Law School Discussion

whast is outlining? Why do I care about it?


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whast is outlining? Why do I care about it?
« on: June 10, 2004, 01:19:17 PM »
I'm going to be a 1L this coming fall and I'm feeling a little behind the game... I've spent the past 6 years (undergrad + grad) as an engineering major so perhaps part of the problem is my lack of exposure to typical liberal arts study techniques.

I know what an outline is (at least in the general, non-law sense), but is it any different in law school? Why is it such a good study tool? How come everyone and their brother is so concerned about having a good outline? Arenít my studying/class notes sufficient? Do I really need a special program to do it effectively or can I just use MS Word?

Thanks to any experienced law students who can offer some advice!

Re: whast is outlining? Why do I care about it?
« Reply #1 on: June 10, 2004, 05:16:36 PM »
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.


Re: whast is outlining? Why do I care about it?
« Reply #2 on: June 10, 2004, 10:32:54 PM »
Where can we find commercail outlines?

Re: whast is outlining? Why do I care about it?
« Reply #3 on: June 11, 2004, 12:07:53 PM »
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.


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Re: whast is outlining? Why do I care about it?
« Reply #4 on: June 11, 2004, 03:40:31 PM »
so perhaps a dumb question: but where exactly do we learn how to make outlines/flow charts the proper law school way? is this something that they will go over in orientation? is there a book youd suggest?

also, how do the notes we take in class fit into our outlines? are they one in the same? and regarding note taking in class, is there a proper way to take them?

is it just my engineering background that is leaving me confused about all of this stuff or are all of the 1Ls going to be in the same boat as me?


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Re: whast is outlining? Why do I care about it?
« Reply #5 on: June 11, 2004, 04:13:46 PM »
If it helps, I studied criminal justice in UG and still had to look up outlining tips.  Law school is a creature like no other, and just the sheer amount of information mandates that each student find a 'best' method for handling it (whatever that method may be, as it varies among students).

What does't vary, however, is the fact that many students have found success with outlining and briefing cases.  Like Lawgirl said, it's a way to clearly condense the information without sacrificing essential information.

Some people start their own outlines by following the syllabus, some use the hornbooks or casebooks, some use 2L/3L outlines that have been handed down.  Each method has it's pros and cons, and you can find a wealth of information simply by searching the web or discussion sites like LSD.

Good luck!

Re: whast is outlining? Why do I care about it?
« Reply #6 on: June 12, 2004, 08:34:45 AM »
Lawgirl, how would you answer eee's last questions?  It seems so rare that we get responses from actual experienced law students.  Thanks.

Re: whast is outlining? Why do I care about it?
« Reply #7 on: June 12, 2004, 09:03:56 AM »
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.


Re: whast is outlining? Why do I care about it?
« Reply #8 on: June 12, 2004, 09:13:34 AM »
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.


Re: whast is outlining? Why do I care about it?
« Reply #9 on: June 12, 2004, 09:24:07 AM »
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.