Still don't get why I shouldn't brief cases

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arvcondor
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Still don't get why I shouldn't brief cases

Postby arvcondor » Fri Aug 12, 2011 1:00 am

I'm a 0L getting a little nervous for classes begin in a week. I've read every article in the "Collective Wisdom on How to Succeed in 1L" megathread, and every single one seems to advise against briefing cases. I understand the rationale that they're a huge time sink, but I don't get why you wouldn't want every piece of a case's ruling in your notes. In preparing for whatever curve balls may be thrown at you on an exam, wouldn't it be advisable to know all the motivations behind a judge's ruling, all relevant information for when it may apply to some cases and not to others, the facts of the case in the event that there are parallel cases on an exam, etc?

I'm assuming the answer is "No", but I'm still exactly unsure as to why.

Thanks for any help. I'd like to start off classes without flipping shit.

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kapital98
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Re: Still don't get why I shouldn't brief cases

Postby kapital98 » Fri Aug 12, 2011 1:05 am

arvcondor wrote:I'm a 0L getting a little nervous for classes begin in a week. I've read every article in the "Collective Wisdom on How to Succeed in 1L" megathread, and every single one seems to advise against briefing cases. I understand the rationale that they're a huge time sink, but I don't get why you wouldn't want every piece of a case's ruling in your notes. In preparing for whatever curve balls may be thrown at you on an exam, wouldn't it be advisable to know all the motivations behind a judge's ruling, all relevant information for when it may apply to some cases and not to others, the facts of the case in the event that there are parallel cases on an exam, etc?

I'm assuming the answer is "No", but I'm still exactly unsure as to why.

Thanks for any help. I'd like to start off classes without flipping shit.


If you have the time then by all means. BUT, be ready to sacrifice other things in your life in order to study material that will not be on the exam.

If you find intrinsic value in understanding the formation of common law then brief cases. If you want high grades it is not necessary.

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ThreeYears
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Re: Still don't get why I shouldn't brief cases

Postby ThreeYears » Fri Aug 12, 2011 1:21 am

arvcondor wrote:I'm a 0L getting a little nervous for classes begin in a week. I've read every article in the "Collective Wisdom on How to Succeed in 1L" megathread, and every single one seems to advise against briefing cases. I understand the rationale that they're a huge time sink, but I don't get why you wouldn't want every piece of a case's ruling in your notes. In preparing for whatever curve balls may be thrown at you on an exam, wouldn't it be advisable to know all the motivations behind a judge's ruling, all relevant information for when it may apply to some cases and not to others, the facts of the case in the event that there are parallel cases on an exam, etc?

I'm assuming the answer is "No", but I'm still exactly unsure as to why.

Thanks for any help. I'd like to start off classes without flipping shit.
Last edited by ThreeYears on Fri Aug 12, 2011 2:13 am, edited 1 time in total.

shoeshine
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Re: Still don't get why I shouldn't brief cases

Postby shoeshine » Fri Aug 12, 2011 1:22 am

arvcondor wrote:I'm a 0L getting a little nervous for classes begin in a week. I've read every article in the "Collective Wisdom on How to Succeed in 1L" megathread, and every single one seems to advise against briefing cases. I understand the rationale that they're a huge time sink, but I don't get why you wouldn't want every piece of a case's ruling in your notes. In preparing for whatever curve balls may be thrown at you on an exam, wouldn't it be advisable to know all the motivations behind a judge's ruling, all relevant information for when it may apply to some cases and not to others, the facts of the case in the event that there are parallel cases on an exam, etc?

I'm assuming the answer is "No", but I'm still exactly unsure as to why.

Thanks for any help. I'd like to start off classes without flipping shit.

Aren't you afraid of getting called on and not remembering the facts of the case?

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spleenworship
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Re: Still don't get why I shouldn't brief cases

Postby spleenworship » Fri Aug 12, 2011 1:33 am

It is up to you whether or not you are willing to spend the time. It also depends on your reading and typing speed.

You want to, do it. But if it doesn't lead to good grades... STOP.

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Talon
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Re: Still don't get why I shouldn't brief cases

Postby Talon » Fri Aug 12, 2011 2:11 am

Two things.

First, even though knowing the cases can be helpful, it is simply not essential for a typical exam in many subjects, including contracts, torts, property (except for takings), and much of criminal law depending on how the course is taught. You should still read and aim to understand the assigned cases, but you should focus primarily on learning the basic legal rules. Success on an exam depends mainly on applying the basic legal rules to complex sets of facts; use of the cases to make sophisticated arguments can strengthen your answer, but it cannot turn a bad answer into a good answer.

