Tips and Advice for a Successful Law School Exam Period

Color illustration of a person rushing into another person, yelling, "MOVE IT! I'VE GOT FINALS!" The other person is falling and saying, "OOOMPH!"
Illustration by Troy Cook, 2023

With finals soon arriving, it is the perfect time to think about the strategies of a successful law school exam experience. By now, you may have figured out an effective study approach, but here are some additional tips in case there’s something new that could be helpful.

Create a schedule. It is helpful to create a finals study schedule, where you can factor in any additional time needed for reviewing concepts, and completing practice questions and exams. Perhaps create a game plan, or a day-by-day schedule for each class. Maybe you need to allot more for study time for your more challenging courses. But be sure to budget time for current assigned readings and assignments, so that you don’t fall behind.

Identify your strengths and weaknesses. Review your syllabus, class notes and highlighted sections of your casebook to create a ”hit-list” of topics to study. Flag the material that you find most difficult, so you can focus on any knowledge gaps. Then, you can prioritize topics you struggle with the most, over topics you’ve already mastered.

Team up with a great study group, partner, or study aid. Study groups can be a valuable learning tool. For some students, talking through material with classmates could help your understanding and retention of course materials. But if studying with classmates is not your thing, use the authors of the study guides as your friends and study partners. Additionally, try some study guides, available in print and as eBooks  through the library, such as as Glannon Guides, the Emanuel Crunch Time, and Questions & Answers. These can help you review material through flow charts and summaries; they also provide short-answer, multiple choice, and essay questions and answers, so you can test your knowledge.

Complete your outlines and then work on editing down and memorizing them. So much material is covered in law school that it can seem quite jumbled in your mind. The professors construct the exams to see how well you can link all of the concepts together; this shows that you can apply the skill of analyzing numerous concepts at the same time. Reviewing, editing down, and memorizing your outlines will help you recognize how all of the facets of the particular law class work together in building the overall meaning and understanding of the subject. Need help making an outline? Try one of the library’s Emanuel Outlines available online or in-print at the circulation desk.

Pay attention in class. One last piece of advice that seems to always work is to pay attention in class. Yes, this seems obvious, but paying attention in class will truly save you time because your class notes will make sense and save you from time spent having to learn new concepts and laws. Really focus on what the professor says in class; this will also give important hints about what is expected for the exam. Also participate in class; the discourse you have with the professor is great for the learning experience and professors love it. If you are nervous about talking in class, a good tactic is to go to class with a list of questions. These may be from the reading or questions that you had after evaluating the material from past classes.

Maybe if you follow these great tips, you will not end up like the poor chap below:

 

Illustration of person with raised fist, with a speech bubble stating, "AAARG FINALS." The person is looking down at books and a fallen chair nearby.
Illustration by Troy Cook, 2023

Zief Pets Presents: Halloween Costume Gallery!

Celebrate the spooky season with Zief Law Library as we introduce Zief Pets Presents: Halloween Costume Gallery! Whether a dog, cat, iguana, or even a pet rock, Zief Pets wants to see your pets’ best Halloween looks!

Submit pictures of your pets in their Halloween costumes or festive attire, and we will display them on the Zief Pets wall in Zief Law Library from Monday, October 30th to Monday, November 6th. To participate, please fill out the Google Form by October 30th, using the QR code on the image below or visit bit.ly/ZiefPetsHalloween23.

Advertisement flyer for Zief Pets with a cartoon cat and dog in ghost costumes.

 

 

Music and Studying: Epic (Beneficial) or Gnarly (Adverse)

A record turntable with vinyl album covers placed behind it.
Troy’s turntable

A contentious (gnarly) debate is whether listening to music while studying is a bad idea or if it can actually be quite helpful. In the WebMD article “Can music Help You Study” by Cheryl Whitten and Dan Brennan discuss pros and cons of listening to music while studying. Even USF law students have had discussions about music being beneficial or distracting while studying. The argument of what type of music should be used is even a more passionate argument; this debate can sometimes broach the subject of good or bad taste in the listener (jokingly and good-natured teasing, we hope).

