Why take notes?


Do you read a lot? Most days, I read until my eyes bleed then spend the rest of my time writing. Studying law is reading and writing intensive, which, for me, is one reason for taking notesbeing in the program.  I also read and write professionally in nonprofit work and publish creative fiction. Full disclosure: my natural facility is with numbers and spatial reasoning, but I love words and language. That means constantly coaching myself to think and learn using words. It also means I might have to work a bit harder to improve my verbal capacity. Each day I’ve got to process quite a bit of information the best I can, and then reorganize it verbally. It’s taken a while to develop a strategy to do that and to speed up my efforts. Continue reading

Approaching my study materials


Here are some words to live by: try never to live anywhere with a season called ‘mud.’ It was a typical late winter weekend in South Western Pennsylvania which mbarn and pony in the snoweans we had nine inches of snow here in the Laurel Mountains on Saturday and Sunday. Now, on Tuesday, it’s close to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The streams and rivers are gorged with snow melt.  Our pasture moved well beyond spongy and water-logged under my feet to something like gooey chocolate pudding. Even the horses and my dog are happy to gaze longingly at the soupy fields from our perches in the barn and tack room where I’ve taken to studying.  We’re patiently waiting for mud season to pass and everything to turn summer-green. Continue reading

Preparing for the emotional rollercoaster of awaiting exam results


Man holding sign saying 'lawyered'Have you seen the episode of ‘How I met Your Mother’ where Marshall is waiting to see if he passed the New York state bar exams?  The conflict is that he lost his password and can’t log into the candidate portal, which means he was to wait even longer to see if he passed or not. The writers did a masterful job building suspense and tension. If you are waiting for exam results, you might feel the same way. Everything is on the line while you wait.

Sometimes waiting for results feels more stressful than taking exams, but no matter, all you can do is sit tight.  I try to keep calm, but for the first few weeks that’s virtually impossible.  Here is how I have learned to cope.

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Are you behind in your studies?


Man at deskWhen writing fiction an author has two ways to create a sense of tension and urgency in a reader and set the pace of the story. One is a time lock. The other is an option lock. A time lock means the character has X amount of time to accomplish Y and avert the consequences. It’s a race against the clock. An option lock means the character has to make a choice between two or more options to achieve their goals and avert disaster. If you are feeling behind in your studies, chances are the narrative around your dilemma contains an element of both time and option locks.

Writing science says that groups of people respond in different ways to each kind of lock, but more about that another time. For those of us engaged in post-graduate study I think the two get conflated. To solve the option/time lock we have to answer two simple questions. How much time do I have to prepare, and if I do option A, B, or C what results will I get? The consequences and looming potential for disaster are self-evident. So, how do I assemble my resources and move past the time/option lock that inevitably comes before exams?

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Structuring answers to exam questions


I’m sitting behind a mountain of study materials trying to work out an effective revision plan.  For me, revising is not the same as studying. It requires a very different attitude and awareness about what I want to accomplish. When I have a good understanding of those goals, I can then develop a plan to approach my materials.

My study materials include primary texts and essential reading, recommended reading, study guides for each module, and my notes. That’s a lot of material to collate and use together effectively. You can see why a clear goal about outcomes is very helpful. So how do I start?

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How to take good notes!


super-g“Law school is no joke.” That’s what a friend of mine said when we last talked about my study program. He wasn’t lying. He’s a professional athlete, a downhill skier. He inspired me to think of note-taking like one of his epic runs to the finish line on a Super-G (super giant slalom) course – a combination of precision, technical expertise, and speed.

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How will I choose my courses?


I have wanted to say Happy New Year for a few weeks now but felt I really had to work this out first. Sooooo, I’m sitting here in post-fact America trying to decide what courses to select for the new term.  There are a lot of excellent options to choose from. This required a good think. I came close to pushing the registration button a few times then paused to consider how my choice will help me interpret and contribute to the world around me. For me, those opportunities are the point of education generally and of post-graduate legal education particularly. I’m going to invest a lot of time in this as a student and as a professional.  It’s important to get it right.

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Legal reasoning: Learning to think like a lawyer


Image showing blackboard with writing saying 'learn to think'Attending law school has been in the back of my mind for quite some time. Now that I am a law student, every time I sit down to study I tend to react like someone opening a surprise gift from a loved one. It is a wonderful feeling. It helps me keep track of my goals and how I want to use this education. One of my chief goals is learning to think like a lawyer.

I work in nonprofit management with an international NGO.  It’s a good match for me. After years of trying I caught on that I really don’t have a corporate soul, so to speak. But I do have a somewhat corporate way of thinking, meaning I like a methodical way of approaching issues and having a plan. It helps to approach things like a lawyer, to apply this particular structure to my critical thinking process.

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How distance learning has helped me personally and professionally


Woman studying by distance learningLet’s really explore distance learning this week.  To my surprise, this is a topic I find myself discussing quite a bit. Every day I find myself in conversations like: “What is distance learning really like? How do we implement it? What kind of results can we expect to see? What kind of measurements are best applied to our particular distance learning program?” I talk about it at work, in social settings, during board meetings and in job interviews.  Keep in mind that I do not work in education at all, not even remotely. (No pun intended)  Distance Learning is now that important.

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Literature and Legal Studies


Literature and legal studiesNext week I will tell you about how moving and starting a new job drove me to distraction. This week I would like to say a word about how studying law has already helped me quite a bit in personal and professional projects. One reason this course appealed to me is its application to my work managing nonprofit organizations. It helps me to be better informed and be a better advocate. It does that in a few ways from subject knowledge to critical thinking and reasoning skills. That is really wonderful. It is the reason I chose this course. But there is something even better and more satisfying that I didn’t expect. Legal studies made me take notice of a few things in my vocation moonlighting as a novelist.

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