The Catholic University of America

 Why Should You Outline?


There is a correlation to what you will do later as a lawyer:

1.       Creating order on a mass of material

a.       Do NOT get hung up on the details until you are sure you understand the BASIC STRUCTURE of the subject  

b.      Concentrate on being sure that all the important ISSUES are IN your outline

c.       If the information is NOT in your outline, it likely won’t be on your exam, but if important things are buried in too much unimportant detail, that likely won’t help much either  

2.       Sorting information into categories

a.       Focus on categories

b.      Inventory topics studied within the category

c.       Rules of law related to topics

d.      What kinds of fact patterns trigger that category?

3.       Seeing relationships among the categories

a.       Establish hierarchy among categories and concepts- that’s why outlining is the preferred mode

4.       Importing that structure into your memory

5.       Creating a schema that will allow you to “file” material in memory in a pattern such that it can be retrieved and used easily

a.       Schema: material, particularly complex material, exist in memory in a complex schema or pattern


Time pressure of the exam

1.       Organization of the law needs to be within your study materials- there is no time to organize it in the exam

2.       Important to “overlearn” so you can react automatically in a pressured situation like an exam, trial, or an appellate argument

3.       Spot the issues using that organization

4.       Then state the law/ analysis steps from your study materials

5.       You need all the time in the exam to apply to the question’s facts