Outlining 101

Worried about outlines? What are they? Should you write your own or use someone else’s? When should you start putting one together? The whole thing can seem overwhelming, but with just a few tips, you’ll be an outlining pro.

Although you may have outlined during your undergrad career, law school exams are much different than any other exam you’ve ever taken, so you need to adapt your outlines likewise. Throughout the semester, you learn the black letter law and concepts through case analysis. However, your exam will not be a resuscitation of this. Instead, most of your exams will include a fact pattern in which you will need to apply the legal principles you have learned to identify and analyze the situation in order to reach a legal conclusion.

Outlines are nothing more than a condensed, organized version of your notes. A good outline will include only those critical topics you will be tested on and should include relevant case law and statutes. You should not include every single word you wrote down, but should instead be a synthesized version of your notes, briefs, reading, and secondary sources in one document.

It is important to start outlining at the right time. If you start the first week of classes, it’s too soon. You don’t have a good enough grasp on the material to know what’s important and the substantive law. But if you’re thinking about waiting until the week before exams, you’ll find yourself struggling to remember the nuances from the first half of the course. The ideal time to start is after finishing a significant topic in the course. Try taking a look at your syllabus – professors often break the semester down into large subsections that they cover over a few weeks. Use this is a guide to setup your own outline.

What should a good outline look like? Well, it should be easy to read. Although that means different things to different people, the better ones usually have clearly defined sections, use bold or italics to emphasize definitions, caselaw, or statutes. Underlining and different font sizes and colors help draw the eye to specific topics. Make sure to include broad categories and then start to narrowly define them using various source elements.

business, learning, meetingNow to the great debate – should you create your own outline or use an existing one? To be honest, there are pros and cons to both methods. Creating your own will far and away provide you the best review of the course material. You will be forced to critically think about each topic in a logical and efficient manner, which is exactly what you want your mindset to be during an exam. However, the creation process can be time consuming and cumbersome, so many students find themselves resorting to using someone else’s outline from previous years. Upperclassman often share their outlines with 1Ls and many student organizations maintain outline banks. Although I would discourage relying 100% on an existing outline, if you have decided you just don’t want to do it yourself, take an existing outline and adapt it to what you’ve learned. Course material often changes from year to year, so a course outline from last year may not include all the same cases or material as this year. Ensure that you go through the outline line-by-line to make sure everything included is relevant. Also, don’t be afraid to add to it! Use your own sources to make it better or reorganize it in a way that makes more sense to you.

Lastly, make sure to constantly review your outline for missing elements and accuracy. Talk with other students in your study group or schedule some time with your professor to go over topics. This will provide an opportunity to not only review the material, but also to find gaps, misinformation, or just add clarity to your outline.

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Let’s Get Clinical – experiential learning is an ABA requirement

By Colleen Hampton

It is that time of year, folks: time to consider experiential learning opportunities. The deadline for Spring 2018 Clinic and Externship opportunities is September 27th.  And if you started school in 2016 you are required to obtain at least six (6) credit hours of experiential learning (see ABA rule 303 a Curriculum, March 2015). Your required, 3 credit hour, Lawyering:  Advocacy class will get you part of the way there – but you must do more. Besides, who among us doesn’t want to get a taste of how the practice of law works in the real world?

 

Luckily GSU COL offers externships, clinics, and other courses designed to help you gain practical, real-world experience while satisfying ABA requirements. Here’s what you need to know about these opportunities:

 

What’s the difference between an Internship, Externship, and a Clinic?

Whether you are interested in an Internship, Externship, or Clinic one thing is for certain: you will gain valuable experience regardless of the avenue you choose. However, there are some important distinctions to consider when evaluating your experiential learning choices.

Internships – Internships are a fantastic way to gain skills and build your network. You are generally hired by a firm or agency, typically without pay (unless you are one of the lucky few to land a coveted, paid internship). Internship hours can vary from position to position and terms of your service can sometimes be negotiated to fit your schedule. Sounds great, right? Keep in mind internships are not for-credit, meaning you don’t pay tuition for the internship or get credit hours needed to satisfy the ABA requirement. In other words, internships are valuable in their own right and should be pursued, but an internship will not satisfy your experiential learning requirement.

