Briefing cases is the king of law school busy work and, as I have said elswhere, you need to avoid busy work in law school at all costs.
See the video on why, and then look below in the text for other time-wasters to avoid.
Avoid busy work like briefing cases
Generally, you want to avoid busy work, like briefing cases. And please don’t re-read cases.
(Sidenote: This, to me, includes avoiding any 1L extracurricular activities, like moot court. Only your grades matter to potential employers. Packing your resume 1L year won’t help you get a job.)
Also, for the reasons we explored in the last post, most case-related studying is busy work.
Now, go ahead and read assigned cases in your case book.
That’s not busy work (for reasons I explain elsewhere.)
But do only the bare minimum: read the cases once, and only the night before they are covered in class. You can follow what happens in class. If called on, you might mess up. (So what? No one will remember, trust me.)
Beyond that, do not worry about cases any further.
Why it is hard to avoid busy work
Now, without exception, you will feel pressure to read and re-read cases. And to be briefing cases.
There is pressure to master the details of cases.
Most profs still cold call people in class. Everyone fears humiliation. Everyone hates looking stupid. (Some profs even threaten to dock the grades of the unprepared).
But as I already showed you, cases themselves are not the key to performing well on issue-spotting exams.
Students who don’t know this (most students) will put every effort to understand cases they assigned .
Students who don’t know this (most students) will spend their time briefing cases.
But you know better.
Cases are not the law. Repeat: CASES ARE NOT THE LAW.
You will not get good grades because you can cite an obscure detail from a case from week 13.
If you spend too much time reading or analyzing cases, and you will have no time to focus on activities more likely to get you good grades.
It can ruin your academic life to re-read cases. I saw this with my own eyes as a tutor to law students (who came to me after doing this). Is anything worse than working really hard for nothing.
What to avoid, again (um, briefing cases)
To be even clearer, for your own sake, avoid the following:
- Briefing cases. Briefing cases is a law school tradition. A stupid one. A “case brief” is a case summary you write that identifies in painstaking detail parts of a case (the parties, their claims, the holding, procedural posture, dicta, background).
- None of this helps you on an exam. You will get 0 points if you try to recite these details on cases.
- This is insanely time intensive: my first two students briefed cases 40-50 hours a week. They got crap grades. I asked them stop briefing. They got better grades.
- PLEASE for the love of god DO NOT BRIEF CASES.
- Even if professors make case briefing mandatory the first week or so, stop it as soon as you can (i.e., after they stop checking).
- Re-read cases. Read cases once before class. More won’t help you. The secrets to good grades are not in your case book.
- Read cases in advance. This sounds like a time saver for eager beavers. But if you read on Sunday for a Wednesday class, you’ll likely need to re-read on Tuesday. It is a sin to re-read cases! Bad!