Law School, Tips & Tricks

Outlining: Advice From Law Students

Now that the American Bar Association is requiring that every small section have at least one midterm Outlining has become something to consider before
Thanksgiving rolls around!

Luckily one of my professors had our Fellows give us 
advice and examples for outlining!

  • Always Make Your OWN Outline

    Every single 2L, 3L and professor alike have pushed making original outlines as one of the most efficient ways to learn a topic!  Do not just AVOID COMMERCIAL OUTLINES but do not rely on your friends/ classmates to have outlines that will work for you.  Just like briefing or notetaking, everyone’s mind works differently and that will be reflected in your outline, making yours the most efficient tool to have at the ready when you are scrambling during an exam!

    An Example of How My Mind Works, From My Actual Torts Outline
  • Start Early But Not to Early

    I found starting directly after my first, course topic was finished[ about two weeks in] was still too early to really make the best outline.  About a month into classes I finally grasped the new style of learning and had enough understanding of my individual professors to being making outlines tailored to their teaching styles and practice problems.

  • List Key Words

    Listing keywords or words that signify when to apply the elements, cases or procedures under a specific topic will help you quickly identify what class topic you should be applying to your exam question. For example: list the elements of each tort Cause of action at the top of each cause of action section. 

  • Make an Attack Sheet!

    My attack sheet [AKA Aggressive Check List] made my torts midterm far more navigable!  List each topic covered for a class and the relevant points you should address when that topic arises.  For example list all the possible tests for Breach of Duty so when a breach question is presented all you have to do is go down the checklist!

  • Summarize Your Cases

    Honestly, you do not need every single fact about a case to apply it to an exam question [ unless your professor specifically requires it]. Summarize the relevance of each case in a quick, plain English sentence so when a question arises you can find the relevant topic, skim down to the related cases and BAM there is a pre-thought, well-written sentence about the case just ready to go!  WARNING: Be sure to edit your sentences to the fact pattern during your exam…. that way you get points for actually applying the cases.


  • Review Old Exams

    My Civil Procedure Prof. gave some great advice and said to always review old exams and take note of signifying words or phrases that help you know which topic you are about to address.  Add those signifiers to your Keywords Section of each outline topic!  Often your school will house previous exams in the library!

  • Stay Organized & Format!

    Try out some different templates or organization techniques [following the syllabus, mimicking the casebook TOC, filling in an online template] and when you find one that meshes with your brain STICK TO IT!  Keep the formatting consistent throughout each topic within a single outline so you don’t have to waste time frantically searching for information.

    • Here are some of my organization strategies: 
      1. Follow the Casebook table of contents or Syllabus
      2. Give each main topic an individual color.
        • Every subtopic has the same color as the main topic
        • EX:  Battery
          •  Elements:
            • Intent
            • Act
      3. All Cases: Bold, Special Color, keyword, plain English sentence”
        • Battery Cases:
          Tess v. Peep, 2017
          (pg. 872) Single Intent, Intent to contact:  Here the court held that under single intent, Tess committed battery against [Kitten] Peep by repeatedly intending to contact him by nature of cuddle.
      4. Conclude each section with a thick line!
  • Practice Using Your Outline

    Find an old exam from your professors or the library, sit down and practice using your outline to answer exam questions to flesh out whether your organizational style is really the best it can be!  Familiarity with your outline will only lead to greater success!

  • The Goal: Having to Think Less

    The less you have to think about the structural elements, organization, or relevant cases, the more time you can actually apply the techniques you’ve learned to the exam questions, astonishing your professors, classmates and yourself with your ability to conquer the law!  Basically staying organized and thorough with your outline will make it easier for you to strut your stuff come exam time!

take a breath, if you put in the time your outline will be outstanding and put you well on your way to ahead of the curve!

Best wishes,


P.S. Please feel free to contact me with any outlining or law school questions in general!

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