Buy via Amazon:
Buy PDF eBook - Just $5.95:

How to Write an Effective Outline (Part 3)

Once I had developed an outline for main categories of law that were covered in a particular class I would complete my outline on each subject from the class room notes, with particular attention given to the main points the professor focused on.

Once that was put into a manageable form, I would re-read each major section of the outline a few times to evaluate whether I understood the basic concepts, but also with an emphasis on whether I understood the logic behind what was at work in that area of the law as a general matter.

It is critical to exam taking to understand how the details of this or that rule are connected to the class topic as a whole. For example, if I was in a Torts class and my outline told me the professor spent a lot of time on the doctrine of “transferred intent,” I would want to know what that doctrine was, of course, but most importantly, I wanted to be very comfortable with how it fit in with the doctrine of “intentional torts” as a whole.

In the next step I would re-read the hornbook entry on that piece of the law, with some greater attention to the parts of the law that were still foggy in my mind. If the hornbook made it clearer–and if it doesn’t, you simply have got the wrong hornbook–I might add a one or two word clarifying thought to my outline for later attention.

Rereading the hornbook sections is what you do to refresh your understanding of the law. You don’t use your outline to do that. The outline has a very different purpose, which I discuss at length elsewhere.

This whole process of developing your outline in view of your class notes and the hornbook can be finished for each class in about eight hours. At the end of that eight hours, your goal is to have an outline of the major points, the corollaries, and the variations, all of which you clearly understand.


  1. Johnnie
    Posted September 16, 2011 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    Your book was so on point and so funny and so candid. I tried out the recommendations from your book and scored beyond my expectations last year. Thank you!

  2. Gary Young
    Posted September 16, 2011 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    Very cool. Tell EVERYONE.

  3. Juliet
    Posted November 5, 2011 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    Do you know how to speed up your reading(especially of hornbooks)? It takes me about 15 minutes to make notes on one page of a hornbook. Feels utterly useless. Apparently, speedreading is a scam so I really don’t know where to go from here!

  4. al
    Posted December 21, 2011 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

    Listen, don’t let anyone fool you, law school is hard. It will make college feel like nursery school. You actually have to study for exams, and cramming the night before WILL NOT work. However, the best advice I ever got was from an upperclassman. He suggested I bring outlines from previous semesters to class and work off them in case I missed anyone the professor discussed. Most professors don’t change their lesson plans! Sometimes they’re teaching almost word for word from previous semesters. I found a lot of helpful outlines for my classes at and then uploaded mine after the semester ended to return the favor. Good luck!

Post a Comment

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *