Why you should stop reading cases, briefing and outlining

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FranklinSims
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Why you should stop reading cases, briefing and outlining

Postby FranklinSims » Sat Jan 05, 2013 6:31 pm

The order of studying most students use is self defeating.

Typical approach:

1) Read assigned cases
2) Brief and take notes on assigned cases
2) Go to lecture and take notes
4) Outline (combining all notes and briefs)

What the typical approach is "supposed" to help you do:

1) Reading assigned cases - the idea is that by reading judicial prose you will understand how lawyers/judges think about solving legal problems. From the cases you are expected to figure out what elements the judge is using to solve the legal problem so that you can take the same factors to solve similar legal problems (fact patterns)

2) Briefing and Note taking on assigned cases - the idea here is that briefing prepares you for class and if you are on call and notes (but briefs too) are the building blocks for the "outline"

3) Go to Lecture and Take Notes - the idea here is that you will go to lecture and the cases will be explained to you by your professor or that the professor will give you their take on the case and how it is to be considered or thought of for their class.

4) Outline - This is traditionally thought of as the last step before the exam. It is usually 50 or more pages and is literally a long hand of what was read and lectured that semester. What is really happening with the outlining process is that most students are trying to make sense of the law (learning how the law works and relates) while writing it. This process takes so long because students at this point are trying to see how all of the legal concepts from class relate and work together.

Why the typical approach is self defeating:

1) Reading Cases - as you know this process consumes much of your time as a 1L but you don't very much "bang" (comprehension) for your "buck" (time investment). Cases are the long story but you need the short story and enough facts to get through class so that if you are called on you won't sound like a blundering fool. Bottom line is this, a case has one of three purposes. First it may be a case that shows how the law has evolved. These cases are not law but they were the law before the new law became precedent. Sometimes these cases can be used in counter arguments in an exam analysis. Then there are the cases that are seminal. These cases set out he elements of the rule of law (typically the majority) you mainly apply on an exam for the winning argument. Third, there are the cases that focus on one element of a rule of law. These cases are used to analyze one factor or element of a rule and should be flagged as such before hand so that on the exam you know exactly how and where to use the case. The cases are only important if you use them to score points on an exam. Thus, use cases for arguments because you get points for making arguments. The truth is that you can get these arguments without reading cases. Read commercial or online briefs and score higher on exams. It takes far less time and the cases and why they matter will make far better since. I mentor students who do this. Secondly, before you even read a brief read about the area of law that the cases relate to in a trusted supplement (this varies depending on the class but shoot me a PM and I can tell you which are best). This step is a must and the first step because the right supplements (most of them are not right) when read in conjunction with the relevant cases will accelerate your comprehension and retention. You take notes on the supplements but the supplements that are used must be the sort that lay out the rules and elements in a formulaic manner so they are easier and faster to learn.

2) Briefing and Note Taking - If your brief is longer than a few lines then you are wasting times. Think about it this way. On an exam you should be using cases to draw contrasts, comparisons and analogies. You may write a sentence or two about how an individual cases relates to the facts you are analyzing. Your briefing should be no more detailed than is useful for the exam. Otherwise you are wearing a snow suit to a beach party. So then what am I saying... your brief should have few but enough facts to remind you of what the case was about (no more than a fragmented sentence or two) then there should be a "take away" a few things about why this case is important. Remember that each case has a take away that relates to some element or factor of a larger rule so having a briefing system that is streamlined in this way will make you a better exam writer more than it will make you an in class genius on call. But the last time I checked your grade was not determined by the great answers you gave while on call. That being said my mentees tend to nail in class questions because they have such a firm grasp on the big picture and the rules of law and their elements. Bottom Line: Take fewer notes and write shorter briefs.

3) Go to Lecture and Take Notes - Sure, go to lecture and take notes but don't expect your professor to teach you the law. Despite the tuition cost that is really your job and the sooner you accept this the better off you will be. In lecture focus mainly on what your professor says he or she wants to see on the exam and red flag anything related to statements about exam expectations. This is the most vital information in most lectures unless you happen to have a professor that has broken from the pact and actually teaches the law during lecture.

