Study Aid Spotlight- Examples & Explanations for Criminal Law

by Ross Crowell, 3L & Law Library GRA

For all of you 1Ls, I am sure you are busy studying for your Criminal Law final. When I took it, the world was turning upside down as COVID-19 had just hit and our classes were going entirely online. Luckily, I had a lot of time on my hands for studying, since there was little else to do in the world. During my Finals prep, I found Examples & Explanations for Criminal Law to be very helpful.

This study aid is immediately useful for its easy-to-understand definitions for key criminal law terms. It does an especially good job of distinguishing the many closely-related terms and concepts studied in the course, such as first-degree murder, second-degree murder, felony murder, and manslaughter. It also explains the often-confusing distinctions between the differing approaches to defining crimes like these, including thorough coverage of the Model Penal Code.

Like others in the E&E series, this study aid also includes a variety of illustrative practice problems, each coupled with a thorough explanation of its answer. This format helps you to become more familiar with applying the law to a variety of hypotheticals. The practice problems in the Criminal Law E&E were also shorter than others I’ve encountered, which makes them easier to incorporate into your study routine. You are able to practice issue-spotting and analysis without being forced to read through a hypo that drags on for multiple pages. While it is important to do full-length practice problems and write out full answers, the shorter hypos in this study aid are a great resource for quick analysis, and a good way to quickly see whether you are on the right track.

Whether you just need to brush up on some key concepts or run through some questions in an exam-like format, Examples & Explanations for Criminal Law is a good choice. You can find the most up-to-date version of this study aid in print. We also have the previous edition available online through the Aspen Learning Library, where it can be used in your browser, or with the associated app.

Study Aid Spotlight- Select Upper-level Selections

This super-deluxe mega Spotlight is a sequel to our earlier post with guidance on the premier study aids for this semester’s 1L courses. This time, we’re movin’ on up, hitting up some of those current upper-level courses and telling you which study aids are undoubtedly the very best.

As a 2L or 3L, you’ve already endured law school finals, so you basically know what to expect. This increased familiarity may have also given you a better sense of how to prepare. Perhaps you’ve decided to sharpen your outlines into a more exam-ready ‘attack’ format? Maybe you’ve pledged to work more practice exams into your study routine? If you reflect upon your previous exam experiences, you can probably find some ways to ‘level up’ your approach to finals this time around.

But do you know which study aids work well for your upper-level courses? Perhaps you’ve noticed that truly helpful study aids are a bit harder to find for these courses, especially the electives. Fewer students take them, so it’s natural that fewer study aids are published to supplement them. Moreover, quite a few of the upper-level courses are rooted in constitutional jurisprudence, which is less suited to the example-based format of many study aids than the common law courses of your 1L year.

So, if you’ve thoroughly perused the study aid shelves in the back of the library, failed to find Glannon’s trusted name on any of the pertinent spines, and skulked back to your study station empty-handed, this is the post for you. I’m going to help you choose the best study aids for your courses. That is, I’m giving you the inside scoop on which titles are the tip-top, best-in-class study aids to illuminate your courses and position you to triumph over another round of exams. Of course, in the interest of keeping this post of a manageable length, there aren’t selections for every upper-level offering, but most of the required courses (and two important electives) are here.  

Constitutional Law I- Constitutional Law: Principles & Policies (Chemerinsky)

This study aid has a well-deserved reputation for being a game-changer for this challenging course. It’s an absolute classic, and we’ve sung its praises before. It offers tight, lucid descriptions of the key cases that nonetheless manage to capture many of their nuances, while also placing them in the context of SCOTUS’s evolving doctrines. I remember finding it to be a huge help when reworking my outline, but it can also work very well as a general refresher when you have trouble recalling the specifics of those early-semester cases. However, its format is designed to serve as a quick reference, not to help you learn to apply these doctrines. ConLaw exams tend to vary quite a bit from professor to professor, so that may be for the best, but that does mean it’s more important than ever be attentive to your professor’s hypotheticals. You should also see if they have any past exams available, in our archive or elsewhere. Note that this one isn’t available in the library’s online collections, so you’ll need to use it in print.

