Three Law School Reading Tips
It’s no secret that reading in law school takes up a large chunk of a student’s free time. There are cases, outlines, supplements, practice exams, and more to read. However, out of all the reading students must manage, reading cases is part of law school attendance. Put simply, reading cases in law school is like breathing air. You simply have to do it to survive and excel in law school. Additionally, professors not only task students with reading cases but students must also analyze, review, and synthesize the concepts introduced in each case. Given the importance of reading cases in law school, how you go about reading them is also of note. Here are three law school reading tips to help you on your way.
Three Law School Reading Tips
Don’t Expect To Understand Every Case Immediately
Students often find themselves frustrated when every aspect of a case doesn’t make complete sense after a couple of readings. This is totally normal and expected for law students. Courts do not write legal opinions with law students as the target audience. Instead, courts write opinions for attorneys and other judges who are usually at least somewhat familiar with the underlying laws of each case. Without that legal experience and education as your basis, reading cases in law school can be difficult. It’s supposed to be! Not understanding a case doesn’t mean you’re not going to perform well, graduate, or be a stellar attorney.
Luckily, countless resources are designed to help students better understand cases, especially when you are still grasping to comprehend a case after it’s been discussed in class. From translations into modern-day English to video explanations of complex cases, supplements can come in handy. Supplements can help to break down confusing legal concepts, explain certain terminology, and provide students with simple case summaries.
Concurring/Dissenting Opinions Matter
We get it. You spent a chunk of time reading a case only to turn the page and see additional opinions. However, these concurring and dissenting opinions can be of great value to a law student. Reading cases in law school isn’t fully effective unless students also consider the concurring and dissenting opinions. These opinions place cases in a larger context and reveal different ways of approaching a case and its holding. Many times, students will finish reading a case and have their own opinions about the majority opinion’s logic and holding. Often, students are surprised to see concurring and dissenting opinions discussing ideas similar to their own! Regardless, concurring and dissenting opinions provide a new perspective when reading legal opinions.
Understanding Procedural History
Speaking of placing cases into larger contexts, understanding a case’s procedural history is also important. Frequently, law students can feel like they’re reading a case without fully understanding why. A large reason for the confusion stems from an incomplete understanding of the case’s progression. For example, “what court reviewed the case prior?” and “what was the lower court’s holding?” are important questions to consider. Having a familiarity with procedural history can have a direct impact on how well you understand the assigned reading. It can also allow you to better understand why certain opinions are overruled and why parties appeal. All of this can be helpful in grasping the rule and analysis put forward in a particular case.
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