First of all, I don't know how law students find the time to read and brief each case, AND review them well enough to speak in class.

I have yet to really speak up in class. Why? Because I'm intimidated as hell! I feel like I'm not grasping the concepts as well as others and I know that the policy aspects of law don't come to me easily either. This makes for intimidating conversation. A question will be asked and by the time I think of my answer another question has already been posed.

So...I've been frustrated.

It also doesn't help that some of the cases used to illustrate ideas aren't the easiest to understand. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one in this boat.

So I've been rethinking my approach to briefing. After all, it is supposed to help me, not any other potential reader, just me--in figuring out what is going on in the case. I came across another fellow 1L's method and used it today. At first I thought it looked like a lot of work however I found that it's really not. I like how broken down everything is and how easy I can find things. It also works well with the manner some of my profs ask their questions. So I've adopted it and have been using it this weekend.

I'm still having trouble "pulling" out the rules from the cases. And, in general, my outlines kinda suck right now because of it. I'm at least glad that I'm trying to outline since there are some in my class that don't even brief...and openly admit it...hmmm.....

How about you? Any tips on briefing you'd like to share? Things that work or don't work?

I'm contemplating the whole different colored highlighting, but I'm worried that if I do that I'll end up not briefing. And for me briefing is synthesizing, just don't ask me what I'm synthesizing yet...


  1. New Kid on the Hallway said...
    I'm not great at pulling rules out yet, either. My Legal Writing prof was talking about this analysis thing we submitted last week and he starts talking about how the rule has to be something general enough to apply to more than just the facts in the case, and I though, Yup, I got THAT wrong. Crap.

    My biggest problem with briefing is just that it takes so looooong. I never used to take notes on my class reading before this, so it feels like a huge time-suck.
    Amanda said...
    I can relate to what you're talking about...briefing is a major time-pit for me! I started out fully briefing everything, but now I've adapted my tactics to fit each class. For instance, I still fully type up a brief for all the cases in my Civ Pro class since that helps me answer his questions...but I haven't done more than hi-lite and write notes in the margins of my property book for 2 weeks. Property comes pretty naturally to me and the prof isn't as interested in facts as in "main ideas".

    I wholly agree though - your briefing style has to suit your learning needs, not anybody else's. If it works for you, great! If not, move on to something new...
    Ms.Hart said...
    Yes, I agree with all. My torts professor is really concerned about our issue statements and he wants them very narrowly tailored, where my contracts professor wants to know what City D lives in, what time he woke, up what he ate that day, etc. My contracts briefs are long and still dont help me. I guess its a learning curve. I like that example of that brief I copied it down cuz it matches the questions my contracts professor asks. Don't worry the light bulb has to come on for us eventually.
    Lawful Lady said...
    I do the highlighter thing and then type it out to reaffirm my highlighting. Facts in green, question of law (issue) in yellow, rationale in blue, holding and ruling in pink. If there is a dissent I use orange. I flesh it out by typing it up and putting it into layman's terms. I don't really think it matters what you do, as long as you are understanding. I found I was trying to pull too much out and separate too many things and it was confusing me, so I started to lump, and it's been working out. Sorry for the overly wordy comment.
    Butterflyfish said...
    Read a supplement before you read the cases -- helps you pick up the stuff you need on the first pass through a case.
    Kel said...
    Thanks for all the insight! I'm glad to know that I'm not the only unhappy one when it comes to briefing!

    Lawful Lady: Next time make sure your comment is even longer!! HA!

    butterflyfish: I might try this...I have some supplements but any thoughts on a good series?
    Shake sense into me said...
    there are casenotes keyed to a lot of casebooks (you can find it by the authors - it will say "keyed to Civ Pro by so and so).
    I book brief mostly, but I have the rule and application in my outlines.
    however, i also have issues answering in class...
    Kel said...
    That's my worry too, that by not briefing I'm able to fully answer questions in class...
    We'll see how much longer I can last!
    Anonymous said...
    Read the case once through and then the notes. For the case.

    Sometimes I highlight things I think will be important, other times I don't.

    I then type up a numbered list for the facts, ie,
    1. Girl screams at guy.
    2. Guy hits girl.
    3. Girl sues and claims this.
    4. Court rules this.
    5. Girl appeals.


    Then I describe the court's final reasoning. I don't like the "brief as you go" approach because I don't know what's relevant until I've read the court's decision. I always ask myself what new information the case tells me. (ie, why is it in the book?)

    ALSO, at least for my books, the notes at the end of the case do WONDERS in explaining what just happened.

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