A good law outline is a necessity in order for you to internalize the law. Law outlines are the sine qua non to a full understanding of the law and the process of making a custom outline will dramatically aid in the memorization of the law. Those students who have and know how to use a good law outline will do significantly better than a student without a good law outline.
Not all the law you need to know is discussed or reviewed in class. Thus, good law outlines introduce you to that law and ensure that it is part of your exam writing preparation and memorization.
The main purpose of class is to teach you the application of the law. Law classes are very similar to a chemistry lab. The cases are the experiments. The students and the professor apply rules of law to the facts presented and discuss the results to help the student achieve the ability to apply law to facts. You are expected to have already studied the applicable law and know it dead cold. You are in class to learn how to apply the law. You are not there to do a comprehensive review of the law on a particular subject. Thus relying on class discussions alone to create a good law outline is a serious mistake.
You can purchase a law outline from a good commercial publisher. You have to learn the law but you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. A good law outline or hornbook will help you learn the law.
Hornbooks are without a doubt the way to go but do you really have 26 hours in a day to take the time to learn the law by reinventing the wheel? With 1000’s of pages and convoluted legal talk, you just don’t have the time to become an “expert.” Further, most of the idiomatic concepts presented in hornbooks are presented for academics and not for the naive law student who is just learning them and needs these concepts explained in more absolute terms of black and white instead of massive shades of gray.
Good law outlines circumvent the difficulties in learning the law from hornbooks. A law outline will explain idiomatic concepts in easy to understand language. Such a law outline will also relate these explanations to the legalese used by professors and lawyers to present the terms. It is all about saving time, which is at a serious premium for a 1L law student. You need to learn and grasp concepts quickly with the least amount of confusion.
You need to memorize the law. Hornbooks are very useful in helping you with areas of the law that present special problems for you, but they are useless as a tool for memorizing the law. A good law outline can be of enormous help in memorizing the law and in learning the application of the law. Some are formatted to allow you to memorize the information efficiently.
A Law Outline makes Memorizing the Law Less Difficult.
Choosing a good law outline is a personal process that depends on how you respond to memorization and how you learn things. Objective rules do apply even if you learn by hearing or sight or by example. Selecting a law outline to impress the professor with your class participation is a complete waste of time. Grades in law school do not depend on class participation. Impress the professor with your exam work product and not by sucking up during class. A law outline deals with all the law you need to memorize and not with the nuances of idiomatic applications of the law. Get your priorities in order and if you absolutely need to be the class king or queen by all means good luck.
The self-professed legal geniuses and experts tell you to create a law outline from scratch and solely from class discussion. Classes only go over 60% of the law. Plus do you really think that reinventing the wheel is a good idea? Would it not be better to quickly modify a commercial law outline and immediately start to memorize and learn the law for exam writing?
Perhaps, what the professors and other law students really mean to say is get a law outline that you can easily customize to cover the extra areas that your professor fails to cover.
A good law outline covers all the law and is not 800 pages.
Only the best useful law outlines ensure that they cover all the law in hornbooks and equate their lay explanation of the law with complex idiomatic terms. These outlines give you a basic format that is good or easily modified for memorization and make it easy to customize their work product for your class.
Most important is to get a law outline that is on computer so you don’t have to waste a lot of time retyping or adding information. A custom law outline is the goal but you really want to spend most of your time memorizing the law outline and not in creating the law outline. So modification of a digital law outline to a custom one is the way to save the most time.
Once you have decided on a law outline it is best to customize the information in a format that you like and is easy for you to memorize.