Category Archives: General

Celebrate Single-Tasking Day: Here’s Why and How! By Elizabeth Scott, M.S. Stress Management Expert


“I knew this last week! Why can’t I remember this?” – Every law student, ever.

Even at the best of times our memory can fail, leaving us hopelessly fumbling for that case name or trying to remember who had the onus of proof.

Fear not though, as studying for my secondary degree in Psychology has given me great insight into the best ways to remember things and how to avoid forgetting. Here are just a few tips on how to prepare for exams based on what psychology tells us about memory…


Well, not completely.

According to the “Deep Processing” theory, just listening to a lecturer without engaging in the material is one of the weakest ways of storing something to your long term memory. By only just repeating the analyses others have done, you are not thoroughly understanding and thus not processing the material with any amount of depth. To allow for deeper processing:

  • Stop reading your friends’ notes on the subject. Instead, make your own and put them in your own words.
  • Try and explain the concepts to a friend.
  • Do more practice questions.


No, I’m not joking.

If you’re the boozy soon-to-be lawyer who stumbles home at 2 am and does their readings half plastered, you will better remember the content you have learnt if you try and recall it when drunk (that’s not to say that alcohol won’t have other negative effects on performance).

This is all based on “Context-Dependent learning” or “State-dependent learning”. Essentially, information recall is significantly better if you are in very similar circumstances to what you learnt it in.

So if you have to take exams at your university, in silent room, sitting alone, you will probably be better off studying at your university, without noise (sorry guys, no music), completely alone.

If you drink coffee right before studying for Criminal Law, drink it right before your Criminal exam. If you don’t have any particular precursor to study, introduce one (such as chewing gum or wearing a particular fragrance) and use it right before your exam.


At least not in the way you are probably using them.

Typically, students stare at each card for as long as it takes to remember the information on it and then move on to the next, but for flashcards to be useful they must follow the “Say All Fast Minute Each Day Shuffle” (SAFMEDS) method. All or as many cards as possible should be looked at as fast as possible for a minute. The cards you cannot remember instantly should be taken from the pile and then reviewed. This needs to be repeated each day, having been shuffled into a new order.

This method is effective because:

  • The rate at which you complete this forces you to think quickly while under pressure – a  crucial skill for exams.
  • Repetition is important in memorizing anything.
  • In shuffling them, you are not learning the information in a particular order that can be pre-empted or act as cues to the correct answer.

Note: Flashcards should have no more than a few words on it otherwise they become ineffective.


Psychology tells us that instead of trying to just memorize information, students should utilize the technique of mnemonics to increase the amount they can remember and their recall accuracy. This is done by coupling new piece of information, such as the elements to a contract, with something you are quite familiar with, like how to get to university. So if you visualize a man offering you a deal on shoes on your street, you should be able to recall that an offer is the first element to a contract by calling forth this imagery.

Building on this technique, attaching things you need to remember to things you are already familiar with, you could:

  • Visualize your friends in the legal situations you are learning about
  • Relate the case names back to things or people you know. For example I remember the case of Holland v Hodgson better than all other fixture cases because one of my close friends came from Holland to Australia.

These little known facts are just teasers to the great expanse of things we know about memory, so take a look at some psych textbooks and see how you can develop your memory even more. What are your tips for memorizing law content?


Why Law Students and Job Seekers Need Business Cards

Well, in general, why does anyone need a business card?

I use them as a logical, manageable way to communicate my contact information to another person. It’s a physical object that someone can refer to at a later time to either get in touch with me, or pass my contact information to another.

By distributing them wildly, I hope that, paired with my stunning good looks, and engaging, humorous conversation, my card will leave an unforgettable impression on people and they will reach out to me to further their end game of giving me their money.  Or maybe even just follow up on something we talked about.

A business card expands your network and ups your professionalism by making it really easy to get a hold of you, and represents that you are serious about what you represent. Anyone can say that they are a snake oil salesman, but if you don’t have a business card to prove it, I’m getting my snake oil from the next guy (disclaimer: the next guy who has a card as awesome as the guy in the video below).

Law students and job seekers:

You may not be affiliated with any specific commercial venture right now, but having a generic card with your contact info is critical! In fact, “in between” times may be the most important times to have a card.  I pretty much never remember the people that “don’t have one on [them].”  But if I make a real connection with a person and they hand me their card, I’ll be more likely to follow up and see how we can help one another.

