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Law Students

: Law School Survivor

Perils and Pitfalls of the Outline (Pt 1)

By Tyler Larsen

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warning140As the time for finals draws near, I thought I would drop a few lines about the infamous OUTLINES.  I will post at least one more part to this blog after I know how I did on finals, and how my outlines helped (or hurt depending on the situation).  I'm sure that anyone who has even heard of law school has heard of outlining horror.  Well I'm here to tell you that everything you have heard is true...and false.

Some of the more common questions I heard among my 1L class:

Do you really need to do outlines?  The general answer is yes.  Outlines are important study tools that can be a great assistance to you.  The more important part of this question is when you should start outlining.  The best answer I have heard so far is that it all depends on you and how you learn.  By the time you finish undergrad and have decided that you want to go to law school, you should have some idea of your learning habits and abilities.  If you do well with last minute cramming, then you might consider using the project of making outlines as part of your cramming.  You will be able to go back to the beginning and start from there.  If you are more of a constant steady learner, you will probably want to start your outline closer to the beginning of the semester.  Be prepared to change the content though.  As you get to know your professors and learn the big picture, you may find that not everything in your outline is good or that you left things that are important out.

Should you buy outlines or use the outlines of other students?  Generally speaking this is a bad idea in my opinion unless you know what you are getting into.  Before you even consider these two options, consider the purpose of the outline and the forum in which you are using it.  Ask these kinds of questions: did the drafter have the same professor; did the drafter use the same book; did the drafter go to the same school; how long ago was the outline written; did the author do more than just pass; how much help do you really need?  Mainly it is important to understand that an outline is a tool, and ultimately it is still up to you to understand the material and be able to present it in a way that shows your professor you know and understand the material.

How long should your outline be? (It should definitely not be 800 pages) This is another subjective question.  It depends on a lot of factors.  I know people that had the same professor in the same year, and ended up with more than a 10 page difference in their outlines. Basically, there is no set answer, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.  Remember, it is a tool for you, and you are the only gauge of what is right for you.  You might be detail oriented, in which case you will probably have a longer outline.  If you rely more on memory cues to "jog" your memory, your outline might be shorter.  The key is that you have to be able to remember the information and be able to give it back to your professor at the right time.  So if you are unsure, try out different methods and see what works best for you.

That is my best advice right now.  After finals and when I get my grades, I might have some better thoughts to add.  I will post the second part to this sometime in the spring semester.  Till then...

Cheers.

Full post as published by Law School Survivor on November 11, 2007 (boomark / email).

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