Torts Evening - Fall 2007
Professor Ralph Brill
Course Information
Course Information

 

AFTER CLASS SAME DAY OR EVENING: Now is the time to fill in your class notes, while the class discussion is still fresh in your mind. Now is the time to correct case briefs. If you don't, when you come back weeks later to review the material, you will not remember that you got the wrong holding, or missed some significant facts, or overlooked some crucial reasoning. Now, while it is so fresh, is the time to actually master the material covered. Think about what was covered. Explain it to yourself. Actually, the best thing you can do is to call your mother and tell her what you learned in class. Or talk into a tape recorder and do the same. The idea is that if you can explain it to someone, even yourself via tape recording, you have mastered it. The knowledge one has in her/his head is of no use unless you can communicate it to someone. If you can communicate it now, it will be easier to recapture later when reviewing. And ultimately, you will have to communicate it to someone, on an exam, or on the bar exam.

PERIODICALLY: Every few weeks, you should go back and review chunks of the course. For example, when you finish a discrete unit, such as the Intentional Torts, go back and review all of the material covered during those few weeks. Write an outline of the material now. Excuse the cliches, but you need to realize that there is a forest, not just a bunch of trees. And one more, you need to see the big picture. For one thing, the authors and your professor usually have chosen to break larger concepts into smaller parts for teaching purposes, covering one chunk at a time. But they all add up to some larger concept, and it is necessary to put the parts together to see the whole. Also, some things covered later will relate to things already covered, and you need to go back to the earlier parts to modify or clarify what you then learned, to put it all together.

Most students find preparing an OUTLINE the best way to review. But again, everyone learns differently. Learning is highly individualized. Some people are visual learners; some aural; some have to write everything out. Some are very formal thinkers, some free flowing. Some learn best from flow charts. You need to experiment to see what method is best for you .... what's most suitable to your method of thinking ... to your method of organizing. The goal is to gain a complete understanding of the various views of the rules of law, their underlying rationales, and the ability to logically apply these rules to new fact situations.

Obviously, there are commercial outlines available. Some of these are written by law professors, and are quite good. But it is very important that you only use them to help you prepare a set of materials that will help you master the subject matter, and not as substitute for your own attempts. If you try to use a commercial outline as your exclusive method of studying, you once again will be forced to adapt yourself to some other person's organization, and words. You will spend your time trying to understand their methods and explanations. You will be much better served by trying to master the material yourself. To practice law, you will need to be able to competently analyze facts and determine what legal issues they raise, research the law that will be applicable, read statutes and cases and determine their applicability or inapplicability, synthesize the cases and statutes, and reason from them to predicting the results in your case or as a basis for arguing the merits of your case. You can't do these things if you don't learn how to do them in law school. You won't learn them as well or as quickly if you attempt to short-cut by trying to use other people's analyses, reasoning, synthesis of materials.