As finals approach, study aids are again in high demand. It’s easy to see why. Although study aids make a poor replacement for casebooks and other required materials, they can be a tremendously helpful tool for exam-prep purposes. They provide concise and highly organized reviews of topics covered in the typical law school course on the subject. The best ones also give students some valuable practice for their analytical skills. But with so many study aids out there, featuring differing formats and uses and often featuring very stark differences in quality, how can you know you’re choosing the best one?
Let’s try to answer this question while looking at a few of the best study aids for this semester’s 1L offerings. We’ll talk about what makes them worthy and how you might use them. This will also give us a nice opportunity to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the various study aid formats and series you’ll encounter.
The E&E series provides an accessible course overview while also foregrounding the important skill of legal analysis. It does this by structuring the entire discussion around the titular examples, a format that proves to be especially well-suited for explaining future estates and other similarly knotty concepts from Property Law. Indeed, this title’s analysis of these hypotheticals evokes the common law methods of legal analysis at the heart of this core doctrinal course. This helps to make the supplement truly feel like an extension of the classroom discussion.
The author’s CivPro E&E (online/physical) is an absolute classic, but don’t sleep on this one either. Glannon Guides have a similar focus on analysis and application, but here it’s in the form of multiple-choice questions. After each one, Professor Glannon patiently explains the right (and wrong) answers in conversational prose that helps demystify this oft-convoluted area of law. The overall format works especially well for the more FRCP-driven aspects of Civil Procedure.
If you’re chiefly after a bird’s eye view of the course, there are many study aids designed with just that in mind. However, in my experience, Nutshells, Short & Happy Guides, and the like don’t provide enough detail or nuance to be truly useful. They can help you learn basic concepts and doctrines quickly, but that’s about it.
The Concise Hornbook Series provides a nice (if less concise) alternative. Like other titles in the series, Principles of Contract Law provides an overview of the major course topics. However, it keeps many of the doctrinal subtleties intact. Believe me, those subtleties will come in quite handy when asked to apply those doctrines to a novel fact pattern on an exam.
Sum & Substance: Criminal Law (online)
Audio study aids like the Sum & Substance series are a convenient resource for busy law students. It’s easy to multitask with these, to simply put them on in the background during a commute or while housekeeping, and efficiently absorb a tidy little overview of one of your law school courses.
Here, Professor Dressler endeavors to be your “tour guide” for Criminal Law, splitting the lectures into a series of audio tracks that are mostly quite short and easy to digest. His overall presentation is a bit dry but always very clear. This study aid is also a solid choice because it makes a great companion for Dressler’s well-regarded hornbook, Understanding Criminal Law (physical).
Summing It Up
My overall advice is to choose study aids that emphasize analysis and application, such as the E&E series and the Glannon Guides. This ensures that you’re practicing the skills that you will be tested on in your exams. Even if you end up opting for a hornbook-style overview, consider supplementing it with some CALI lessons since the included quizzes provide a nice opportunity to test your grasp on the material. There are high-quality lessons covering many of the topics taught in CivPro, Contracts, Criminal Law, and Property.
Thanks to your tech fee funds, Study Aids are more accessible than ever, with most of the major series available for use online through the Wolters Kluwer and West Academic platforms. These resources try to recreate the format and the feel of their print counterparts, making them a breeze to use.
What are your favorite study aids? What do you look for when you’re trying to choose one to prep for an exam? Let us know in the comments!