Should you make case briefs in law school?

(Study Tips, Dealing With Stress, Maintaining a Social Life, Financial Aid, Internships, Bar Exam, Careers in Law . . . )
eric922
Posts: 311
Joined: Thu Nov 01, 2012 10:05 pm

Should you make case briefs in law school?

Postby eric922 » Thu Dec 06, 2012 10:59 pm

I've been reading a book about law school, Getting In, Getting Good, Getting the Gold, and the author says that making case briefs are a waste of time in terms of learning the law and doing well in law school. A lot of what he says in the book makes sense, but not making case briefs goes against everything I've heard about law school. One of my undergrad professors teaches at the law school as well and he insists that case briefs are extremely important. I was just wondering if anyone here had any opinions on this matter or if they had read the book and had any opinions on the author's advice.

User avatar
ph14
Posts: 3225
Joined: Mon Sep 12, 2011 11:15 pm

Re: Should you make case briefs in law school?

Postby ph14 » Thu Dec 06, 2012 11:01 pm

eric922 wrote:I've been reading a book about law school, Getting In, Getting Good, Getting the Gold, and the author says that making case briefs are a waste of time in terms of learning the law and doing well in law school. A lot of what he says in the book makes sense, but not making case briefs goes against everything I've heard about law school. One of my undergrad professors teaches at the law school as well and he insists that case briefs are extremely important. I was just wondering if anyone here had any opinions on this matter or if they had read the book and had any opinions on the author's advice.


Just Google them. No point in making them yourself. Professors often say stuff like that but they are pretty out of touch.

User avatar
dietcoke0
Posts: 601
Joined: Wed Jul 27, 2011 2:46 pm

Re: Should you make case briefs in law school?

Postby dietcoke0 » Thu Dec 06, 2012 11:04 pm

Maybe for a week or two, just to get an idea of what to pull from case, but after that, waste of time. I personally like to book brief, but some discourage it. But I can usually distill a case to a sentence or two, which goes in my outlines, and whenever I get called in class, I have everything I need in my book to quickly look at. Now studying I go through the book once more, just looking at all my notes, just as a reminder. Takes me about an hour per 100 pages, but its a nice reminder of everything I read. But I have a mind where it's all in my head, just need a small reminder at the end.

SportsFan
Posts: 722
Joined: Thu Oct 11, 2012 5:26 pm

Re: Should you make case briefs in law school?

Postby SportsFan » Thu Dec 06, 2012 11:09 pm

I write some the basics of a case in Evernote (maybe 3-5 lines worth of info, maybe a bit more if it has a really important rule or something), then supplement it with what we discuss in class, and BS my way through an answer if I get called on.

User avatar
TatteredDignity
Posts: 1520
Joined: Fri Jul 04, 2008 2:06 am

Re: Should you make case briefs in law school?

Postby TatteredDignity » Thu Dec 06, 2012 11:15 pm

My answer is no. I can make the argument acecdotally and analytically.

I didn't brief any of the cases after the first week of law school, and I'm at the top of my class at a highly-ranked school. So I can tell you first-hand that it isn't necessary. Caveat 1: people have different learning styles, and I can't be in everyone's shoes to know how well this would work for them.

But analytically, I just think it's a huge waste of time. There are two things you need to do in law school: 1) learn the material, and 2) apply that knowledge on the exam. Outside of TLS every single bit of advice you get goes toward #1. Briefing cases can't possibly help you with #2 (exam-taking is a skill learned through practice, not through reading cases). So the question is, does it help you with #1? The answer is: sort of. But it's about the least efficient way to go about learning the material. Why? Because, come exam time, you'll be juggling anywhere from 50 to 100 cases, and the only thing that will matter from those cases is the legal rule, or holding, that came from them. And unless you just don't pay attention in class, or refuse to use supplements, you'll know what that takeaway is without spending half an hour reading the case.

So why does everyone read cases? One, because most law students are strivers who do what professors tell them to do because they've always respected academic authority. And two, because they're afraid of looking stupid when they're cold-called. This is a very understandable concern: it sucks to not even be able to answer the most basic of questions about the reading material. That's why profs use the socratic method: to scare people into reading. The problem is, if you're reading cases with an eye to all the irrelevant factual minutiae that your prof is going to grill you about, you aren't reading the case properly: i.e. why are we reading the case, and how will this be tested on the exam? Except for some class like con law where the analysis does flow in large part from comparisons to precedent, your typical torts/contracts/civ pro exam will never ever require you to know the facts of any case. In short, you're learning a lot of irrelevant material for a reason unrelated to your grade: pride.