Even though there is a 1990s study in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine entitled “The Mozart Effect” stating that listening to classical music, specifically Mozart’s sonata for two pianos, improves spatial reasoning skills, problem solving, and test scores, it may just simply a matter of improving one’s mood during a stressful time. In the 2023 blog post “Music and Studying: It’s Complicated” Crystal Raypole states that music is helpful during finals because it can motivate; this probably has to do with the firing of neurons in the brain whether it’s slow music to relax or faster dynamic music to inspire. Raypole also discusses how listening to music while studying can be detrimental because students who listen to music with lyrics can become distracted. Even music without lyrics can hinder concentration.  Also, what about the idea that students who use music to help them memorize may need to create the same environment during the actual exam for it to work?

The best test to the music or no music debate is to find out for yourself. All students are different and study in a myriad of ways; music may help some and hinder others.  A good idea for finding out what works best for you is to experiment with different study music playlists on YouTube, Spotify, or your streaming service of choice. Do what’s best for you even if it’s only studying in the bathtub, wearing a wetsuit while listening to 1960s surf instrumentals.

Accessibility Tech Tips for Law Students (Part Two of Two)

Accessible Practices for PowerPoint, Word, and Google Docs

In part two of this post, we provide a look at some accessible practices for hyperlinks and colors for text and backgrounds.

Photo Credit: Tamanna Rumee for Unsplash.com

Hyperlinks

Hyperlinks are helpful for creating accessible documents so that screen readers do not read each individual character of a web address, or URL, aloud, thus cluttering the information with unnecessary characters. They also aid in organizing multiple links on a single document.

General Tips for Hyperlinks

  1. The screen reader will preface the web address with “Link” so you may name the hyperlink after the webpage itself.
    1. Example: use the name “Zief Law Library Website
    2. DO NOT use: “Click Here” “Read More” or “More Info.”
      1. This language is not clearly identifying the information to the listening audience.
  2. Use hyperlinks in your documents, presentations, and email!
    1. Don’t forget to practice accessibility in your emails as well!

Text and Background Color

Creative fonts and colorful text on colorful backgrounds can be aesthetically pleasing, but can also create a learning barrier for learners with low vision. Choosing fonts and backgrounds that are easily read creates an inclusive learning environment, both in print and online.

General Tips for Text and Background Color

  1. Use a color contrast tool  to test if your PowerPoint slides are legible for people with low vision. Colors have a varying degree of contrast against others.
    1. Confirm the presentation meets the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines with the Web AIM Color Checker.
  2. Do not use color to indicate meaning on documents or presentations.
    1. Example: Do not use red to convey something is wrong.
  3. Use clear, large fonts on documents and presentations.
    1. This is important for both learners whose first language is not English and for those with low vision.
    2. Acceptable fonts:
      1. Times New Roman
      2. Verdana
      3. Arial
      4. Tahoma
      5. Helvetica
      6. Calibri

Checking Your Work

Microsoft Word has an Accessibility Checker function that will automatically review your document for accessibility. Select ‘Review’ and click on the ‘Accessibility’ icon to explore. In addition to using the Accessibility Checker function, use Read Aloud to listen to the Word Document and follow with adjustments for an easier listening experience.

For more information on how to create accessible Word Documents, PowerPoints, and Google Docs, please visit the USF ETS Create Accessible Documents Page.

Additional Resources

  1. Microsoft Read Aloud Instructions
  2. Microsoft Accessibility Fundamentals
  3. WebAIM Microsoft Word Creating Accessible Documents

Accessibility Tech Tips for Law Students (Part One of Two)

Accessible Practices for PowerPoint, Word, and Google Docs

“If one out of every seven human beings could be considered disabled, as research demonstrates, disability is a common part of human existence

-Jessica Schomberg, Librarian

Photo Credit: Jess Bailey for Unsplash.com

What is accessibility? Why is it important?

