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on July 26, 2000
Getting to Maybe is a Godsend. Even for those of you who've already finished first-year, it's well worth getting.
I am the author of Planet Law School: What You Need to Know Before You Go--but Didn't Know to Ask. Unfortunately, Getting to Maybe was first published in 1999, a year after PLS, so I could not recommend it in PLS. Hence this posting, now. Even though the authors and I are competitors, and our books are published by different firms, I urge all law students to get Getting to Maybe. (For one thing, the authors' critique of the IRAC model is succinct and devastating.)
If you take doing well in law school (and becoming a good attorney) seriously, this book is a necessity.
It's so well-written that I had to force myself to put it down, and ended up reading it in just two sittings, of several hours each.
The earlier review, about the teaching of Tantric Yoga, in exactly right. With Getting to Maybe, the secrets are secret no more.
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on April 15, 2006
In my first year of law school, my legal writing tutor recommended this book. After reading it, my grades went up, which I believe was partially because of how this book helped me improve writing law school exams. It helps new law students understand what it means to "think like a lawyer." That is, it gives students a framework for analyzing complex issues.

Reading this book also significantly increased my performance in our legal writing class. At the end of my first year, my professor said my writing went from nearly the worst in the class to the best. This progress was a direct result from reading this book, improving my writing organization, and practice.

I highly recommend this book for new law students who want a head-start improving their legal analysis skills, and especially for students struggling with their legal writing. Law students have so much to read, it's hard to find more time for a book like this. But even reading a few chapters will provide students with a new paradigm for their legal analysis and writing.

This book would make a great gift for a student prior to starting law school because it is easy to read and introduces readers to subjects they will cover in their first-year courses.
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on July 18, 2002
The aim of this book is to help current law students perform well on law school exams. Law school exams are famously ambiguous; hence the title of the book.
The title of the book is a play on the title of a classic book about the art of negotiation, called _Getting to Yes_. Implicit in _Getting to Maybe_ is that, unlike a negotiation, performance on law school exams does not require an exact answer or resolution.
The method by which these law professors explain this concept is especially interesting. In connection with their academic research, they propose to break down law school exams into small components, and thoroughly analyze those components. The result is a very substantial and comprehensive analysis of the structure of law school exams and the skills required to do well on these exams.
You may be asking how the professors purport to explain _all_ law school exams, for surely there are professors for whose exams these methods will not work. These professors make the interesting point that in the United States, law education is fairly uniform, and, therefore, the skills required to perform well on law school exams are fairly uniform, as well.
I read this book prior to starting law school. I found it useful primarily because I have read a number of other books about legal reasoning and the study of law and the law school experience that are more basic than the material in this book. If this is your first book regarding the study of law or peformance in law school, I would advise putting it aside in favor of a book offering a broader overview of law, its study, and law school.
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on November 12, 2005
I read this book early in the fall of my 1L year. At the time, I thought that the book was useful and that reading it would give me an edge over my classmates. In retrospect, the book did not give me any edge and reading the book was a waste of time.

The book does give you confidence. It leads you to think that you will be able to take apart a legal exam, reduce it to its essentials, and reason in a manner that your professors will appreciate. I guess it might be worth your reading if you need a shot of self-confidence.

But I do not think that the book will make much of a difference in how anyone does on law school exams. The authors' main point is to look for ambiguities (or "forks"). When you see something on your exam that looks ambiguous, try to explore all the ambiguities. In other words, argue in the alternative--i.e., point out that if X is said to occur, then Y results, whereas if A is said to occur, then B results. Let your professors know that you can see the little things that might produce completely different legal results.

This method is great as a theory. However, it is difficult to apply the method in an actual test setting. I remember that my first exam during my 1L year was in criminal law. I was given a long fact pattern, and I tried to apply the "Getting to Maybe" method. One problem I found was that I was pushed for time. It was not possible to discuss all the ambiguities in the amount of time allowed. The method the book suggested was just not possible in the context of my three-hour bluebook exam. There was no way I could explore all the ambiguities on the exam the way the authors suggest.

Another problem I have with the book is that it is not really giving you any special advice. Reduced to a sentence, the authors are just telling you not to be conclusory with your answers--in other words, show that certain items in the fact pattern could be argued multiple ways. This is hardly novel law school exam advice worth $22.00!