Second, even when the cases are truly important, which is in subjects where the cases themselves are binding on the courts (e.g. civil procedure, constitutional law), you don't need to worry about a lot of the information that a typical case "brief" contains. You'll likely be advised as a 1L to create a document for each case that separately lists the facts, the procedural history, the holding, the rationale, the concurring and dissenting opinions, and so on. Such a document contains information that is useful for cold calls, but is completely unnecessary for an exam. As far as what you should actually do with the cases, there are a zillion ways to approach this, but I personally like to simply include in my outline a one or two sentence holding of the case (this is most important), and then a few bullet points for the key elements of the court's reasoning (including critical facts that affect the outcome of the case, policy justifications for the holding, and so on). I'll also note anything else important that I come across in the case, such as dicta that might be useful (Casey is notorious for containing this sort of dicta). Very rarely will an exam question depend on knowing the minutiae of a particular case; knowing the cases in some detail will enable you to make stronger arguments, but at some point, it makes little sense to keep analyzing a case when there are better uses of your time.

This is all about using your time efficiently. Since most of an exam turns on your ability to apply basic legal rules or the basic holdings of particular cases to ambiguous and complex facts, most of your time should be spent mastering the basics rather than the details of the cases.

cavebat2000
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Re: Still don't get why I shouldn't brief cases

Postby cavebat2000 » Fri Aug 12, 2011 2:28 am

Try it. See how long it takes and consider what else you could be doing with your time. Take your exam. Notice how little you need to remember about the case to do well on the exam. Then, second semester, make an informed decision about whether you should brief.

Personally, I say no briefs. Just read the case and write down a sentence or two that summarizes the holding with the essential facts and the essential reasoning. You really don't need any more than that. And importantly, doing more would probably not "be even better." Doing more, may very well hurt you for a variety of reasons.

071816
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Re: Still don't get why I shouldn't brief cases

Postby 071816 » Fri Aug 12, 2011 2:43 am

Talon wrote:Two things.

First, even though knowing the cases can be helpful, it is simply not essential for a typical exam in many subjects, including contracts, torts, property (except for takings), and much of criminal law depending on how the course is taught. You should still read and aim to understand the assigned cases, but you should focus primarily on learning the basic legal rules. Success on an exam depends mainly on applying the basic legal rules to complex sets of facts; use of the cases to make sophisticated arguments can strengthen your answer, but it cannot turn a bad answer into a good answer.

Second, even when the cases are truly important, which is in subjects where the cases themselves are binding on the courts (e.g. civil procedure, constitutional law), you don't need to worry about a lot of the information that a typical case "brief" contains. You'll likely be advised as a 1L to create a document for each case that separately lists the facts, the procedural history, the holding, the rationale, the concurring and dissenting opinions, and so on. Such a document contains information that is useful for cold calls, but is completely unnecessary for an exam. As far as what you should actually do with the cases, there are a zillion ways to approach this, but I personally like to simply include in my outline a one or two sentence holding of the case (this is most important), and then a few bullet points for the key elements of the court's reasoning (including critical facts that affect the outcome of the case, policy justifications for the holding, and so on). I'll also note anything else important that I come across in the case, such as dicta that might be useful (Casey is notorious for containing this sort of dicta). Very rarely will an exam question depend on knowing the minutiae of a particular case; knowing the cases in some detail will enable you to make stronger arguments, but at some point, it makes little sense to keep analyzing a case when there are better uses of your time.

This is all about using your time efficiently. Since most of an exam turns on your ability to apply basic legal rules or the basic holdings of particular cases to ambiguous and complex facts, most of your time should be spent mastering the basics rather than the details of the cases.


This was helpful. Thanks.

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arvcondor
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Re: Still don't get why I shouldn't brief cases

Postby arvcondor » Fri Aug 12, 2011 3:22 am

Talon wrote:]Since most of an exam turns on your ability to apply basic legal rules or the basic holdings of particular cases to ambiguous and complex facts...


I think this detail is probably why I was confused as to the need to brief cases. My fear is that I'll have to apply complex legal rules, not basic facts. But I'm hearing from folks that the minutiae of the cases will not really be all that relevant, just a one or two sentence understanding of them?

flcath
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Re: Still don't get why I shouldn't brief cases

Postby flcath » Fri Aug 12, 2011 3:59 am

I think you should do it, and phase it out right as you're starting to incorporate supplements and practice exams (both of which I think should be reserved for exam prep).

FWIW, there's a strong middle ground here that comes in the form of doing partial summaries (just enough to 'remind' you of the facts and law of a case).

morris248
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Re: Still don't get why I shouldn't brief cases

Postby morris248 » Fri Aug 12, 2011 7:16 am

You don't need to spend your time briefing, you need to spend your time understanding and applying. You can copy the brief from a number of sources, including Lexis or Westlaw, and paste so that you can answer if called on in class. In many cases the dissent is often important so don't forget that part of the decision. Actually writing out your own brief is a complete waste of time. Probably the best thing that you can do right now is to take the tutorials on West and Lexis. Here is the link.

