- One of the best study aids is a hornbook.
- Hornbooks are treatises in the subject matter.
- They explain the legal concepts and black letter law the way a non-fiction book or textbook would.
- Hornbooks are more like your undergraduate scholarly texts, except more scholarly and more detailed. However, they can be quite illuminating if you cannot pull the legal concepts out of the cases and the class discussions. Hornbooks are better than commercial outlines because the outlines are just that.
- They cover many concepts, but they cannot cover all the concepts in great detail. A hornbook can go into detail, explain the reasoning behind a series of cases, and take you through the legal synthesis process. The hornbook author tells you what the law is, not leads you to it Socratically.
Don't purchase hornbooks because the cost can be prohibitive. The law school has a number of hornbooks at the circulation desk in the library as well as older editions throughout the library. A good place to start is the Concise Hornbook series but you can also find other hornbooks for a specific topic using the library catalog. Search the library catalog for your subject such as "property law" and "hornbook. Review the results for items with the location "hornbook reserve" or ask the circulation librarian for recommendations.
Hornbooks can help when you create course outlines. When you're outlining, if you don't understand the concepts from the casebook and class notes, read the appropriate section in the hornbook, and see if you then understand enough to outline. The hornbooks discuss cases, so you probably will see an explanation of many of the cases in your case book. The hornbook might just discuss the cases in a way that you understand.
Other Study Aids Available at the Library
The Library also has commercial outlines and other study aids available for checkout at the Circulation/Reserve desk as well as older versions in the stacks that you can check out and use at home. Go to the library catalog and select "Series" from the drop-down menu and then enter "Examples and Explanations" or "Nutshell" into the search box to pull up all items in the series. Or ask the librarians at the Circulation or Reference desk for titles to fit your course.
Or view a full list here:
Almost every student uses a commercial outline at one time. Commercial outlines can be very helpful in laying out the black-letter law and giving you rules to memorize if that is what you are looking for. Some outlines are geared towards certain casebooks, so some students find those particularly helpful. The problem with commercial outlines is that some students use them in place of reading and working with the material on their own. These outlines are intended to supplement your work, not replace it.
Between Hornbooks & Commercial Outlines
Narrative explanations of areas of law:
Nutshells: mini-hornbooks that explain the law in a condensed format. Give you just enough law so that you have a clear understanding of course rules, concepts and policy. Available on Amazon.com if you wish to purchase (many in Kindle format for immediate download).
Examples and Explanations (Aspen Publishers)--contains fact patterns and sample questions. Available as part of the Aspen E-Books subscription for students who purchase that subscription (cost is $60). For more information and to purchase a 12-month subscription please see this flyer.
Concepts and Insights (Foundation Press), explains key cases and concepts.
Understanding Series (formerly "Legal Text Series") Descriptions of concepts but no sample problems.
Many of these can be found either new or used on Amazon or you can buy them for a discount from PIFP
Other Study Aids
Includes Canned Briefs, Flashcards, Tapes etc.:
Every year it seems that there are more and different study aids. Don't use any of them to substitute for your work (canned case briefs. for example). But, since everyone learns differently, only you can determine what will help you clarify and review your understanding of the material. See the Study Software page for ways to create your own flashcards.