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Finals Are Coming!

Finals Are Coming! random

Law school wisdom says that your class outline will be your most effective tool when preparing for final exams. But, if you’re like many students, you may be having trouble organizing your class notes, case briefs, and reading highlights into a cohesive whole. You know that your outline must do more than just restate the facts to help you succeed.

When thoughtfully prepared, an outline should help you “connect the dots” to not only learn the law, but learn how to think like a lawyer.

When thoughtfully prepared, an outline should help you “connect the dots” to not only learn the law, but learn how to think like a lawyer. That way, when you’re looking at your exam booklet and pondering how to respond to a never-before-seen hypothetical, you’ll remember the black letter law, issue spot and analyze more effectively, and make a winning argument for how to apply the rules – and get a great grade.

Words to the Wise Before Getting Started

  1. Dig In.
    Maybe you’ve been working faithfully on your outline throughout the semester or are just getting started. Either way, you will need to constantly review and refine it to make your outline work harder for you. Typically, it’s helpful to outline as you finish each syllabus section or casebook chapter, or set aside time every week to commit thoughts to paper. Now is the time to make a plan and stick to it.
  2. Don’t Sweat the Length.
    Concerned that your initial outline seems too long? No worries, you can always pare it down as you refine concepts and memorize material. Many students follow the law of three: a first draft that includes hundreds of pages of notes, culled to a 30- 40-page outline, and further whittled to a 1- 2-page skeleton that can be easily memorized and reproduced during the exam for easy reference. Remember, you’re not going to be graded on your outline, only on whether it helps you ace the class.
  3. Start with Basic Concepts.
    Your casebook’s table of contents is the most logical place to begin. Juxtapose this information with your class syllabus to align your outline to your professor’s perspective. These concepts will comprise the top tier headings of your outline.
    Tip: If you bought a new red casebook through Casebook Connect, you can access the online ebook and outline tool at The outline tool automatically imports the highlights and notes you’ve made within your ebook into a template based on the table of contents to jumpstart the process.
  4. Add Rules, Cases, and Legal Policies.
    To create an effective study tool, your outline needs to incorporate both rules and cases under the topics where they are applicable. Rules make up the framework of the law, and can be found within the cases you’ve been studying. Cases demonstrate how the legal rules have been applied, setting precedent. Once you’ve established the underpinnings of this black letter law, it’s time to weave in the policies that bring the rules to life and establish parameters for how they might be applied.
  5. Don’t Forget Hypotheticals.
    Your professor has been using hypotheticals throughout your course to get you to think about how rules might be applied to fact patterns that deviate in some way from those found in your cases. Be sure to include the hypos covered and a brief synopsis of the arguments that followed. Master this material and it will help you learn to think on your feet during the final exam.
  6. Get Expert Counsel.
    Whether you struggle with outlining or find that it comes easily to you, it still pays to check your work. Many students find the Emanuel Law Outlines to be tremendously helpful in supporting their understanding of the law. ELOs can illustrate an effective framework for organizing an outline, help clarify difficult concepts, and serve as a reference to ensure key points are not overlooked. As the end of the semester nears, students also appreciate the Quiz Yourself feature, Exam Tips, and Essay Exam Questions and Answers when studying for finals.