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Life of a Law Student, University of Houston Law Center

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Preparing for the first day…

By: Luke Gilman | Other Posts by
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Our opening assignment for the first day of class was the introductory topic of Field’s Civil Procedure. I found the material to be pretty straightforward, but imagining myself trying to provide some basic explanations, the kind of things I would imagine come up in socratic method, it’s a little overwhelming to get a glimpse of how much I don’t know, and what it means to really know the material.

My main task at this point, with only a vague idea of how to parse out the information, is to create a study methodology to test and refine this first week. I gave myself the afternoon to get through the 30 pages that were assigned and quickly realized that the time it takes to complete a task expands to fill whatever time you give it. Not the most efficient way to work.

I got through the material in an hour. I need to cut that in half and estimate about 30 seconds a page for an initial read through with moderate comprehension. I then wrote out a ‘triage list’ of tasks that I need to perform in order of their importance. My initial list:

  1. Initial Read-through
  2. Brief the cases (case info, facts, procedural history, issue(s), holding, the arguments of majority opinion and minority opinion)
  3. Define any new terms
  4. Identify any other footnoted cases referred to in the material *
  5. List out the lines of questioning that the case is likely to present
  6. Investigate backstory (details of the case beyond that contained in the brief, history of legislation in effect, how it came to be, etc.)
  7. Brainstorm interesting issues and ideas that might form the basis of research in the future

* I was warned more than once to pay as much attention to the footnotes as the text as they often spawn lines of discussion quite different than what one would expect from reading the main text alone.

Doing the brief was harder and more time consuming than I had anticipated. All the facts seem to have some significance, so it was hard to feel comfortable leaving anything out even though it was bloating into a three-page document. If I have any spare time at all I’m going to start briefing cases that appear in the next weeks worth of chapters just so I can get some practice in.

It will be interesting to see if any of this is of any value once we get through the first day.

I just found How to Brief a Case on LawNerds.com and it’s the most straightforward thing I’ve found so far.

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Category: civil procedure, law school, university of houston

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