Good Advice for Studying the Law - Highly Recommended

I have a friend, Bill Deffebach, who is an outstanding lawyer and became an excellent lawyer by being an excellent law student.  He was a Quizmaster in his day (pre-computer) at the University of Texas Law School.  As Quizmaster, he helped new law students learn the ropes.  Drawing on that experience, he wrote a small tract called "An Approach to the Study of Law."  Somewhat like Strunk & White's Elements of Style, here, it packs a big punch in a small text.  I highly recommend it to my Tax Procedure students.  Although you are farther along than the intended targets (1st year law students), you will still find the advice useful.

I particularly like Bill's advice on outlining -- both of the course materials and the examination:

For the course materials:
Outlining provides repetition, the association of ideas, and is, of course, an expression of your comprehension of the law. The outline, if perfected, should answer every possible examination question. Thus, the reason why “canned” outlines are undesirable should be obvious. No one’s outline can take the place of your own. Actually, it would be better to make one even if you threw it away the next day. The experience of extracting principle ideas from complicated subject matter is the important thing. Indeed, the ability to outline is an art. It will only be acquired after much practice; but until this skill is acquired, the student has not really mastered the learning process.
For the examination:
First, scan briefly the examination question, noting primarily the problem requirement. Reread the problem and underline the relevant issues. Then organize your answer by means of a brief outline on a separate piece of paper. Good organization is essential to a good answer; and as a rule of thumb, you should spend at least as much time planning your answer as you do in reducing it to writing.
I offer Bill's small gem for review online or download

  • MS Word (doc) format, here;  
  • Adobe Acrobat (pdf) format, here
  • Both formats in a zip file, here.


Jack Townsend