What the L is a Law School Prep Course?

Every spring, admitted law students question what a law school prep course is and whether it could possibly provide any advantage to entering 1Ls.  I’ll admit, it can be a tough sell because law students tend to not only be smart, but also very skeptical. Despite so much riding on students’ 1L grades, we are unable to convince everyone that preparing for the law school experience is necessary — especially those students who excelled in undergrad with little effort (and likely no preparation at all).

However, many of those students who decide against taking our program — choosing instead to spend their “last free summer” relaxing at the beach — are the very same people who email me in October seeking any resources or advice to help them make sense of the material and keep their heads above water.

So, I thought I’d spend some time detailing what Law Preview is and how it provides a distinct advantage to those who are serious about excelling during the all-important 1L year.

First, though, let me begin by explaining what Law Preview is not:

  • It is not simply a preview of what you’ll eventually learn during orientation;
  • It is not an attempt to simply replicate what happens in a law school classroom; and
  • It is not designed to get students comfortable with the Socratic Method.

The simple truth is that, in law school, nothing that happens in the classroom will have any impact on your first-year grades; consequently, we focus on only those things that will impact 1L GPA by flattening the learning curve and providing serious students a meaningful head start over classmates who decided to “take it easy” the summer before 1L.

What Is Law Preview?

Law Preview is a carefully crafted program that entirely demystifies the law school experience through two components: (1) core 1L course overviews and (2) teaching proven academic success tactics before classes start.

1L Course Overviews Designed to Combat The ‘Case Method’

During the academic year, professors relying on the Case Method use a ‘building block’ approach to illustrate how a body of law has evolved. Law students read judicial opinions that gave rise to legal rules and, using classroom discussion, professors lead students through an analysis that distills each case to a fine point of law — exploring why the court crafted the legal rule as it did.  Then, students will read and discuss other cases that build upon the law they have already learned. A major drawback of this pedagogy is that it’s not until the end of the semester — or the year if it’s a full-year course — that students are finally able to see how the various rules they’ve studied fit together.

To combat the Case Method, Law Preview retains top law professors — subject-matter experts who regularly teach and write on the 1L subject they cover during Law Preview.  These professors provide students with course overviews for each 1L subject (e.g., Contracts, Property, Torts, Civil Procedure, Criminal Law, Con Law, Legal Research & Writing) that are specifically designed to provide students with a “30,000 foot view” of each course – focusing both on legal theory as well as doctrinal law.

So, for example, our Contracts professors, will often begin their 6-hour lecture by walking students through the abstract “theory” that repeats in each contract course — e.g., why people want contracts, why contracts are good for society, why it’s good for courts to enforce some promises rather than others, why courts rely largely on expectation damages rather than other forms (reliance, restitution, specific performance), and so on.  Then, they take students on a “monorail tour” of contract doctrine (e.g., contract formation, defenses to formation, performance, breach, defenses to breach, damages) as a way of exploring “forest” of contract law — allowing them to better understand where to plant individual trees (e.g., cases) as students progress through the course during the academic year.

By understanding the legal theory that each course seeks to promote, as well as having a “roadmap” for how the doctrine typically progresses, Law Preview students aren’t forced to read cases “in a vacuum” during the academic year — like their classmates who will learn piecemeal by keeping up with the daily syllabus.

Academic Skills

While hard work and good study habits may have gotten you into law school, the reality is that the academic skills that work in law school are entirely different from those you used in undergrad.   So, in addition to course overviews, throughout the week we teach the following proven academic skills (on a need-to-know basis):

Monday: During our 2-hour “Case Briefing and Case Law Analysis” lecture, we explain the role of case law in common law courses, as well as how to properly read, analyze, and brief the assigned cases. Throughout the week, Law Preview students will then read/brief thirty landmark cases in each of the courses that we will cover.  In addition to allowing students to practice their reading/briefing skills, our professors will use the assigned cases as touchstones during their overview lectures – allowing the bravest students to volunteer to sit in the “hot seat” while a professor questions them on how a court’s holding fits into a larger body of law.

Tuesday: We offer a 2-hour lecture entitled “12 Steps to Academic Success” which discusses everything from, note-taking, time management, understanding how the day-to-day 1L tasks fit into the larger objectives, types of argument (e.g., factual, legal, policy), managing relationships/health, outlining overview and exam prep.  We actually provide students with a day-by-day calendar (with preset alarms) that they download to their phones/computer to keep them on task throughout the academic year.

Wednesday: We offer a 2-hour lecture called “Outlining and Exam-Prep” that does a deep dive into the outlining process as well as the timeline/tasks students should employ for successful exam-prep.

Thursday: For homework, we assign students a one-hour hypothetical question on a topic we covered earlier in the week.  The exercise is less to show them what law they may have learned, but more to illustrate how law school exams differ from those in undergrad. It’s no longer about showing what you’ve learned throughout the semester, rather it’s about showing how well you can apply what you’ve learned to an unforeseen set of facts.

Friday: FINALLY, during our 4-hour “Exam-Taking Strategies Workshop” a law professor will walk students through our unique exam-taking matrix — one that goes far beyond the typical IRAC advice that many students use to their detriment.  The professor uses the pre-assigned question to demonstrate how to deconstruct a hypothetical fact pattern and reconstruct it into an A+ answer.

As you can tell, a week with Law Preview is not an easy one; however, students who complete the program walk into law school with a learning curve (both in terms of substance and skills) that is far less severe.  Law Preview students arrive on campus knowing the rules of the game as well as their objectives — all they need to do is execute on the plan we outlined.

Still a skeptical — that’s okay, it’s the hallmark of a good lawyer.  But before you pack your sunscreen and head to the beach, read how students describe the impact of Law Preview on their 1L performance, as well as the impressive statistics posted by our alums.

THEY CAME. THEY LEARNED. THEY CONQUERED LAW SCHOOL

“I am a 1L at UCI Law, I was a student in Law Preview for the online session last year. First-semester 1L grades finally posted, and I got a 3.93!!! I really think my time in the Law Preview course was integral to my success. Thanks again for creating such a unique program!”

— Patrick R., University of California, Irvine, School of Law, Class of 2021