Law School Outlining: What’s the Point?

275495_6675When I work with law students on exam prep, their first questions are always about outlines:

  • “Are outlines really important?”
  • “What makes a good outline?”
  • “How long should an outline be?”
  • And my favorite, “Do I really need to make my own?”
My Thoughts on Outlining for Law School Exams

Here are a few of my thoughts on outlining for law school exams.

Why do we make outlines?
The purpose of an outline is to aid with exam preparation. The main purpose of your outline is to organize the material so it’s easy to understand, memorize, and use on the exam.

What makes a good outline?
A good outline is clear and easy to read, contains the pertinent information, and is well-organized. Critically, it should make sense to YOU — because it is YOUR study tool.

Do I have to make my own or can I use a “canned” outline?
You should make your own outline!

Completing an outline means that you have thought about the law and how it fits together. This very important “thinking” portion of the outlining process is completely lost if you use an outline created by someone else.

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Want more outlining tips? Check out the next two parts of this series:

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About Lee Burgess

Lee Burgess, Esq. is the co-founder of the Law School Toolbox, a resource for law students that demystifies the law school experience, the Bar Exam Toolbox, a resource for students getting ready for the bar exam and Trebuchet, a legal career resource. Lee is also the founder of Amicus Tutoring, LLC, a company she started to help students find success in law school and on the California bar exam. Lee has been adjunct faculty at two bay area law schools teaching classes on law school and bar exam preparation. You can find Lee on Twitter at @amicustutoring, @lawschooltools, @barexamtools & @trebuchetlegal.


  1. HI there,

    Thank you so much for all the tips. It has been priceless.

    One question on outlining; How/where do you fit in academic journals (how much info of this should one aim to include) in the outline?

    • Hi Chris: Please see my below comment for a reply – not sure that I entered it correctly – I wanted to make sure that you got notification of my reply.

      Thanks – Lee

  2. Hi Chris: I am glad you are enjoying the website and getting a lot out of the tips. Typically, unless a professor has discussed an academic journal as part of your class discussion, it isn’t necessarily important to put in the outline. Why? Well, black letter law doesn’t come from journals – it comes from cases, statues, etc.

    But if your professor covered something in an academic journal in class – then consider including what the professor thought was important in your outline.

    Hope this helps!


  3. Thanks a lot Lee.

    I guess with the system in my University (a UK uni) where we are tested heavily on essay questions(discussing the law) as well, my professors expect a broad knowledge of academic opinions on the different legal issues.

    I guess I can incorporate (a very condensed version) as much as is needed in the outline.

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