Externships – An externship is a class that gives you the opportunity to learn from non-profit and government lawyers and judges. Because an externship is a class, you earn credit for your outside, hands-on learning experience and the class credit can help you satisfy the ABA experiential learning requirement. You will pay tuition for your externship (usually a three (3) credit hour course, graded pass/fail) and, if it’s your first externship, you have a one (1) credit graded classroom component in addition to your work hours. Speaking of work hours, externships require a minimum hour commitment spent working (generally ten (10) hours a week during the Fall and Spring semesters or twenty (20) hours a week during the summer semester). Externship site supervisors are required to give you feedback on your performance during your semester which enables you to learn and grow. Externships are a meaningful way to satisfy your experiential learning requirement.

Clinics – Clinics provide students the opportunity to work with and represent real clients, and to directly experience what it feels like to work as a lawyer while building their skills and professional identity.  Students have primary responsibility for the cases they handle in clinic, and work under the close supervision of their professor, who is both a clinical educator and a licensed attorney.  Enrolling in a clinic requires attendance in the clinic seminar, case rounds, and hours working on cases inside the clinic office.  GSU COL offers both in-house and off-site clinics to provide students with a variety of opportunities to grow their skill set. Clinics, like externships, are a fantastic way for students to satisfy their experiential learning requirement.

 

What is the difference between in-house clinics and other clinics offered at GSU COL?

GSU College of Law offers three in-house clinics: Health Law Partnership (HeLP) Legal Services Clinic, Investor Advocacy Clinic, and the Philip C. Cook Low Income Taxpayer Clinic. These clinics conduct business on campus and are supervised by professors of the College of Law. Additionally, the in-house clinics are graded where the off-site clinics are pass/fail.

Off-site clinic courses require a yearlong commitment (fall and spring).  Students attend a clinic seminar taught by an adjunct professor and perform their work at the external office location. Off-site clinics include Capital Defender Clinic, Landlord-Tenant Mediation Clinic, and Olmstead Disability Rights Clinic.

 

I’m a 1L, can I enroll in a Clinic or Externship?

Most experiential opportunities provided through GSU COL are only available to students who have completed their entire first year’s course work and have a 2.3 GPA. If you are a part-time student that means you must have completed your first two years of course work in order to be eligible. However, each experiential opportunity will have their own pre-requisites that must be satisfied in order to participate.

 

Where can I learn more about Clinics and Externships?

General Clinic website

HeLP Clinic

Investor Advocacy Clinic

Tax Clinic

Capital Defender Clinic

Landlord-tenant Clinic

Olmstead Disability Clinic

General Externship website 

Externship FAQ’s

Externship opportunities (sites)

 

What other courses satisfy the experiential course requirement?

All courses that satisfy the experiential requirement are designated as “E” courses in the schedule and the college of law bulletin.  “E” courses include clinics, externships, simulation courses, and others.  You can also find a listing of E courses here.

 

What are the deadlines for application to clinics and externships?

Applications for SPRING semester clinics and externships are due at 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, September 27.

MPRE Sign Up

Thinking of taking the MPRE? Don’t wait, the deadline is soon approaching to sign up for the November exam! Don’t forget, the MPRE is required for admittance to the Georgia Bar.

WHAT IS IT?

The Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE) is a two hour exam administered by ACT, Inc., on behalf of the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE).  The examination is administered three times per year – in March, August, and November – and consists of 50 unscored and 10 scored multiple choice questions.  The purpose of the MPRE is to measure the applicant’s knowledge and understanding of established standards related to a lawyer’s professional conduct.

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WHAT IS IT LIKE?

Not sure if you are prepared? Check out these sample questions to get a feel for what the test is like, and then head over to the Law Library to check out some study aids!

WHAT IS A PASSING SCORE?

The Georgia Board of Bar Examiners requires all applicants to take and pass the MPRE with a scaled score of 75 or higher, prior to the issuance of a Certificate of Eligibility for Admission to the Practice of Law.

WHEN IS IT?

The next exam will take place on Saturday, November 4, 2017. If you register before September 14, 2017, the registration fee is $95. However, if you miss this deadline, you can still register up to September 21, 2017, but will have to pay a late registration fee of $190.

Test Dates and Online Registration

HOW DO I REGISTER?

For MPRE Registration Information, go to www.ncbex.org.

GREAT, I’VE TAKEN IT! WHEN DO I GET MY SCORES?

