What is your approach to case reading?

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What is your approach to case reading?

Read thoroughly with highlighters and underlines and do a full case brief
8
17%
Read through the case and do a short brief (No more than few sentences)
21
45%
Read the commercial brief (i.e. Quimbee) then read the case fully and book brief
12
26%
Read only the commercial brief, understand the main points, then move on. Do not read the case fully.
6
13%
 
Total votes: 47

LawyerSawyer102
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What is your approach to case reading?

Postby LawyerSawyer102 » Sat Sep 23, 2017 11:24 am

So the options above seem to be the most common approaches in tackling cases. I personally take the third approach (read the quimbee then bookbrief) but I am getting to the point where reading the case seem to be a waste of time. I have actually switched my approach recently where I only read the quimbee and write down 2-3 "trigger" words about the case that will help me remember what the case was about when prof discusses it (I read ahead so there are times when it won't be for a whole week before prof gets to the case) and so far I have not had much trouble with it. But some are saying that this is a rather risky (and lazy) way of approaching cases and there are few that swear by reading the entire text from the casebook and doing a full case brief because that "helps you understand the reasoning much more in-depth".

So I'd like to get you guys' opinion and what you guys actually do when approaching cases. Fortunately the cases so far have been pretty simple (2-3 pages) but some of the cases ahead look much more lengthy (as much as 7-8 pages) and I just don't think spending 40 minutes reading and briefing a case does not outweigh the benefit from simply reading the main points from quimbee and moving on to the next topic in 5 minutes.

cavalier1138
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Re: What is your approach to case reading?

Postby cavalier1138 » Sat Sep 23, 2017 12:19 pm

LawyerSawyer102 wrote:I just don't think spending 40 minutes reading and briefing a case does not outweigh the benefit from simply reading the main points from quimbee and moving on to the next topic in 5 minutes.


If that works for you, great. Just be aware that if it doesn't work for you, your exam grade is going to be the only real indication you get.

The problem with using a professional service is that you're reading someone else's idea of what the holding is and why the case came out that way. That may be ok for some classes, but there are definitely courses where the professor will use a case for a totally different proposition than what the online service thinks the case is about. And believe it or not, the reason professors want you to read the cases is so that you get good at reading cases. They're not trying to hide the ball or torture you with unnecessary work.

Based on your brief post history, it seems like you might want to be a little more humble in approaching your classes. Every student in my class who was utterly convinced of his/her own brilliant grasp of the law ended up complaining about how unfair and random the curve was. One of the many things that reading the actual case teaches you is that the issues are often muddled and confusing, and if you aren't at least a bit confused by the material, you're probably not reading carefully enough.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: What is your approach to case reading?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Sat Sep 23, 2017 1:34 pm

I think it's sort of silly not to just read the cases, but then, I'm also in lit where a huge portion of my job is reading cases, so I don't get why you'd try to avoid it. It's something you need to learn to do and reading commercial briefs doesn't teach you how to read the actual cases and isn't really the same. But I'm sure there are people do fine with just commercial briefs - just not sure you can tell whether that's you this early in law school.

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mjb447
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Re: What is your approach to case reading?

Postby mjb447 » Sat Sep 23, 2017 1:59 pm

I don't know much about quimbee specifically, but a lot of commercial briefs that I've seen boil things down too far to easy rules and analysis, particularly once the cases start getting longer or in close cases where the judge(s) struggle. On a law school curve every point matters, and if you read each case thoroughly there may be minor points that you'll understand or remember better than if you rely on a cut-and-dried summary.

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spqr351
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Re: What is your approach to case reading?

Postby spqr351 » Sat Sep 23, 2017 2:08 pm

I read the cases 100% of the time. If I’m confused after a second reading, I look at a commercial brief to see what’s going on, and then read the case a third time. If I’m still confused, I put it aside and come back to it in the morning before class.

zilladilla
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Re: What is your approach to case reading?

Postby zilladilla » Sat Sep 23, 2017 2:23 pm

read the section of a supplement that relates to the cases im reading and then read the case afterwards. I'm rarely confused because the supp. outlines the reasoning the judges in the case used.

LawyerSawyer102
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Re: What is your approach to case reading?

Postby LawyerSawyer102 » Sat Sep 23, 2017 3:02 pm

Thanks for the feedback, guys.

