Monday, September 21, 2015

Should law students stop briefing cases for class?

At a blog called The Law School Code, Professor Ozan Varol advises 1Ls that briefing cases for class is basically a waste of time since most of what they write is going to end up being incorrect anyway - at least in the beginning. Thus, students' time is much better spent getting a general overview of the material "at 30,000 feet," improving the quality of their class notes and finding more efficient strategies for summarizing the cases such as taking margin notes instead of writing "briefs." Professor Varol's acknowledges that not everyone should follow his advice because some students do in fact benefit by spending a lot of time polishing their case briefs as a way of prepping for class. But for most, Professor Varol thinks it's not a good use of their time since students aren't going to be tested on the quality of their case briefs. Though I agree with Professor Varol's point that 1Ls should not be mislead into thinking that refining their case briefs to a fare thee well is going to "count" toward their final grade (not directly anyway) - I disagree that it's not a worthwhile and very important exercise for them to engage in.  Only by putting forth great effort into briefing cases for class will students find out what they do and don't know.  Conscientious students will then spend time after class trying to figure out why their case briefs don't jibe with the professor's take on the material and that's where the rubber meets the road as far as deep learning and developing critical reading and thinking skills. I'm not entirely convinced that taking margins notes as suggested by Professor Varol can engage students as deeply as the time and effort it takes to dissect and reorganize each case into its component parts of facts, proceedings, holding, reasoning, etc. But hey, it's always good when someone challenges the status quo and maybe Professor Varol's approach will indeed be the best one for some students or at least they should try it to see if it helps them better understand the material compared to their present approach. 

You can read Professor Varol's complete post here.

Hat tip to JD Underground.


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