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RGANIZING:. Many Methods, One Goal. Reasons to Organize. To learn course content Organizing forces a focus on content that increases recall of material Grouping cases helps Deepen understanding of concepts Build associational connections to increase memory

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many methods one goal


Many Methods, One Goal

reasons to organize
Reasons to Organize
  • To learn course content
    • Organizing forces a focus on content that increases recall of material
    • Grouping cases helps
      • Deepen understanding of concepts
      • Build associational connections to increase memory
  • To highlight analysis process
    • Drawing attention to legal rules
    • Providing context for legal arguments for analysis and application to new fact patterns
  • To prepare for exams
    • Emphasizing thoroughness of analysis in exams
    • Increasing speed in writing exams
choosing a format
Choosing a Format
  • Start with what has worked for you in past courses.
  • Experiment with other methods to see if they facilitate analysis and application.
  • ‘To Outline’ is code for ‘To Organize’
    • Outlines are one way to organize, but not useful for everyone.
    • Flow charts emphasize analysis
    • Decision trees use questions to aid analysis
    • Diagrams can reveal relationships among and within concepts
    • Summary and synthesis statements put the big picture into words
  • Use a structure that simplifies understanding, emphasizes analysis, and aids memory and application.
preliminary questions
Preliminary Questions
  • What do you want to accomplish?
    • Conceptualize material
    • Develop an analysis tool for legal problem solving
    • Increase speed
  • Which organizing structure meets each goal?
    • You may use more than one
    • The structure should assist recall and analysis skills.
  • Is it more efficient to use an outline created by someone who knows more than I?
    • NO! Making it is a huge part of the value
    • Do use table of contents, syllabus, or similar materials to provide an initial framework or to stimulate ideas
organizing to conceptualize
Organizing to Conceptualize
  • Main Topics
    • Identify the main topics in the course:
      • Look at table of contents of book or syllabus to identify these.
      • Usually there are no more than 5-9 main topics.
    • Look for:
      • How the topics are similar and different
      • What distinguishes each topic and what types of factual situations would trigger use of each
    • How do the main topics relate to each other
      • Can they occur together?
      • Are any topics mutually exclusive?
      • Is there an order among topics such that one or some should be analyzed before others?
    • It may be helpful to create a diagram or drawing to examine the relationships of topics to each other

before structuring your organizing tool.

  • Make a list of all legal principles, rules, questions, public policy issues, and terms.
  • Group these using each main topic as a category.
  • Within each category sort and include case examples to help remember applications and arguments.
  • Put in an order that reflects what you need

to know to analyze a new set of facts.

creating a tool to guide problem solving
Creating a Tool to Guide Problem Solving
  • Remember, the goal of any guide for problem solving is to assist in legal analysis and in applying rules to facts
  • You may want to include:
    • Legal tests and rules (don’t over-simplify)
    • Questions to ask of facts to test for elements of legal rules (don’t stop with clear statements, identify any legal tensions)
    • Case examples for arguments and counter arguments
    • Public policy oriented questions and arguments
    • Terms, standards, or criteria used by professor in class discussion

Examples of Different Structures

**CAVEAT – The following material provides general examples. These are not intended to teach course content. Use only the material presented or assigned by your professor.


practical questions for creating a flow chart or decision tree
Practical Questions for Creating a Flow Chart or Decision Tree
  • What is a flowchart or decision tree?
    • These are ways to organize material. A flow chart points out the sequence of steps in applying course material. A decision tree sets up questions that can usually be answered with a yes or no. The answers lead a person through analysis steps.
  • Why would I create one?
    • Some students like to express steps of legal analysis steps in graphic form.
  • Is it a substitute for an outline?
    • It can be – but it can also be an enhancement of parts of an outline.
  • What if I don’t learn visually?
    • You may want to stick with another format.
  • What software can I use?
    • Word processing programs usually have a format.
    • I like a program called Inspiration – you can check it out at
    • Stop by the office and we can talk more!