So, feel free to read the cases to your heart's content. I'm not sure that it necessarily hurts anything -- there just isn't a lot of benefit. Buy a supplement keyed to your case book and read the one-paragraph description of the case, if you're really worried about making it through your cold call.

I got off on a tangent there (a very valuable skill on law school exams), and I forgot that the original question was whether briefing cases is necessary. Given that I don't even think reading them is necessary, my answer to the actual question is a resounding now. Skim the cases if you must, for for Pete's sake, don't make painstakingly detailed notes. Just jot down the holding/any rule that comes out of the case.

TL;DR: No, don't brief. You won't need that knowledge come exam time, it's just an aid for class performance, which is irrelevant. Spend the extra time practicing exams.

User avatar
TatteredDignity
Posts: 1520
Joined: Fri Jul 04, 2008 2:06 am

Re: Should you make case briefs in law school?

Postby TatteredDignity » Thu Dec 06, 2012 11:18 pm

Please note that the two posts above mine are from well-meaning 1Ls who have yet to take any actual exams :lol:

SportsFan
Posts: 722
Joined: Thu Oct 11, 2012 5:26 pm

Re: Should you make case briefs in law school?

Postby SportsFan » Thu Dec 06, 2012 11:23 pm

TatteredDignity wrote:Please note that the two posts above mine are from well-meaning 1Ls who have yet to take any actual exams :lol:

Lol I can't speak for the other guy but I understand exactly what you're saying. In the last ~3 weeks, I stopped reading completely for one of my classes and skimmed my reading for the others. I have no idea what I'll do next semester tbh but I think it's worth it to read for the first semester, at least while you have the time.

User avatar
Drake014
Posts: 886
Joined: Tue Jan 13, 2009 4:22 pm

Re: Should you make case briefs in law school?

Postby Drake014 » Thu Dec 06, 2012 11:26 pm

Should you make case briefs in law school


No.

User avatar
ph14
Posts: 3225
Joined: Mon Sep 12, 2011 11:15 pm

Re: Should you make case briefs in law school?

Postby ph14 » Thu Dec 06, 2012 11:30 pm

TatteredDignity wrote:My answer is no. I can make the argument acecdotally and analytically.

I didn't brief any of the cases after the first week of law school, and I'm at the top of my class at a highly-ranked school. So I can tell you first-hand that it isn't necessary. Caveat 1: people have different learning styles, and I can't be in everyone's shoes to know how well this would work for them.

But analytically, I just think it's a huge waste of time. There are two things you need to do in law school: 1) learn the material, and 2) apply that knowledge on the exam. Outside of TLS every single bit of advice you get goes toward #1. Briefing cases can't possibly help you with #2 (exam-taking is a skill learned through practice, not through reading cases). So the question is, does it help you with #1? The answer is: sort of. But it's about the least efficient way to go about learning the material. Why? Because, come exam time, you'll be juggling anywhere from 50 to 100 cases, and the only thing that will matter from those cases is the legal rule, or holding, that came from them. And unless you just don't pay attention in class, or refuse to use supplements, you'll know what that takeaway is without spending half an hour reading the case.

So why does everyone read cases? One, because most law students are strivers who do what professors tell them to do because they've always respected academic authority. And two, because they're afraid of looking stupid when they're cold-called. This is a very understandable concern: it sucks to not even be able to answer the most basic of questions about the reading material. That's why profs use the socratic method: to scare people into reading. The problem is, if you're reading cases with an eye to all the irrelevant factual minutiae that your prof is going to grill you about, you aren't reading the case properly: i.e. why are we reading the case, and how will this be tested on the exam? Except for some class like con law where the analysis does flow in large part from comparisons to precedent, your typical torts/contracts/civ pro exam will never ever require you to know the facts of any case. In short, you're learning a lot of irrelevant material for a reason unrelated to your grade: pride.

So, feel free to read the cases to your heart's content. I'm not sure that it necessarily hurts anything -- there just isn't a lot of benefit. Buy a supplement keyed to your case book and read the one-paragraph description of the case, if you're really worried about making it through your cold call.

I got off on a tangent there (a very valuable skill on law school exams), and I forgot that the original question was whether briefing cases is necessary. Given that I don't even think reading them is necessary, my answer to the actual question is a resounding now. Skim the cases if you must, for for Pete's sake, don't make painstakingly detailed notes. Just jot down the holding/any rule that comes out of the case.