4) Outline - a brutal waste of time. You do not need an outline. An outline is for learning the law. You need a cheat sheet/exam skeleton/exam template which takes far less time to create and is a better exam tool because it is for applying the law on an exam and not learning the law. Using my approach you learn the law without outlining because you did not waste time reading cases but sued helpful supplements and took out from cases what you needed for the exam and left the fluff. To create a cheat sheet basically take each section of your class and create rule statements. These are essentially enumerated steps to be used in answering questions on any legal rule via a fact pattern. They are easy to memorize because they are enumerated. They can be written directly on an exam unlike an outline. In between each of the enumerated step (which are really elements to larger rules of law) you write your legal analysis. This is where you use the briefed cases to draw comparisons contrasts and analogies. The cheat sheet gives you the power to have anticipated and planned how you will organize your exam and exactly what you will write. Many of my mentees go into exams and after seeing the call of the question begin typing the skeleton out from memory. This leave the rest of the time to focus on analysis. This approach is very organized and most students write between 12 and 15 pages. The critical advantage of not outlining is that it leaves time to actually complete practice exams which most students plan on doing but hardly have the time when the reality of catching up with reading and outlining sets in (usually because memo writing take so long).

Shoot me a message for details about anything I talked about here.

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thesealocust
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Re: Why you should stop reading cases, briefing and outlining

Postby thesealocust » Sat Jan 05, 2013 7:13 pm

tl;dr

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dingbat
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Re: Why you should stop reading cases, briefing and outlining

Postby dingbat » Sat Jan 05, 2013 7:24 pm

I'd like to know what grades OP and OP's mentees got.

1) If you don't read cases but only the rules, you won't get the subtleties that can make or break an exam answer. The law isn't that black and white, if it was the world wouldn't need (m)any lawyers
2) An argument can be made to not brief cases. Many of my classmates stopped briefing within a few weeks. I found it very helpful for a number of reasons, but I can understand that for many it's not necessary. However, I agree that most briefs are too long. The key points (issue/rule/holding) should be no more than a few lines (each)
3) OP is somewhat contradictory, but makes a great point: you shouldn't be taking page after page of notes in class.
4) Everyone is different and one size does not fit all. Personally, I think the ideal setup is to have both a short attack outline that basically contains all the key issues to look out for and a long outline to look up anything you may have forgotten. But, each to their own.

edit: noticed that a third of this guy's posts have been flagged/edited for SPAM. Nuff Said.

FranklinSims
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Re: Why you should stop reading cases, briefing and outlining

Postby FranklinSims » Sat Jan 05, 2013 7:48 pm

dingbat wrote:I'd like to know what grades OP and OP's mentees got.

1) If you don't read cases but only the rules, you won't get the subtleties that can make or break an exam answer. The law isn't that black and white, if it was the world wouldn't need (m)any lawyers
2) An argument can be made to not brief cases. Many of my classmates stopped briefing within a few weeks. I found it very helpful for a number of reasons, but I can understand that for many it's not necessary. However, I agree that most briefs are too long. The key points (issue/rule/holding) should be no more than a few lines (each)
3) OP is somewhat contradictory, but makes a great point: you shouldn't be taking page after page of notes in class.
4) Everyone is different and one size does not fit all. Personally, I think the ideal setup is to have both a short attack outline that basically contains all the key issues to look out for and a long outline to look up anything you may have forgotten. But, each to their own.

edit: noticed that a third of this guy's posts have been flagged/edited for SPAM. Nuff Said.


Several of my mentees have transferred from Loyola Law School to UCLA, USC and Michigan. Others stayed at their law schools and landed top jobs. You can talk to them if you like dingbat. No it isn't for everyone. As for the SPAM what can I say... I am a shameless self promoter. :wink: My methods are unorthodox but they have worked. Will they work for everyone? They can't law schools have curves so we will never know.

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thesealocust
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Re: Why you should stop reading cases, briefing and outlining

Postby thesealocust » Sat Jan 05, 2013 7:53 pm

FranklinSims wrote:As for the SPAM what can I say... I am a shameless self promoter. :wink:


Post reported as spam.

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Ludo!
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Re: Why you should stop reading cases, briefing and outlining

Postby Ludo! » Sat Jan 05, 2013 8:03 pm

Thank you for these amazing original tips

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TaipeiMort
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Re: Why you should stop reading cases, briefing and outlining

Postby TaipeiMort » Sat Jan 05, 2013 8:15 pm

FranklinSims wrote:
dingbat wrote:I'd like to know what grades OP and OP's mentees got.

1) If you don't read cases but only the rules, you won't get the subtleties that can make or break an exam answer. The law isn't that black and white, if it was the world wouldn't need (m)any lawyers
2) An argument can be made to not brief cases. Many of my classmates stopped briefing within a few weeks. I found it very helpful for a number of reasons, but I can understand that for many it's not necessary. However, I agree that most briefs are too long. The key points (issue/rule/holding) should be no more than a few lines (each)
3) OP is somewhat contradictory, but makes a great point: you shouldn't be taking page after page of notes in class.
4) Everyone is different and one size does not fit all. Personally, I think the ideal setup is to have both a short attack outline that basically contains all the key issues to look out for and a long outline to look up anything you may have forgotten. But, each to their own.

edit: noticed that a third of this guy's posts have been flagged/edited for SPAM. Nuff Said.