Correct me if I'm wrong but my understanding of ls exam is that it tests on your ability to apply rules to the facts to argue and counter-argue. It does not test you on the specificity of xyz cases, so I just find it highly inefficient to spend exuberant amount of time perfecting my knowledge on who, what, when, where and whys of a case. Some may argue that reading the case fully gets you "inside the judge's head", but I think that's what class discussions are for, and what matters most is what the professor has to say about it anyway.

BTW issue spotting isn't that hard. To me, it's very obvious, I don' t know why people need to waste hours on briefs to understand it.

spqr351 wrote:I read the cases 100% of the time. If I’m confused after a second reading, I look at a commercial brief to see what’s going on, and then read the case a third time. If I’m still confused, I put it aside and come back to it in the morning before class.


Sorry but this just seem like huge waste of time. Read above.

cavalier1138
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Re: What is your approach to case reading?

Postby cavalier1138 » Sat Sep 23, 2017 3:32 pm

LawyerSawyer102 wrote:Correct me if I'm wrong but my understanding of ls exam is that it tests on your ability to apply rules to the facts to argue and counter-argue. It does not test you on the specificity of xyz cases, so I just find it highly inefficient to spend exuberant amount of time perfecting my knowledge on who, what, when, where and whys of a case. Some may argue that reading the case fully gets you "inside the judge's head", but I think that's what class discussions are for, and what matters most is what the professor has to say about it anyway.


If you don't know the case well enough to distinguish it, you're already screwing yourself out of points. And since the opinion usually runs through the back-and-forth arguments on big issues, reading the case exposes you to those. And as Nony pointed out, if you're thinking of working in litigation, this will be a large portion of your job.

LawyerSawyer102 wrote:BTW issue spotting isn't that hard. To me, it's very obvious, I don' t know why people need to waste hours on briefs to understand it.


This relates back to my initial post where I cautioned you about being too arrogant about your own abilities. No one thinks that spotting glaring issues in a fact pattern is hard. The hard part is spotting the tiny details that a professor has dropped in to the fact pattern that have a direct bearing on how you analyze the issues and then providing a decent analysis under time constraints. And as to your argument that this is all a waste of your time: what would you rather be doing?

zilladilla
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Re: What is your approach to case reading?

Postby zilladilla » Sat Sep 23, 2017 3:40 pm

I should mention that I do not brief, I just underline what I think is important and helps me understand the case. However, when it comes to exam prep time, i plan on reviewing the facts of the cases so on an exam I can analogize a fact pattern with a fact pattern from a past case which should scoop me some points. I'm only a month into my 1l but from reading posts on this site and just from my own observations, it seems important to be able to analogize fact patterns with that of past cases for exams. Understanding black-letter law requires some understanding of the reasoning behind its creation/interpretation/practical use. Someone correct me if I'm wrong.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: What is your approach to case reading?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Sat Sep 23, 2017 3:44 pm

LawyerSawyer102 wrote:Thanks for the feedback, guys.

Correct me if I'm wrong but my understanding of ls exam is that it tests on your ability to apply rules to the facts to argue and counter-argue. It does not test you on the specificity of xyz cases, so I just find it highly inefficient to spend exuberant amount of time perfecting my knowledge on who, what, when, where and whys of a case. Some may argue that reading the case fully gets you "inside the judge's head", but I think that's what class discussions are for, and what matters most is what the professor has to say about it anyway.

The point of reading the cases (which doesn't take "exuberant amount of time") isn't to perfect your knowledge on who, what, when, where, and why. It's to learn how to understand legal reasoning. If you don't practice actually figuring out the issue and holding and reasoning and how judges apply law to facts, and learn how to pull those out of a case quickly with minimum effort, you may run into problems when you have to do it without a commercial brief. Also reading cases gets much quicker the more you do it.

But you know, you do you. If you want to only read commercial briefs, go for it. Let us know how that turns out.

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mjb447
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Re: What is your approach to case reading?

Postby mjb447 » Sat Sep 23, 2017 4:40 pm

I don't mean, and I don't think others mean, that an exam is likely to ask you to talk about what happened in Hadley v. Baxendale, but often the who, what, where, when and whys will be part of understanding what distinguishes one case you read from a very similar case you read that came out the other way (or correctly analyzing a nearly imperceptibly different fact pattern on the exam).

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PeanutsNJam
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Re: What is your approach to case reading?

Postby PeanutsNJam » Sat Sep 23, 2017 5:42 pm

Spotting issues is step 1.

Step 2 is arguing why the plaintiff should win the particular issue and why the plaintiff should lose the particular issue. To be able to argue both sides, you need to read the legal reasoning in opinions, especially in opinions that come out the opposite way.

