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Law School Tips: Week 11

Week 11: Outlining Like a Champ, Part 3

Creating an Outline for a Closed-Book Exam

Most of your exams are likely to be closed book. To create an outline for closed-book exam, continue with what you’ve been doing all along: going from a “macro” view of the course to a “micro” view of the course. As long as you’ve kept up with condensing your notes onto notes cards (or in some other way), outlining involves simply condensing the material even further.

Many students use the table of contents from their casebook or their course syllabus as the skeleton for their outline. One of the best tools is to follow—although you may have to modify it to conform to your own course—the table of contents of a good commercial outline. If you choose this method, for each topic, you should include

  1. The principal rule(s) in the field,

  2. The rationale for the rule(s),

  3. Any major exceptions to the rule(s), and

  4. Condensed examples drawn from the professor’s hypotheticals and the cases you’ve covered.

An Example
This could be a skeletal outline of major headings for a typical Torts course:

  1. Intentional torts: intended interference with the person

  2. Intentional torts: intentional interference with property

  3. Negligent torts

  4. Damages

  5. Vicarious liability

  6. Proximate cause

  7. Duty

  8. Defenses

  9. Joint tortfeasers

  10. Strict liability

  11. Misrepresentation

  12. Defamation

  13. Product liability

In your outline, you’d add subheadings and sub-subheadings in each section of the “skeleton” by condensing material from your notes. Build your outline around the black-letter-law rule for each subject. This is how part of the first section of your outline might look:

I. Intentional Torts: Interference with the Person

a. Battery—unpermitted and harmful or offensive touching of another by an act intended to result in such contact. Interest protected is bodily integrity, not injury to body.

i.“Touching”—need not touch person, but anything “practically attached to or identified with” him. Fisher v. Carousel (grabbing plate)
ii. Intent—if actor desired to bring it about or knew with substantial certainty that it would occur as a result of his action. Garratt v. Dailey     (5-year old boy pulling chair out from under woman). Malice not required. What one knows says a lot about what one intends.

1. Transferred Intent—intend to hit someone, but hit someone else. Talmadge v. Smith (person throws stick at one person, hits another).

iii. Damages—can recover physical and mental damages flowing proximately from that contact.
iv. Defenses

1. Consent is a complete defense to battery.

Extracted from Strategies & Tactics for the First Year Law Student (Maximize Your Grades) by Lazar Emanuel and Kimm Alayne Walton.

Coming next week: How to Tackle True/False and Multiple-Choice Exams