LegalJob was asked by a law student “how can you tell what is important or what is going to be on the final exam. It seems like there is so much minutia so it is hard to tell."
Generally, the law school is testing you on your ability to parse through all of the minutiae and determine what is important -- in other words "how to think like a lawyer." To succeed in law school, one generally has to weed through the morass (provided by the fact pattern), appreciate the nuances, and identify significant issues (so-called "issue spotting"). Once armed with the significant issues, the student has to be able to articulate both sides of the argument.
Similarly, a lawyer's success can often depend (at least in part) on the ability to identify the significant issues and provide solutions -- both of which require a deep understanding of facts, including the minutiae, and judgments about what is most relevant (i.e. where to focus one's time).
To help get into the weeds and think like a lawyer (at the law school level), LegalJob recommends the following (which could also be helpful at the law firm associate level):
Learn as much as you can about the laws involved
Be able to articulate both sides in a case
Do not worry about finding a precise black and white answer.
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