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Current Law Students / ***DO NOT CLICK ON THE SDSD TOPIC
« on: June 12, 2004, 06:55:09 PM »
It will do crazy things to your computer and whoever posted it, you are an ass. Grow up.

I just use MS Word. There are a lot of companies that make software for law school and I have seen some people use it. I'm sure it is helpful to some people. I don't use it because I prefer to create the outline myself. I feel like I get more out of it when I have to create it myself (another exposure to working with it to learn the material). I'm sure it is fine and there is nothing wrong with it. I just don't prefer it.

As to your last comment, what you are feeling right now is perfectly normal. This is something that every new student goes through. You feel lost and not sure what to expect, how things work, etc. That is perfectly normal and every 1L feels that way. The best thing that I can recommend is to read the 1L primer books that are out there describing what law school is like and what happens,  how to do well, etc. They will not necessarily be on target for your specific school and they cannot give you THE method that will work for everyone, but it is a nice preview and it is something to make you feel better and not so lost.

If I can do anything else, let me know. I'll answer any questions that you have.

You also asked about flow charts and note taking in class. I used flow charts for one class (Civil Procedure). I used it after I had already outlined and started studying. It was a way to test my knowledge and see if I was understanding the relationships between concepts. In general, I think you should use whatever works. The best advice I can give you is that the more you actually work with tne material, the better. If you have a system that works for you, use it. Above all else, do whatever it takes to understand the law at the minute level (black letter law, for example; the definition of intent for battery purposes), but MAKE SURE you can put it into some kind of a structure
(Torts: Intentional Torts, Negligence, Strict Liability).

As for note taking, I'm not sure what you are asking. I use a laptop (I wrote them by hand the first semester and it is much easier with a laptop). I try to figure out what the structure of the class is for that day (ex: Civil Procedure: Subject Matter Jurisdiction: Types: Diversity Jurisdiction and Federal Question Jurisdiction) and how it would fit in an overall structure for the class. And then I take notes. I might use a header: Diversity Jurisdition and take notes over all of the cases and what ever the prof says pertaining to diversity jurisdiction. Then, when the prof moves to federal question jurisdiction, I make a new header for that and do the same thing.

After you have outlined for awhile (and I recommend outlining whenever you make a major shift in clas,ex: from the inentional torts to negligence), you will start to understand what information you need to include and what information you don't. For example, in my sample outline above, I put a case name and then put the major parts of a case (facts, law, reasoning and holding). These are the major things that I include when I brief a case for class, but I don't put them all in my outline. For my outline, I might just put a one line sentence of the facts of the case to refresh my memory and a one or two line sentence for the main gist of what Garrett v. Dailey stood for.

Once you are done, you will have a major outline for each class. When you study, you can then study the class outline in parts. For example, when I study Torts, I take the part of my outline involving intentional torts and keep that separate from negligence. I separate the intentional tort outline into its parts: Battery, Assault, etc. I study one part at a time (Battery). Then I study the next part (Assault). I study each part separately, keeping in mind that these are all the causes of action under the main heading of intentional torts.

When I feel like I have a good grasp on Intentional Torts, I then move onto Negligence. I set intentional torts aside and put all of the stuff for negligence in front of me. I then separate negligence out into its main sectios, which are the elements of duty, breach, etc. I study each of those separately, keeping in mind that these all go under the topic of negligence.

This is the approach that I take for each class. If you do it correctly in your study time before the exam, it will all come together. You will see the patterns and how things group together. Everyone learns differently, but this is what worked for me.


That is how you construct your skeleton outline. You are looking for the main topics and subtopics to put in your outline. For torts, it will be the main causes of action (Intentional Torts, Negligence, Strict Liability) and under each of those the types of torts that fit into that category (Intentional Torts: Battery, Assault, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, etc), and under each specific tort, the elements that are required to prove each of them. As you outline, you will be filling in examples of case law that flush out what the elements are and how to prove them.
Just as an example:
I. Intentional Torts
     A. Battery
          1. Elements of Battery
                a. Intent
                     1. Definition of Intent
                          a. kjsflksjflskfsldfjslfjs
                          b. ksjflflkflsflskjflkjflsj
                     2. Case Law
                          a. Garrett v. Dailey
                              1. Facts
                              2. Law
                              3. Reasoning
                              4. Holding
     B. Assault
          1. Elements of Assault

II. Negligence
     A. Elements
          1. Duty
          2. Breach
          3. And so on, and so forth

In short, you use the syllabus and your case book table of contents to get the structure and then you use your class notes to fill in the information.


I'll answer it in chunks since this board likes to time out. **Where do you learn to do outlines*** I don't know what other schools do, but ours had a one day Intro to Law School session where they gave us a bunch of information and part of that was how to outline. Your school may do the same. Sometimes you can find tips on outlining in the law school prep books that are out there (Law School Confidential, Law School Without Fear, etc.). I don't remember which books actually show you how to do it.

In general, the first thing to use is your syllabus. A lot of teachers will assign readings based on a skeleton outline of the course (ex: Week 1: Intentional Torts: Battery. Week 2: Intentional Torts: Assault.....Week 5: Negligence: The Element of Duty, etc.). You can use this as a main structure and then go to your table of contents in the book to see the structure of the course as a whole: Main Topics and Subtopics.


You can find commercial outlines at any of the on-line book sellers that handle law school casebooks. You can also find them at your law school bookstore or sometimes a bookstore that is close to a university. Check around, the pricing for most of the new ones will be pretty much the same, but you can sometimes find used ones at your law school bookstore for 1/2 the price of used. If you check carefully through their stock, you can find used ones that have not been marked up or marked very little.

I am sure that there are students out there that can study effectively without outlines, but I highly recommend them.

In law school, you are working with a large amount of information. Your grade in each course depends on a grade that you receive on one test at the end of the semester. In order to organize the large amount of information into something that you can study from for the exam, most people need an outline. It not only organizes information in a basic way, but it enables you to see the structure of the topic and see the how the information breaks down into groups.

You could spend the entire semester learning all of the information as a group, but after a few weeks, it will start to look like a garbled mess. It will look like case after case of holdings and rules with no structure and no meaningful way to put it into something you can work with. If you outline, you can structure a particular course into (for example) four topics (that have subtopics, etc.). If you can see the course in four topics, it is much easier to understand each topic individually and then apply it to the whole.

For example, in Torts 2, we studied Strict Liability, Products Liability, Misrepresentation, Defamamation, etc. If I had just used class notes and not put them into a structure, they would have blended together and I would not have been able to recall them for the test. Outlining enables you to see the forest for the trees (a good saying for law school). If you are stuck in the trees (the glob of cases, rules, etc.), you will never see the topic as a whole and understand how things work together on a larger level.

Also, you can use any software program in order to do your outlines. Nothing special is needed. I would just recommend doing your own outlines (look at commercial ones for guidance if you need it). If you do it on you own, you will see the big picture easier, and you will have put time and energy into it, which helps to learn it. In general, I recommend outlining whenever you make a major turn in the specific course (ex: in Torts, when you change from Intentional Torts to Negligence).

Just my thoughts, but it has worked for me and I have received all A's.

If they were only a couple of years old, I would say go ahead. But 8-10? I wouldn't use them. You can find used commercial outlines at your school bookstore for half the price of new and they are usually only a semester old. If you are trying to save money, I would try that instead. Just a thought.

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