduation-related messages and videos. 

Study Aid Finder LibGuide:

  • The Study Aid Finder guide provides easy access to a compilation of digital, physical, and multimedia study aids grouped according to the traditional GSU College of Law curriculum (with recommended electives being subjects tested on the bar exam but are not required subjects of the J.D. curriculum). The current Spring ’21 classes are displayed towards the top of each respective page.

Stress Buster LibGuide:

  • The Stress Busters guide is available via the private link sent to you in the most recent personal librarian email. We hope that it serves as an outlet during final exams. When you take the time to de-stress, you’ll recharge and be able to focus when you return to your studies. The GSU Law Library has gathered a variety of stress relief activities for you to enjoy. 

Pet Pics Display:

  • Pictures of students, faculty, staff, and their pets are displayed via the private link sent to you in the most recent personal librarian email. Please reach out to us if you need access to it. These images are also being displayed on the law library digital signage. You can still get your pet added to the display by emailing Gerard Fowke at gfowke@gsu.edu

Blog posts with helpful information from the library to help you with finals, including:

Good luck with finals! Reach out to us if you need assistance, research-based or otherwise.

Finals Help & Virtual Study Breaks

Another tough semester almost complete! Hang in there, you are days away from finishing.

We wanted to remind you of two opportunities to get some help from librarians or take a break from studying!

We still have two virtual events where you can meet with Librarians:

  • Virtual PB&J 
    • Thursday, December 10th from 12:00 – 1:00 pm.
    • Drop in to enjoy some PB&J virtually, ask reference questions, or just chat with us!
  • Virtual Thursday Trivia
    • Thursday, December 10th from 5:00 – 6:00 pm.
    • The winner will be labeled the GSU Law Library Trivia Master and will be featured on the Law Library’s digital displays.

Pet Pics Display:

  • Pictures of students, faculty, staff, and their pets are on display via the private link sent to you in the most recent personal librarian email. Please reach out to us if you need access to it. These images are also being displayed on the law library digital signage. You can still get your pet added to the display by emailing Gerard Fowke at gfowke@gsu.edu

As a reminder, we will be open to the GSU Law community for normal Fall 2020 hours through the end of the exam period, December 16th.

Good luck on finals! Reach out to us if you need assistance, research-based or otherwise.

Resources for Final Exams & Papers

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Flickr photo by Jesse Michael Nix

By Tiffany Williams, Reference GRA

Preparing for final exams and final papers remotely add an added level of stress to an already daunting task.  Fortunately, the Law Library offers an array of online resources and tools to ensure that your new study environment does not hamper your ability to have a successful and triumphant final exam period.

Students may utilize the library’s research guides to begin strategizing the best way to tackle their final papers.   There are guides in more than 25 subject areas, ranging from Alternative Dispute Resolution to Wills, Trusts, and Estates.  In addition to a comprehensive list of both Federal and Georgia-specific primary sources, the guides also provide links to several secondary resources like treatises, statistical reports and data sites, and blogs.

Students can also take advantage of the library’s online research databases.  HeinOnline, for example, offers thousands of law review articles which not only help students to develop a greater understanding of the law surrounding their topic area but also serve as a great way to find references to primary law authority. Pro Tip: Footnote scouting is a great way to find relevant and useful sources to help guide you in your research.

The reference desk is also a great way to obtain further direction in completing research as you begin mapping out the direction of your final written assignments.  The reference desk staff is offering reference desk services during finals via online chat and email from 8:30AM – 7:00PM Monday through Thursday and 8:30AM – 5:00PM on Friday.  Whether your question involves locating an online version of a print resource or simply obtaining guidance in figuring out where to start in your research, the reference desk chat is a priceless resource to be included in everyone’s final exam/final paper toolkits.

For final exam preparation, one of the most invaluable resources is the library’s online study aids.  Check out an in-depth review of the Law Library’s online study aids in this Featured Resource blog post. The Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instructions (CALI) also provides students access to over 1,000 interactive legal tutorials and lessons across 55 topic areas.  CALI lessons serve as a great way to supplement your course study by filling-in the areas in which you may not have obtained a strong understanding of the substantive material.

We wish you the best of luck on your finals!

Get rid of the distractions and make the most of your study time

Sign that says Social Distraction

by Daniel Lobo

As we get closer to exams you may be wondering how to make the most of your study time. One of the biggest distractions can be the constant barrage of new text messages, emails, and social media posts. Studies have shown that every time you check email or look at social media you lose 23 minutes. However, there are some things you can do to create a distraction free study space.

  1. Turn off the notifications on your phone, tablet, laptop, etc. You can control when you take a break from studying instead of being at the mercy of notifications.
  2. Install an anti-distraction app. See some suggestions below.
  3. If your phone is the problem, set it on airplane mode while you are studying

Anti-distraction apps:

Freedom – Mac, iOS, Windows – You can use Freedom on your devices, computer, iPhone, and iPad. An Android subscription to (OFFTIME) Pro (see below) is included with purchase. Freedom allows you to block specific websites and apps or the entire internet. You can schedule specific times for the blocking to start and even put your device in locked mode. However, Freedom is not free. (See what I did there?) You can get unlimited access on a month by month basis for $6.99/month. If you commit to a year, it is $29/year.

(OFFTIME) – Android and iOS ((OFFTIME) Light) phones – (OFFTIME) allows you to block apps, calls, text, and notifications. The Android version allows you to select people who can still get through. The app has some other interesting features such as analytics of your phone usage and the ability to invite others to a shared (OFFTIME). The less robust (OFFTIME) Light is $2.99 for iOS devices. The Android pricing is somewhat unclear. It appears that you can download the app for free and upgrade to (OFFTIME) Pro for a suggested payment of 3 Euro.

SelfControl – OS X – SelfControl allows you to block email and websites for a period of time that you choose. Caution: Once it is started you can not turn it off until the timer runs out. It is Free Software under the GNU General Public License (GPL). If you know how to code, you can make changes to the sourcecode posted on Github.

Focus Lock – Android – Lock out selected apps for a set period of time. The default setting is for 25 minutes of work and a 5 minute break. Free.

Focus – Mac – Block websites and apps for a set period of time. Focus also allows you to schedule blocked times. A license for one Mac is $19.99.

Looking for other options? Try search anti-distraction apps to find what works best for you.

Now, stop being distracted and get back to studying. Good luck on exams!

Finals…just one more week

To help you unwind over the break, be sure to take home some of our DVDs. We’ve got a wide range of movies and TV series to choose from:

They’re all located to the right of the study aids.

Until then…   Just keep swimming. ~Dory, Finding Nemo

Image by flickr user jelene

Image by flickr user jelene