So you have to brief a case! Let me start by making this declaration:
They are called BRIEFS for a reason!
Please for the Love of the Law Gods, Be Brief!
After your first few classes, you will have a better eye for what facts, arguments, issues etc. are actually relevant to the topic! Your brief should jog your memory, and spark the relevant ideas not restate the entire opinion. Ideally, you should aim to be able to look at your brief and be able to efficiently talk about the case!
Read the Chapter/ Syllabus Topics
Knowing your endgame from the start can be extremely helpful while reading opinions that are [always] inherently fully of extraneous and/or difficult information! Keep your class topic in the back of your mind and read to understand that topic!
Annotate While You Read
Keep a pen on you while you read and paraphrase the lengthy arguments in the margins of your book! This will make briefing much more efficient and keep the main points easy to remember! Writing things in your own words is a tried and true way to make sure you actually learn the idea in your body!
Highlight Using a Color Code
Highlight Selectively using a color code to quickly be able to pull information from the casebooks and slide them into your briefs. The more consistent you are with a color code the easier it will become for you to brief in every class. Remember with a highlighter comes great responsibility [AKA Do NOT Highlight everything]
Tailor Briefs to Each Professor
Some of my professors take an abstract and scenic route to get to the main points [which does instill a true understanding] but can cause you to write lengthy briefs full of facts that really are not important to the crux of the matter! For my more abstract professor, I throw a few abstract or theory based points in my comments section since the big ideas are the focus of that class. Whereas in a more defined class [ take torts for example] I will write the brief then mark the facts that establish elements of whatever tort we are focused on [see topics]
Staying organized with your notes and briefs will make outlining far less stressful! Try organizing your notes by syllabus or chapter topics [see the table of contents in casebooks for amazing organization structure] and highlighting the case names to make sure you don’t miss any when you go back to outline!
Remember the more work you put in during the course of the semester to briefs, the less overwhelmed you’ll be during finals!
Brief Well, Brief Often
Briefing every case will get old QUICKLY so you have to find the method most appealing and efficient for you! Just remember that briefing [and outlining] are a personal tool to help you personally understand cases and subjects in law. Just because Sally Suckup spends 1834982734 hours a week briefing does not mean she understands the topics, so do not get intimidated. Try different methods of briefing [charting, bullet points, index cards] and go with what works for you no matter what anyone else is doing!
For instance, I take most of my class notes on plain printer paper because I am big on drawing connections, arrows, doodles, tables and such to help me bring ideas together… My friends did make fun of me until they saw my civ pro charts!