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1Ls, if you haven't started outlining yet, you better get to it.
Outlining is one of the best ways to learn in law school. Your outlines will likely go through multiple drafts before exam time with each draft getting shorter and shorter as you learn the content better and better.
You may have been briefing cases and taking class notes, but unless you organize it all together, you'll be regretting it come exam study time. Instead of reviewing, you'll be stuck drafting your first outline. That's because you'll realize there is no way to study for exams without a good outline. Sadly, commercial outlines cannot guarantee accuracy because teachers teach differently.
Thankfully, countless 1Ls have come before you, and that means you can benefit from their mistakes and experience. Below, you'll find a five item checklist you can use to review your outlines throughout the semester.
1. Does Your Outline Track the Course Syllabus?
At the start of the semester you got a syllabus from your professor (hopefully). Usually, those are split into topic sections that will make good headings and subheadings in your outline. Also, dividing your outline based on the divisions in the syllabus can provide you with insight into how the professor views the curriculum.
2. Does Your Outline Include Full Case Briefs?
If so, you're doing it wrong. Your outline should track the principles and rules. If you have full case briefs in your outlines, work on getting them down to a few short and easy to remember summary sentences. Learning to synthesize whole cases into a few clear sentences will be very helpful come exam time. But don't toss your case briefs; if you forget about a case you mention in your outline, your brief can provide you with a quick reminder to refresh your recollection.
3. Other Unnecessary Content?
Often times, professors will go off on tangents or cover cases or principles that will not be tested. If you're told that something will not be on the test, keeping it in your outline is not a good idea. By exam time, you should have your outlines down to a one page attack outline (or as few pages as possible) per course.
4. Is Your Outline More Than One Page?
If so, keep working on your outline until you can remember everything you learned in the class by looking at a single page outline. Maybe one page is a bit overly aspirational, but if your outline is more than a couple pages come exam time, it might hurt more than it helps.
5. Is Your Outline Legible?
While computers are cheap and everyone now has one, some students will still want to outline with a pen and paper. If you're one of those students, make sure you can read your own handwriting. If you're a messy writer, consider outlining on a computer, or review your outline before putting it away for the day to makes sure you've written legibly.
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