Our constitutional law lecturer, the famous Prof Lukoye oftentimes reminded us of your undergraduate days. He told us that you used to teach your classmates on days he could not make it to class. May I also add, as we wait for the magistrate to walk in, that you are the next big thing in this country. Law students celebrate your wit, your age mates fear meeting you in court, you guide senior counsels, and clients will soon flock your offices.
He will only make noise, waste your time through the entire hearing but at the end of it all, he will collapse at the foot of the tower of your intellect.
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Stephen Musili on January 25, am. An effective way to reduce this time is to annotate the margins of the casebook. Your pencil or pen will be one of your best friends while reading a case. It will allow you to mark off the different sections such as facts, procedural history, or conclusions , thus allowing you to clear your mind of thoughts and providing an invaluable resource when briefing and reviewing. You might be wondering why annotating is important if you make an adequate, well-constructed brief. By their very nature briefs cannot cover everything in a case. Even with a thorough, well-constructed brief you may want to reference the original case in order to reread dicta that might not have seemed important at the time, to review the complete procedural history or set of facts, or to scour the rationale for a better understanding of the case; annotating makes these tasks easier.
Whether you return to a case after a few hours or a few months, annotations will swiftly guide you to the pertinent parts of the case by providing a roadmap of the important sections. Your textual markings and margin notes will refresh your memory and restore specific thoughts you might have had about either the case in general or an individual passage.
Annotations will also remind you of forgotten thoughts and random ideas by providing a medium for personal comments. In addition to making it easier to review an original case, annotating cases during the first review of a case makes the briefing process easier. With adequate annotations, the important details needed for your brief will be much easier to retrieve. Without annotations, you will likely have difficulty locating the information you seek even in the short cases. It might seem strange that it would be hard to reference a short case, but even a short case will likely take you at least fifteen to twenty-five minutes to read, while longer cases may take as much as thirty minutes to an hour to complete.
No matter how long it takes, the dense material of all cases makes it difficult to remember all your thoughts, and trying to locate specific sections of the analysis may feel like you are trying to locate a needle in a haystack. An annotation in the margin, however, will not only swiftly guide you to a pertinent section, but will also refresh the thoughts that you had while reading that section. When you read a case for the first time, read for the story and for a basic understanding of the dispute, the issues, the rationale, and the decision.
As you hit these elements or what you think are these elements make a mark in the margins. When a case sparks an idea — write that idea in the margin as well — you never know when a seemingly irrelevant idea might turn into something more. Finally, when you spot a particularly important part of the text, underline it or highlight it as described below. With a basic understanding of the case, and with annotations in the margin, the second read-through of the case should be much easier.
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You can direct your reading to the most important sections and will have an easier time identifying what is and is not important. Continue rereading the case until you have identified all the relevant information that you need to make your brief, including the issue s , the facts, the holding, and the relevant parts of the analysis. Pencil or pen — which is better to use when annotating? Our recommendation is a mechanical pencil. Mechanical pencils make finer markings than regular pencils, and also than ballpoint pens.
Although you might think a pencil might smear more than a pen, with its sharp point a mechanical pencil uses very little excess lead and will not smear as much as you might imagine. A mechanical pencil will also give you the freedom to make mistakes without consequences. When you first start annotating, you may think that some passages are more important than they really are, and therefore you may resist the urge to make a mark in order to preserve your book and prevent false guideposts.
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With a pencil, however, the ability to erase and rewrite removes this problem. Why highlight? Like annotating, highlighting may seem unimportant if you create thorough, well-constructed briefs, but highlighting directly helps you to brief. It makes cases, especially the more complicated ones, easy to digest, review and use to extract information.
Highlighting takes advantage of colors to provide a uniquely effective method for reviewing and referencing a case. If you prefer a visual approach to learning, you may find highlighting to be a very effective tool.
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If annotating and highlighting are so effective, why brief? Because the process of summarizing a case and putting it into your own words within a brief provides an understanding of the law and of the case that you cannot gain through the process of highlighting or annotating.
The process of putting the case into your own words forces you to digest the material, while annotating and highlighting can be accomplished in a much more passive manner. What should you highlight? Similar to annotating, the best parts of the case to highlight are those that represent the needed information for your brief such as the facts, the issue, the holding and the rationale. Unlike annotating, highlighting provides an effective way to color code, which makes referring to the case even easier.
In addition, Highlighters are particularly useful in marking off entire sections by using brackets. These brackets will allow you to color-code the case without highlighting all the text, leaving the most important phrases untouched for a more detailed highlight marking or underlining. Highlighting is a personal tool, and therefore should be used to the extent that highlighting helps, but should be modified in a way that makes it personally time efficient and beneficial.
For instance, you might combine the use of annotations in the margins with the visual benefit of highlighting the relevant text. You may prefer to underline the relevant text with a pencil, but to use a highlighter to bracket off the different sections of a case. Whatever you choose to do, make sure that it works for you, regardless of what others recommend. The techniques in the remainder of this section will describe ways to make full use of your highlighters. First, buy yourself a set of multi-colored highlighters, with at least four, or perhaps five or six different colors.
Yellow, pink, and orange are usually the brightest. Depending on the brand, purple and green can be dark, but still work well.
Although blue is a beautiful color, it tends to darken and hide the text. For each different section of the case, choose a color, and use that color only when highlighting the section of the case designated for that color. Consider using yellow for the text that you tend to highlight most frequently. Because yellow is the brightest, you may be inclined to use yellow for the Conclusions in order to make them stand out the most. If you do this, however, you will exhaust your other colors much faster than yellow and this will require that you purchase an entire set of new highlighters when a single color runs out because colors such as green are not sold separately.
If instead you choose to use yellow on a more frequently highlighted section such as the Analysis, when it comes time to replace your yellow marker, you will need only to replace your yellow highlighter individually. In the personal experience on one of the authors, the sections of cases that seemed to demand the most highlighter attention were the. Facts and the Analysis, while the Issues and Holdings demanded the least.
Other Considerations and. Experiment if you must, but try to choose a color scheme early on in the semester and stick with it. That way, when you come back to the first cases of the semester, you will not be confused with multiple color schemes. The basic sections of a case for which you should consider giving a different color are:. Not all of these sections demand a separate color. Furthermore, as mentioned above, some sections may not warrant highlighting in every case e. If you decide that a single color is all that you need, then stick to one, but if you find yourself highlighting lots of text from many different sections, reconsider the use of at least a few different colors.
Highlighters make text stand out, but only when used appropriately. Three to four colors provides decent color variation without the cumbersomeness of handling too many markers. Once you are comfortable with your color scheme, determining exactly what to highlight still may be difficult. Similar to knowing what to annotate, experience will perfect your highlighting skills.
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Now that we have covered the basics of reading, annotating, highlighting, and briefing a case, you are ready to start practicing. Keep the tips and techniques mentioned in this chapter in mind when you tackle the four topics in the remainder of this book. If you have difficultly, refer back to this chapter to help guide you as you master the case method of study and the art of using the common law.
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