Outlines are an important part of law school for many students. By your second year of law school you'll have already learned some important lessons about the effective use and production or procurement of outlines. However, before simply duplicating your 1L process you might consider how differences in materials and procedures might cause you to change your 2L outline strategy. The following article provides an overview of considerations when planning how to handle 2L course outlines.
Now More Than Ever Before
If anything, 2L outlines are more useful and important than they were in your first year. The first year of law school typically covers the basics. All law students take courses that set out the general principles of criminal law, constitutional law, contracts, and other basic legal topics. 2L study, by comparison, typically involves a lot of advanced study and elective courses.
An outline can be helpful when studying the most basic and familiar areas of law. This is doubly so when you are learning advanced material or the particulars of a specialized branch of law. In addition, there tends to be an increase in take-home and open book exams after the first year of law school. If you are allowed to use your own materials while taking an exam, then you'll benefit from having an effective outline.
Buying and Trading Outlines
You may be tempted to purchase commercially produced 2L outlines, or trade them with your study group. While this can be useful, particularly when it is done to ensure that your personally-produced outline is complete, there are some considerations that should prevent you from making this your only study material.
Commercial outlines are produced without regard for your course's particulars. While basic courses nearly always cover the same limited amount of information; the advanced and elective courses that are more common in the second year of law school tend have a much higher degree of variability. A commercial outline may miss your professor or core text's focus on a particular case or topic.
2L outlines produced by a study group will be more specific to your course, but there are other problems associated with relying upon another student's work. If they have misunderstood an aspect of the law you'll be adopting their misunderstandings along with their outline's benefits. Once again, you needn't avoid study group outlines or exam banks altogether, but they will be most effective if used as a supplement to your own outline.
Constructing an outline is a useful study practice regardless of the quality or availability of other outlines. For many students, the outline itself has little use. Constructing the outline, however, involves the organization and simplification of the entire course's material. Doing so is a highly effective way to ensure that you understand the class and will improve your test scores.
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Completing law school and starting your career as a lawyer will involve a lot of important decisions. You'll need to make a plan to study, pass exams, take the bar, and look for your first job. Return to FindLaw for Law Students frequently for articles on these and other topics of interest to help you chart your course through school and beyond.