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Outlining for Law School Exams | Abraham Lincoln University

Outlining for Law School Exams | Abraham Lincoln University

The busy law student may wonder: “Why outline for my classes and tests when I can buy an outline that’s already been written?” Outlines and study guides for many common law school courses are commercially available, and buying an outline instead of preparing one yourself can be a big time-saver. What that doesn’t take into account, however, is that it’s not having an outline that helps students study—it’s preparing the outline that helps students succeed.

According to Michael J. Patton, writing in the Journal of Legal Education, students who prepare outlines themselves do better on exams than those who rely on outlines from other students or professionally-written study guides.

Outlines help in three ways:

  1. You put all of your notes together into one place.
  2. You remember what you’ve learned better by restating/rewriting in your own words.
  3. You create the primary tool to help you study for your exam.

An Outline for Outlining

Here are the six steps for preparing an outline to help you succeed on law school exams.

  1. Assemble your materials: Get together class notes, textbooks, your case book, briefs you prepared for class, handouts, the syllabus, any secondary sources you used.
  2. Create a template using the IRAC model for issues in your legal study.
  3. Organize the big picture by flipping through your case book and syllabus to know what you want to cover in your outline.
  4. Synthesize the rules of law covered by the class in your own words.
  5. Add your analysis to the rules of law in your own words, making sure you have complete understanding of all that you’ve studied.
  6. Add case summaries to your outline so you will be able to recall them on your exam.

Everyone outlines differently, but if you follow the above six steps, you should be able to put together an outline that covers your class comprehensively.

Abraham Lincoln University provides study tips for law students each week. Check back often for more guidelines on how to succeed in law school.


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