Several of my mentees have transferred from Loyola Law School to UCLA, USC and Michigan. Others stayed at their law schools and landed top jobs. You can talk to them if you like dingbat. No it isn't for everyone. As for the SPAM what can I say... I am a shameless self promoter. :wink: My methods are unorthodox but they have worked. Will they work for everyone? They can't law schools have curves so we will never know.


I'm a 3L at CCN and my mentors have appellate clerkships. One previously clerked on the Supreme Court, and he briefed each case twice and swore by this method.

TCR is to synthesize the material in a way that works for you and prepare materials in light of what the prof wants (and exam format/course material will allow). There is no magic bullet. Some faculty members care about policy arguments made in note cases. Others care about the number of words you can rip off, occasionally glancing at a half page attack outline.

My best grades have always been when I approached exams with a knowledge of what the prof wanted. Sometimes this has meant memorizing an attack outline based upon two points from each class meeting, and other times it has meant bringing a 45 page outline filled with detailed policy discussion and summaries of supplemental material.

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manofjustice
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Re: Why you should stop reading cases, briefing and outlining

Postby manofjustice » Sat Jan 05, 2013 8:26 pm

Tailoring to the Prof seems like great advice. Of course, there is a common denominator across all law school exams. I think (and I don't have my grades back, so disclaimer) it's important to develop the "information hawk" mentality. When reading a case or a fact pattern, it's the same: "what facts or statements (information of any kind) are there that I can just eat up and use to spit out an argument?" And it really is "spit out." It's not philosophy. Your arguments won't require more than a few steps. So, come to the exam with the "hawk mentality" and with the argument-oriented legal information you've gained from studying that you can use to create the arguments. So, for instance, the procedural posture of most cases--not argument-orientated. The characterization of the facts a judge repeatedly emphasized in a case opinion? Probably argument-orientated.

Knowing when to use policy arguments and when not to: professor tailoring. Knowing when to talk about a particular issue and when not to? Professor tailoring.

I, for one, am pretty sure I bombed my Torts final because the Prof wanted less issue spotting, less factual analysis, and more policy argument, and I didn't give much policy argument, except in the policy question. But I am pretty sure the Prof wanted it in the issue spotter just as much. It's a trade-off. You can't do everything. And I think I traded the good for the bad.

I would like comment.
Last edited by manofjustice on Sat Jan 05, 2013 8:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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manofjustice
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Re: Why you should stop reading cases, briefing and outlining

Postby manofjustice » Sat Jan 05, 2013 8:30 pm

RE: briefing cases. If you can develop the capacity to hilight the five most important sentences in a case opinion by reading it once, you don't need to brief the case. And you won't run out of hilighters. And there are only about five important sentences in a case opinion, with respect to the "tools," or what I called above the "argument-oriented information," in any case opinion, that will be of any use on an exam.

Again, no grades back, so top-scorers, please comment.

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dingbat
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Re: Why you should stop reading cases, briefing and outlining

Postby dingbat » Sat Jan 05, 2013 8:37 pm

manofjustice wrote:RE: briefing cases. If you can develop the capacity to hilight the five most important sentences in a case opinion by reading it once, you don't need to brief the case. And you won't run out of hilighters. And there are only about five important sentences in a case opinion, with respect to the "tools," or what I called above the "argument-oriented information," in any case opinion, that will be of any use on an exam.

Again, no grades back, so top-scorers, please comment.

While I agree, writing it in your own words can help you absorb it much better.
(and when people highlight half a page... ugh)

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Tanicius
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Re: Why you should stop reading cases, briefing and outlining

Postby Tanicius » Sat Jan 05, 2013 8:40 pm

thesealocust wrote:
FranklinSims wrote:As for the SPAM what can I say... I am a shameless self promoter. :wink:


Post reported as spam.


+2*



*I reported both of them.

jarofsoup
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Re: Why you should stop reading cases, briefing and outlining

Postby jarofsoup » Sat Jan 05, 2013 8:53 pm

This does not work for everyone..... Especially if you are starting second semester. If you did well first semester do not change a thing.

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ndirish2010
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Re: Why you should stop reading cases, briefing and outlining

Postby ndirish2010 » Sat Jan 05, 2013 8:56 pm

This is just wrong. 1Ls out there, keep briefing cases.

