The issue of which supplements are “best” for each course seems to be a hot topic among many newer law students. For whatever reason, there seems to be an impression among students that finding the perfect supplement will make all the difference between doing well, and not doing well. While a great supplement can be a crucial piece of success when used correctly, they are not the end-all be-all! Fortunately, there are a few things you can keep in mind while choosing how and when to use a supplement to make them as beneficial as possible.
Remember that your Assigned Casebook is your Primary Source!
While supplements may provide a more concise overview of the law, they absolutely cannot be a replacement for reading your actual casebook – for a few reasons. First, they don’t contain cases, and reading cases is a very important skill to learn in law school. You’ll never get any better (or faster) if you don’t practice reading your assigned cases. Second, the supplements won’t cater to what your professor wants you to know! Your professor assigns a particular book, and particular reading assignments for a reason – because that is what they think is the most important information to teach you. A supplement will not be able to mirror that, so be sure to remember that your primary source is the text that is assigned, NOT a supplement!
Choose a Supplement that Works for YOU
There are a multitude of supplements for any law school course on the market, and some of them are certainly better than others. We have talked about the “best” supplements for each course before, as there are some supplements that come generally well-recommended above others. However, it won’t do you any good to get the most popular supplement on the market if it won’t work for your needs. If you struggle to understand how a particular topic works, then you may need to focus on finding a supplement that provides a clear and simplified explanation of the topics your course is covering. If you need help organizing your outline, maybe a supplement that has less fully written out explanations, but more organizational pointers, would be a better fit. Finally, if you are looking for help with practice questions, be sure to focus on supplements that provide plenty of questions and answers.
Focus on Clarifying Information, not Learning
The supplement should not be your first line resource in approaching your law school courses. Supplements are most beneficial to your learning when they are used responsibly, in conjunction with your normal, assigned coursework. After you’ve done your reading, gone to class, and tried your best to understand the material, then it may be time to consult a supplement for clarification. In some instances, it may be helpful to consult a supplement after you’ve done your class reading, but before you go to class, if you feel particularly lost after doing the reading and want to alleviate pre-class nerves. Whatever you do, make sure to use a supplement only after you’ve tried your best to understand the material from your assigned work. The analytical skills you’ll develop from working through the materials yourself first will only benefit you in the long run!
Consult them for Guidance on how to Outline a Topic
Supplements can be an extremely helpful resource when it comes time to outline a topic. Assuming that you’ve been doing your reading and going to class before outlining, it is an ideal time to utilize a supplement. When outlining, you will need to start organizing the information in a way that will help you analyze a fact pattern, not just memorize random bits of law. In order to do this effectively, you will need to understand how the topics you’ve learned fit together in an overall framework. If that is unclear to you when you sit down to outline, a supplement that breaks down the information into a concise and clear framework will be helpful. Supplements that are presented in outline form may work best for this, as will supplements that have some sort of flowchart or other visual aid to help clarify the relationship between information.
Take Advantage of Practice Problems
We have spoken at length before about the importance of working through practice problems for law school success. Often, learning to understand what a law school exam question is asking you to do, and effectively analyzing the issues presented is the most difficult adjustment to law school academics. That being said, choosing a supplement with a multitude of practice questions in a variety of topic areas would be a very wise thing to do. Supplements that include practice questions will also include some sort of model answer or at least a summary of the issues that you should have seen. While these are no substitutes for old exams and model answers released by your professor, they do provide valuable additional practice. Further, there are a number of supplements that include practice multiple choice questions. As multiple choice is becoming increasingly popular (and there are multiple choice questions on the bar exam), choosing a supplement that includes a number of multiple choice questions may also be helpful.
Navigating the law school supplement market can be overwhelming. However, choosing one that best serves your needs and using it responsibly can help you get the greatest benefit from supplements.
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