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Legal Reasoning Materials


The Academic Success Program (ASP) provides the following tips and materials to current and prospective students for use in improving legal reasoning and achieving success in law school. In addition, ASP strongly recommends students purchase the textbook, Expert Learning for Law Students, by Michael Schwartz. The text and its companion workbook are available at the UDC Bookstore.

The following materials will show students how to master law school learning. Students will learn to identify the content and deadline of an assignment and set appropriate learning goals; determine the tools necessary for comprehension and application of principles from one case to another; draw upon past education and work experiences to identify successful strategies; and engage in self-assessment to determine if one has learned the materials. These techniques will help students in case briefing, time management, legal research, synthesizing and outlining, problem solving, and test taking.

Case Briefing

Briefing cases is an important tool for successful law school learning. A brief is essentially a summary of a legal case that appeared before a court. A brief contains the following components:

  • Facts: a brief statement of the case's procedural posture (standing within the court system) and operative facts (who, what, where, how and when).
  • Issue: a combination of the relevant law and operative facts before the court, presented in the form of a question.
  • Holding: the court's decision, or answer to the issue.
  • Rationale: the court's reasoning behind the holding.

The following link provides a sample case brief written by a UDC-DCSL student:

Students should reference page 103 of Expert Learning for Law Students to learn about briefing strategies.

Time Management

Time Management is essential for success in law school. Professors do not ease students into the study of law. Students are challenged with reading assignments, papers and tests without a chance catch a breath. The pace and pressure is a radical change that can affect all aspects of a law student's life, including family and friends. It is important to balance time commitments in order to alleviate or minimize the stress.

Students need a personal time management plan to balance the demands of class preparation, including case briefing and reading, legal writing assignments, outlining, and reviewing. The plan must include time to decompress, relax and tend to personal well-being. We encourage students to utilize the following websites to learn about techniques for developing a personal time management plan.

Additionally, we suggest students refer to pages 294-295 of Expert Learning for Law Students for more information about Time Management.

Test Taking

Test taking is a stressful part of law school. Most professors grade students based on two exams: a mid-term and a final. Likewise, the MPRE and Bar Exams are comprehensive exams given at the end of law school career to determine whether one will receive a license to practice law. Students need to learn early how to beat the stress of test taking and master strategies for success.

A few helpful strategies in test taking are:

  • Recalling how one was successful in undergraduate exams. Drawing on past experiences is helpful in doing well on an exam.
  • Studying to the point of self-confidence. A sense of mastery allows a student to identify the issues quickly and begin a thorough analysis.
  • Cutting down on exam anxiety. Some students cave under the stress of preparing for an exam, and then enter the classroom and forget everything they studied. Students should adopt an approach that creates an image of the exam being either a competition to use one's skills to beat others, or a closing argument where one shows the jury why his or her client is not at fault.
  • Remaining calm. Being calm allows a student to focus on the goal of the exam and manage time appropriately.

Other Websites

The following websites provide helpful tips for success in law school. These websites have comprehensive strategies for issue spotting, test taking, and in-class note taking, amongst other activities.

ASP Overview | ASP Programs | Legal Reasoning Materials
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