Accessibility is the inclusive practice of making activities, content, products, and services usable by anyone, regardless of mental or physical abilities. Using accessible practices when creating learning materials, such as documents or presentations, allows for every member of your audience to consume the material without asking for accommodations. People with disabilities often request accommodations to create an equitable learning environment. By using accessible practices in your assignments and presentations, you are inviting your professors and classmates to participate with equity and comfort. Please use the tips in this post to help you start incorporating accessibility into your assignments and presentations!

Heading Levels

Using the heading levels in documents and slideshows allows for screen readers to read text in a logical order. Simply bold-facing, underlining, or changing the font of the text will not present the information in an organized, understandable manner to the listening audience.

General Tips for Heading Levels

  1. Use title, heading, and list functions within Word:
    1. Open the Styles Pane, located on the top right of the Home tab.
    2. Use the drop-down menu and choose Modify Style to fit chosen aesthetics.
    3. Bold-facing, underlining, or italicizing titles and headers with “Normal” text is not accessible.
    4. Identify how to organize documents and use heading styles accordingly; order matters for screen readers.
      1. When using PowerPoint, include a title for each slide. When using a screen reader, slides with titles help the listener understand the information being presented on the slide and know when the presenter is switching slides.
    5. Use the list function on the Home tab.
      1. Use this function when you want to include lists with bullet points, numbers, dashes, etc. Be sure to use the list function in order for the screen reader to properly read these lists to listeners.

Alternative Text

Alternative text is the content a screen reader will read to describe an image in a Word Document. This must be manually added by the creator of the document.

General Tips for Alternative Text

  1. How to insert alternative text on Word, PowerPoint, and Google Docs:
    1. Right click the picture you would like to add alternative text to.
    2. Click ‘Format Picture’.
      1. On Google Docs, you do not need to click ‘Format Picture.’ There is an “Alternative Text” option available after you right click the image.
    3. Click ‘Add Alternative Text’.
    4. Alternative text should be a brief description of the image.
      1. If an image is for decorative use, do not use alternative text. Otherwise, it will add unnecessary clutter for the screen reader and confuse listeners.
      2. Word and PowerPoint have a “Decorative Only” option.
    5. Avoid images of text. If you include an image with text, you must include the entire text as part of your alternative text.
    6. Do not use sensory characteristics or gender and racial characteristics.

Checking Your Work

Microsoft Word has an Accessibility Checker function that will automatically review your document for accessibility. Select ‘Review’ and click on the ‘Accessibility’ icon to explore. In addition to using the Accessibility Checker function, use Read Aloud to listen to the Word Document and follow with adjustments for an easier listening experience.

For more information on how to create accessible Word Documents, PowerPoints, and Google Docs, please visit the USF ETS Create Accessible Documents Page.

Additional Resources

  1. Microsoft Read Aloud Instructions
  2. Microsoft Accessibility Fundamentals
  3. WebAIM Microsoft Word Creating Accessible Documents

Law Library Hours: Fall Semester and Labor Day Holiday

Hi All!

Please note that the law library will have the following hours for Fall 2023 and adjusted hours for the Labor Day Holiday:

Fall 2023 Hours:

Saturday-Sunday: 9:00am – 8:00pm

Monday-Thursday: 8:00am – 11:00pm

Friday: 8:00am – 8:00pm

Adjusted Labor Day Hours:

Saturday-Sunday, September 2-3: 10:00am-6:00pm

Monday, September 4: Closed

See you then!