Hutz_and_Goodman
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Re: What is your approach to case reading?

Postby Hutz_and_Goodman » Sat Sep 23, 2017 6:36 pm

There are two types of cases: 1) cases that illustrate a rule; and 2) cases that are the rule. Read the cases in category 2). Read the cases in 1) if you want to see an illustration of the rule but otherwise it is totally sufficient to rely on a summary of the facts and the legal principle.

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do_me_a_favor
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Re: What is your approach to case reading?

Postby do_me_a_favor » Sun Sep 24, 2017 1:17 am

you're going to want to check out the case in your casebook, aka the assigned reading. you need to do this because the case is sometimes edited to include only some parts of the opinion, and the brief you find on a commercial source may not exactly match that. you always want to verify that the commercial stuff you're using is what your professor is teaching---this is the case 80% of the time in my experience, but you gotta do that due diligence. as an example of how things could get fucked quickly: in a con law class we were assigned NFIB v Sebelius a total of four times in the same semester. the casebook had the case split up by constitutional law topic(commerce clause part in one section, taxing power part in another, and so on). a commercial case brief wouldve been both under + over inclusive.

but this typically isn't hard to do. you just need to read through the casebook readings. my best advice on getting through cases in the casebook readings: don't take notes/highlight/do anything but read. read through the case. these days casebooks keep cases between 2-20 pages, so this won't take long. you think you want to take notes and highlight but it's better to do a straightforward reading of the case, and then go back and figure out what you want to highlight/note/add to outline after you've finished the case. you really don't know what the crucial parts are until you've finished reading the case-----the conclusion of the case helps you figure out how to distinguish between crucial reasoning and superfluous detail, which is a part of every case. so read through the case once, just reading. then go back and brief it, outline it, or whatever.

so yeah i voted "read through and do a short brief" but i was more detailed in my reply here about what id do

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pancakes3
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Re: What is your approach to case reading?

Postby pancakes3 » Sun Sep 24, 2017 7:58 am

tlj;dr

you're probably fine for 1L exam-taking purposes but you not honing the ability to read cases quickly and efficiently could work against you later on in situations outside of taking 1L exams.

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Wonnker
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Re: What is your approach to case reading?

Postby Wonnker » Thu Sep 28, 2017 1:54 pm

I'm going to go against the grain and give advice more along the lines of what a.nony. said. I would highly recommend reading and writing about a few cases each week at the most in-depth, granular level of analysis that you can muster. I view case reading/briefing more as a form of mental exercise than as a means of learning the substantive doctrine. As others have said, it is pretty easy to extract and understand the black-letter law from case summaries on Quimbee, Lexis, etc., but if you do this for every reading assignment, your analytical and writing abilities will suffer. I found during 1L that writing about case facts and legal arguments often requires a complex, precise form of grammar that my previous writing experience did not really prepare me for. Your 1L legal writing class (if it's anything like mine was) will give you practice in writing a handful of highly-polished memos/briefs/etc., but it will not require you to write about a variety of different topics and fact patterns on a day-to-day basis. I think this latter form of practice is necessary in order to excel in your exams and to become a competent/efficient legal writer in general.

For example, imagine you are taking Contracts and you don't brief a single case all semester; when the exam comes and you get a complex fact pattern with multiple parties transacting through multiple written instruments/communications over the course of multiple chronological instances, and all of these factual variables raise multiple legal issues that apply only to particular parties/instruments/time periods, you may struggle to coherently articulate all of these relevant factors and the relations between them during the limited time you've been given to write your exam. Even if you can mentally identify and analyze all of the important issues, it will all be for naught if you can't write it out within the allotted time (in a way that your professor will actually understand). Moreover, writing in detail about the cases you're assigned during the semester will inevitably lead you to identify gaps in your own understanding of the cases, as well as gaps in the arguments discussed by the court or inconsistencies with other cases you've read; you should focus on these gaps and use them to generate your own questions and criticisms about the material. If you do this on a regular basis, I think you will see a big improvement in your ability to spot non-obvious issues and respond with meaningful analysis. When it comes to 1L exams, I think these abilities are what set the A students apart from the Bs.

Obviously, you will not have time to do this for every single case you are assigned throughout the semester, but if you do it for at least a few cases each week and just read the rest for broad strokes, I think you will be in excellent shape.

Source: 4.0 GPA/ranked first in class (admittedly at t2--hopefully this takes the edge off my humblebrag a bit, not trying to be a dick...)




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