A couple of comments and I'll let you get back to Facebook. I wrote Law School Labyrinth- A Guide to Making the Most of Your Legal Education (Kaplan Publishing, March 31, 2009) because the entire time I was in law school I suspected that some students had an advantage. They just seemed to understand what was going on and what they needed to do to graduate on top. These students weren't any more intelligent than anyone else. But they were definitely more savvy. They understood the game. They knew that first-year law school grades were critically important. And they knew that knowing the law cold and being able to spot issues and apply the law to facts is critical, as is being able to construct a well-written essay, all in a few short hours. Perhaps mom was a lawyer or they were dating a 3L. I don't know. But they knew that they had to "hit the ground running" from the day they set foot law school.
While many poor 1Ls were scrambling around trying to figure out what an outline was, these savvy students were busy assimilating the law and learning to spot issues. While the uninformed 1Ls were reading and re-reading cases, these soon-to-be Law Reviewers were investing their precious study time in "money" activities- creating meaningful outlines that helped them to assimilate the law and writing practice exams.
"Law School Labyrinth" was my attempt to level the playing field a bit. Its purpose is to provide you with an attack plan for your legal studies. It describes at least one method, the Pyramid Outline method, that you can use to focus your studies. My book also gives you an orientation to the entire law school process to help you operate more efficiently and avoid the kind of stuff that will suck up a huge amount of time with little payback where it counts- at exam time.
And although I touch on outlines in my book, anyone who has read it or this blog knows that I believe that in outlining, the process is infinitely more important than the output. Simply, outlining is the method that burns into your memory the black letter law that you need to do well. Certainly, commercial outlines can help ensure that you get all of the black letter law in first-year subjects. The can also give you a bit of a "blueprint" for the course. But no commercial outline is going to substitute for your own sweat and engagement in the materials.
And students who think there is a "holy grail" outline out there misunderstand the entire point of the Socratic Method and reading cases. It's to teach how to "think like a lawyer." Otherwise, a bar exam (and law practice, for that matter) would be simply a memorization exercise. Anyone who has every practiced law knows that effective lawyering requires the kinds of skills that your legal education should at least begin to impart. This is also why I disagree with those who say you should quit briefing cases, or even purchasing casebooks for that matter, after your first year. But reading cases alone will greatly limit your understanding of the "big picture" of the subject.
So, I stand by my Tweet. And I stand by my book. By the way, for anyone wondering whether I was compensated for the overview I included in my book about the most popular commercial outlines, I wasn't. And th book isn't making me rich- or even close to rich. Finally, the one skill in law school necessary above all others is the ability to read carefully. The pullout quote from my book (at about five times the normal font size), on page 123 concerning commerial outlines says, verbatim: "If you look carefully, you will be amazed at the number and quality of study aids that your law library offers. These materials are all free." In "Law School Labyrinth" I also recommend reading the Westlaw or Lexis version of the case- the headnotes can be incredibly useful. Both are included as part of your tuition.
And if you are starting law school this fall, get busy. Read about the law school process- I don't care if it's my book; there are several good ones out there. Or read my blog; it's free. But don't walk into your law school expecting it to be like college. No one is going to tell you what to do. There may or may not be a syllabus. There are no pop quizes. And there is no warm-up. You will simply have about three months or so to get ready to be able to excel on your exams through excellence in issue-spotting, knowledge of black letter law (which is critical to issue-spotting), applying law to the relevant facts and doing all of it in a readable, meaningful essay, under extremely tight timed conditions.
I wish you the best in your legal studies.