Summer Access to Lexis, Westlaw, and Bloomberg

Hi all! Summer is upon us, and you’re probably gearing up to tackle your summer internship placements. As an important reminder, there are certain limitations on using certain research platforms over the summer. Here, we’ll take a look at the big three  – Westlaw, Lexis, and Bloomberg – and run through what you’ll be able to use them for. And don’t forget, your librarians are also here to help support you throughout the summer

Westlaw

Westlaw can be used over the summer for non-commercial research — you can’t use it in situations where you are billing a client. Examples of permissible use include: Continue reading “Summer Access to Lexis, Westlaw, and Bloomberg”

Law Library Hours: Final Exams

Hi, everyone! The Zief Law Library team wishes you luck on all of your final assignments and exams for the semester. To help support your studying, the law library will have regular hours and research help during the final exam period:

Monday – Thursday: 8:00am – 11:00 pm;

Friday: 8:00am – 8:00pm;

Saturday: 9:00am – 8:00pm;

Sunday: 10:00am – 11:00pm.

Zief Research Services:

Monday – Friday: 10:00am – 5:00pm

Good Luck!

National Library Week 2023

“Bad libraries build collections, good libraries build services, great libraries build communities.”

David Lankes

Happy National Library Week! This year’s American Library Association theme is “There’s More to the Story” celebrating libraries’ expansive materials, services, and resources beyond print books. This week, learn how to use your library card to its fullest potential and celebrate with Zief Law Library!

National Library Week 2023 Logo

Events at Zief

All Week Activities

  1. Pick up a Zief-themed word search by the Brain Break table on the first floor!
  2. Vote on your favorite library, law school, or poetry themed haiku written by USF law students by April 27th, 3:00 p.m.! The winner receives a Green Apple Books gift card!
  3. Share your favorite books from childhood with the Communal Children’s Book Library! Located on the first floor near the Circulation Desk.
  4. Guess how many books are in Zief Law Library and win a prize!
  5. Pick up freebies from Lexis, Westlaw, Bloomberg, and more!

San Francisco

San Francisco Public Library

Continue reading “National Library Week 2023”

Tax Day

In observance of Tax Day, on April 18 this year, Zief Library takes a brief look at the legal history of our federal income tax system and highlights Zief tax research resources and opportunities for further study.

Federal Income Taxes: A Brief History:

Did you know the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) came into existence on July 9, 1953?  Its main function is to determine, assess, and collect internal revenue in the United States.

A few other facts about the IRS and the modern federal income tax system:

  • The first U.S. Congress created the Department of the Treasury in 1789. It has the authority to administer and enforce the internal revenue laws of the U.S.
  • Modern individual income taxes are largely a result of the Revenue Act of 1913, which President Woodrow Wilson signed into law. The act restored federal income taxes and lowered tariff (taxes on imported goods) rates, which President Wilson considered to be unfair taxes.
  • Earlier Revenue Acts had given Congress the power to tax personal income, including the first, The Revenue Act of 1861, which was signed by President Lincoln (to pay for the Civil War). It lacked an enforcement mechanism and was later repealed. A flat rate Federal income tax was enacted in 1894, but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional because it was a direct tax not apportioned according to the population of each state.
  • The 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution resolved this issue when it was ratified in 1913. It granted Congress “the power to lay and collect taxes on incomes,…, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration”.
  • The IRS came into existence in 1953 after President Harry S. Truman called for a reorganization of the Bureau of Internal Revenue, created after the Civil War.
  • Congress gave the Treasury Department the authority to administer and enforce the internal revenue laws of the U.S. in 1954, and that authority is governed by Internal Revenue Code Section 7801. The IRS is organized to carry out the responsibilities of the U.S. Treasury Secretary.
  • The first Form 1040 was introduced in 1913, and the standard deductions on Form 1040 were created in 1944.
  • Filing & Payment Dates: Although April 15 is the official annual individual federal income tax filing deadline, the date varies due to weekends and holidays. This year the deadline is Tuesday, April 18 for most Americans. Federal income taxes were originally due on March 1 after the passage of the 16th Amendment in 1913, but the deadline was changed five years later to March 15. The tax system was overhauled in 1954 with the passage of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954 and the date was again moved to April 15.

Research Resources:

Many of the legal research databases and other resources you are already using provide access to tax-related research materials. A few, however, are worth mentioning for their special focus on tax materials:

Checkpoint Edge: Thomson Reuters Checkpoint Edge provides access to information on U.S. federal and state tax laws, regulations, and cases. USF Law students and faculty can access it from on campus.