Creating a Flowchart


Created by Ruta Stropus, DePaul Law School

Go with

the analysis


ContractsSample - “Brainstorm” Sheet

List rules/key words/phrasesPromissory EstoppelOfferContractAcceptanceConsiderationCommunication - knowledge of offer VoidVoidable Certainty of termsCommitment/promiseTermination

Created by Ruta Stropus, DePaul Law School



ContractsSample organization of rules/key words/phrases

I. Requirements for contractA. Offer1. Commitment/promise2. Certainty of Terms 3. Communication 4.TerminationB. ConsiderationC. AcceptanceD. Promissory EstoppelII. Is contract valid? A. Void B. Voidable


Created by Ruta Stropus, DePaul Law School



ContractsSample organization of rules/key words/phrases

I. Requirements for contractA. Offer1. Commitment/promise2. Certainty of Terms 3. Communication 4.TerminationB. ConsiderationC. AcceptanceD. Promissory EstoppelII. Is contract valid? A. Void B. Voidable


Created by Ruta Stropus, DePaul Law School



Contracts Sample Flowchart 1

Go with

the analysis

Created by Ruta Stropus, DePaul Law School



Contracts - Sample Flowchart 2

Created by Ruta Stropus, DePaul Law School



ContractsSample Analytic Outline

Step 1 - Is there an offer? Look to see if all of the following elements exist:1. Commitment/promise2. Certainty of Terms 3. Communication* make sure the offer has not been terminated!Step 2 - Has the offer been accepted? 1. If yes - then we have a contract 2. If no then try to enforce using promissory estoppelStep 3 - Is there consideration?Step 4 - Make sure the contract is valid Look to see if it is 1. Automatically Void and/or 2. Voidable by one of the parties

Go with

the analysis

Created by Ruta Stropus, DePaul Law School


mapping contracts
Mapping Contracts






(Promise to do or not do something definite, communicated to offeree)


Clearly not offer

Clear offer











which organizing method do you prefer
Which organizing method do you prefer?
  • Get into groups of like types.
  • Outlining
  • Flow Charting
  • Decision Trees
  • Mapping/Flash Cards
organize use and revise
Organize, Use, and Revise
  • Try out any or all methods to organize your materials analytically.
  • Apply your organizing product or problem-solving tool to a problem
  • Use the following contracts problem to test your work
  • If you needed more materials to answer the problem, add them.
  • If you can re-work your organization to make it more analytic and more useful as a problem-solving tool, make those changes.
  • Apply your revised problem-solving tool to a different problem and evaluate its usefulness.
  • As you organize, use, and revise your problem-solving tool, you will be learning your course material. You will also be learning to take law exams.
  • Sally hated the Tar Heel lottery, telling everyone who would listen that she was philosophically opposed to it. Sally’s Uncle Urk loved playing the lottery and was always trying to convince Sally that it was harmless, exciting fun. One Thursday, when the pot had grown to $40 million, payable in twenty annual $2 million installments, Urk called Sally saying, “Since tomorrow’s drawing coincides with your birthday, I’m going to buy you $50 worth of lottery tickets, so you’ll see how much fun it is to play the lottery. I’ll mail you a check today, but you have to spend it on lottery tickets.” Sally grumbled, but said “O.K.”
  • That evening, she told her friend Fred , also a lottery enthusiast, about the conversation. Fred insisted that if she were ever to play the lottery, she should do it immediately, while the pot was so big. He also said he had developed a system for picking numbers that was “bound to pay off, soon.” Saying she was afraid to be seen buying lottery tickets, Sally held out $50 to Fred saying, “If you’ll go fill out the cards and buy the tickets for me, I’ll give you twenty percent.” “Twenty percent?” Fred said standing up and grinning, If I pick the numbers, I get half!” They both chuckled as he took the cash and went out the door.
  • Adding $10 of his own, Fred bought sixty tickets. He took them all back to Sally’s house saying he would come back the next evening to watch the drawing with her. He said he would pick out his tickets from the pile just before the drawing. “That’s when my psychic powers are the greatest!”
  • The next evening, on his way to Sally’s, Fred’s car was rammed in the rear by a pimply-face eighteen year old driving his mother’s two million pound car. Fred was not badly hurt, but he never made it to Sally’s. Just before the drawing, seeing that Fred had not arrived, Sally separated the tickets into two groups – one group of twenty (designating them as the ten that Fred bought for himself, plus 20% of her fifty tickets), and the other group of forty (designating them as hers).
  • As luck (meaning the inventor of this tale) would have it, the winning ticket was in the pile of forty. When Fred called to say he was in the hospital, Sally screamed, “I won, I won! You picked the winning number, and it was one of mine! I don’t know how I’ll ever thank you.”
  • Befuddled, Fred said, “I know how you can thank me – by giving me my half of the winnings.” Saying she owed Fred nothing, Sally hung up, and her friendship with Fred has never been the same.
  • On Saturday, Sally received a letter from Urk, saying, “I’ve decided not to buy you the lottery tickets. It would be unfair of me to try to undermine your principles in such a crass way.”


