Case Reading shortcuts

A forum for applicants and admitted students to ask law students and graduates about law school and the practice of law.
User avatar
Young Marino
Posts: 826
Joined: Fri Apr 26, 2013 6:36 pm

Case Reading shortcuts

Postby Young Marino » Sun Jan 19, 2014 5:36 pm

Just wanted to know if there are really short cuts to doing the stupid readings. In Law School Confidential, Miller suggest skimming the case after reading it in the horn book and instead of briefing, highlight in the case book using color coding to save time on briefing. I've also heard that buying a case summary book keyed to the case book provides all the relevant information you'll need. I know reading then briefing is going to take A LOT of time but if the basic jist of passing a class depends on applying law to facts, why not spend more time practicing that, memorizing statutes and how each case fits into the bigger picture of that area of law instead of wasting time reading a 22 page long case when you'll need maybe 5 pages of relevant info if that?

User avatar
A. Nony Mouse
Posts: 22813
Joined: Tue Sep 25, 2012 11:51 am

Re: Case Reading shortcuts

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Sun Jan 19, 2014 6:03 pm

Cases as presented in casebooks have already been edited down for the points that the editors consider pertinent. Also, the vast majority of law you read in 1L doesn't come from statutes - it's the common law, judge-made, created by the decisions found in cases.

That said, lots of people do well using commercial briefs rather than reading the casebook. I wouldn't recommend it out of the gate 1L year because you do need to learn to read cases and be able to pull out that material yourself. But it's one way to approach studying.

(Also, hornbook = specialized treatise in an area of law. Unless your prof is really unusual your assigned readings won't be in a hornbook, they'll be in a casebook.)

User avatar
Young Marino
Posts: 826
Joined: Fri Apr 26, 2013 6:36 pm

Re: Case Reading shortcuts

Postby Young Marino » Sun Jan 19, 2014 6:05 pm

A. Nony Mouse wrote:Cases as presented in casebooks have already been edited down for the points that the editors consider pertinent. Also, the vast majority of law you read in 1L doesn't come from statutes - it's the common law, judge-made, created by the decisions found in cases.

That said, lots of people do well using commercial briefs rather than reading the casebook. I wouldn't recommend it out of the gate 1L year because you do need to learn to read cases and be able to pull out that material yourself. But it's one way to approach studying.

(Also, hornbook = specialized treatise in an area of law. Unless your prof is really unusual your assigned readings won't be in a hornbook, they'll be in a casebook.)

What about High Court Case Summaries?

User avatar
A. Nony Mouse
Posts: 22813
Joined: Tue Sep 25, 2012 11:51 am

Re: Case Reading shortcuts

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Sun Jan 19, 2014 6:09 pm

Right, those are one example of the commercial briefs I mentioned. I don't know if you'd find them useful, I never used commercial briefs, but I think people who did recommend those. You need to get one that's keyed to your casebook to be sure it will cover the cases you're going to read (there's a lot of overlap in 1L casebooks but it's just easier to use one keyed to your casebook).

User avatar
Young Marino
Posts: 826
Joined: Fri Apr 26, 2013 6:36 pm

Re: Case Reading shortcuts

Postby Young Marino » Sun Jan 19, 2014 6:46 pm

A. Nony Mouse wrote:Right, those are one example of the commercial briefs I mentioned. I don't know if you'd find them useful, I never used commercial briefs, but I think people who did recommend those. You need to get one that's keyed to your casebook to be sure it will cover the cases you're going to read (there's a lot of overlap in 1L casebooks but it's just easier to use one keyed to your casebook).

Thanks Nony. I'll be sure to look into it more depth when summer rolls around

Jay2716
Posts: 224
Joined: Sat Dec 08, 2012 6:41 pm

Re: Case Reading shortcuts

Postby Jay2716 » Sun Jan 19, 2014 8:38 pm

You don't need to brief and take notes and read every case five times like some profs will tell you, and a lot of law students work much harder than is needed to get the material. That being said, if you can't handle reading the cases through once without a shortcut I would be very surprised if you have the work ethic to get through law school.

