Academic Success Tip - Active Reading

One of the most important skills in law school is the ability to read a judicial opinion efficiently and accurately.  To improve your active reading skills, consider implementing the following techniques:

  1. Use cues in your casebook to provide information about a case - the table of contents, headings, prefatory explanatory material, the date of the opinion, the court that issued the opinion, "notes and problems" after the case, and related cases.
  2. Develop a working hypothesis while reading a case.  Speculate about what the author means, make predictions, and correct them as you read an opinion.
  3. If you are struggling to discern the point of a case, use a hornbook for a one-sentence description of the case to focus your reading.
  4. Use a one-sentence tag line for each case you read and write it at the top of your brief.  Given the large number of cases you will read in one semester, the name of a case will not mean much after a week or two.
  5. Do not read cases as if they stand alone.  Each case should be read for the contribution it makes to your developing understanding of the concept under discussion.  Compare the rule in each brief with the rule in the case preceding it under the same section.