Why shouldn’t I brief cases in law school?
Usually, one of the first things taught in legal research and writing class is how to brief a case. Many students, after learning this one of their first days of law school, brief cases for the next three years. However, this is a mistake! I graduated as the #1 student and I never briefed cases!
Read further to see why you should not brief cases in law school.
Why you SHOULDN’T brief cases in law school
1. It is an inefficient use of your time.
If you attempt to brief every case you see in law school, you could potentially brief 20–30 or more cases a week! You only have so many hours at your disposal. If you choose to brief every case you read, this will, no doubt, take up the bulk of your study time.
Most of the information gleaned while briefing a case is extraneous. It has no long-term value. Because you are not tested on cases! If you brief cases in law school, you lose valuable time you could be spending memorizing and applying the law, which should be your main focus. This leads to our second point:
2. The vast majority of professors will NOT ask you to cite a case (or the facts of a case) on an exam!
The vast majority of professors are not concerned with the specifics of cases on their exams. Rather, they are more concerned that you understand the underlying legal principles. Most will never ask you to cite a case on an exam! So, if you brief cases in law school, you will almost inevitably spend time focusing on minutiae, not the bigger picture. If you don’t need to know the specifics of cases to succeed in law school, then you don’t need to brief every case you read!
3. There are more efficient ways to master class material.
As noted here and throughout this guide, there are much better ways to succeed in law school. Your time and energy should be focused on developing, revising, and memorizing your personal outlines over the course of a semester. You should also use practice exams to make sure you fully understand the class material before finals. If you brief cases in law school, you will inevitably be less efficient doing these things since you will have such little time left to actually make any progress toward outlining, memorizing your outlines, and taking practice exams.
Again, since you don’t need to know the specifics of cases for your outlines, or to score well on exams, there is really no reason to fully brief every case.
4. Book briefing is the most efficient way to prepare for class discussions!
Now, all the above does not mean you shouldn’t know the specifics of cases for class discussions. You want to be able to follow along in class!
However, you can do this via book briefing. Book briefing is identifying the critical information of a case so you can quickly answer a question when called upon. The key to book briefing is to identify the key parts of a case by writing, underlining, or highlighting directly in your book. Many students develop a color-coding system so they can quickly find the rule, the plaintiff’s argument, the defendant’s argument, and so on. So, however you approach it, book briefing will help you find all the pertinent information to take part in a class discussion quickly WITHOUT unnecessarily rewriting it all!
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