Evidence- Examples & Explanations for Evidence

In contrast to ConLaw, the rule-based structure of this course is particularly well-suited to the E&E format. The short examples allow you to gain some insight into how the FRE actually work, both in the real world and on your exam. This one also has the virtue of a writing style that makes intimidating topics quite approachable. In particular, I could appreciate how it discusses “hearsay’s appearance of difficulty to ‘outsiders’ and its relative simplicity to initiates” before proceeding to swiftly induct you into the ranks of the latter via two succinct chapters demystifying this topic.

Criminal Procedure: Investigations- Examples & Explanations for Criminal Procedure: The Constitution and the Police

It’s tricky to choose the best approach for this course, which combines ConLaw’s policy orientation with the labyrinthine analytical constructs more often associated with courses like Evidence or CivPro. Fortunately, this E&E does a solid job of addressing both of these aspects. This study aid tries to ‘simulate the Socratic classroom at its best’ and it shows. The examples are shorter than what I’ve seen in other E&Es, but they build upon one another in a way that does a good job of illuminating not just the boundaries of the applicable doctrines, but the justifications behind those boundaries.

Criminal Procedure: AdjudicationPrinciples of Criminal Procedure: Post-Investigation

The Concise Hornbook series is my go-to study aid for if you’re chiefly after a summary of the law. In particular, this one does a great job of tying together the many disparate topics covered in this course. A great example is the early discussion of the CrimPro’s “cornerstone objectives,” which supplies just the type of valuable context that can help make the whole course ‘click.’

Do you like these choices? Do you disagree with them? Which study aids are your top choices? Let us know in the comments!

Study Aid Spotlight- Acing Contracts

By Ross Crowell

In today’s Study Aid Spotlight, Law Library GRA Ross Crowell looks at a concise, popular study aid for your Contracts course. To make sure you’ve got all of your 1L bases covered, check out our recent post with librarian-curated study aid selections for all of them.

To me, the first semester of Contracts was a complete blur. From the big picture, everything seemed so simple. Offer, acceptance, consideration. Easy enough. However, once we got into the details of cases, things got quite confusing. As a 1L, Acing Contracts helped clear up a lot of these issues as I was cramming for the final exam. 

You can access Acing Contracts very easily: in addition to the library’s print copy, a digital version of the text is available through West Academic’s online study aid collection. Before getting into the nitty gritty details of your Contracts course, check out the Table of Contents for a solid foundation of topics (Offer and Acceptance, Consideration, Statute of Frauds, Defenses, Parol Evidence, etc.), that will help you organize your outline headings. 

Getting into the details, Acing Contracts does a good job of putting the course’s rules and explanations into plain English. As a 1L, so many times I would read some case from the early 1900s and, due to the language and writing style used at the time, it would be tough for me to follow along. Acing Contracts breaks down all of that legal jargon, explaining what you need to know in more modern terms.

It also does a good job of giving relevant examples. There are tons of practice problems that are useful for exam practice, and each comes with an in-depth answer. (Side note – I highly recommend writing out several practice problems for each class. That is probably the biggest thing I realized that I needed to change about my exam preparation after my first semester of law school.) 

Moreover, Acing Contracts provides rule statements from the almighty Restatement Second of Contracts and the UCC. Additionally, it provides checklists for some concepts you might come across (a great example I took advantage of is the in-depth Statute of Frauds checklist).

This study aid will definitely help you write your Contracts outline and study for your final. Most of all, I appreciated the way it put complicated concepts into easy-to-read language. While it is probably best to focus your outlining and studying around your class’s lectures and textbook, Acing Contracts is a great study tool for filling in the gaps and clearing up some of the more complicated concepts.

Study Aid Spotlight- Aman & Mayton’s Administrative Law (Hornbook Series)

In Admin Law, Organization is Everything

By Luke Smith

In this edition of Study Aid Spotlight, Ref GRA Luke Smith takes a closer look at a study aid that’s been a huge help to him in this challenging upper-level course. This one is an excellent example of the most O.G. study aid of them all, a hornbook.

Remember all those things you learned in Con Law about the nondelegation doctrine? Me neither. You’ll have about a week to relearn it all before you move on to the next equally complicated aspect of administrative law. Admin Law is not a required class, so its study aids might not get as much love as someother classes (I’m looking at you Civ Pro study aids), but having a good study aid is absolutely critical for this behemoth of integrated legal concepts. One that I’ve come to love is Aman & Mayton’s Administrative Law hornbook. To me, it stands out for two key reasons.

