When I entered law school as a working professional, I anticipated piles of case readings or assignments from law professors. I knew I had to do something to digest case readings faster and more efficiently.
Some professors “showered” us with case readings (Lol). Others would assign few ones, but were actually 100+ pages each.
To make things worse, I have to work while studying law. As such, I have very limited time to study.
Quantity vs. Quality
“Should I digest more cases or understand more of them?”
Like me, I know you’ve asked this question a number of times.
Whenever I would “digest more”, I often had sacrificed the substance of my case digest. I’d type or write as many case digests as I could, thinking it is enough to carry me through my recitations.
On the other hand, I always ended up not finishing my assigned case readings whenever I’d spend so much time digging in the details, the parties to the case, the issues, arguments, etc., alotting so much time on a few cases or even getting stuck in some of them.
Little did I realize that I should have balanced doing both. It took me a lot of bad cold calls/recitations to realize this painful yet worthwhile learning.
To do something about this, I devised ways on how to digest faster without compromising my understanding of them.
Digest case readings faster and more efficiently through these practical steps
If you have gone this far in this blog post, it just means you are determined as I had been in increasing the efficiency of your case digesting pace. So, without further ado, let me share with you some of the tricks I use to digest most, if not all, of the case readings assigned to our class.
Spread your study hours throughout the week and chunk your case readings
You don’t have to digest everything in one sitting. Most often than not, it helps to chunk your case readings and spread out your reading/study time throughout the week.
What I do is I’ll group the cases in my syllabus into days when I’ll be more free from work and be more able to allot more time to read and study. In the beginning, it will make you feel as if you are not reading and digesting enough number of cases. But eventually, you will notice that you are actually reading and digesting more cases than you would when you do it all in one day.
To illustrate, allow me to show you my sample case reading schedule. Please note that I only go to law school every weekends and study the entire day for each. If you are a full-time student and looking into adopting this pattern, you may increase the number of your case readings according to the number of hours you think you can read them. (I have limited number of hours since government work is toxic and draining.)
Also, please note that not all of my professors assign a gazillion of cases. Lol.
To aid you in scheduling your case readings, you may want to try these simple yet easy to use law school productivity templates that I made. Feel free to download them, my friend!
Use Ctrl + F to read and digest case readings faster
I did and so should you.
Kidding aside, I never realized how important this computer function is in my life until I took up Sales. Although my professor in this subject is considerate and professional in dealing with his students (no sarcasms and all that), he nonetheless assigns tons of [long] cases. You know how it is when you read civil law cases — you have so many issues to deal with.
To be able to find the issues and doctrines you’re looking for without straining your eyes and drowning in a sea of words, there has to be a little shortcut that you have to use.
And that’s where Ctrl + F comes in.
By using this function to search keywords relevant to your study (example: pacto de retro sale), you will have a view of which section/s of the case document said keyword appears. Consequently, this makes it easier for you to identify the specific paragraph to read and focus on.
Check the decision before reading the entire case
While it is important to read the entire case in studying the law, it won’t hurt to use a little strategy to make it more practicable. So, another technique I’ve learned was to read first the decision.
The decision contains the doctrines and bases of law used by the Supreme Court in ruling upon the case. More notably, this part contains the application of the law on the facts of the case. Thus, this portion would necessarily contain the material facts you will need to come up with a concise and informative case digest.
Get the material facts only
You don’t have to write every piece of information you find in the case. In writing case digests, one must stick on the material facts, or those that relate to the controversy in the case and are indispensable to its resolution. These facts are most often mentioned in the decision of the case.
Pluck only the issues relevant to your study
Each case contains different issues. It may have ones pertaining to criminal law, administrative law, civil law, or all of them. In order not to be overwhelmed, you have to determine which of these issues is valuable and relates to the legal provision under which the case readings were assigned.
Identify the doctrine and its application on the case
Finally, after performing the preceding steps, you may now focus on the Court’s ruling in the case.
Our professors assign case readings under a specific topic or legal provisions because these readings help us to have better understanding of the application of the law. Cases readings illustrate the application of legal provisions on specific sets of facts and/or circumstances. This way, should we encounter a similar situation — hypothetical or in our future law practice — we would easily identify the law, rules, or regulations applicable thereto.
Compile your case digests
How I wish I realized this sooner!
Now that I’m in my fourth year of law studies, I couldn’t emphasize enough the need to compile case digests.
Majority of the cases readings professor discuss during your senior law school year include previous ones assigned to you during your early law school years. So, it is but prudent to make printed or digital collections of your case digests.
Even at this point that I’m already in my senior year, I still endeavor to compile my case digests. Good thing, I thought of starting a digitized collection of my case digests two years ago. This way, I don’t have to be re-typing or re-writing all my case notes.
As they say, it’s better late than never.
Get yourself to digest case readings faster and more efficiently
Making case digests is not and will never be a favorite law school task for most of us. Hence, may you find these tips helpful in making your case digest sessions more efficiently and bearable.
Share this article with a fellow law student to help them digest case readings faster
Feel free to share this post to your law school friends. They might get the much needed boost from these tips.
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