Supplements, much like beauty, are in the eye of the beholder. Just as one may debate the beauty of a wrinkly-faced bulldog, many will debate the usefulness of study supplements. Even amongst those who favored the books, there is disagreement over which ones are the most handy.
Some prefer long outlines. Others prefer weighty tomes of treatises intended for practitioners (we call those people gunners). And of course, others think that supplements are for suckers who'd rather waste $20 on a book than study the materials provided for class. Here are a few assorted opinions, courtesy of the FindLaw bloggers:
My favorite supplement, by far, was Professor Glannon's Civil Procedure: Examples and Explanations. It gave the black letter law summaries, followed by Q&As to test your retention, and even made the much-maligned Erie Doctrine somewhat comprehensible. Other great E&Es were Federal Income Tax of Individuals and Administrative Law.
The supplements I hated most were the "In a Nutshell" series. They are tiny little books that despite their diminutive height, were about 500 pages thick and chock full of small print. I'd venture a guess that they'd be great for studying while, say, hiking, but for those traipsing between their apartments and the library, you can handle the heft (and large print) of full-sized books.
One more note, that should be obvious. When choosing supplements, if your professor has written one, like my Civil Procedure II professor did, pick that one. And if you pick up books of prepared case briefs, make sure you match the casebook's author and edition, though nowadays, most case briefs can be found online for free.
Whatever you do, don't buy a law dictionary. (Sorry Gabriella!) You can find them online for free (at FindLaw.com, perhaps), or if your school provides access to either of the two big legal research databases, each has its own law dictionary.
These were my top five study aids in law school:
- Black's Law Dictionary
You don't need to purchase this as I'm sure every law library has one, but this reference is especially helpful in the first days of law school where you have new words flung at you by the minute.
- "The Elements of Style" by Strunk & White
You will spend much of your time in law school writing -- this handy little book is a great reference and immensely helpful.
- Mini Constitution
You will likely receive one of these as a student promo. Hold on to it, cherish it -- I wish I knew where mine was, I would still use it.
- The Bluebook
The Bluebook is an absolute must for legal writing, especially if you plan on writing for, or editing, any of your school's law journals.
- Emanuel Law Outlines
These were a great tool when it came time to study for exams. You should always make your own outline, but Emanuel outlines are a great supplement, and were my favorite of the many brands available.
I was generally anti-supplement, but I did make use of many, many online resources.
- Google + case name + summary = potential shield to cold calling.
- Wikipedia -- Not great for general stuff, but if I needed the touchstone cases for some tort concept (e.g. Palsgraf) it was a pretty good starting point.
- Law school resources -- if your Google-fu is strong, you can locate outlines provided for free from other law schools' intro courses (property, contracts, civ pro, etc.) Since most 1L courses focus on the same course material, professors' outlines of their 1L courses aren't a bad way to study.
- CALI exercises -- assuming you can get access, CALI is a great resource for practicing Civ. Pro. concepts and especially evidence. Also not a bad way to prepare yourself for multiple choice exams like the MBE questions on the bar.
(Editor's Note: The opinions voiced here are just that, opinions. No consideration was sought or given, and no breaks where handed out. Not even to aides published by our mothership, West. We just called it like we saw it.)
- Ten-Hut! 5 Reasons Why 1st Year of Law School is Like Boot Camp (FindLaw's Greedy Associates Blog)
- 5 Truths to Help You Survive 1L (That You Might Not Know About) (FindLaw's Greedy Associates Blog)
- One More for 1Ls: Top 5 Study Tips for First Year Law Students (FindLaw's Greedy Associates Blog)