Effective Law School Outline

5 Quick Tips For Making An Effective Law School Outline

You will soon find out that outlines are a huge key to succeeding on law school exams. This might leave you concerned about how to write an outline or how long your outline should be. That is normal and a great place to start. Outlines and law school go together like peanut butter and jelly, so it is important to master them. Therefore, after you get a better sense of precisely what an outline is, you will want to focus on how to make the most out of it. Here are five quick tips for making an effective law school outline.

5 Quick Tips For Making An Effective Law School Outline

1. Start Outlining Early

The best way to make an effective law school outline is to begin crafting it within the first few weeks of the semester. Starting your outline early on in the semester will keep you well organized throughout your course. Outlining early also gives you an advantage when “reading week” arrives (if your school gives you one!). While many students will begin their outlining process during this designated study time, yours will be complete. This allows you to commit more time to review material, memorize the law, and take practice tests!

2 Organize your Outline According to the Professor’s Syllabus

Your class syllabus is a roadmap for the course ahead of you. The syllabus will most likely divide your course into topics and subtopics you can utilize to organize your outline. An effective law school outline will follow the syllabus, not the legal cases. Therefore, once you are given access to the syllabus, take the time to create a skeleton outline with the material breakdown provided to you. Revisit your outline every week or two and fill in each topic with your class notes. Don’t forget, your outline is a condensed version of your class notes! You shouldn’t be copying and pasting your notes directly into your outline.

3. Design Your Outline to Work for You

It is no secret that everyone learns differently. So, one of the best ways to ensure you are making an effective law school outline is to design it for you. And yes, this means writing your own outline. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses is essential. For visual learners, consider adding checklists and flow-charts to your outline to better process pertinent material. (Learn how to integrate diagrams here.) For someone that can feel anxious or overwhelmed, focus on breaking down information piece by piece, dividing by headlines/sub-headlines, and avoid bulky blocks of text. If you struggle with maintaining focus, try using multiple colors to keep your brain stimulated and attentive during review. Whatever you do, make sure your outline is optimal for your learning process!

4. Do Not Include Case Briefs in Your Outline

Your outline should reference cases in a condensed fashion. We suggest you provide a brief statement that will trigger your memory of the facts of the case. Follow this with a sentence or two to explain the rule and/or important takeaway. An effective law school outline will focus on the rules drawn from a case, rather than the facts. The facts of a case are merely a guide for when and how rules of law apply. Remember, the facts will change on your exam, but the rules will not!

5. Don’t Forget the Hypos!

Hypotheticals are a great tool professors use to further explain and illustrate rules of law. Memorizing rules allows you to know the law, hypos teach you how to apply it. Accordingly, an effective law school outline will demonstrate the application of the law through different fact patterns. Hypos will help you achieve this goal. Just as with cases, you should keep them brief – only a sentence or two. Further, professors will often test on points that hypotheticals demonstrate. You can find more information on how to outline cases and hypos here.

It can be daunting at first, but never doubt your abilities! If you put time and effort into an effective law school outline from day one you will surely succeed come exam time.

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