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Wait for the Flash of Enlightment, then Develop the Outline

Dear Wormwood,

Once more I've been failing to give you advice with regards to your law school future. For some reason, the 1L blogs are blossoming with wisdom to give to you, while your Uncle has been falling down on his job.

Unfortunately, there's not much useful advice I can give you. If you're a JD2B looking at multiple offers, choose the one you like best. When you started applying, I'm sure there was a school you had your heart set on, and if you were lucky enough to make it in, you should say yes. Beyond that, it's a very complicated decision which I'd hesitate to advise you on.

The one thing I can give a bit of counterintuitive advice with is outlines. I think having a good outline is very useful, don't get me wrong. But I'm all for procrastination when it comes to law school review.

Basically, law school is as much time management as any great skill at anything else. And time management is the realization that you have a certain number of tasks you have to accomplish, a limited amount of time, and a point of maximum efficiency. And I don't believe you can outline a course efficiently until you're at least halfway through.

I'd have given you exactly the opposite advice several months ago, but I've found that Sherry's words have rung true. It's not until you're already immersed in the subject that you'll start to see how things hang together. Not until you have a mass of data do you start to understand how it all hangs together. If I'd started my outlines two months ago, I'd be rewriting them now.

There's some exceptions to this. Prof. Perspectives told us how the course would hang together on the first day of class, and he's been completely true to his word. But that class isn't being taught by a case method, and the case method doesn't really lend itself to up-front structure.

So, my concise advice about outlining? First, wait until you have that burst of insight as to how the the course hangs together. For me, that was my Con Law TA session today. My TA said something about how the exam was structured, the evolution of Supreme Court doctrine, and the relationship between equal protection and the dormant commerce clause. Suddenly the image of an outline appeared full-fledged in the mind, with issues sorted into key cases followed by a short history of evolutionary cases, and a column for cross-referencing between issues.

This brings us to the next point: don't outline until you've studied past exams and know what you'll be allowed to bring into the exam room. Preparing an outline for use in an exam is very different from preparing one for memorization, and you should know what you're trying to do.

In any event, dear Wormwood, I'll do my best to update you more often. It's only now, after Moot Court is a fading memory and the Exam Watch counter flips T-40 that my mind has had a chance to focus its wandering.

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Comments

Who the hell is Wormwood?
It's taken from C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters, a collection of essays on Christianity. They're written from the point of view of Screwtape, a senior tempter, writing to his demonic 'nephew' Wormwood. Sort of keeps with the theme of the blog. :)
The Screwtape Letters

Very clever. I have been following your site for a little while, and had wondered the same thing. I recently finished Screwtape Letters, and then read this entry and suddenly everything came together. Props to you on this clever little feature on your site.

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