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Creating Good Outlines. Professor Michael Seigel University of Florida Levin College of Law. Overview. Process End Product Use Example. Process. Read for class Brief/Highlight cases and materials Attend class and take MEANINGFUL notes

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creating good outlines

Creating Good Outlines

Professor Michael Seigel

University of Florida

Levin College of Law

  • Process
  • End Product
  • Use
  • Example
  • Read for class
  • Brief/Highlight cases and materials
  • Attend class and take MEANINGFUL notes
  • Review and annotate notes at end of day before reading for next class
  • Weekly: work on OUTLINE
why outline
Why Outline?
  • Although we all learn differently, most of us benefit from collecting and organizing material into written form
  • The process of outlining is as important as the actual end result, if not more so – FOR THIS REASON, DO NOT RELY SIMPLY ON READING COMMERCIAL, LAW REVIEW, OR OTHER THIRD PARTY OUTLINES
  • The outline becomes your roadmap through the material, either to help you memorize for closed-book exams or for use during open-book exams
do i have to
Do I Have To?
  • I don’t know of any successful law student who does not outline course material, though some might exist.
  • First semester is probably NOT the time to see if you’re “special.”
  • There is no shortcut to the hard work in law school.
getting started
Getting Started
  • Organization of Outline
    • Might be obvious from notes
    • Could use book’s table of contents for guide
    • If course is rule or statute based, these might be source of organization
    • Could look to third party outline as a guide
  • To start, black letter law that you will use to spot and analyze issues on the exam
  • You must know BLL cold before walking into the classroom for the exam
  • Clearly note areas of gray and arguments either way
  • Make sure you conform to professor’s way of conceptualizing the law
level of detail
Level of Detail
  • Outline should be precise, and written to the level of detail matching course
  • Unless Professor tells you otherwise, case names and facts are not super important; it is the HOLDINGS you are weaving into a series of RULES and EXCEPTIONS
  • Include reminders about tricky issues that might pop up
  • Specify places where law is not clear (opportunities to argue both sides)
level of detail con t
Level of Detail, Con’t
  • Write down “key language” from the cases
  • Write down the important “X-Part tests”
  • Include the law from the various jurisdictions studied, given professor’s preferences
  • Include “key language” and “key concepts” from class discussion
what should it look like
What should it look like?
  • Neatly typed
  • Highlights
  • Tabs
  • Charts
  • Roadmaps
  • Written-in comments and additions
how long
How Long?
  • Not too long – it must be SUMMARY and SYNTHESIS of material
  • Not too short – it must be COMPREHENSIVE of BLL that could appear on the exam
  • Perhaps 40-50 pages??
how do i know if it s good
How do I know if it’s Good?
  • Study group: are discussion issues covered by your outline?
  • Practice tests – was the outline helpful?
  • Practice tests – does the outline lead to correct answers?
  • Practice tests – does the outline help issue-spotting?
outline of outline
Outline of Outline
  • Next step: CONDENSE your outline into a “mini-outline” or even a “checklist” of important issues
  • This becomes your reference for spotting issues on the exam
  • Suggestion: FOR CLOSED BOOK exam, memorize checklist and write it down BEFORE READING QUESTIONS
example from criminal law
Example from Criminal Law
  • Actusreus – voluntary action required before there can be crime, CL & MPC § 2.01(1)
    • Is a material element of the crime, CL & MPC §§ 1.13(9)(i) and 1.13(10)
    • Def of Voluntary, CL & MPC § 2.01(2):
      • Conscious bodily movement, including habits
      • Does not include:
        • Reflex or convulsion (e.g. seizure)
        • Movement during unconsciousness or sleep
sample outline con t
Sample Outline, con’t
    • Which voluntary action counts?
      • Move back in time, can always find vol action
      • TEST:
        • Must coincide with mensrea
        • Is the action morally wrong?
        • Is the action the one the legislature was trying to deter?
  • Omissions
      • Rule: Generally, failure to act is not a crime; not required to be Good Samaritan
sample outline con t1
Sample Outline, con’t
  • Why?
    • Americans like freedom
    • Line-drawing problem
    • Don’t want to discourage GS-ism by putting burden on folks for “not doing enough”
  • Exceptions
    • Contractual relationship (babysitter)
    • Etc.
    • Etc.
    • Etc.