TL;DR: No, don't brief. You won't need that knowledge come exam time, it's just an aid for class performance, which is irrelevant. Spend the extra time practicing exams.


I didn't read this post except for the first line, but I wholeheartedly endorse that first line.

User avatar
TatteredDignity
Posts: 1520
Joined: Fri Jul 04, 2008 2:06 am

Re: Should you make case briefs in law school?

Postby TatteredDignity » Fri Dec 07, 2012 12:04 am

ph14 wrote:
TatteredDignity wrote:My answer is no. I can make the argument acecdotally and analytically.

I didn't brief any of the cases after the first week of law school, and I'm at the top of my class at a highly-ranked school. So I can tell you first-hand that it isn't necessary. Caveat 1: people have different learning styles, and I can't be in everyone's shoes to know how well this would work for them.

But analytically, I just think it's a huge waste of time. There are two things you need to do in law school: 1) learn the material, and 2) apply that knowledge on the exam. Outside of TLS every single bit of advice you get goes toward #1. Briefing cases can't possibly help you with #2 (exam-taking is a skill learned through practice, not through reading cases). So the question is, does it help you with #1? The answer is: sort of. But it's about the least efficient way to go about learning the material. Why? Because, come exam time, you'll be juggling anywhere from 50 to 100 cases, and the only thing that will matter from those cases is the legal rule, or holding, that came from them. And unless you just don't pay attention in class, or refuse to use supplements, you'll know what that takeaway is without spending half an hour reading the case.

So why does everyone read cases? One, because most law students are strivers who do what professors tell them to do because they've always respected academic authority. And two, because they're afraid of looking stupid when they're cold-called. This is a very understandable concern: it sucks to not even be able to answer the most basic of questions about the reading material. That's why profs use the socratic method: to scare people into reading. The problem is, if you're reading cases with an eye to all the irrelevant factual minutiae that your prof is going to grill you about, you aren't reading the case properly: i.e. why are we reading the case, and how will this be tested on the exam? Except for some class like con law where the analysis does flow in large part from comparisons to precedent, your typical torts/contracts/civ pro exam will never ever require you to know the facts of any case. In short, you're learning a lot of irrelevant material for a reason unrelated to your grade: pride.

So, feel free to read the cases to your heart's content. I'm not sure that it necessarily hurts anything -- there just isn't a lot of benefit. Buy a supplement keyed to your case book and read the one-paragraph description of the case, if you're really worried about making it through your cold call.

I got off on a tangent there (a very valuable skill on law school exams), and I forgot that the original question was whether briefing cases is necessary. Given that I don't even think reading them is necessary, my answer to the actual question is a resounding now. Skim the cases if you must, for for Pete's sake, don't make painstakingly detailed notes. Just jot down the holding/any rule that comes out of the case.

TL;DR: No, don't brief. You won't need that knowledge come exam time, it's just an aid for class performance, which is irrelevant. Spend the extra time practicing exams.


I didn't read this post except for the first line, but I wholeheartedly endorse that first line.


It's all about a strong lead-in. In the twitter age, no one will read beyond that.

User avatar
Raiden
Posts: 333
Joined: Wed Jul 25, 2012 8:11 pm

Re: Should you make case briefs in law school?

Postby Raiden » Fri Dec 07, 2012 12:08 am

Make case boxer-briefs, I say.

User avatar
Bildungsroman
Posts: 5548
Joined: Sun Apr 11, 2010 2:42 pm

Re: Should you make case briefs in law school?

Postby Bildungsroman » Fri Dec 07, 2012 12:12 am

I found briefing cases to be useful in 1L, but everyone learns differently.

User avatar
abogadesq
Posts: 260
Joined: Sun May 20, 2012 1:30 am

Re: Should you make case briefs in law school?

Postby abogadesq » Fri Dec 07, 2012 12:15 am

I stopped case briefing at the end of my first 1L semester. Case briefing is only useful to feel more comfortable when the professor code calls. I suggest you "highlight brief" the cases right in your book instead; it is more efficient studying...

User avatar
kalvano
Posts: 11728
Joined: Mon Sep 07, 2009 2:24 am

Re: Should you make case briefs in law school?

Postby kalvano » Fri Dec 07, 2012 1:23 am

The answer is that it depends. People have had great success without doing so, and by doing so. Whatever works for you is the correct answer.

User avatar
dietcoke0
Posts: 601
Joined: Wed Jul 27, 2011 2:46 pm

Re: Should you make case briefs in law school?

