Creating a course outline
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Creating a Course Outline. Jeffrey Minneti Associate Professor of Legal Skills and Director of Academic Success Stetson University College of Law [email protected] Presentation Objectives. Explain the purpose of a course outline Discuss the content of a course outline

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Creating a Course Outline

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Creating a Course Outline

Jeffrey Minneti

Associate Professor of Legal Skills and Director of Academic Success

Stetson University College of Law

[email protected]


Presentation Objectives

  • Explain the purpose of a course outline

  • Discuss the content of a course outline

  • Suggest a process for creating a course outline

  • Suggest forms for course outlines


Course Outline Purposes

  • Learning theory perspective

    • Building schema

    • Creating a tool to facilitate problem solving

  • Pragmatic perspective

    • Structure major premise of syllogism

    • Consolidate information in one place

    • Capture the structure of the law

      • Macro level

      • Micro level

    • Template for memorization of law


Course Outline Content

  • Vocabulary

  • Concepts

  • Rules

  • Policy

  • Examples and non examples of law in factual contexts


Course Outline Content

  • Vocabulary

    • Latin phrases

      • Stare decisis

      • In rem

      • Mens Rea

    • Language of the law

      • Remand

      • Appellee

      • Cause of action

      • Service of process


Course Outline Content

  • Concepts

    • Ideas

      • Contract formation

    • Terms of art

      • Meeting of the minds

      • Offer

      • Acceptance

      • Consideration

      • Promissory Estoppel


Course Outline Content

  • Rules

    • Sources

      • Primary

        • Constitution

        • Statutes

        • Court decisions

        • Administrative Regulation

      • Secondary

        • Restatements

        • Treatis/hornbook


Course Outline Content

  • Synthesized Rules

    • Types

      • If, then

      • Elements

      • Disjunctive

      • Factors

      • General Rule + Exceptions

      • Hybrid


Course Outline Content

  • If, then rule

    • If you capture or mortally wound a wild animal on public lands, you have a property right in the wild animal.

    • If you engage in an act, knowing with substantial certainty the consequences of the act, for the purpose of tort liability, you have acted with intent.


Content of Course Outline

  • Elements

    • Law broken into discrete units

      • each has its own test or definition

      • each must be proven for the rule to apply

    • Example

      • An actor batters another when he intends to cause harmful or offensive contact with the person of another and such contact actually occurs

        • Elements

          • Intent

          • Causation

          • Harm or offense

          • Another person

          • Actual contact


Course Outline Content

  • Elements

    • Example

      • Contract formation

        • Offer

        • Acceptance

        • Consideration


Course Outline Content

  • Disjunctive rules

    • Battery includes harmful OR offensive contact

    • Damages for breach of contract may include money damages OR specific performance

    • Delivery of a gift can be actual OR constructive


Course Outline Content

  • Factors

    • Personal jurisdiction analysis

      • Several layers to the test

        • Minimum contacts

          • Purposefully direct actions to forum?

          • Product placed in stream of commerce?

          • Business relationship with forum state business?

          • If internet contact, how interactive is the web business with the forum state?

        • Reasonableness

          • Burden on the defendant

          • Burden on the plaintiff

          • Interest of the forum state


Course Outline Content

  • General Rule + Exceptions

    • Murder is the unlawful killing of another human being with malice aforethought, unless, the actor acted in self defense


Course Outline Content

  • Hybrid rules

    • Contract formation

    • Subject Matter Jurisdiction


Course Outline Content

  • Review rule structures:

    • If, then

    • Elements

    • Disjunctive

    • Factors

    • General Rule + Exceptions

    • Hybrid


Course Outline Content

  • Policy

    • The ideas that animate the law, give it purpose, guide its evolution

      • Judicial process

        • Firm v. flexible rules

        • Slippery slope

        • Flood of litigation

      • Normative

        • Freedom of contract

        • Individual v. Altruism

      • Economic

        • Cost-benefit analysis


Example of Policy

  • Adverse possession forces real property owners to pay attention to uses of their property and benefits those who put real property to productive use.


Course Outline Content

  • Examples and non-examples of rules in factual context

    • Cases (including note cases)

      • Holding

        • Rule + dispositive facts

    • Hypotheticals that professors present in class


Course Outline Process

  • Starting point

    • Utilize your case book’s table of contents and/or course syllabus as templates for the major topics covered during the class

  • Next Step

    • For each topic, pool together pre-class notes, during class notes, post class notes, and readings from supplemental sources

  • Final Step

    • For each topic, synthesize rule structures


Starting Point: Table of Contents and/or Syllabus

  • If your professor proceeds sequentially through the case book, utilize the case book’s table of contents to structure your outline

  • If your professor “jumps around” sections of the case book, utilize the professor’s syllabus to structure your outline


Next step: Pool information

  • For each topic, pre-class, gather information from assigned and supplemental reading relevant to the topic you are studying

  • For each topic, during class, edit and add to the information you gathered pre-class

  • For each topic, post class, review the information gathered pre and during class:

    • Identify patterns and structures in the information

    • Identify gaps in the information

    • List questions about the information and create a plan for addressing them


Final Step: Synthesize Rule Structures

  • Generally legal synthesis requires inductive thought

    • Discern rule structures from a number of sources, each of which individually reveals only a portion of the rule’s structure

      • Inductive thinking derives general principles from specific cases and materials covered in case book and in class


Course Outline Process

  • Suggestions to improve your inductive thinking about cases

    • Know the purpose for reading the case

    • Reduce the case to 1-2 sentences that explain the law of the case in light of the facts and the purpose

    • Gather the 1-2 sentences from the cases together and make a cumulative list of the legal principles and policies related to the purpose for which you read the case

    • Discern form, structure, hierarchy among the principles and policies


Final Step: Synthesize Rule Structures

  • On occasion, information is delivered in a structured form

    • Need only record the structure of the rules, noting their development from general idea to more specific


Course Outline Forms

  • Traditional outline

  • Concept map

  • Timeline

  • Comparison chart

  • Comparison diagram

  • Flow chart


Review Presentation Objectives

  • Explain the purpose of a course outline

  • Discuss the content of a course outline

  • Suggest a process for creating a course outline

  • Suggest forms for course outlines


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