GUEST BLOG By Shaun Sanders,
3L at Chapman University’s Dale E. Fowler School of Law
Like many law students, I was encouraged to avoid using supplements and create my own outlines.
Admirable as that may be, it is not how I learn. I learn by triangulating information from multiple sources. In an ideal world, the supplements I use would be from the same book, professor, and class that I am taking. The world is obviously not ideal… if it were, I would be too busy sitting on a beach in my underwear to write this blog post.
When it comes to supplements, I have nearly literally tried them all. Through networking and some Craigslist luck, I acquired about $4,000 in supplements from various graduates in my area. Supplements can be great to break down more complicated topics/concepts, but they don’t help much when it comes to a specific class. So what’s a law student to do?
1. Outline Banks
Chances are you have clubs on your campus. Some clubs, like APALSA, lead the pack when it comes to comprehensive outline banks with extensive collections of notes for just about every class/professor combination at your school. Law Reviews and journals also provide some pretty great resources, but may be harder to get your foot in the door (so to speak).
2. Find the Top Students and Ask
I am pretty generous when it comes to my outlines, but it requires 1L and 2L’s to take the initiative to ask me. In fact, the best outlines I have come across were ones that I asked for specifically from top-ranked students. If you don’t know how to find those students, try checking CALI.org.
Aside from being a fantastic resource in general for studying, CALI.org is home of the “CALI Award,” which is an award provided to the top student of every class for just about every law school in the country. Once you locate your school on their website’s CALI Award section, find the semester prior to yours and locate the name of the student who received the highest grade — then get to know them.
3. Online Communities
Most people are aware of forums like Top-Law-Schools.com, but I’ve found that smaller communities are much more helpful. Reddit.com has a section dedicated to law students (/r/lawschool) and, if you are a member there, then you can qualify for their secret/private Law School Outlines section which provides some of the highest quality, curated outlines you will get your hands on.
Do you know boolean? You should. You don’t need to be a pro at how to use advanced search qualifiers for Google, but there are some important ones that can make your life easier.
First: “site:[SITE HERE]”
The “site:” qualifier limits a google search to a specific website. This can be helpful for all sorts of things. For example, say you are trying to crowdsource some information for your scholarly writing assignment. Something like “site:reddit.com “topic name”” will isolate your search to Reddit’s community of somewhat-peer-reviewed comments, articles, and links. It can be a great way to generate sources to investigate, etc.
Second: “filetype:pdf” or “filetype:doc”
Example: filetype:pdf Torts Outline
Outlines generally come in either PDF or Word Document form. Thus, telling Google to only search for those types of documents will increase your odds of finding a legitimate outline for free.
Third: “intitle:[Search Term]”
Example: intitle:”Tort Outline”
The “intitle” qualifier restricts your search to the title of a document, which can really help you narrow down your search.
Putting it all together requires a bit of common sense. Let’s say, for example, I am looking for a good Constitutional Law outline. I need to try to think of terms that will likely be found inside of a con law outline. Even if I know nothing of the subject, a simple google search will tell me that one of the most iconic cases from con law is Roe v. Wade and some unique terms for the class are “due process” and “privileges and immunities.”
Knowing this, I can create the following search string:
Roe AND “due process” AND “privileges and immunities”
In layman’s terms, this search string will look for any WORD document with “OUTLINE” in its title that contains the words ROE, DUE PROCESS, and PRIVILEGES AND IMMUNITIES. Popping it into Google results in almost 500 outlines.
At this point, I would likely try to refine the search by including more words and case names that come from my book until I narrow it down to only a handful of really on-point outlines.