Law School Outline FAQs

Law School Outline FAQs: What You Need To Know

One of the most important tools that will successfully see any law student through to graduation and beyond is outlining. Despite the importance of outlining, many students who start law school have no clue why they need to outline. Some may not even know what an outline is. If you find yourself in that boat, fear not! Chances are, there are a number of your classmates that feel the exact same way. Depending on your undergraduate major, outlining may or may not have been an important key to success. In this post, we cover the most important law school outline FAQs.

Law School Outline FAQs: What You Need To Know

What is a Law School Outline?

A law school outline is essentially a summary of an entire class condensed down into an easy-to-navigate guide. From class notes, to case briefs, to black letter law – a powerful outline encompasses them all. Besides providing an easy-to-read strategy guide for your classes, the process of preparing your outlines is also crucial. Students who take the time to create their own outlines have an effective and efficient way to learn material.

A law school outline is like a custom-tailored pair of pants. Your pants are tailored to you and won’t fit someone else. What works for you in creating and formatting your outline may not work for someone else and vice versa. Everybody has a different style of outlining and it’s important to find one that you are comfortable with. For example, some students like to use their textbook table of contents as a framework. Others may choose to organize their outlines based on subject area or black letter law. Again, it’s all about finding out what works for you.

Why Outline?

As we briefly mentioned above, the process of outlining is ripe with benefits. The process of outlining allows students to see how certain topics intertwine with one another. You can think of each law school class as a puzzle. As the semester progresses and your outline develops, you’ll begin to start putting the puzzle pieces together. Outlining also allows students the opportunity to develop a personalized understanding and familiarity with concepts and topics.

When Do You Start Outlining?

Now that you have a better understanding of what a law school outline is, you’re probably wondering when to start. This is an incredibly common question and one you should be thinking about. This is especially true because it seems like from day one of law school everyone is talking about their outlines. Don’t panic if you feel like you’re behind in creating a law school outline. Many times, a powerful outline can be created over a weekend and adjusted as the semester progresses.

In terms of when to start outlining, the answer really depends on the specific class. Every class is different and moves at a different pace. Generally, we like to recommend that students begin outlining after the completion of the first major topic. For example, if you find yourself one week into a class, there’s no reason to worry about outlining just yet. You simply haven’t completed enough subject material to begin an outline. As time progresses and the semester unfolds, take time to update your outline every so often with new subject material. Not only are you actively learning the material, but once finals come around your outline will be finished. All that’s left at that point is to study!

How Long Should A Law School Outline Be?

Similar to the question of when students should start outlining, the length of an outline really depends on several factors. For one, an outline for a year-long class is obviously going to be longer than a semester class. A second factor has to do with whether or not the outline will be allowed on the final exam. If so, many students tend to make these outlines longer and more detailed. A third factor depends on how intensive the class is. For example, your outline for a two-unit class generally won’t be as long as an outline for a four-unit class. Lastly, irrespective of the previous factors, the length of your outline will also heavily depend on your outlining style. Some students are wordier than others, some include topics that others don’t, and so on.

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