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stillwater
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Re: Why you should stop reading cases, briefing and outlining

Postby stillwater » Sat Jan 05, 2013 8:57 pm

briefing blows and is for a future world where jeopardy is a full time job and the only topic is "Cases"

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presh
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Re: Why you should stop reading cases, briefing and outlining

Postby presh » Sat Jan 05, 2013 8:57 pm

Telling people to not read cases is dumb. Why? Because once you actually start working as an attorney, you are going to be spending a significant amount of time reading cases. If you don't learn to do it efficiently now when it is more or less your job, you are going to be learning that skill on the job and it is going to cost your bosses extra time, something that they will not like.

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manofjustice
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Re: Why you should stop reading cases, briefing and outlining

Postby manofjustice » Sat Jan 05, 2013 11:59 pm

I don't know if OP said not to read cases. I would agree that, from my experience, cases provide nuance that canned case briefs just can't. But disclaimer: I have no 1L grades. I think the general proposition that cases are put on a pedestal is credited. For instance, when I read cases, I read the notes after the cases first. Then, if needed (and it usually is), I skim the end of a case--that's where the important information is. Then, if needed, I'll skim the beginning. Then, if needed, I'll actually "read" the case word for word. (That is usually not necessary.) Lexis headnotes are a great help too.

It's also important to play to your strengths. If you're great at reading, read cases more. If you're not, try something else. It's not rocket science. It's all about the grade.

Gorki
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Re: Why you should stop reading cases, briefing and outlining

Postby Gorki » Sun Jan 06, 2013 12:09 am

T/F: This is the guy from last year who was top X% and wanted people to pay to come to some talk at a community center?

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BarbellDreams
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Re: Why you should stop reading cases, briefing and outlining

Postby BarbellDreams » Sun Jan 06, 2013 12:50 am

I somewhat agree with #2 (I didnt really brief cases as I believed it was a huge time sink and I instead just wrote 3-5 sentences paraphrasing the point of why we learned the case), I disagree with the rest. To each his own.

sparty99
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Re: Why you should stop reading cases, briefing and outlining

Postby sparty99 » Sun Jan 06, 2013 1:00 am

Don't u have to read to learn the law?

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dingbat
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Re: Why you should stop reading cases, briefing and outlining

Postby dingbat » Sun Jan 06, 2013 1:06 am

sparty99 wrote:Don't u have to read to learn the law?

Image

FranklinSims
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Re: Why you should stop reading cases, briefing and outlining

Postby FranklinSims » Sun Jan 06, 2013 3:47 am

sparty99 wrote:Don't u have to read to learn the law?


A lot of smart people read a lot of cases and learned the law. However, their grades do not reflect their hard work. While some will argue that they should read more, outline more or brief more (even twice because once was not enough) I think there is something to be said for those folks that earn top grades and hardly crack open the case book. Sure you have to read to learn the law but learning the law and earning top grades are not as symbiotic is we are led to believe by law school faculty. Sure these in the median are not all guilty of not having learned the law.

FranklinSims
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Re: Why you should stop reading cases, briefing and outlining

Postby FranklinSims » Sun Jan 06, 2013 3:50 am

Gorki wrote:T/F: This is the guy from last year who was top X% and wanted people to pay to come to some talk at a community center?


Dunno what you are talking about. But that sounds like a pretty creepy sort of 1L "town hall" for the Obama campaign. lol

FranklinSims
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Re: Why you should stop reading cases, briefing and outlining

Postby FranklinSims » Sun Jan 06, 2013 4:04 am

presh wrote:Telling people to not read cases is dumb. Why? Because once you actually start working as an attorney, you are going to be spending a significant amount of time reading cases. If you don't learn to do it efficiently now when it is more or less your job, you are going to be learning that skill on the job and it is going to cost your bosses extra time, something that they will not like.


There is a lot of truth to this message. Much of the skills you will need as an attorney is honed in Legal Research and Writing. This is a part of the reason that many attorneys say that the most relevant law school course is legal research and writing. As litigators research and writing is the bulk of the job and their bread and butter. That being said, I am not quite sure if Torts or Contracts is the best place for 1L's to hone this skill because they are in a race against the clock with little time to write both a winning brief for LRW plus brief cases for all 3 or 4 core classes in the traditional manner plus complete practice exams in time enough to review a few with professors.

It would be great to "start working as an attorney" but before we cross that bridge we have to earn good enough grades to land the job. Read cases? Sure. But let's read them smart. I think our bosses will appreciate our resourcefulness in working smarter and not harder so long as we meet the billables.

FranklinSims
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Re: Why you should stop reading cases, briefing and outlining

Postby FranklinSims » Sun Jan 06, 2013 4:05 am

stillwater wrote:briefing blows and is for a future world where jeopardy is a full time job and the only topic is "Cases"


love this!

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IAFG
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Re: Why you should stop reading cases, briefing and outlining

Postby IAFG » Sun Jan 06, 2013 4:26 am

I regret reading any part of OP.




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