Postby dietcoke0 » Fri Dec 07, 2012 1:31 am

TatteredDignity wrote:Please note that the two posts above mine are from well-meaning 1Ls who have yet to take any actual exams :lol:


Whacha talking about, just rocked my closed book Civ Pro exam bro this morning. :)

User avatar
SuperCerealBrah
Posts: 244
Joined: Sun Jul 01, 2012 6:34 pm

Re: Should you make case briefs in law school?

Postby SuperCerealBrah » Fri Dec 07, 2012 1:37 am

Honestly, I think that it is ok to do these as you progress throughout the semester. However, do not take them super seriously though. Just use them to get the gist of cases you read as you go along in lecture and to understand how a particular rule is applied in one situation. Do not bother memorizing the details or getting caught up in the "procedural posture". Just focus on understanding the relevant rule and the rationale the court uses to apply it. Once you get closer to exams (say a month or so before exam time), then yes, they are a complete waste of time. At that time, you should only be taking practice exams and learning how to apply "the rules" that you should already know to different fact patterns.

User avatar
TatteredDignity
Posts: 1520
Joined: Fri Jul 04, 2008 2:06 am

Re: Should you make case briefs in law school?

Postby TatteredDignity » Fri Dec 07, 2012 2:12 am

dietcoke0 wrote:
TatteredDignity wrote:Please note that the two posts above mine are from well-meaning 1Ls who have yet to take any actual exams :lol:


Whacha talking about, just rocked my closed book Civ Pro exam bro this morning. :)


Got me on the technicality. Hope that keen lawyerly mind was at work like that this morning.

dreakol
Posts: 572
Joined: Sat Nov 13, 2010 1:56 pm

Re: Should you make case briefs in law school?

Postby dreakol » Fri Dec 07, 2012 12:32 pm

try different methods, see what works best for you, and then do what works best for you

User avatar
jkpolk
Posts: 896
Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2011 10:44 am

Re: Should you make case briefs in law school?

Postby jkpolk » Fri Dec 07, 2012 12:38 pm

how hard are you gunning? as long as you understand what is important and use case facts to further the end of getting points on an exam you probably wont be worse off by briefing cases.

cmartin5970
Posts: 95
Joined: Mon Jun 27, 2011 8:49 pm

Re: Should you make case briefs in law school?

Postby cmartin5970 » Fri Dec 07, 2012 1:13 pm

I'm just a 1L and only taken 3 exams, but I can say that briefing cases seems to have helped me learn how to spot the issues within cases. I know it is not nearly as good as doing practice exams and should not consume your day or semester, but from a 1L's perspective briefing cases first semester has helped me with finding the issues. That being said, I don't see how useful it will be once I've learned that since it only gets you a basic understanding/knowledge.

llachans
Posts: 597
Joined: Wed Aug 24, 2011 12:54 pm

Re: Should you make case briefs in law school?

Postby llachans » Fri Dec 07, 2012 1:19 pm

I'm also a 1L. It helped me for my first semester, but I won't be doing it second semester.

fluffybunny
Posts: 27
Joined: Tue Sep 25, 2012 12:11 pm

Re: Should you make case briefs in law school?

Postby fluffybunny » Fri Dec 07, 2012 1:21 pm

I guess I'll take the bait.

Yes. There are two times that I think briefing is helpful:

1. You don't understand the case unless you brief it. I know there are lots of people on this board who seem to be able to read a case and fully appreciate every single complicated fact scenario and logical step in the reasoning, but I'm not one of those people. Sometime I have to work it out on paper. Case briefing is meant for situations like that.

2. The class has anything to do with constitutional law or the Supreme Court (I'm including criminal procedure, administrative law, a good chunk of federal jurisdiction stuff). My thought here is that even though you can usually boil the holding down to a sentence or two, analogizing to the reasoning or to sub-holdings is likely to be relevant on an exam and will get you points that other people missed since they only bothered to memorize the main holding.

Oh, and I'm a joint degree 4L. I still brief in these two situations. I think the common wisdom that briefing is for 1Ls is not universally true.

User avatar
dingbat
Posts: 4976
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2012 9:12 pm

Re: Should you make case briefs in law school?

Postby dingbat » Fri Dec 07, 2012 1:29 pm

It depends on your learning style. A lot of friends of mine just highlight the relevant passages in the book (sometimes color coded)

Personally, it helps me, as converting the case into a brief A) helps me learn and understand what it's about, and B) sums it up for quick easy reference. C) When making an outline, I'd go through the cases, find the rule, and stick it in there. D) one of my teachers wants us to cite cases on the exam. Having a brief synopsis of each one will (hopefully) make a world of difference.

