2.2 – Keeping up with Reading


Keeping Up with Reading

This lesson is going to be about how to keep up with your reading during the semester. Now, I'm not going to go into a huge amount of detail on how exactly to read cases in your casebook, because that's going to await the next class. We're going to really take a deep dive in how to read cases and how to figure out the law that comes out of cases. Here, I'm just going to offer some more general thoughts about how to approach reading in law school.

Getting It Done

Reading must be done.

The first point which I really want to hammer home is that you need to realize, you really do need to do your reading. There's not going to be a great shortcut to that. In order to develop the kind of understanding that you really need, in order to perform at a good level on your exams, you really need to have done the reading.

It's going to be very, very helpful to you to do the reading during the semester so that within each class, you really know what's going on and you can follow the discussion. You're going to get a lot more out of class if you've actually done the reading for that class prior to when class begins.

It's especially important in a class where you're likely to be cold called and put on the spot and asked to explain the reading or to give an opinion about arguments in the case, or what have you. Even if you don't have a professor who's doing Socratic, who's doing cold calling, it's still very helpful to you to have done the reading so you can really follow the discussion and get the most out of it. There just isn't really a workaround here.

No to Summaries

Avoid summaries of cases as your primary reading.

There are things on the market that look like the law version of Cliff's Notes that offer summaries of cases in casebooks. I really don't recommend them. At least, I don't recommend them as an alternative to doing your reading.

I've seen students who have tried to rely on those. Often, maybe they're geared for different casebooks from the one that the student is actually assigned in the class, and they can end up just leading students astray. I don't think there's a workaround here. I do think you actually do need to do the reading, and this is going to take some time.

The reading can be pretty extensive, and even when the pages are not that lengthy, even if you have maybe a class where you're only assigned ten or twelve pages of reading, you're going to want to read it pretty carefully because it's going to be a lot denser than, say, reading a novel that you might have read in an undergrad English course. This is going to take some time, and you're really going to need to figure out how to budget your time.

Building a Schedule

Scheduling your time for reading

I would encourage you, before the semester starts, to really build out a schedule. Look at your schedule. Figure out when your classes are during the week, and then figure out, "When is a realistic time when I can have a couple of hours at least before each class to do the reading for that class?" That might require building out some of your weekend time. Maybe you figure out, "Okay, I've got three classes on Tuesday and I don't want to have to do it all on Monday, so I'm going to make sure I do one of those Tuesday classes, I'm going to really make sure I read that on Sunday afternoon."

You don't want to save all your reading until midnight the night before. You need to make sure you're getting enough rest, and you need to make sure you actually have enough time to do the reading and really do it in a thoughtful way. Because you really want to be what I'd call an active reader. It's not enough to just let the words pass under your eyes. You need to be really reading it and thinking about it as you're reading it.

Active Reading

Being engaged in process of reading

One thing a lot of people do is they take notes, maybe they take notes in the margin of the book if they bought the book and they're not renting it, or they take notes on a separate piece of paper. Some people like to underline. There's lots of ways you can do it, but the idea here is you're actively working to understand what you're reading, and maybe asking questions of yourself. "Why are we reading this? How does this relate to what we read before? How does this fit into the larger context?" You might even be, as you go, starting to think about, "How am I to fit this into an outline of the class?" I'll talk more about outlining later in this course, so wait for us to get there.

The idea here is you're actually really engaged in the process of reading. This is important, and it's an important skill for a lawyer, because the ~~professional~~ skills that are required of lawyers are being able to read things carefully, being able to write clearly, and being able to speak clearly about the law. Your first year of law school is actually designed to develop those skills, and we'll evaluate you to some degree on all of those skills.

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