MPRE scores a usually released within five weeks of the examination date and posted to your NBCE account. They remain available only under the next test administration, so make sure to access and save them as soon as they are posted.

Faculty Spotlight Series: Dean Lisa Bliss

How well do you really know the faculty at the COL? Maybe you heard stories from other classmates or maybe you have taken a few classes with a certain professor, but have you ever wondered what really makes them tick? Well, wonder no more! I’d like to introduce the Faculty Spotlight Series, a collection of posts that will highlight some of our faculty at the GSU College of Law. Every week, we’ll try to look beyond what you find on a biography page and delve into what truly drives our mentors and teachers.

We’re starting off the series highlighting Lisa Bliss, Associate Dean of Experiential Education and the Co-Director of the HeLP Legal Services Clinic.


LISA BLISS

How long have you been teaching at GSU? 

Since 2001.

What classes do you teach?

I teach Health Law Partnership (HeLP) Clinic I and II, and Interviewing and Counseling.

Dean Bliss (pictured top row, third from right).

What class would you like to develop if you could?

I would love to teach more courses on Interviewing and Counseling!  That course is a lot of fun for me and the students, and there is always more to learn and experience.  Someday I would also like to develop a course on Creative Problem Solving.

What do you most enjoy about teaching?

Being a lawyer is a very creative profession, although people do not usually associate being a lawyer with the notion of creativity.  I love the process of lawyering. As a clinical professor, I have the privilege of watching students develop their understanding of how to identify a client’s problem, generate potential solutions for it, and then put their ideas into action.  All of this happens in the clinic in the context of real cases.  The clinical learning experience is transformative, and I have a front row seat to that transformation every semester.  As we work closely together on cases, I see students meet their clients, perform research, write briefs or other documents, and represent clients at hearings.  I watch students develop their skills and confidence, and by the end of the experience they see themselves differently.  They see themselves in the role of lawyer.

What type of law did you want to practice when you were in law school?

I had a “lightening bolt” moment when I knew exactly what I wanted to do:  I was sitting in my civil clinic seminar watching my professor debrief something with the class.  I was completely mesmerized by the depth of examination of what we were learning and doing, and what those decisions and actions meant for the case and the client.  We were fully examining the process of lawyering.  It was at that moment that I realized that I wanted to be a clinical professor.  I am so lucky to be here now doing a job that I dreamed of having, and to have had such a wonderful role model and mentor.

Dean Bliss (center) graduating law school.

What did you end up doing before you came to GSU? 

In order to become a clinical professor, one must understand and experience the practice of law.  I worked for several years for a mid-sized litigation firm doing toxic tort litigation, trucking accidents, and a few very high-end divorce cases.  I then had a chance to teach with my former clinical professor, so I did that for two years.  My husband and I decided to move back to Atlanta, and I served for a few years as Deputy Director of the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation, where I consulted with lawyers handling pro bono cases, and ran the Saturday Lawyers Program.  After our daughter was born, I went to work part time for a small litigation boutique where I handled a small caseload on variety of matters.  That was a lot of fun.  Because I had a lot of experience at that point, I got to work on some really interesting cases.  I left there to come to GSU, where I started teaching in the legal writing program.  Ten years ago, I was hired to develop and teach in the HeLP Clinic when GSU received a grant to start that clinic.

What is your favorite piece of advice for students? 

Being a lawyer is a lifelong process of learning and accumulating experiences to apply in the future.  Often our most memorable lessons come from our mistakes.

Is there any aspect of the legal profession you would like to see changed? 

There are so many people that need legal help that cannot afford or access it.  I would like the profession to fully commit to ensuring that legal help is available for those who need it.  Getting that kind of assistance can make a difference in a person or family’s housing, education, health, status, and other matters that contribute to quality of life and ability to access resources.  Those who are vulnerable are taken advantage of and are often unable to pursue or enforce their rights because they don’t have a lawyer to help them.

Any fun story that you’d like to share?

When our daughter was six, I drove to New Mexico and Colorado with her by myself in our VW camper van while my husband had to stay behind for work.   We camped everywhere.  We visited some very remote spots (some roads so rocky we did not think we would be able to drive out!) and one night when we were in Texas a scary storm came through.  We had lots of fun living out of our van, visiting a friend, and meeting people along the way.  I had been doing this for a couple of weeks when we ended up camping next to two state troopers from Arizona.  They saw that I was a single woman traveling with a child and made some assumptions about us.  They kindly kept trying to help me with my equipment and such, which I thought was very funny, because I had been doing it for weeks all on my own.  That trip was a great experience for me, and something I hope our daughter will remember as an empowering thing we did together.  Just to be sure she would remember, I forced her to write a sentence or two in our journal every night, promising her that she would thank me as an adult!