I have read reviews by people who claim that this book helped them make law review or whatever. I also know many people who have read this book and have gotten below average law school grades. I do not think that this book will make a difference in how anyone does in law school. If you are one of those people who has to read everything, because you don't want your classmates to have read something you haven't read, then by all means read this. If, on the other hand, you are concerned about using your time effectively, then you are probably better off working on your outlines or reviewing your lecture notes rather than wasting your time reading this book.
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on March 20, 2007
I am a law professor at the oldest night law school in San Francisco who has struggled for years to communicate to my stdents how to prepare for exams. I wish someone had told me about this book years ago. It explains cogently and distinctly why law school exams are different than those exams you did so well on in college (or you wouldn't be in law school) and why you need to start thinking differently. The book goes through the different types of questions one mught find on an exam and shows how to address them. It also provides numerous tips on how to study and how to approach exam writing. The book also does a great job of explaining a theme I have pushed for years --- that exam-writing skills are really the writing and thinking skills students will need when they become lawyers. It should be required reading in law schools. And it wouldn't hurt law professors to read the book either.
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on January 3, 2007
I started my first year at law school with the impression--the conviction!--that someone was going to take time out of his/her lecture schedule to teach us how to write law school exams. This, of course, never happened and, after bungling through a practice midterm with a slipshod IRAC, I decided to seek some advice. My law school's academic preparation (resuscitation?) program recommended this book, and I picked it up from Amazon several weeks prior to finals.

I've generally considered test-taking "manuals" to be overly simplistic and far too general to be effective. But this book is different. It doesn't prescribe worthless "strategies" for stock scenarios (like those dreadful LSAT books), but instead attempts to get you to rethink your approach to the exam--from preparation to execution. What impressed me the most about _Getting to Maybe_ is that it makes a point not to provide pat answers, or to patch up poor preparation. Rather, it suggests new ways to think about the law, and about the scenarios that appear on law school exams.

One caveat is that, to get anything out of this book, you need to pick it up well before finals: this book tries to get you to approach law school differently, and this is something that can't be done a day before the exam. This book is worth your time--not only is the prose far more lively and entertaining than, say, that of International Shoe, but you really come away from _Getting to Maybe_ feeling like the effort was worthwhile.
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on December 21, 2003
I am a student at a top 5 law school. This book does not outline a specific system for taking exams, so if that is what you are looking for, look else where. What this book does provide is a good overview of the different types of gray areas that appear time and time again on exams. This will help you "spot the issues" and give you a feel for the kind of stuff your profs want to see written about come exam time. There are also plenty of general exam taking tips that area helpful. I have read many exam taking books, and this is the best of them. Read it early in the semester. It will help you focus on the important stuff in class and in the reading.
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on December 26, 2000
Whether you want to believe it or not...taking a law school exam is unlike any exam you took in undergrad. I found that out after I bombed my first exam, and a friend recommended this book. If you do nothing else, skip to the part where it talks about how to write an exam, how to address all the issues that your prof is looking for and "czar of the universe." "Czar" was a section that I found VERY helpful when I had to write a dissent for an exam! My school didn't really tell any of us 1Ls how to take an exam and I wish I had read this book before I even started. Don't worry about making law review or any of those other "extras" that people seem so concerned about--because if you can't perform well on an exam and spot issues in an allotted time, law review will be the least of your concerns. My contracts prof even suggested this book when prepping for his exam.
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on July 14, 2001
I love this book. It has provided a clear indication of what is necessary to do well on law exams. I read this book after doing a number of law courses. This book made me realised why I got all those B grades.
This book shows you how to think like a lawyer. How to analyse. How to develop argument and counter argument. How to work in policy arguments. How to tie in themes of the course to answer questions. How to develop the skill of issue identification.
This book tells you what your law professors shroud in mystery. I have been there, where the professors tell you to analyse and argue, but give you no clear indication of what this entails in an issue laden question. This book should be read by every law student who wants to understand better what the study of law requires of them. It is not a substitute for hard work and the authors state very clearly that success in law school can only be achieved through your own hard work.
Any one who turns their thumb down on this book, probably grasped from day one what was truly required of them as law students. For the rest of us, this book will be an incredible find.
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on October 27, 2002
Having graduated with high honors from one of the top five law schools, I relied on several of these books to identify the appropriate approach to taking law school exams. I applied the approach as follows: (1) read only those assignments provided by the professor (ignore commercial outlines, etc.); (2) take extensive notes of everything the professor says in class (and do not write down any student comments or student answers to Socratic questions); (3) organize your notes of the professor's lectures into your own outline; (4) read the professor's prior exam files, including any student answers selected by the professor as "model answers"; and (5) practice taking the professor's old exams in the few days leading up to exam day. The rationale is that your professor will be looking for you to spot those issues that he or she views as important. The more of these issues you spot, the higher your exam grade will be. Ditch those commercial outlines and study group meetings. In addition to Getting to Maybe, you should also prepare for law school by conditioning yourself to what its competition will feel like. Two excellent books that accomplish this goal are Scott Turow's One L (Harvard in the 1970s) and Scott Gaille's The Law Review (2002 book about competition at The University of Chicago Law School).
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