Lexis Tax: Lexis Tax, which is part of your Lexis+ subscription, allows you to run single searches across multiple tax resources in one of three subjects: Federal, State & Local, or U.S. International Tax law. These include primary sources and specialized secondary materials, including tax analysis, tax commentary, tax news and other information required to practice tax law. By putting all tax materials in one place, Lexis helps you simplify your search process.

Zief Federal Tax Research Guide: For help finding federal tax related materials, check out the library’s handy research guide on federal tax research.

Interested in Pursuing a Career in Tax Law?

Did you know USF offers graduate programs in tax law for students who have already earned a law degree? Many students who want to focus their careers in tax law enroll in one of these programs after earning their JD’s. Check out the USF’s LLM and Graduate Tax Programs for more information.

Student Discounts

This week, ZiefBrief takes a look at how to take advantage of your student status and save on professional tools, supplies, and clothing.

Student Discount Services

As you are gearing up for your summer internships and post-bar employment, take advantage of your student status to build your professional wardrobe and toolkit. Before purchasing professional attire, check if Student Beans or UniDays offers a student discount. Brands like Coach, Footlocker, Marc Jacobs, and Charles Tywhitt are available on Student Beans and UniDays. Be sure to check for discounts on stationary or tools, like Muji Stationary, The Happy Planner, or Logitech. This post will focus on professional attire and tools, but continue to explore these sites for other products and services that may help in your overall success, such as health, travel, and more.

Tips on Student Beans and UniDays

  1. Student Beans
    1. Choose a category on the menu, such as “Fashion” or “Home and Tech.”
    2. Choose which discounts you want to search for on the side bar, such as “Student” or “Freebie” to filter out general sales from student discounts.
    3. If you are about to graduate, check out Grad Beans for discounts!
  2. UniDays
    1. Use the top menu bar for drop-down menus on each category.
    2. You’ll find a sample of their offerings and can continue searching by clicking “View All” usually located on the right side of the page.

Additional Discounts

Professional Apparel

If you have not found  what you need through Student Beans and UniDays, these shops offer discounts directly through their websites and stores.

  1. J. Crew offers 15% off with a valid college ID.
  2. Madewell offers 15% off online and in-store purchases.

Office Supplies

Stay on top of your goals with proper organization and tools.

  1. Papier:  10% off for planners, notebooks, and other stationary.
  2. Moleskine: Up to 15% off sitewide

Recreation and Mental Health Services

Adjust to your internship, job, or bar study with mindfulness. Remember you are a person first and give yourself time to breathe.

  1. Headspace uses science-backed mindfulness and meditation tools and has been proven to lower stress levels by 14% in 10 days. As a student, you can access Headspace for $9.99/year (85% off!).
  2. If you have an interview and do not want to rely on the SF Muni or rideshare services, ZipCar’s student plan can save you up to $55/year.
  3. Find new ways to explore the city with the San Francisco Public Library’s Discover and Go! Register for free passes to museums, movies, the zoo, and more!

Tech

As a law student, you’re likely to make a tech purchase. Remember to check student discount service websites first and check the following companies for their direct discounts.

  • Adobe: Over 60% off Creative Cloud All Apps plan for students and teachers.
  • HP: Up to 40% off everyday savings.
  • Samsung: Up to 30% off select items with the Education Offers Program.
  • Razer: 20% off Razer gear, PC parts and accessories, 10% off gaming chairs and 5% off laptops.
  • Microsoft: Up to 10% off select tech for students and parents.
  • Apple: College students can get a discount on select tech starting at $50 off, 20% off AppleCare+, credit with Apple Trade In and more.