Reason #1: This aid is well-written and well-organized. It succinctly defines topics to give you an edge when preparing for exams. It’s organized into 5 sections: agency legislative power, agency adjudication, consistency in agency action, control of agency discretion, and access to government information. Within each part, it is broken down further into chapters that each explain an aspect of that overall topic. This might not sound like much if you haven’t taken Admin Law yet, but this easy-to-follow organization is absolutely perfect for the course, making it easy to fill in the gaps you have when it comes time for exams.

Reason #2: One of the worst parts of studying for exams is the limited 3-hour check out time for study aids, which can leave you fighting to make sure you get your preferred study aid. But this hornbook is available online through the library as well as in print. Waiting your turn for a study aid during exam time is a thing of the past. Now you can study all night long from the comfort of your home with a great study aid!!! Additionally, online it features the same great topical organization, with the added benefit of hyperlinks to each section, so you can easily access the exact section you need without having to navigate a table of contents like with those outdated print study aids.

Whether you’re using it to prepare for class or study for exams, this classic hornbook is a must for anyone in Administrative Law.

Study Aid Spotlight- selections for the current 1L courses

Call it Study Aid Spotlight, tripartite edition. We’re going to take a look at not just one, but three study aids, specially chosen for the Fall 2021 1L courses.

As a 1L staring down your first finals, it pays to study up on studying. And while it’s great to have an entire publishing subcategory dedicated to aiding you in this process of studying for law school exams, it can result in a rather paralyzing proliferation of study aid options.

Fortunately, the library’s got your back. We’ve been toiling away to formulate this list of what are unquestionably the very best study aids for your fall courses, as determined by facts & logic.

Civil Procedure- Examples & Explanations

Choices don’t come easier than this. Not only does Professor Glannon (don’t worry: he’ll come up again) communicate the niceties of CivPro with clarity and wit, the example-based format keeps the focus squarely on the all-important skill of applying the law. We have an entire post extolling the virtues of this legendary study aid, so I’m not going to belabor this E&E’s exemplary qualities. Suffice it to say, this one’s a must-have.

Sum and Substance- Contracts (Audio)

More than the other 1L subjects, Contracts is starved for truly great study aids. There are plenty of solid hornbooks, but my usual application-focused standbys—E&Es and Glannon Guides—are a bit underwhelming when it comes to Contracts.

That helps Sum & Substance- Contracts stand out. Audio study aids like this one can improve your studying efficiency, since the format encourages multitasking. Here, Professor Brain does a good job of unpacking the major doctrines in a conversational style.

However, what really sets this apart from other audio study aids is the focus on applying the law. After discussing and summarizing each topic, Professor Brain includes a brief section on answering related questions on a law school exam, going over typical fact pattern and explaining how to analyze them.  

Torts- Examples & Explanations

Another Glannon classic! This one features the same mix of right-to-the-point explication and irreverent humor that made its CivPro counterpart so useful. Standout chapters include “That Odious Character: The Reasonable Person,” whose examples employ Falstaff, Dogberry, and other Shakespearean characters to memorably illustrate concepts like reasonable care and the Hand formula. I can’t recommend this one strongly enough.

Do you like these choices? Do you disagree with them? Which study aids are your top choices? Let us know in the comments!

Study Aid Spotlight- Constitutional Law: Principles and Policies (Chemerinsky)

by Meri Elkin

In this second-ever Study Aid Spotlight, 3LP Meri Elkin takes a look at Erwin Chemerinsky’s celebrated Con Law hornbook.

Hanish Patel boasts that the #1 study aid of all time is CivPro E&E, and it very well may be … if you are a 1L. But tell me 2L’s and 3L’s, how frequently are you picking up CivPro supplements these days? And although Prof. Fowke recently made a case for Getting to Maybe—a study aid focused on exam skills rather than any one subject area—he was too quick to dismiss the the depth and versatility that comes with taking a single-subject focus.

So, I am here to make my case that the all-time best study aid is actually Erwin Chemerinsky’s Constitutional Law: Principles and Policies. Beyond Con Law I and II, there are so many electives that touch on constitutional law. So. Many. Electives.

Don’t let the size of this 1,439-page supplement scare you. With a table of contents and a case index, this study aid is easy to navigate. More than that, it breaks down constitutional law into twelve chapters and easily digestible subsections.

For example, §5.3 tackles the Dormant Commerce Clause in 36 pages, starting with a brief definition, and then covering everything from policy justifications to an in-depth analysis of the modern approach to exceptions. Throughout, the author guides us along with incredibly useful headers, making it easy to get to the relevant sections for your classes.

