Tip # 1: How to prepare for class efficiently
So you’ve got a Socratic method class and a professor who dislikes, no hates . . . no despises unprepared students. But you’ve done all you can to prepare, right? Read every word of the 120-pages of assigned reading you were given. And then, you get called on. You just want to sound intelligent and succinct but you’re trying to make sense of the question while paging through the reading in your mind like its in Latin. You ramble on without giving any definitive answer and the professor moves on. It usually takes students a year or so to figure out that law is not a complex maze of tunnels and hidden passageways. Ordinarily, its pretty logical and straightforward—so treat it that way! Here are three tips for law students looking to cut their preparation time in half as well as gain a better understanding of the assigned reading.
Headnotes are a great way to highlight the important parts of a case while skipping over unnecessary reading. You can find headnotes at the beginning of any case on Westlaw or LexisNexis—they often appear in blue. You have a choice. You can page through those 120-pages, trying to sort out what’s important and not, OR you can have someone else do it for you. So here’s what you do. Your casebook says you have to read six cases. Write them down. Search for them on Westlaw or LexisNexis and read ONLY the analysis or decision section. Skip the facts—every time. You’ll have a better understanding of the case and its holding.
Why is this case important?
Every case you read you should be thinking, “Why did the professor assign us this case?” It’s always for a particular purpose. Find out what that purpose is and write it down. Now you know exactly what the professor is looking for.
Shepardize, shepardize, shepardize
You’ve probably heard some talk about shepardizing. It’s basically a way of looking up anything that has to do with a particular case. For instance, say you’re reading the seminal case on the tort of battery. By shepardizing the case you can see every case and secondary material that has cited to that particular case. Use this function as a way of finding articles that describe the impact of your particular case. There you have it. Three tips on how to cut your preparation for class in half.