It doesn’t matter who it is, or what their lifestyle, people who take themselves seriously do so with their words, their appearance, their mannerisms, and all of their actions (Tweet this).

Now, here is something practical.  Simple, but hopefully helpful.

For those unfamiliar with the “generic card” notion, here’s the primer.

Layout and general look:

Pick something boring.  Seriously.

You don’t need a logo, and you don’t need personal colors or shapes.  Remember that you generally give this card after you have engaged someone.  Any distraction on your card takes peoples’ eyes and brains away from the text.

Why do you think legal documents are so boring?  Focus on the words, esquire.

Only put the information that needs to be on there:

The card I used when I was “in between.”

(1) Name:  Use the name you put on your resume.  If you have earned letters after your name, use them.  I lean towards giving more information.  (But I also talk a lot.)

(2) Tagline: Optional. I chose something relatively vague that sort of represents somewhat of a world view for the world I’m seeking to attract.  In some instances, people wanted to follow up with me on intrigue alone.  

(3) Professional email address: This is the most common method people will use to reach out to you.  If you’re still holding onto “”* it’s time to decide to never use that again.  Ebay, maybe?  Regardless, you can’t wear that here.  Try “” or a similar combination if you have a common name.

(4) Phone: I used my cell phone number before I figured out Google Voice.  But you need a phone number people can call and text.  Remember, the best thing about the “generic card” is its versatility.

(5) Linkedin profile URL or personal website:  I like Linkedin because it’s basically an online resume.  Someone can take your card and look you up to confirm for themselves that you are who you said you are.  Also, when it’s printed on this card you’re handing out everywhere, it’s motivation to keep your Linkedin profile updated.

(6) Twitter handle: Optional.  I like twitter, and have it set so that if someone mentions me or DM’s me, I get an email.  Does anyone think putting a Twitter handle on here is more harmful than helpful to your cause? (reply in the comments, please)

(7) Geographic location:  Optional.  I love Maine and I’m proud to live here, so … you’re damn right I’m in Portland, ME. 

Three words: R. O. I.

Go buy 250 business cards. It’s pretty cheap to make substantial steps toward steering your future.

Chelsea  and Zeke Callanan are the founders of Happy Go Legal, a multi-media resource for new and aspiring legal professionals.  Mrs. Callanan is a 2008 graduate of the University of Maine School of Law, and currently practices at Murray, Plumb & Murray in Portland, Maine, focusing on corporate and intellectual property needs of business of all sizes.  Mr. Callanan is an attorney and founder of Opticliff ESQ,


Basic Legal Citation

An introduction that aims at building a basic mastery of “legal citation” as codified in the two major references – a level of mastery that should enable you to do all of your legal reading and much of your legal writing without having to reach for them.

By Peter Martin, Cornell University


Networking Tips During the Holidays

This is an opportunity to connect with friends and family that you don’t often see. Let them know that you’re graduating and looking for a job.

  • Contact the Career Services Office.
  • Reach out to your mentors or find them on LinkedIn.
  • Set up informational interviews. Offer to take an attorney to coffee or lunch to learn more about their practice.
  • Most bar associations and some bar sections have holiday parties and are happy to have law students attend.Check with your local bar association for a list of social events.
    • Be yourself, but be mindful of the impression you’re conveying.
    • Festive dress is fine, but be professional.
    • Consider having simple business cards made to hand out to people you meet.  However, keep in mind that you are in a social setting – you don’t want to seem pushy.
    • Follow up with any contacts you make.

Additional Resources

source: University of Texas

Why it Pays to Prepare Early for Your Law School Exam

Most law school classes only have one final exam, and your entire grade depends on it. Those three or four hours determine your grade for the entire course! Quite a lot of pressure on a single exam, right?

This is why it’s so critical that you start looking toward that exam NOW and make sure that you’re doing everything you can to achieve success on exam day!

A lot is riding on it.