Professor Chemerinsky’s goal was to write “the most thorough” 1,400-page constitutional law supplement possible. Although it does not cover the entirety of constitutional law, this amazing study aid provides some essential clarity for most of the topics students will encounter in their courses. And it’s these clear explanations that will ultimately keep students coming back, class after class.

For a panoply of study aid-related pro-tips (w/ a side of well-crafted verse), check out this classic post. And if you need to efficiently locate the perfect study aid in the perfect format, the library’s got you covered.

Study Aid Spotlight- Getting to Maybe: How to Excel on Law School Exams

Welcome to Study Aid Spotlight! This is a new, semi-regular series that will pop up at the Blackacre Times from time to time, especially as we near exam season. As the name suggests, each installment of Study Aid Spotlight will take an in-depth look at one particular study aid, discussing what it covers and why its useful. Go here if you want some study aid-related tips (alongside some choice iambs), or check out our Study Aid Finder for an easy entryway to the library’s collection. In this first installment of Study Aid Spotlight, Digital Services Librarian Gerard Fowke takes a closer look at Fischl & Paul’s classic Getting to Maybe: How to Excel on Law School Exams.

Here at the Blackacre Times, our ‘all-time’ most popular post is ’14 grad Hanish Patel’s convincing case for Glannon’s CivPro E&E as the ‘all-time’ #1 study aid. And it’s easy to see why the CivPro E&E might warrant such effusive praise: Professor Glannon’s masterful hypos force students to think critically about these storied doctrines, and his witty presentation makes this rather dry material quite memorable.

But I’m here to tell you that Richard Michael Fischl & Jeremy Paul’s Getting to Maybe 1 gives Glannon a run for its money.

Why? Well, it’s right there in the subtitle. ‘Law Schools Exams’ can seem awfully important, and G2M is all about ‘How to Excel ’ on these challenging and mysterious assessments. And unlike Glannon, which will only help in CivPro, G2M’s focus on exam-related skills will help you in all of your classes. Every. Single. One.

Notably, this helpfulness even encompasses those classes without a traditional law school exam. That’s because this study aid’s exam-oriented focus is really just the tip of the iceberg. Although its strategies will undoubtedly prove helpful when untangling an end-of-semester issue-spotter, that’s only because everything about law school revolves around G2M’s true topic: legal analysis.

For example, take Chapter 6, titled “Forks in the Facts.” Here, Fischl & Paul start by telling us they plan to look at a “variety of ways in which laws are structured by category” and explain the challenges of categorizing “a particular set of facts.” Then they proceed to do just that, with subchapters on oft-seen iterations of this analytical concept, such as “Rule vs. Exception,” “Categories as Elements of Legal Rules,” and “Facts on Both Sides.” For each, the authors illustrate their ideas with clear examples drawn from the casebook canon (some even involving everyone’s favorite fictional estate).

But this “categorical” habit of thought will only help you succeed on an exam because it’s an important aspect of legal analysis. And it has rarely (if ever) been given this straightforward of a treatment: the authors have cleared away the jurisprudential rabbit-holes and distilled the essence of “categorical reasoning about the law” into fewer than 20 pages.

In Maybe‘s remainder, they work similar wonders with kindred concepts like “Forks in the Law” and “Patterns of Ambiguity.” Students will walk away wishing they could stop thinking like a lawyer.

Of course, this approach means that Getting to Maybe is less of a reference work than something like the Glannon E&E. It’s not the study aid you’ll grab from the nightstand for that day-before-the-exam Erie refresher.  Instead, most students will want to read G2M once or twice (preferably before the exam ‘crunch’ begins), absorb its analytical framework, and move on. This quality alone probably makes it a perpetual underdog in the study aid “World Series.” Still, few books so effectively capture the essence of what law school seeks to impart and assess. The E&Es and Nutshells of the world would do well to watch out for the weird, scrappy study aid known as Getting to Maybe.

1 I couldn’t help but to completely and utterly geek out when I noticed that Professor Paul’s faculty profile mentions that a new edition of Getting to Maybe is expected for 2021. The first (and only) edition has been out for 22 years. UPDATE: According to Carolina Academic Press (by the way of the Jones School of Law Library’s Gigi Panagotacos) the new edition won’t be out until Fall 2022. Can I even wait that long?