4 Ways to Seek Feedback in Law School

4 Ways to Seek Feedback in Law SchoolThis week we welcome back guest writer and 2L Tiffany Lo to talk about how to get feedback in law school.

In law school, a final exam is often the sole determinant of a grade in a course. For many students, this is an uncomfortable shift from undergraduate classes in which there are multiple assessments, whether as quizzes, group projects, or short papers. I have felt exasperated by not knowing whether I was grasping the materials, whether I was applying concepts correctly, and whether my legal analysis is on point. Unfortunately, the burden falls on us students to take the initiative and seek feedback. Here are four of my ideas for how to do that:

1. Ask for Writing Feedback from your Legal Research and Writing Instructor

On the exam, it is important to express ideas succinctly: covering all the possible arguments and sub-arguments without being overly verbose or using up precious time better spent on other issues. Under a time limit, this may seem like a tall order. However, you can gain practice through assignments in the legal research and writing course. Ask your professor to comment on parts of your writing where you could have tightened or expanded upon arguments. However, do recognize that an issue spotter (the most common law school exam format) is asking something very different than a typical assignment. On the exam, you should exhaust all the branches of analysis, even on obvious issues; when composing a brief, you want to focus on your strongest contentions and preempt compelling opposing arguments. Still, the basic principle remains: your writing should be clear and persuasive.

2. Review Practice Problems and Exams with your Professors

Professors may not offer a midterm, but they are still eager to help you succeed on the final exam. If you are having trouble with a concept or are unsure about its application, visit office hours for help. Beforehand, think of a hypothetical (or pull a practice problem from your casebook or supplement) and try to work through it. During office hours, take your professor through your analysis and ask for their thoughts. Chances are, they will offer additional arguments or considerations, or advise that you reorganize your thinking. These are valuable pieces of wisdom that you can use to maximize your performance.

After receiving your grade, you should review your final exam, including reaching out to your professor to go over your exam paper. In my experience, professors have offered to meet with students to do just that. This is again an opportunity to get an invaluable perspective. Use it to adjust how you study, outline, and tackle the next exam.

3. Work through Concepts and Hypotheticals with your Teaching Assistant or Tutor

Upper-class students who have been in your shoes are great resources, especially those who have had the same professor in the same subject. You should make use of the teaching assistants for the course: attend their sessions, complete any practice problems they provide, and attend their office hours to clarify points of confusion. They have sat through a similar exam that you will take, so ask them about their strategies and incorporate the advice into your studies. You can also seek out a tutor, either through your school’s tutoring program or an external one.

4. Self-evaluate and seek Peer Feedback on Practice Exam Answers

Practice exams are, in my opinion, the most valuable study resource. Use them to familiarize with your professors’ preferred exam format, to discover which concepts you do not fully grasp, and to refine any materials you plan to reference during the exam. How you take the practice exam – under timed conditions or merely outlining the answer – is not so important as the review process. For me, I did several things after completing a practice exam.

First and without fail, I would give myself a break. A four-hour long exercise of speed typing while developing a coherent response is quite taxing. Second, I would reflect on my performance. Did I manage my time well? Did the outline I made before writing my answer help me stay organized? Did I make all the possible arguments and counterarguments? Did I bring up policy concerns when warranted? Did I address everything the prompt asked for? Third, I would review any available model answers, looking for arguments that I had made, those that I had missed, and any other aspects that made the answer effective. Throughout these steps, I would keep a running list of things I had to work on, as well as adjust my outline. Lastly, I would talk to my peers. I exchanged answers with a friend, and we talked through what each of us did well and could improve on. I also joined a group of classmates to go through the exam. I found it very helpful to discuss how to spot the more obscure issues and the different ways to resolve an ambiguous question of law.

Aside from providing a better sense of my academic progress, seeking feedback from different people has given me a channel to experiment with my half-baked thoughts, fine-tune my legal thinking and analysis skills, and vent my frustration. It has taken me out of my comfort zone, motivating me to recognize my weaknesses and try new things. I encourage you to try out these ideas and their variants! Hopefully, you will find the process and results as rewarding as I have.


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About Tiffany Gee Ching Lo

Tiffany Gee Ching Lo is a student at Stanford Law School. She spent her 1L year at the New York University School of Law, where she was involved with Alternative Breaks, Women of Color Collective, and Law Revue, and worked as research assistant. Tiffany received her undergraduate degree from the University of California, Berkeley, graduating magna cum laude with double majors in Political Science and Rhetoric. Tiffany developed an interest in the law from a young age, and have worked in law firms and courthouses in Hong Kong–where she grew up, around the San Francisco Bay Area, and in New York. In her spare time, Tiffany enjoys painting, playing the piano and cello, trying out new recipes, and watching late night talk shows.

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