A(1). Fred sues Sally seeking, in the alternative, fifty percent, twenty percent, or one-sixth of her winnings. He puts forth all viable theories in support of each claim, and Sally defends each to the hilt. What results are reasonably likely? Explain fully.

A(2). Sally sues Urk for $50. What results are reasonably likely? Explain fully.


Suppose that after Fred’s suit was filed, Sally received her first $2 million installment. She went to Fred’s house and found him watching the lottery drawing on TV with a number of their mutual friends. She said to him, “Look, I feel terrible about all of this, and I miss your friendship. You may have some moral claim to a share of my winnings, but what you’re asking is ridiculous. Tell you what, if you’ll drop the lawsuit, I’ll pay you $50,000 a year for the next five years. Here’s the first payment.” She held out a check for $50,000 made out to Fred. Fred said, “Well, O.K. I’ve missed you, too.” Fred took the check, and their friends cheered. That evening, they all celebrated; Fred bought the pizza.

The next week, Sally received her endorsed but undeposited check in the mail with a note from Fred saying he couldn’t bring himself to sell out so cheaply.

Sally has based a defense to Fred’s suit on these facts, to which numerous friends willingly testify. Analyze fully.

part a 1 f sues s



Part A(1) F sues S



  • Contract? Intent to be legally bound? Friends, laughter, etc
  • Claim for 20%, or 50%; key is agreement – offer & accept.
      • S’s 20% proposal clear offer.
      • F’s response re 50%: serious rejection & counteroffer or meaningless joke? Facts important.
      • If joke, does S’s offer continue? Probably. She lets him take the $ without comment. By taking the $ and performing, F accepts.
      • If S has reason to know of serious counter offer, letting gF take the $ is probably an acceptance. Facts important here re objective manifestation of intent
  • Indefiniteness: Percentage of tickets or proceeds? [Possible mutual mistake as to basic fact.]
      • Can breach be determined? Remedy fashioned? If not, no contract.
      • Seems proper for S to segregate tix in F’s absence – implied reasonable term. Depends on importance of F’s exercise of psychic power. Does S have knowledge here based on prior relationship?
  • F’s claim for 1/6th: Restitution.
      • Two possibilities for benefit conferred:
        • Supply ten added tickets may have increased S’s odds of winning, but S segregated them out, so maybe no benefit received.
        • Picking the numbers – service rendered.
        • Question: value of benefit? 1/6th? Something else?
      • Assuming benefit, enrichment unjust? Probably. Clearly, no officiousness; compensation expected.
        • Number selection clearly not provided as a gift
        • Added tix not intended as a gift




part a 2 s sues urk
Part A(2) S Sues Urk

1. Key: promise to send $50 enforceable?

  • Family promise, may not be intended to bind.

2. Two possible bases for enforcement.

  • Consideration. Question: use of $ to buy tix sought in exchange? Turns on motive. Facts important.
  • Promissory estoppel: did Urk have reason to know she would rely before receiving the $50? Can injustice be avoided only through enforcement? She may be rich, but she is $50 poorer. Facts important




part b s defends on basis of conversation re 50k per year
Part B. S defends on basis of conversation re $50K per year



  • Clear offer for accord.
  • Agreement reached?
      • Offer seek a promise or performance? Indifferent?
      • Did B accept by saying O.K.? (probably) by endorsing?
  • Accord enforceable?
      • F’s forbearance of claim held in good faith is g/e thing. Clearly sought by S.
      • Pre-existing duty rule does not invalidate S’s promise if within the range of dispute. She admits to F’s moral claim. Is this relevant? Is 1/80th of her winnings below that? Is her offer coercive?
  • Statute of frauds satisfied?
      • Contract clearly not performable in one year.
      • Memo requirement satisfied? Two possibilities: signature on check on F’s note.
          • Note seems to admit agreement, and check is evidence of amount.
          • 5 year term missing, but lots of credible testimony available.




Organizing class notes, briefs, study group notes, illustrative problems, etc. by themes and by using analytic frameworks helps identify the relationships among the details of course materials that create a conceptual big picture.

Organizing before exams helps students spot exam issues. The big picture then ‘unpacks’ so that application and analysis on each issue have sufficient depth. An organizing framework, along with the specific order of questions asked and the chronology of the fact pattern, helps organize exam answers.