I wish someone told me that there was a “Big Picture” to this whole business of being a first year law student. I wish someone had told me that everything fits together at the end. I wish someone told me that every piece of information I was learning was not being taught in a vacuum. But nobody told me, so I am telling you.
There is a Big Picture. It is not a myth. It is not a rumor. It is not some secret code. It is not scary. It is actually necessary that you prepare yourself now for learning the Big Picture even if you only have a few puzzling pieces that don’t even make up a small fraction of the picture.
I do not want to confuse you and try to bestow more information upon you than I think you need at this point. So I will keep this short and sweet. Besides, you should really be studying instead of surfing the internet right now and reading long articles on law school.
Tackle the insanity that surrounds your first few months of law school in the following way:
(1) Review what you went over in class that day. Look over your notes from that day’s class to make sure you understood the major points so you can lead into the next topic. If you are confused about the topic that day even after looking at your notes and the book, you can turn to a commercial outline, examples and explanations, or a treatise on the topic. Remember, your review of today’s materials will most likely integrate you into the next day’s materials. A continuous review will force you to continue to see the BIG PICTURE.
(2) Prepare for the following day: Do NOT start with commercial outlines when it comes to attacking the reading for the next class. Start with your syllabus, your book and your notebook and a legal dictionary.
Look at your course syllabus and the table of contents in your textbook before reading a case to remind yourself of the context in which the case fits. Remember, always think BIG PICTURE. You will see topics building upon one another as you go through the course.
For Example, when studying Negligence in Torts, there are four elements: Duty, Breach, Causation and Damages. Most likely you will learn them in that order, and most likely you will deal with several cases on each sub-topic. It may be quite some time since you looked at “Duty” cases by the time you get to “Causation” cases, and you want to keep reviewing and reminding yourself that this will all fit into the big picture of “Negligence.”
Just because you do not understand how things will fit, you must always have the mindset that what you are learning on a day-to-day basis is designed to fit into a Big Picture. It is the Big Picture you will be tested on, and continuous acknowledgment that it in fact exists will make this bumpy road go a bit smoother.