Critical Questions for Law School Exam Success

Here are some questions you need to be asking to ensure you’re on track for law school success:

  1. What’s format of the exam? This is a very important question, because the format of the exam dictates how you study. (Especially what you practice.) If the exam is 50% multiple choice, naturally you need to practice multiple choice questions! If it’s all essays, you can focus your efforts on that.
  2. Is the exam open or closed book? This is also critically important when preparing your law school study materials. In theory, an outline for an open-book exam should look very similar to a closed-book exam outline. However, with an open-book exam, you may want to generate additional reference materials (attack plans, etc.) to take into the test, and you have to pay more attention to how you’re going to memorize everything you need to know on a closed-book exam. It’s also important to think about how you’re going to differentiate yourself from the crowd. On a closed-book exam, this might mean knowing more. On an open-book exam, you’ll have to shine by showing your great analysis, since everyone has the law to reference. How do you do this? Lots of preparation with hypotheticals and practice exams.
  3. Where can you get practice exams? Some professors circulate old exams in class, sometimes they’re posted on a website, and others put them on reserve in the library. Find out where they are, and get your hands on as many as possible. This will show you what the professor tests and wants you to know, knowledge that’s critical to law school exam success.
  4. Have you gone to office hours to talk with your professor about the exam? Do not be afraid to go to office hours! Your professor holds them for a reason, and many law professors will be surprisingly candid about what they are looking for in an exam answer. If you’re nervous, go with a classmate, or bring along a question from your outline or your writing practice to kick off the discussion.
  5. Are your outlines up-to-date? Outlining is a critical part of preparing for exams. I have written about why it is important to outline, how long outlines should be, and when I think you should start outlining (the answer is yesterday).[insert links] By now, your outlines should exist and you need to be updating them weekly. If not, it’s time to get on it!
  6. Where can you get other practice materials? What if your professor doesn’t circulate a lot of practice exams? There are many other resources you can turn to. Does your school have an Academic Support Program? If so, check there for a supply of practice exams. Some schools even proctor practice exams for first-year students! Don’t overlook commercial supplements. Many of these have fact patterns and multiple-choice questions you can practice on. Finally, don’t forget about bar study books. They’re full of essays and multiple-choice questions on many of the topics you’re currently studying.
  7. Are you practicing your writing? I hope so. You are foolhardy if you’re not writing every week. Practice is the only way to ensure you know the law and to confirm your outlining strategy is working for you. Practice early, practice often!

Hopefully these tips will help you feel confident going into your law school exams (the best mindset for success).  Good Luck!


Case Law

A CASE is a written decisions issued by a court, often referred to as a judicial opinion or decision.  Cases are published in chronological order in print sets called reporters or case reports.

Federal courts and state courts use a similar hierarchical organization (lowest to highest): trial court, appellate court, highest court. Courts at each level publish their decisions in chronological order in official case reporters.

There are two different categories of reporters which you need to know:               1. official reporters – which are usually published by a governmental entity       2. unofficial reporters – which are published commercially (usually by                       either Westlaw or LexisNexis).

Cases can be found three ways:                                                                                                    1. Citation:A standard three-part citation lets you know where to find the case:

Volume Number Reporter Page Number
238 F.3d 68

In the above example the notation “3d” indicates that the Federal Reporter (F)     is now in its third series. Be sure to note which numbered series your citation         points to. WestlawLexis and other online legal databases allow you to pull       up cases by simply entering the citation in a search box.

2. Name:                                                                                                             a)You can find cases and their citations using print                                                               resources by using the Case Name volumes at the end of a                                             West digest set. Some digests have volumes listing cases by                                           Plaintiffs or Defendants or both.

b)You can find a case using party names on both Lexis and                                                Westlaw and most online case law databases as well by                                                        entering the litigants’ names in the “find by name search” box.                                                                                                                  

3. Topic:                                                                                                             Cases are published in the order decided by the court – i.e. in                                         chronological order. A reporter will have cases by different judges on a                   wide variety of topics.  To find cases on a certain topic, there is a case                         finding tool called a case digest.

Every reporter published by West uses the West Digest system, which                       assigns every legal issue in a case to one of 400+ legal topics and further                   pigeon holes the issue into a subdivisions called key numbers. The topic,                   key number, and a short blurb about the legal issue (referred to                                   as headnotes) and appear as editorial enhancements at the beginning of                   each case in a West Reporter. By looking up your topic and key number in               the digest for your jurisdiction, you will find a list of citations to cases                       covering the same point.

Resource: Cornell Law Library