Older thread (Sept 09 originally) here: Stanford 1L taking questionsHow was your finals experience?
Really weird. SLS has 4 doctrinal classes (Torts, Contracts, Crim, Civ Pro) and legal research and writing. 18 credits total, where the normal max is 14 (with 9 being minimum). SLS has an ABA waiver to make us take so many classes. From what I understand, other law schools have 3 doctrinal classes + research/writing. The upperclassmen and administration essentially tell you that you can't do 100 percent in all the classes. Almost everyone believes this, but there are a handful of people who tried. Not sure if this paid off for them or not.
This means you really need to strategize in how you prepare for exams. Because top 1/3 get Hs and everyone else gets Ps, you could potentially split your time equally and only get a P in every class (and perhaps you are the top P in every class). You'd have the same grade as someone who prepared very very little (or not at all), but the same grade. So the idea is that you "punt" one or two classes, and max out in other classes, giving yourself the best chance at an H in those, knowing that you'll be at the bottom of the Ps in the punted class.
Everyone has done the reading for all their classes and has attended class, since we are 1Ls and work like crazy anyway. So even if you punt a class (Crim for me), you can still barely study at all, and be able to write a 15 page exam paper. It might not be pretty, and it won't be H-worthy, but it should get you a P.
As I mentioned, I planned on punting crim, and trying legitimately for Torts/Contracts/CivPro. I made my own outline for Torts (first exam) and Contracts (third), but by the time I got to CivPro I really was wiped out and only had 36 hours to prepare. So I effectively punted CivPro as well. The CivPro exam actually felt great, but we will see to what that actually translates.
Overall, it was really weird not working for a class (or two). In undergrad I gave pretty much everything 100%, but here it more of a "work smarter" mentality. Looking back, it was a really liberating feeling. I was less stressed during exam week than I had been during the first week of school. I think pretty much every other SLS 1L will say that it sucked, but was not as bad as expected. One night we had a wine party in the library to take a break. Fun stuff. I can't imagine being at a school with real grades, I'm confident that I would have been freaking the heck out. I’m looking forward to getting my exams back not for the grades but for the comments, so I can start to figure out what I was actually doing right or wrong during this last quarter.
(There technically are low passes, but they say you have to write less than a page or show active contempt for the professor to not pass a class.)
Thanks for helping soon to be 1Ls! Do you mind sharing how you exam-prioritizing strategy worked out?