Westlaw and Lexis Nexis Tutorials

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Cupidity
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Re: Still don't get why I shouldn't brief cases

Postby Cupidity » Fri Aug 12, 2011 7:38 am

Brief all cases. One of my questions on my property exam was, "what were the three different theories of ownership put forward by the majority, dissent, and appellate court." Anyone who didn't brief was fucked.

While briefing takes more time initially, it requires substantially less time during finals. Although my nightly reading may have been more than other students, overall, I worked less than many of them and got higher grades.

spondee
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Re: Still don't get why I shouldn't brief cases

Postby spondee » Fri Aug 12, 2011 8:19 am

Some of my friends briefed every single case 1L year and received top-10% grades. It's time-consuming, but for some folks it's worth it.

There's no one way to study in law school. If briefing cases sounds valuable to you, then try it and see how it works for you.

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Grizz
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Re: Still don't get why I shouldn't brief cases

Postby Grizz » Fri Aug 12, 2011 8:51 am

f7 wrote:
Cupidity wrote:Brief all cases. One of my questions on my property exam was, "what were the three different theories of ownership put forward by the majority, dissent, and appellate court." Anyone who didn't brief was fucked.

While briefing takes more time initially, it requires substantially less time during finals. Although my nightly reading may have been more than other students, overall, I worked less than many of them and got higher grades.

Closed-book exam?


Wow that is one lazy prof.

Miller32
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Re: Still don't get why I shouldn't brief cases

Postby Miller32 » Fri Aug 12, 2011 8:53 am

Talon wrote:Two things.

First, even though knowing the cases can be helpful, it is simply not essential for a typical exam in many subjects, including contracts, torts, property (except for takings), and much of criminal law depending on how the course is taught. You should still read and aim to understand the assigned cases, but you should focus primarily on learning the basic legal rules. Success on an exam depends mainly on applying the basic legal rules to complex sets of facts; use of the cases to make sophisticated arguments can strengthen your answer, but it cannot turn a bad answer into a good answer.

Second, even when the cases are truly important, which is in subjects where the cases themselves are binding on the courts (e.g. civil procedure, constitutional law), you don't need to worry about a lot of the information that a typical case "brief" contains. You'll likely be advised as a 1L to create a document for each case that separately lists the facts, the procedural history, the holding, the rationale, the concurring and dissenting opinions, and so on. Such a document contains information that is useful for cold calls, but is completely unnecessary for an exam. As far as what you should actually do with the cases, there are a zillion ways to approach this, but I personally like to simply include in my outline a one or two sentence holding of the case (this is most important), and then a few bullet points for the key elements of the court's reasoning (including critical facts that affect the outcome of the case, policy justifications for the holding, and so on). I'll also note anything else important that I come across in the case, such as dicta that might be useful (Casey is notorious for containing this sort of dicta). Very rarely will an exam question depend on knowing the minutiae of a particular case; knowing the cases in some detail will enable you to make stronger arguments, but at some point, it makes little sense to keep analyzing a case when there are better uses of your time.

This is all about using your time efficiently. Since most of an exam turns on your ability to apply basic legal rules or the basic holdings of particular cases to ambiguous and complex facts, most of your time should be spent mastering the basics rather than the details of the cases.

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rdcws000
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Re: Still don't get why I shouldn't brief cases

Postby rdcws000 » Fri Aug 12, 2011 9:10 am

FWIW, there's a strong middle ground here that comes in the form of doing partial summaries (just enough to 'remind' you of the facts and law of a case).


This is a good point, and it's a method I started using in my second semester. My first semester I did a full one page brief on every case. It took alot of time, but I found it to be useful, if nothing else to force me to read cases actively.

In the second semester though, I realized the single most time consuming section of a brief is summarizing the facts. This takes forever and it is a huge pain in the ass. I started highlighting the facts in the book, and not including them in the brief. I usually had my book open in class anyway, even with briefs, so it didn't cause any more difficulty. My brief then consisted of everything it used to consist of, minus the facts.

Why not highlight everything else and eliminate briefs altogether you ask?

I find that putting facts in briefs encourages you to simply transcribe them word for word into your brief. If you find yourself doing this, you know you are wasting time. Basically, the facts are the facts. They don't really need to be simplified or put in terms of my own. Rules, Policies, and Overall Principles however, are sometimes mixed up, combined with facts, or hidden in cryptic judge language.

In my experience, the professor is rarely going to ask you "what was the rule in this case?". More likely, they will ask you, "What was this case about?" (in a roundabout way). For this reason, and for my own studying later in the semester, I have found it invaluable to have short briefs on every case. My briefs are never more than 1/3 of a page long, and they basically sum up the key principle of the case in my language.