 

Scrabble letter pieces spelling out "Slay Queen"

New Resource: Dual Monitor Workstations

The Zief Law Library Is Excited To Announce A New Resource: Dual Monitor Workstations

Dual monitors stock image

The Zief Law Library is happy to announce two new dual monitor workstations located in corrals on the first floor of Zief. Having two computer screens allows users to view multiple documents in full screen simultaneously instead of having a split screen on one monitor – perfect for reading eBooks while taking notes! Additional HDMI port adapters will soon be made available at the library Circulation Desk. Please feel free to visit the Zief Law Library Circulation Desk for more information. Happy Studying!

“Research Tips from an Old School Librarian” — the Restatements

Many law students think of the Restatements of the Law as nothing more than the brief excerpts included in their case books. This week, in his special column, “Research Tips from an Old School Librarian,” research librarian John Shafer will show you why you may want to dig deeper into the Restatements.

What are the Restatements?

The Restatements of Law, published by the American Law Institute (ALI), are a valuable resource for law students, legal professionals, and scholars alike. These authoritative and influential legal treatises aim to clarify, simplify, and modernize various areas of common law in the United States.

By distilling and restating the general principles and rules derived from case law, statutes, and legal scholarship, the Restatements provide a clear and comprehensive summary of the current state of the law. They serve as a reference for judges, lawyers, scholars, and legislators, guiding courts in areas where the law may be ambiguous or inconsistent. Although not legally binding, the Restatements often act as persuasive authority in judicial decision-making, shaping the development and evolution of the law.

The Restatements, along with their accompanying examples, illustrations, and annotations, are invaluable tools for law professors and students. Professors often draw from the examples and illustrations to create the hypotheticals they use in lectures and examinations, designing engaging and challenging problems that test students’ comprehension of legal concepts and principles. You, as a student, on the other hand, can employ these examples and illustrations to prepare for exams, enhance readiness for being called on in class, and deepen your understanding of the Restatements.

The annotations that accompany the Restatements are also helpful for locating case law that cites specific Restatement sections. By examining these annotations, you can identify relevant legal authority to support your arguments and enrich your research, as well as observe the practical impacts the Restatements have on the development and evolution of the law.

Accessing the Restatements:

In Print: The Zief Law Library has a fairly complete collection of the Restatements in print. They are located behind the Circulation and Reserve Desk and can be checked out for use in the library. The Ignacio library catalog shows a list of our current Restatement holdings:

Online: The full text of the Restatements is not freely available on the internet due to copyright restrictions. However, you can access the complete Restatements through legal research platforms, such as Westlaw, LexisNexis, HeinOnline, and Bloomberg Law (BL has a subset of all the Restatements available). Links to each of those services appear below — you will need to use your personal academic password or identify yourself as a USF Law student in order to use them:

In conclusion, the Restatements of Law are a valuable resource for law students seeking to strengthen their understanding of common law principles. By examining the Restatements and their accompanying examples, illustrations, and annotations, you can develop problem-solving skills, boost your confidence in class, excel in exams, and better prepare for your future legal career.

Professionalism and Career Resources

As you embark on your legal career journey, it may be helpful to familiarize yourself with any expectations that you, or potential employers, have about the legal profession. Many brilliant and thoughtful professionals came before you, and have meaningful advice to share through podcasts, blog posts, and professional development courses. This week, we introduce you to some resources on career advice, giving and receiving constructive feedback, and managing mental health in the legal profession, so that you can set yourself up for professional success!

Career Advice

  1. ABA Law Student Podcast delivers coverage on current court cases, how to use your degree, and interviews with working professionals on the realities of a career in law. Available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play Music, and Stitcher.
  2. The XL Legal Podcast, accredited by the Law Society of Ontario for Professionalism Hours, offers professional development tips ranging from what to expect in your early years as an attorney to taking care of your mental health. Available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play Music, and Stitcher.
  3. Before your first day at your summer internship or post-bar employment, read the ABA’s Top 10 Tips for Civility and Professionalism in New Lawyers to learn more about how to navigate your new work environment.
  4. Visit USF Law’s Office of Career Services for career counseling, connections to lawyers in your field of interest, and resources and tools to explore.

Continue reading “Professionalism and Career Resources”