ETA: you could absolutely pass without reading cases, but you need to read the cases and go to class pretty regularly at the bare minimum to do well during 1L.

User avatar
lawhopeful10
Posts: 984
Joined: Tue Jul 24, 2012 2:29 pm

Re: Case Reading shortcuts

Postby lawhopeful10 » Sun Jan 19, 2014 8:49 pm

I finished my first semester with high grades never case briefing or taking any notes/highlights before class. Just read the case, know why you have to read it (new rule, exception to a rule, ect.) and pay attention to what the teacher thinks is important in class and write that down.

User avatar
Young Marino
Posts: 826
Joined: Fri Apr 26, 2013 6:36 pm

Re: Case Reading shortcuts

Postby Young Marino » Sun Jan 19, 2014 8:59 pm

Jay2716 wrote:You don't need to brief and take notes and read every case five times like some profs will tell you, and a lot of law students work much harder than is needed to get the material. That being said, if you can't handle reading the cases through once without a shortcut I would be very surprised if you have the work ethic to get through law school.

ETA: you could absolutely pass without reading cases, but you need to read the cases and go to class pretty regularly at the bare minimum to do well during 1L.

From what I've researched, although reading cases is important especially early in the year, it would be more of a benefit to get the basic principle of the case (BLL) which seems like I can get that from the High Court Case Summaries. If studying for the exam is what I need to be doing, shouldn't I be focused more on the practice of law to fact and understanding how each case fits into the bigger picture of that are of law? For instance, i wont necessarily memorize Brown V. Board but more importantly learn that it reversed the separate but equal clause in Plessy V. Whoever (I think it was Plessy) from the 1800s. Is this line of thinking correct?

Jay2716
Posts: 224
Joined: Sat Dec 08, 2012 6:41 pm

Re: Case Reading shortcuts

Postby Jay2716 » Sun Jan 19, 2014 9:58 pm

Young Marino wrote:
Jay2716 wrote:You don't need to brief and take notes and read every case five times like some profs will tell you, and a lot of law students work much harder than is needed to get the material. That being said, if you can't handle reading the cases through once without a shortcut I would be very surprised if you have the work ethic to get through law school.

ETA: you could absolutely pass without reading cases, but you need to read the cases and go to class pretty regularly at the bare minimum to do well during 1L.

From what I've researched, although reading cases is important especially early in the year, it would be more of a benefit to get the basic principle of the case (BLL) which seems like I can get that from the High Court Case Summaries. If studying for the exam is what I need to be doing, shouldn't I be focused more on the practice of law to fact and understanding how each case fits into the bigger picture of that are of law? For instance, i wont necessarily memorize Brown V. Board but more importantly learn that it reversed the separate but equal clause in Plessy V. Whoever (I think it was Plessy) from the 1800s. Is this line of thinking correct?


The rules are important, but your profs will have the cases they assigned in mind when they write the exam. Reading the case and understanding your professor's reasons for assigning it will give you an idea of how your professor believes a given rule of law should be applied to fact. Beating the exam isn't about mastering the rules. It's learning how to apply law to fact, and specifically learning to do it the way YOUR professor thinks it should be done. There is no perfect way to do it, but the law isn't that hard most of the time. I would read the cases, go to class, and use commercial supplements only as necessary to clarify an issue you are confused about.

I think reading the cases you are assigned is more important then anything you can get from supplements. Another risk is that a case will cover a rule or an exception differently than the supplement, or the supplement will contain info that you skipped in class. I know some people who included topics that weren't covered in class and it did not work out for them.

You'll have to figure out what works for you, I only have my own experience to go off of. FWIW, I haven't yet opened a supplement that wasn't assigned (assigned, not even recommended), I rarely brief, but I read every word that's assigned and go to every class. I'm between the top 5-10% at a T20.




Return to “Ask a Law Student / Graduate”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: despina, Lacepiece23, Yahoo [Bot] and 2 guests