Also, don't think you have to have the perfect formula on day one. Contrary to popular belief, you have time to experiment with different things, and you should freely tweak your methods until you find something that works for you.

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TaipeiMort
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Re: Still don't get why I shouldn't brief cases

Postby TaipeiMort » Fri Aug 12, 2011 9:14 am

If you are worried about cold calling and crazy case-specific exam questions (which do happen), don't brief the case, take notes in the margin and underline important things that you can then quickly review in class or during the exam.

I did so on my contracts exam, and when I was asked three crazy questions, I flipped open to those sections of my book, and all three answers (which I had no idea about) were written right there in the margin.

If you want to be even more lazy, just borrow an older classmate's detailed outline and you probably don't have to worry about cold calls. One time I read my classmate's outline back to the professor when I was cold-called (which contained the lecture he was about to give) and he thought I was some kind of prodigy for throwing back his nuanced economic policy agreement at him.

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gilagarta
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Re: Still don't get why I shouldn't brief cases

Postby gilagarta » Fri Aug 12, 2011 2:14 pm

TaipeiMort wrote:If you are worried about cold calling and crazy case-specific exam questions (which do happen), don't brief the case, take notes in the margin and underline important things that you can then quickly review in class or during the exam.

I did so on my contracts exam, and when I was asked three crazy questions, I flipped open to those sections of my book, and all three answers (which I had no idea about) were written right there in the margin.

If you want to be even more lazy, just borrow an older classmate's detailed outline and you probably don't have to worry about cold calls. One time I read my classmate's outline back to the professor when I was cold-called (which contained the lecture he was about to give) and he thought I was some kind of prodigy for throwing back his nuanced economic policy agreement at him.


This. Also, for classes that allow laptops, get the notes from one of the notetakers that writes down every single word the professor says. We had an exam question in one class that threw everyone for a loop because we had only spent about 10 minutes talking about it in class, so I was at a huge advantage when I had word-for-word what the prof had said on that topic in front of me during the exam. (To be clear I'm not saying YOU should write down every word because that's likely a waste of time. But taking advantage of the notes of those who have done so is a great idea.)

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ndirish2010
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Re: Still don't get why I shouldn't brief cases

Postby ndirish2010 » Fri Aug 12, 2011 2:55 pm

I briefed every case and it worked out fine for me. Different for everyone.

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arvcondor
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Re: Still don't get why I shouldn't brief cases

Postby arvcondor » Fri Aug 12, 2011 3:00 pm

gilagarta wrote: Also, for classes that allow laptops

Implication that some classes actually don't allow them?

keg411
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Re: Still don't get why I shouldn't brief cases

Postby keg411 » Fri Aug 12, 2011 3:08 pm

ndirish2010 wrote:I briefed every case and it worked out fine for me. Different for everyone.


This.

Although my "facts" sections were extremely short. The most extensive parts of my brief were usually how the court applied the particular rule to come to the holding.

Miller32
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Re: Still don't get why I shouldn't brief cases

Postby Miller32 » Fri Aug 12, 2011 3:27 pm

arvcondor wrote:
gilagarta wrote: Also, for classes that allow laptops

Implication that some classes actually don't allow them?


Yes. Some professors do not allow laptops in class. My prof. who didn't allow them also made us stand up when called on in class. Brutal.

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kalvano
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Re: Still don't get why I shouldn't brief cases

Postby kalvano » Fri Aug 12, 2011 5:05 pm

If you want to brief, brief. Try it out. It can't hurt anything. Everyone learns differently.

Just understand that in all probability, cases won't be on the final and knowing all about them won't help you there.

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20160810
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Re: Still don't get why I shouldn't brief cases

Postby 20160810 » Fri Aug 12, 2011 5:44 pm

Briefing cases is neither good nor bad. For some, it is helpful. For others, it is a waste of time. Personally, I think you should do it for the first semester, just to make sure you have your bases covered. If, following that semester, you no longer feel the need to do so, well, then, good times. Ultimately, preparing a formal brief for each case will likely give way to a more efficient form of notetaking where your brief consists of, for instance, a sentence about the facts, a sentence about the holding, and (if needbe) a little bit about any tests devised or applied therein.

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zanda
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Re: Still don't get why I shouldn't brief cases

Postby zanda » Fri Aug 12, 2011 6:02 pm

Rising 3L.

When I started law school I fully briefed every case. I did that largely because I didn't always have the easiest time finding what was most important. Now I put maybe 4 bullet points per case- 1 for facts, 1 for rule, about 2 for justifications of the rule. That's more than a lot of people do, but it works for me and doesn't take much time.




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