Monthly Archives: September 2018

Five Reasons You Should Make CALI Your Study Partner

CALI Lessons are online interactive tutorials that cover narrow topics of law. CALI publishes over 1,000 lessons covering 40 different legal subject areas. These lessons have been used over 10 million times by law students over the years. To access CALI, click here: Using CALI

#1- CALI Lessons are another way to learn the law.
CALI Lessons are another way to learn the law. They are interactive web-based tutorials that both teach and apply your understanding of what you just read. You learn the law from casebook readings, faculty instruction, and from supplements. Many commercial supplements are not written by law faculty and are simplified and watered down versions of the law. CALI Lessons are not. CALI Lessons present hypothetical situations and then quiz you on your understanding using follow-up questions and branching to make sure you got the right answer for the right reasons.

#2- CALI Lessons are a formative assessment for you.
Do you want to make sure you are understanding what you study? The only way to be sure is to assess and CALI lessons provide a form of self-assessment. You get feedback on every question – whether you get it right or wrong – and you get a final score that tells you how you are doing on a specific legal topic.

#3- CALI Lessons are interactive and engaging.
CALI Lessons are not videos that you passively watch. The material is modeled on Socratic Dialogue where a question is asked, you answer the question, and then various aspects of the topic are explored. CALI Lessons are written by tenured law faculty with many years of teaching experience (law librarians author the legal research lessons). The lessons purposefully steer you into thinking about the topic in a nuanced way.

#4- CALI Lessons are rigorous.
It is difficult to get a perfect score on most CALI Lessons the first time through. Law is complex and CALI lessons dive into that complexity. Each lesson covers a specific topic without getting too broad in scope. The questions are tough and require serious thought from the student. A typical lesson takes 20 to 40 minutes for a student to complete. You can take lessons multiple times to improve your understanding.

#5- CALI Lessons are a good learning appetizer or an excellent learning dessert.
CALI Lessons are an excellent learning experience as a first bite at the material. They prepare you for class or subsequent readings. The material is brief and rigorous exposing you to the concepts and nomenclature of a topic without being drilled and practiced to death. In addition, CALI Lessons are excellent for study after class (alone or in a study group), after the casebook readings, or for studying for the final exam. They provide immediate and substantive feedback that can direct you to the places where further study is required.

To access CALI, click here: Using CALI

Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports now freely available online

CRS

The Library of Congress announced today that it is providing Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports to the public. CRS reports are analytical, non-partisan reports produced by the Congressional Research Service, a division of the Library of Congress, for members of Congress.  They are excellent tools for legal researchers as they provide authoritative and objective information on topics of legislative interest. Providing public access to the CRS reports is a big policy shift, as in the past reports were only available to the public when released by a member of Congress.

This policy change was directed by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018, which requires that the Library of Congress make CRS reports publicly available online. The result is a new public website crsreports.congress.gov, which allows reports to be searched by keyword. This website will include all new or updated CRS reports; the Library will add previously published reports “as expeditiously as possible.”

The Socratic Method and You

“I cannot teach anybody anything.  I can only make them think.”
– Socrates

As a law student you have no doubt experienced the Socratic Method instructional model, which is based on the asking and answering of questions in class with the goal of stimulating critical thinking.  You can thank Christopher Columbus Landell for that, who as the Dean of Harvard Law School from 1870 to 1895 introduced this method to legal education.  Before Landell, legal instruction was based on the lecture model, in which students memorized material from an instructional textbook and were lectured on that material in class.

Many law professors now combine the Socratic Method with the Case Method, in which they question students about appellate-level court cases to help them explore the rules that can be derived from those cases.  While this instructional model has a fair number of critics, it is something that you will need to become comfortable with in law school.  Below are a few ideas from the Law School Academic Support Blog on turning the Socratic Method into a more positive experience:

1) Recognize what questions the professor almost always asks about each case during class.  Think about the answers to those standard questions during your class preparation.

2) Before class, consider the case from 360 degrees.  In addition to understanding the case deeply (its separate case brief parts and details), consider the case more broadly (how does it fit with the other cases read for that day and into the larger topic).

3) When called on, think about the question asked and take a deep breath before answering.  Many mistakes are made because students blurt out something they immediately realize is wrong or answer a different question than actually asked.

4) Remember that most people in class are not judging you when you are the student called on for Socratic Method.  About a third are relieved it was not them.  About a third are looking ahead frantically because they realize their turns are coming up.  About a third are busy taking notes and looking for the answers.

Be sure to also check out Cracking the Case Method: Legal Analysis for Law School Success or 1L of a Ride: A Well-Traveled Professor’s Roadmap to Success in the First Year of Law School , both are available in the Study Skills Collection of the Law Library, for more ideas on how to master the Socratic Method.