By John Masson
Professor Jim Krier is not a bashful man.
So it was with some anticipation that a crowd of students filled a room in Hutchins Hall to capacity for a chance to hear Prof. Krier deliver a Blue Jeans Lecture on "How To Do Law School Right." Considering the informality that prevails at Blue Jeans Lectures, they figured, anything might happen.
What they got—apart from delicious tamales, courtesy of the Law School Student Senate, which sponsored the event—was solid advice on how to make the most of their law school experience.
"I've given my talk a new subtitle: 'How to Succeed in Law School Without Really Trying,'" Prof. Krier told the crowd. "It's a more organized and fuller rendition of my rantings" from class.
First on the list, he said, is determining what really amounts to success in a law school where virtually every member of the student body has always been in the top 10 percent of his or her class. But grades in large part measure students' adeptness at writing exams; so instead of concentrating on class ranking, Prof. Krier urged the students to define success in a different way.
"Think about it: there's just not that much demand for good exam-takers," Prof. Krier said. "Smart people who work are going to prevail in the end, although being at the front of the line does help."
He also laid out his program for successful study habits. In general, students should spend a little less time reading, and a lot more time thinking. After doing the reading, natural curiosity should kick in, suggesting questions. Students should take copious notes—longhand, not on a laptop—but avoid thinking about them too much until after class. That's when notes should be quickly reviewed and clarified, then ultimately transcribed.
"Think before class, think after class, but don't think in class," he said. "If you make mistakes, great—you don't learn from the things you do right, you learn from your mistakes."
When it comes time to take exams, he had a final suggestion: take a lot of the actual professor into the exam with you.
"I want you to have me take your exam," he said. "Because it's me. It sparkles!"
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