Law School Discussion

In Defense of Briefing

In Defense of Briefing
« on: May 30, 2009, 10:52:52 AM »
I think that briefing and reading the cases is a great way to be successful in Law School.  After a year, I understand the reason why the traditional continues.  The casebook is not useless.  I think it can teach you everything you need to know.

My problem was how I read the cases, and I think it may be useful for 0Ls to heed my caution and learn how to read a case.

8 months ago, I read a case like I would read a story.  I started at the beginning, and read it through.  Often, I would have no idea why the cases were so long.  Jeez, I thought, judges really loved to ramble (especially Cardozo).  I didn't understand that a case's structure is intended to get at a point that briefing would have explained: a legal issue.

Reading for legal issues is a great way to prepare for your exams, because your exams are -- surprise! -- all about issues; your classes are all about legal issues; and your professors are interested in discussing legal issues with you.  The problem is that often students don't see that, get mediocre grades, and then get frustrated and blame the system.  No, the system works; it will tell you how to think like a lawyer if you let it.

What is a legal issue?  If I were a 0L, I would spend a great deal of your time before law school figuring that out.  Read Oyez.  Read a case.  Brief a case.  Get deep inside what a legal issue is, and then, when you're at your most confused, read how the courts resolve it.

Now here is how you read a case:

1. Find the issue and simmer over it.  Think about what makes it tricky.  Why have the courts not resolved it before?  Here's a sample Public International Law issue off Oyez (I know many of you studs want to be Int'l lawyers):

May the rights protected by the Geneva Convention be enforced in federal court through habeas corpus petitions? (Hamdan v. Rumsfeld)

Think about why it hasn't ever been resolved.  Think about what makes it an issue.  The US has ratified much of the Geneva Convention, but how does that apply to municipal law?  Why hasn't this case been brought before?  What is the power of the Federal Courts pursuant to Article III?  This is as much of a Civil Procedure and Conlaw question as it is about International Law.

2. Read the case with careful attention to how the court works through the issue.

This is how you learn to think like a lawyer.  What sub-issues are relevant to the issue before you?  Article III power?  The scope of the Geneva Convention?  Previous precedents about habeas corpus petitions?  I have not read Hamden, but, with the law student intuition you will build, you should be able to guess at what is important.  This is also what you do on exams.  What is tricky in the fact pattern?  What do we need to know to resolve it?  How do we go about resolving it?

3. Think about policy.

Your last step is to think about how this ruling my affect other rulings, or big picture ideas.  For the Geneva Convention, we might want to think about our respect for enemy combatants, our feelings about detention without habeas for suspected dangerous people.  Here, we want to ask questions like: if Hamden can't get redress through the Federal courts, where will he go?  How will this affect the view of the Geneva Convention, and our ratification of it, worldwide?  Will this ruling affect habeas in other hypotheticals?

This is how you do it, I think.  Trust me: if and when you get it, it is ridiculous amounts of fun.  I read white-collar crime cases for fun during my spare time.  Even on the bus to the Loop, a casebook is never far from my eyes.  And I have favorite jurists, too.

Re: In Defense of Briefing
« Reply #1 on: May 30, 2009, 01:06:40 PM »
And I have favorite jurists, too.
And who might that be?


Re: In Defense of Briefing
« Reply #2 on: May 30, 2009, 01:07:29 PM »

Re: In Defense of Briefing
« Reply #3 on: May 30, 2009, 08:16:41 PM »
Haha!  This is great stuff...

Class and casebook does not equal good grade.

Class and casebook are great for exploring theory, policy, and tricky borderline issues.  Test (and class grade) are about black letter law and main policy points.

If you can't brief by making a few notes in your casebook, you're missing the point...


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Re: In Defense of Briefing
« Reply #4 on: May 31, 2009, 12:48:47 AM »
I tend to do best in the classes that I read the least for. But I'm also cool with being around the median, so make of that what you will.

Re: In Defense of Briefing
« Reply #5 on: June 02, 2009, 12:18:04 PM »
Where is a good place to get cases to read without access to a law library?

Re: In Defense of Briefing
« Reply #6 on: June 02, 2009, 12:19:06 PM »
Where is a good place to get cases to read without access to a law library?

Your local Court of Appeals.

Re: In Defense of Briefing
« Reply #7 on: June 02, 2009, 12:29:21 PM »
Wally, please come to Exile and answer some questions.


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Re: In Defense of Briefing
« Reply #8 on: June 02, 2009, 12:43:56 PM »
I think your stating to "get it" Wally, your classmates should watch out for you now. Reading the cases is not so much about getting the BLL, that's easy to look up any place, its about how they got to the BLL that's important. Also one more tip, where you reding a case in your case book will tip you off to why your supposed to be reading it in the first place. They don't put them in thier randomoly. If the case is under the section in your contracts case book called OFFER the issue/reasoning you want to focus on is the offer part of the case, the rest is dicta.

I should elaborate on what Iím saying above. First year we all have the tendency to write down and mull over ALL the rules in a case. Try to get out of that habit. If the case book authors put the case in the section on OFFER the point you should be reading that case for is offer rules ONLY. There may be a rule in there about acceptance, maybe the mailbox rule, but thatís not the point of you reading that specific case.

 Try and ignore it if you can. Its likely left in there because if they edited it out of the case it would make no sense. Believe me if the case book authors want you to learn the mailbox rule they will give you a mailbox rule case in the ACCEPTANCE section of the casebook, which might also have a rule about consideration in it, ignore it, for your purposes right now its dicta.

Re: In Defense of Briefing
« Reply #9 on: June 03, 2009, 10:03:29 PM »
That was the most anal post I've ever read by you, hipcathobbes.  Get some sleep.