Friday, September 08, 2006

To Brief or Not to Brief

The first four weeks are now over. Yay!!!!

It's come to my attention that some people aren't writing out separate briefs. Is this a common practice? Am I wasting valuable time? Right now I read the case and highlight the different elements with different colored highlighters. Then I go back and type up a brief. In class, I write important notes that we discuss in class on that piece of paper.

Should I just be reading and highlighting? It seems like having a typed brief for the cases seems like a good study aid....not that I have a chance to really go back and look at them.

It's hard for me to shift my procedures, often to my detriment. My first couple of years back in school I taped my classes and then went back and transcribed them. You read correctly, folks. It took some time to wean myself away from that, but my grades didn't sink.

Please share your wisdom!!!!!

To brief or not to brief, THAT is the question!!!!


Stare Decisis said...

I used your same technique during first year, then stopped briefing in second year (and for a couple of classes in second semester of 1st year). I found it very helpful in first year.

The real answer: do whatever works for you.

CM said...

Yeah, you're probably sick of the "whatever works for you" answer, but...

FWIW, I did that for Contracts last year, for most of the semester, and I did find it a useful study aid, as well as a good summary for when I got called on in class. While it still feels valuable to you, go ahead and keep doing it. After a while, I felt like it wasn't worth my time and stopped, but I used various techniques for different classes -- typing up notes in an outline, writing a two-sentence summary at the top of each case in the book, or making a flashcard for each case with the name of the case on the front and a short summary on the back.

CM said...

P.S. - what you need at the end of the semester is just something to jog your memory about the facts and holding. You will rarely need to know the specific details that might be in your brief.

Zuska said...

I have never briefed a case. Never. The highlighting system worked very well for me, as well as notes in the margins. I was fine when called on, and fine on exams. I often would take my notes from the margin and intersperse them with classnotes on the computer as we discussed the case in class.

I really never missed the briefs. When I made my outlines, I had all the info that i needed in my class notes, and went from there.

Anonymous said...

I agree with what everyone said: Do what works for you. I book brief and then take notes in class; some people type up their reading notes, and take their class notes in the same document (only works if you can use a laptop); some people use other methods. If a method is working for you, don't change it for other than a good reason. (NB: "Because no one else is still briefing" is not a good reason.)

Anonymous said...

WOW! Y'all are fast! All this during my Civ Pro class! :)

There are a couple of classes that I feel I could step away from having typed briefs: Torts and Contracts. They both have Powerpoint presentations, go over the cases thoroughly and don't grill any one person over the cases.

Prof Civ Pro sometimes asks for crazy details and the who sued what when how and where they're from can get complicated.

And Prof Crim Law asks people specifically if they've written a brief for the case.

I just feel like my time might be spent better studying the material, rather than just trying to get everything briefed.

I did start writing the policy at the top of each case in the book. That's really helpful. I like the flashcard idea, too. I've been making flashcards for Crim Law so that when he's talking about the elements of a crime, I can flip to exactly what he's talking about.

Thank you so much!

I have been spending WAY too much time on the weekends studying, like 8-10-12 hours a day. I'd like to cut that down a little. That being said, I've also been doing ALL my homework for the upcoming week on the weekend. I'd just like to get through the reading part a little faster so that I can study.

And spend some time with Mr. D. :)

Zuska said...

to me, reading = study. what do you do AFTER you read?

Unknown said...

I read the cases carefully, and always wrote down something for each one -- except for in crim, but that was with a really weird professor and, well. Anyway.

What I found useful:

Facts: no more than one or two sentences, max. Except property a rare exception where I would put in an entire troublesome phrase.
Rule: most of your cases are edited to concentrate on only one or two rules. Find it, write it down.
Holding: how the court applied the rule. L/NL for torts, who got the good stuff in property, etc.
Analysis: this is THE MOST IMPORTANT part -- I'd write my own analysis (maybe 2 lines) about why the rule was applied as it was. Then I added class notes to this section.

I found it helpful. The process of distilling the case down to just a few lines or even a few words for case charts helped me understand it. Also, when you don't understand a case look up the cases it cites. Read the Lexis summaries and look at what they pull out for the headnotes. This is hideously time-consuming if you do it a lot, but I found it incredibly helpful when I wasn't getting a concept.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Fact is, you won't really know what's working for you until after your first semester grades come back. I entered STCL with a sterling transcript and high LSAT, but struggled (surprisingly to me) until my third year. Many of your classmates have had pre-law, which is a GIANT advantage in the first year. If it takes you longer to catch on to the concepts, then study longer. Don't relax your methods until you make it to second semester.

Anonymous said...

I will disagree with anonymous about having "pre-law." I'm not even sure what that means, but I did not have any sort of legal background AT ALL. I also did not have any sort of LOGIC background--but if anything would have helped me in law school, that would have been it. So maybe some skill in reading material with an eye for logical and analytical flaws would help. Keep up with the reading, ask questions if you have them (and write down questions when you think of them), and be diligent.

Anonymous said...

A PoliSci major or minor is a good example of prelaw work in undergrad study.