Should I Brief Cases In Law School?—JD Advising
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Should I Brief Cases In Law School?

Should I Brief Cases In Law School?: On day 1 of my first year legal research and writing class we learned about briefing cases. We were taught how to break down cases into their components (procedural history, issue presented, facts, rule, reasoning/analysis, conclusion), and we learned the importance of each.  Our first homework assignment was to make a word document template for briefing cases and to then fill it in for one case.  The assumption was that this would become a habit and we would make a word document brief for every case we encountered in our reading.

Should I Brief Cases In Law School?

In law school, each reading assignment generally contains at least three cases. Most classes meet at least twice a week. Most students are taking at least 4 classes. Doing the math, that is 24 case briefs per week—at a minimum. Here are a few things to keep in mind about briefing cases.

1. Briefing cases is just one tool to work through class material.

Briefing every case means you will become overloaded with documents to search through when looking for answers either during class or in studying for the exam. In addition, much of the information contained in a case brief offers no long term value.  The most important thing to get out of a case is the rule. The rule is what you need to take into your exam and apply to the fact pattern tested. The reasoning and analysis used by the judges could be helpful in some cases, but knowing minute details about each case is not always useful. By finals, you want all your critical information contained in one document, your outline.  Having important rules buried among distractions is likely going to hurt you in the end.

2. Focus on significant rules and the bigger picture.

Some students decide to spend their time preparing for other things. For example, you could spend more time on your outline throughout the semester and fill in the critical points from the cases and from the class discussion as you go along.

3. Book briefing is an efficient way to work through cases.

While you might not want to be using your time to create a separate brief for each individual case, there are efficient and valuable ways you can still “brief” cases in law school. I used book briefing. I made notations directly in my book of the critical pieces of information in each case. Specifically, I developed a color-coding system to identify the rule or conclusion immediately if I was called on in class.

This method trains you to quickly identify what parts of the case are most important, which ultimately saves you time.  There are also countless tools, either on the internet or in Casenotes legal briefs, available for purchase where you can read briefs put together by others as a way to supplement the readings. This also stops you from getting bogged down in the sometimes superfluous case details.

If you do not like color-coding systems, you can just write “RULE” “Plaintiff’s argument” “Defendant’s argument” etc. write in the margins of your case.

Try a few different strategies and see what works best for you!