[ Stephanie Baldwin, 2L at the University of Arizona ]
While everyone else is excited for Starbucks Red Cups… it is a signal that law school finals are coming… this means one thing… it’s time to outline. As 2Ls, we likely have our system set, and we know what we need… but I remember last year as a 1L feeling lost, even though I knew best practices from my law preview class. When it came to outlining, there were somethings that I just did not understand how to do effectively my first semester. I learned a lot from my first experience, and I did much better during my second semester. So 1Ls this blog is for you, and maybe it can help some 2Ls as well. Here are 4 tips to help you outline effectively.
1 → DO NOT WAIT UNTIL THANKSGIVING TO OUTLINE!!!
Yes folks, if you are reading this and you haven’t started your outline, you need to. Last year, Thanksgiving was this week, so we had a nice buffer to start working on completing our outlines. My school had midterms, so many of us already had outlines that just needed to be updated. Thanksgiving was a great time to work on updating these… Or starting them… cough… So… if you haven’t started, do it this weekend!!
2 → Understand HOW to use your outline
When I was a 1L… I saw my outline as a security blanket rather than a tool. I put so much on my outline that it was hard to use effectively. Part of this was because I did not practice with my outline enough, but really I didn’t fully comprehend that my outline was a tool to help me memorize the material and allow me to be very familiar with it. When I did use my outline on practice tests, my practice focused on how to use my outline efficiently, rather than how to answer the questions effectively. It sounds silly now, but It was so easy to get caught up in the process of answering, rather than mastering the material to create a good answer.
3 → Create an attack outline
This was perhaps the biggest difference between my first and second semesters. My outlines second semester all had an effective attack outline that had only the key components on them. Rather than using my big outline, I for the most part exclusively used an attack outline. The attack outline had just enough information to trigger my memory which enabled me to be able to write what I needed. An attack outline might just be a flowchart, the elements, or a bullet point of the needed cases per topic. It really is up to you, and you discover this through practice. Click here to view BARBRI’s suggested outlines.
4 → Practice with your outline
Here, practice tests can be your best friend. Most schools have a database of tests and if they do not, a quick google search will provide some examples. ALWAYS try to get practice exams from your professor. Practicing with your outline is good for a few reasons. It helps you learn the material, and this will allow you to go faster on test day. Additionally, practicing will help you decide what to have on your attack outline. Do you forget elements? Do you need a checklist to make sure you hit all of the cases? Has your professor walked you through the way they want questions answered? Practicing will help you see what you overlook and these are all great elements to include on your attack outline!
Best of luck! Remember to keep it simple, aim for understanding with a goal of mastery, and keep it simple! Do you have any recommendations for outlining? If so, let me know over @The2LLife on Instagram or Twitter.