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Mastering Law School Exams: A Strategic Guide to Outlining for Success


Preparing for law school exams can be daunting, but with a methodical outlining approach, you can streamline your study process and boost your performance. In this guide, we'll delve into an efficient outlining method that mirrors developing a textbook, enhancing keyword usage for better synthesis and recall. Let's break it down step by step:


The Outlining Method


1. Allocate Time for Each Issue

Start by allocating one hour to thoroughly study each issue outlined in your class syllabus. This dedicated focus ensures comprehensive understanding and retention.


2. Define Terms with Cornell's Glossary

Utilize Cornell's glossary online to define key terms related to the issue you're studying. This step lays the groundwork for precise and clear comprehension.


3. Structuring Your Outline

Create a structured outline format that aligns with the issue studied:


I. Issue

  • A. Definition

  • B. Keywords Defined

  • a.

  • b.

  • c.


4. Incorporate Legal Principles

Integrate relevant legal principles such as Restatements, Rules of Professional Responsibility, or Constitutional provisions into your outline:


I. Issue

  • A. Definition

  • B. Keywords Defined

  • a.

  • b.

  • c.

  • C. Legal Principle (Restatement/Rule/Amendment)


5A. Utilizing Restatements

If the issue involves a Restatement, dive deeper into its nuances:


I. Issue

  • A. Definition

  • B. Keywords Defined

  • a.

  • b.

  • c.

  • C. Restatement:

  • A. Restatement Text

  • B. Application:

  • Example: "When X happens, it's Y (Case Name)"

  • Exception: "When Z happens, it's not Y unless V (from a commentary example)"


5B. Learning Amendments or Rules For issues involving Amendments or Rules, leverage resources like E&E (Examples & Explanations) books for comprehensive understanding:


1. Issue

  • A. Definition

  • B. Keywords Defined

  • a.

  • b.

  • c.

  • C. Legal Principle (Amendment/Rule)

  • A. Summarized Examples and Answers from E&E

  • B. Application:

  • Example: "In situation A, the rule applies as demonstrated in Case Name"

  • Counterexample: "However, in situation B, an exception applies per Case Name"



Tips for Advancing your Recall Skills


Synthesize Your Outline for Maximum Recall

As you build your outline, focus on synthesizing information from various sources such as textbooks, class lectures, and case readings. Summarize case holdings, legal rules, and commentary examples concisely within your outline. This synthesis enhances your ability to recall and apply concepts during exams.


Recall Techniques

Employ memory recall techniques like spaced repetition and active recall while reviewing your outline. Quiz yourself periodically to reinforce understanding and strengthen retention of complex legal principles.


Practice Application

Apply your outlined knowledge to practice exams or hypothetical scenarios. This practical application sharpens your analytical skills and prepares you for exam-style questions.


Regular Review

Consistent review of your outlined materials ensures continuous reinforcement of concepts and prevents information overload during exam preparation.



Developing a robust outlining method akin to creating a textbook not only enhances your understanding of legal issues but also optimizes your preparation for law school exams. By incorporating keyword-heavy outlines, thorough definitions, legal principles, and practical applications, you'll be well-equipped to excel in your exams and legal studies journey.

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