August 18 2010
Advantages of Book Briefing
Do you find yourself re-reading an entire case before class? Do you have trouble referencing the case when you are called on? If the answer is yes to either of these questions then book briefing will be helpful to you.
Book briefing is when you highlight and/or comment on the pages of your book when you are reading a case. This method helps emphasize the important points of the case and easily distinguishes significant material. This is helpful when reviewing the material before class and when you are called on during class.
There are several variations of book briefing, so don’t think that one way is the best, but figure out what works for you. You can just write comments on the margins of the page. You can highlight with one color or multiple colors. Or you can do a combination. I prefer to comment and highlight with multiple colors. Using multiple highlighters might seem confusing, but I use them for every case and I have gotten used to what each color means. Below is an example of the important points with their corresponding color:
My comments usually consist of notes to myself or labeling what the important point is in the case. I also underline or bracket text if it is appropriate. Each class will be different as well. You will start to predict what your professors will ask and then you can brief based on those professors. For example, you will learn if your professors are “procedure heavy,” and they want to know every detail of the lower court’s ruling. Other professors may never ask a single question about the procedure, but these are easy questions to answer if you have book briefed.
There are , of course, some disadvantages to book briefing. My first semester I caught myself highlighting way too much because I thought everything was important in the case. Now I focus more on the issue, reasoning and holding of the case and only barely highlight the facts and procedural history. I have also heard of people writing too much in the margins. The more you write the harder it will be to find the important information during class. Just be aware that your briefing style, like your studying, will evolve with your law school experience, so don’t be afraid to try different methods. Also be sure that if you make good points in your book briefing to transfer those to your electronic or handwritten notes. It sounds crazy, but once you begin studying for finals, you probably won’t even open your textbook very often. All the information that you want for finals should be on your outline.