Study habits, study aids

The power of habit.  Good habits can be created.  Bad habits can be changed.  It is never too early or late!

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The mastery of law requires good study habits.  The library has tools to incorporate into your daily study practice.

Online Study Aids (via tech fee)

  • West Study Aids:  popular titles include Sum and Substance Audio, Nutshells, Happy and Short Guides, and the Acing series.
  • Wolters Kluwer Study Aids: including Glannon Guides, Crunch Time, and Examples & Explanations (my personal favorite).

Print Study Aids

  • The Law Library’s collection of study aid resources and supplements (i.e. hornbooks) have varied approaches to helping you understand core concepts. The collection includes many notable series (some of which are not included in the supra online package).  They are available in the interactive learning area.

Audio and Flash Cards

CALI Lessons

  • The Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction maintains a collection of almost 1,000 interactive, computer-based lessons covering 33 legal education subject areas.

To access CALI lessons:

  1. Go to www.cali.org
  2. Enter the email and password you created at registration. (If you have not registered, you will need to create a new user account. Contact Patrick Parsons to obtain an authorization code.)
  3. Select Lessons (from Quick Links) and then choose a specific lesson

Exam Archive

Study Room Booking Improvement

I am happy to share an improvement we have made to the law library study room booking system.

The actual process of making a reservation will be simpler. Simply select the start time for your reservation and use the drop down menu that will appear at the bottom of the screen to set the end time!

Screen capture of updated study room booking system.

We encourage you to try out the system and see for yourself just how easy it is to make your own booking. It will be faster for you, also, when you want to pick up your key.

Other policies remain the same:

The rooms are for two or more law students. Rooms can be checked out for up to 3 hours per day per Campus ID.

At least two members of the group must be present within the first 10 minutes of the reservation to check out the door key. A group that is more than 10 minutes late forfeits the reservation.

Reservations can be made in person or online up to one week in advance of the reservation date.

Welcome 1L’s

Hopefully during your busy orientation week you had a chance to stop in the library.  Chances are you will be spending lots of time studying here.

Library 5th

Some resources you should know about:

Leisure Collection:  Because you are going to have so much free time. The DVDs, fiction, and fun non-fiction are all still available for you to check out and enjoy—they are located next to the reference collection.

Study Aids:  The Study Aid Collection can be found in the back of the collaboration space—just behind the Technology Support desk.  These can be checked out for 3 hours.  We also have online availability.  Older editions are available in the General Stacks.

Reserve Items: Course required books, book stands, lap desks, games, chargers, and more are available on request at the Circulation Desk.

Reference Collection:  Heavily-used resources and other reference materials, including the Official Code of Georgia (O.C.G.A.) are located just to the right of the Reference Desk.

Georgia Collection:  The Georgia state materials are located on the library 5th floor behind the elevators, in free-standing shelves.  The collection includes Georgia primary sources including Georgia Laws and West’s Annotated Code of Georgia.  You will find secondary sources including past editions of Georgia treatises (current editions are in the Reference Collection) such as Redfearn Wills and Administration in Georgia and a wide variety of Georgia continuing legal education materials.

Core Practice Collection:  A number of our practitioner tools, such as legal encyclopedias, form books, and practice guides are located the Core Practice Collection on the 5th floor behind the elevators, right next to the Georgia Collection

Library 6

General Stacks:  Material in General Stacks are located on both the 5th and 6th floors (but mostly on the 6th).  Call numbers beginning with AC and running through KE will be found on the 5th floor, starting behind the elevators.  If the call number starts with KF1 or comes later in the alphabet, you’ll want to start looking for the title on the 6th floor, just as you walk off the elevator.

Law Periodicals:  If you want to look at a journal article that you can’t access online because it’s too recently published(cough cough, perhaps not very likely), you may want to try the 6th floor behind the elevators.  The journal titles are in alphabetical order.

If you have any questions about finding our other special collections—state materials or the Young Adult Collection (yes, we have that too)—please stop by the reference desk and we will be happy to help you.