Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Good advice vs. bad advice

I'm kind of ambivalent about my Micromash mentor. MM assigns each student a "mentor" who looks at one essay written every week for a total of six weeks. That really means that you get five opportunities to get ripped up. They give you half an hour to write them.

The first corporations essay, she gives me a 55. I'm not terribly surprised, since I'm not keen on the law. Our corporations Professor taught some of that stuff, but a lot of what we did is outside the scope of most of those classes. I only had half an hour, so I wasn't surprised, or offended. Some of the advice seemed good. She likes the phrase "dovetail". I don't do well with those kind of instructions. Show me, don't tell me.

The next assignment was a torts question in which I spotted most of the issues. Because I was cutting and pasting, I left a sentence fragment in the middle of phrase. She didn't realize it. While I spotted most of the issues and the defenses, and I thought knew the law and organized well, she gave me a "60-65". I'm no genius, but I know the bar graders don't give such scores. When someone tries to split hairs like that, I call bullshit. It's either one or the other, and if you aren't sure, that says something about the grader.

I thought some of her advice was good; don't let the facts stand alone. However, the strict IRACing that she is asking for isn't apparent in most of the model answers I 've seen by barbri and the state bar. MM model answers are without question some of the worst I have ever seen. I actually find them offensive, they are so bad; long, narrative strings with barely any headings or underlining. Exactly the last sort of thing someone who has two minutes will want to read.

I have seen model answer in barbri ordered like this; "fact, conclusion, rule, fact". I've seen "conclusion, fact, rule" all kinds of ways of approaching it. It shouldn't be suprising that they don't follow their own rules. Should the bar be different from law school? Well, yes it should. The consensus required gets us away from the petty tyrant. But it makes us beholden to the herd. If 8 out of 10 lawyers are wrong about an MBE, or a model answer, they are still wrong. But the bar goes with the tyranny of the majority. You, with the correct answer, lose.

I worry about struggling with it. You are supposed to do what they tell you. However, I've had experience with "writing teachers" before. One preceded my worst grades ever in law school, to the tune of 1000 dollars. I got a 62 in midterms on civil procedure. I fired him and on the final scored a 79 and 80 on the two finals.

That is why I'm doing the bar study myself; I always do best when I return to my natural style and don't allow to much interference from the outside. I think a good teacher, like a good coach, recognizes your uniqueness and brings out the best of you. The worst teachers attempt to clone you into them, unaware of the vast number of ways to get from point a to point b.

My mentor only offers a few suggestions each time, so I like that. But some advice she gave troubled me.

I asked how to approach memorizing the law. She said "look at the table of contents for a hornbook". Sinking feeling. Nobody reads hornbooks after first year. They rarely help, in fact, are almost as big a waste of time as the casebooks are. Commercial outlines, contrary to the orthodoxy, are invaluable for many things. I've heard judges in SF use them. My contracts teacher, who was presiding Judge of the Sonoma County Superior Court, read straight from "legalines" while reviewing for our final.

So I'm at a crossroads. Do I listen to my inner voice and go with what I hear, or do I ignore it and follow the outside voice?

Too many mistakes have been made trusting others in my life. Too often. There are too many people who act like they know what they are talking about, without any doubt. Let me give you an example: On our school website there is a chatbox where I posted this question:

me: is anti-lucas 84 or 87? Barbri says 87.

Third in the class responds:(who is very nice to me and who I like)
21 Jun : 09:25
See Wally, that's what you get for using bootleg BarBri....Lucas was decided in 1980...The anti-Lucas statutes were enacted in 1984 (FC 2581, 2640).

me:My 2005 conviser mini-review says on page 9 of the comprop outline "Jan. 1, 1987". '84 is joint tenancy. '87 is any joint form. Page 72 "Practice under the Family Code"

I've learned to not roll over and play dead because someones speaks with a tone of certainty. I have too much riding on this test to listen now to that same voice. It's a tightrope....


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