Go commercial? Ask upperclassmen? Create your own?

Outlines. Outlines. Outlines.

It’s all everyone seems to be talking about … but what exactly is a law school outline? Place the emphasis here on “law school” because how you approached your outlines during undergrad won’t compare as to what you’re about to embark on this first semester of law school. As a baseline, your law school outlines are essentially study guides for each of your 1L courses. There are a couple of ways to get started.

  • You can invest in ready-to-use commercial outlines. For example, you get free 1L outlines when you sign up for the BARBRI’s free 1L Mastery study tools. These outlines will, at the very least, help spring board your own process and help fill in the substantive gaps from what you’ve read in textbooks and casebooks and heard from your professors in class.
  • You can also ask 2L and 3L students to pass them down to you. Law school is known for being competitive and your effort to lobby upperclassmen may not work — but you might get lucky. Finally, there’s the art of doing it all on your own. Blank slate, roll up your sleeves and put in the time.

Whatever works best for you, do that. Not necessarily just one way or another. Cover all your options. For example, get your hands on a commercial outline and then see if an upperclassmen will share their old outline for the same course. Now you can work with both to build your own robust outline for the final exam.

Additional, important tips to remember.

  • Try to make your own outlines first. While commercial outlines and upperclassman outlines are helpful, they should be used primarily as supplements while making your own. And by creating your own outline, you are able to review the material while working it into a format that makes sense for you. If you’re stuck on something, then simply refer to the commercial outline. This goes back to filling in any substantive gaps.
  • Don’t procrastinate. It’s definitely easier said than done. Even if you are only able to tackle one section of your outline at a time, it’s better than waiting until the last minute.
  • Ask for help. No, your professor will probably not review your outline with you. However, they will probably answer specific questions. If you start early, you can go see your professor during office hours to discuss and clarify any material before the madness of final exams begins.
  • Use resources available to you. You might consider signing up for the free BARBRI 1L Mastery study tools, which come with online, on-demand video lectures for all 1L courses. This is another extremely helpful way to supplement your class notes. Also, check out the books in your law school’s library. There are bound to be some type of supplemental materials available to you there, as well.