I often see law student outlines that are full of what I call “legal trivia” and not much else.
Now, don’t get me wrong — there’s nothing wrong with having a lot of legal rules and such in your law school outlines. (You do need them.) It’s just that that isn’t all you should have.
What else do you need? Read on.
What is “Legal Trivia”?
Imagine you’re at bar trivia and they decide (for some unfathomable reason) to include a few questions on the law.
Question: What federal statute establishes “federal question” jurisdiction?
Your team full of law students is excited: It’s 28 U.S.C. 1331! Woohoo, point for you.
Afterwards, you double-check your Civ Pro outline and you’re thrilled to find the following:
i. §1331: The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.
Dude, you are so set! This Civ Pro test is going to be a piece of cake.
What You Also Need in Your Law School Outlines
Not so fast!
While it’s critical to know what section establishes federal question jurisdiction, the more critical question you’re ultimately going to have to answer is this:
Does this case belong in this court?
Hum, that’s a little harder.
Does your outline tell you exactly what steps to go through to analyze whether a particular case can be heard in a particular court? Think about everything you’d need to consider: personal jurisdiction, subject matter jurisdiction, venue, adequacy of service, and so on.
Do you have a step-by-step framework for analyzing all of these things? If not, your outline isn’t as helpful as it could be.
As exams get closer, it’s time to move beyond the legal trivia, and start working on your attack plans! Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.
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Here are some other helpful posts:
- When Should I Start Outlining?
- How to Turn Your Class Notes Into an Outline
- Can Your Outlines Be Too Long?
- Law School Outlining: What’s the Point?
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