Law School Success Tips, Part 4 of 10: The Black Letter Law
This is Part 4 of 10. These are links to Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.
Last time we discussed how to study the law — not by reading cases, but by studying the law more directly.
The “law” I refer to here is the black letter law — the most stripped down form of the law. I set out more in the following video:
When I mention that it is necessary to focus on or memorize the black letter law, I am talking about several things here.
- The major rule, those that set out all of the elements or factors needed to make out a given claim or defense.
- The network of sub-rules. These sometimes set out exceptions or ways to apply a given element or factor. They are often specific applications of certain fact scenarios, generalized to other scenarios (what I refer to as Rules of General Application. This is, of course, redundant, because a rule should be generalizable).
This may seem a simple concept but it is important enough to understand that this is the what you are after when you are studying the law and reading cases.
What is funny to me is that few enough professors will define the black letter law for you.
They just mention it in passing.
Oh, and by the way, come exam time, professors assume you know it by heart– however little it is explicitly address in class. Well enough to apply it on an exam.