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For many law students, buying supplements like case outlines, summaries, or brief books may seem unusual. However, these supplements are geared toward helping students understand the important concepts from the specific cases in a textbook in less time.
Most students expect that outlining, summarizing, or briefing each case is part of going to law school. While it is, there's generally no homework in the traditional sense of the word. Only in the rarest of situations will any students be asked to turn in a case outline or brief or anything at all for that matter (except in writing courses).
Here are three of the most frequently asked questions about these additional supplements:
1. Should I Use Supplements?
Whether or not you should use supplements really just depends on you, and your learning style. If you are really crunched for time due to external pressures, using a supplement can really help you study more efficiently, but you may not get as much out of the time you spend studying. A 50 page case can be condensed into a two-page brief that contains nearly everything you'll need to know for your class.
Another good reason to use supplements is when you find yourself struggling to get the right information into your own outlines and notes. Reading a supplement case summary after you've completed your own outline can serve as a way for you to grade your own work. Did you spot the important issues and understand the important concepts? This may sound overly time consuming, but it's better than having to go back through your notes and outlines to correct them after class, and it's definitely better than missing something in class because you were too busy frantically correcting your own outline.
2. What Are the Best Supplements?
Not all supplements are created equal. Some publishers make better supplements than others. The best thing to do is try to actually read a few samples out of each and decide which seems best. Though FindLaw has provided some help on this, often students will have their own preferences, so it may be best to give a few different ones a try in order to figure out which you like best.
3. Should I Still Outline?
Yes. Absolutely still write your own outlines even if you use multiple supplements. Outlining, or briefing, is an important skill to have, and one that isn't necessarily taught by all schools. One of the best ways to learn something is by writing it down, in your own words, repeatedly. After you've read, briefed, reviewed the supplement, and edited your brief based on your review of the supplement and class, rewrite it.
Protip: You don't have to spend money on the actual supplements. Online research services, such as Westlaw, often can provide case summaries as part of their premium subscription features, which are usually free for law students. But note that these summaries are often tailored for practicing attorneys rather than law students, so these need to be used in conjunction with your textbook to make sure you're not just supposed to focus on a short section of a case for a particular issue being taught.
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