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How to Get Through Cases in Law School Fast

Studying in Law SchoolBriefing cases is a necessary evil, a diabolic rite of passage that has brought many 1Ls to their knees, surrounded by a case book, crumpled paper and their own law law school mortality.

But fear not, aspiring lawyers. The first case always cuts the deepest, and if you develop a strategy for quickly consuming and comprehending cases early in your law school career, everything else gets easier.

Here are the five things you should look for in every case. Find them and understand them and you’ll get through cases efficiently and effectively.

Start by finding the “issue”

Before you invest any time perusing (with your legal dictionary and thesaurus in hand) the case, spend 20 minutes pre-reading the case. Start by finding the issue–the purpose of the case. What is the court trying to determine? Here’s a helpful tip: The issue almost always includes the word “whether.” Once you understand the issue, you’ll know why your professor assigned the case.

Discover the “holding”

Once you know what legal issue the court is deciding, find out how they ruled–also called the “holding.” Dig deeper than simply determining whether the issue was “affirmed” or “reversed.” Find the actual rule they came up with.

Spend time with losers … and find the reasoning

Most people focus on the winning argument, but much more can be learned from the facts and arguments presented by the “losing” counsel. The “reasoning” (the reason the court decided the way it did) often has more to do with the “losing” side than the “winning” side. This is a trick that professors like to pull out of their Socratic hats in class to rattle students, especially 1Ls. Understand why an argument failed will help you better understand the court’s thought process.

Focus on the facts that matter

You’ll want to record the facts for your brief; focus on those that matter. The facts that matter are the ones used in the reasoning. Find them and you’re 90 percent of the way done with the case. Note, though, that sometimes none of the facts will “matter” because the court wasn’t really looking at the case–they were looking at the broader implications of the law (another professor trick).

Live, for a minute, in the procedural past

Make sure you understand the procedural history of the case. At the very least, know which court wrote the opinion, the jurisdiction and who it affects.


About the Author

Sumita Dalal is the Founder and CEO of FindMyLawTutor, the largest and most trusted website and online portal that connects law students with law tutors for success in law school. Whether preparing for the LSAT, are currently a law student or are studying for the bar exam, FindMyLawTutor makes finding a law tutor fast and easy.

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