Equally important is how you brief. If all you're doing is condensing a 10 page case to a 3 page brief, you're not doing it right. The Facts section should be bare-bones, and I even try to make it as generic as possible, so I can see what type of case it would apply to. Generally rest of the brief should be so simple a 3 year old could understand it. If you can do that, then you understand it and can explain it sufficiently to be useful.

NotMyRealName09
Posts: 1396
Joined: Mon Nov 09, 2009 5:50 pm

Re: Should you make case briefs in law school?

Postby NotMyRealName09 » Fri Dec 07, 2012 3:34 pm

I briefed at first, then began to "book brief" once I understood what was important. Book briefing is essentially just labeling various sections of the court opinion so you can easily find them.

Here is one benefit of briefing the nay-sayers too quickly dismiss in my opinion. When you are just starting out you have NO IDEA if you know what is going on. So, write a case brief, summarizing what you think was important from the case - THEN LISTEN IN CLASS. Did your brief touch on EVERYTHING the professor mentioned? If not, good - now you know what you're missing. If you never book briefed, you might not have that "a ha!" moment where you realize what it is the professor really wants you to get at.

Without a brief that you wrote, you'll just be passively taking notes on what the professor says. But that isn't helpful. It's more helpful to be able to PREDICT what your professor will deem important. Once your case briefs accurately predict what your professor will highlight in class, then start to book brief.

Just reading other people's briefs or outlines is PASSIVE and LAZY. Don't be lazy. Be an active learner and you'll do better come exams. This is because your brain will be trained to PREDICT where the facts are going.

I was #1 in my class my 1L year, so it worked for me. Your experience may vary, but there it is.

NotMyRealName09
Posts: 1396
Joined: Mon Nov 09, 2009 5:50 pm

Re: Should you make case briefs in law school?

Postby NotMyRealName09 » Fri Dec 07, 2012 3:39 pm

TatteredDignity wrote:My answer is no. I can make the argument acecdotally and analytically.

I didn't brief any of the cases after the first week of law school, and I'm at the top of my class at a highly-ranked school. So I can tell you first-hand that it isn't necessary. Caveat 1: people have different learning styles, and I can't be in everyone's shoes to know how well this would work for them.

But analytically, I just think it's a huge waste of time. There are two things you need to do in law school: 1) learn the material, and 2) apply that knowledge on the exam. Outside of TLS every single bit of advice you get goes toward #1. Briefing cases can't possibly help you with #2 (exam-taking is a skill learned through practice, not through reading cases). So the question is, does it help you with #1? The answer is: sort of. But it's about the least efficient way to go about learning the material. Why? Because, come exam time, you'll be juggling anywhere from 50 to 100 cases, and the only thing that will matter from those cases is the legal rule, or holding, that came from them. And unless you just don't pay attention in class, or refuse to use supplements, you'll know what that takeaway is without spending half an hour reading the case.

So why does everyone read cases? One, because most law students are strivers who do what professors tell them to do because they've always respected academic authority. And two, because they're afraid of looking stupid when they're cold-called. This is a very understandable concern: it sucks to not even be able to answer the most basic of questions about the reading material. That's why profs use the socratic method: to scare people into reading. The problem is, if you're reading cases with an eye to all the irrelevant factual minutiae that your prof is going to grill you about, you aren't reading the case properly: i.e. why are we reading the case, and how will this be tested on the exam? Except for some class like con law where the analysis does flow in large part from comparisons to precedent, your typical torts/contracts/civ pro exam will never ever require you to know the facts of any case. In short, you're learning a lot of irrelevant material for a reason unrelated to your grade: pride.

So, feel free to read the cases to your heart's content. I'm not sure that it necessarily hurts anything -- there just isn't a lot of benefit. Buy a supplement keyed to your case book and read the one-paragraph description of the case, if you're really worried about making it through your cold call.

I got off on a tangent there (a very valuable skill on law school exams), and I forgot that the original question was whether briefing cases is necessary. Given that I don't even think reading them is necessary, my answer to the actual question is a resounding now. Skim the cases if you must, for for Pete's sake, don't make painstakingly detailed notes. Just jot down the holding/any rule that comes out of the case.

TL;DR: No, don't brief. You won't need that knowledge come exam time, it's just an aid for class performance, which is irrelevant. Spend the extra time practicing exams.


Or just don't read cases.......in law school. Good advice. Because its not like reading cases is a skill lawyers (litigators) use with regularity or anything.




Return to “Forum for Law School Students”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Bing [Bot] and 4 guests