If you are like me, you came to law school not fully understanding the meaning/importance of outlines. Don’t get me wrong, I did outlines in undergraduate for papers and exam purposes, but I was not certain what to expect from law school. Since orientation, all I heard about were the importance of outlines and that you need to start them as soon as possible. As a 1L, I had an idea of what to do, but I still was not sure exactly how to start them or why they were so important.
What are Outlines?
An outline is an overview of what you learned in class. In law school, you should organize your outlines by subject matter or class. Some of your classes might be two semesters so you will have to reflect on the black letter law from the first portion in order to apply it to the second. Outlines help you understand the principles of the law by pulling legal rules from cases you discuss in your class. It is a way to keep all your thoughts organized to help you prepare for your final exam.
Do Outlines Matter?
Short answer: YES! Outlines are essential for exam preparation. These are for your own studying purposes so they are for your benefit! Ultimately, however, you do not have to create an outline. They do keep you organized and allow you to prepare for your final exam throughout the course of the semester, rather than cramming at the end in order to try to understand everything.
How are Law School Outlines Different from Undergraduate?
In general, in law school you take numerous detailed notes about various cases. Throughout your class, you attempt to understand the black letter law and concepts that can be applied to other cases. Outlines for law school focus on preparing for the final exam through these concepts. Most law school exams have some sort of fact pattern. Your outline will lay out legal principles that you will have to apply to that fact pattern for your exams.
How Should I Start an Outline?
I will start answering this question with a question, what do you spend most of your law school career doing? The answer is taking notes! The best resource for your outline is your transcriptions of class discussions and reading. They demonstrate what you have understood and connected throughout your learning process. You should start your outlines as soon as possible too! Every person has their own way of transferring their notes to an outline but you want to frequently work on them. There are several ways to do this, check out this guide for further assistance!
What is an Outline Bank?
Fortunately, upperclassmen are nice enough to share their outlines from previous classes through a system called an outline bank. These are normally available in law school clubs/organizations. However, it is my firm belief that you should attempt to make your own. This reflects your own learning and growth as a future lawyer and solidifies how the law fits together in your mind. Other people’s outlines, or commercial outlines like BABRI, are great as references but not for your individual learning and growth.
Should I Share My Outline?
This is your outline, and you are allowed to do whatever you wish with it. However, I would be careful who and why you give your outline out. Your outline not only reflects what you have learned in your class, it also is a piece of work that you spent countless hours preparing. It is perfectly alright to share your outline with a friend who has trouble with a concept or if you want to help future students through an outline bank. Overall, it is up to you what you do with your preparation work. Unfortunately, you still need to be aware of people who mooch off others work in order to get ahead.
There are no specific guidelines as to what your outlines should look like or what they have to include. Outlines are merely your guide to your understanding of the law and should be formatted whatever is easiest for you to understand. Try to work on them periodically throughout the semester so you can memorize them for the exam. Outlines are your guide to an A, so spend time on them and work hard!
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Other helpful law school tips:
- A Student’s Perspective: The First Week of Law School
- A Student’s Perspective: Orientation
- A Student’s Perspective: Dealing with Death and Hardships in Law School
- A Student’s Perspective on Good Note Taking in Law School
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