A Review of the Outlines Provided by Student Organizations

BY LIBIN ZHANG

Law students face many tough choices. Temple Bar or Tommy Doyle’s? Labour or Liberal Democrat? Full service Korean massage or shopping for the wife?

One important decision is choosing between the appropriate class outlines for exams. Some people make their own outlines, while others prefer to not reinvent the wheel, and acquire outlines from friends and student organizations. This review is to determine the quality of some student organization outline services, and to encourage other student organizations to provide student outlines from their members.

The outlines are evaluated on procedural (accessibility, timeliness) and substantive qualities (reasonableness, color, length). The outlines will not be reviewed on their actual usefulness, since none of them were actually used — one professor chose a new book, another prohibited outside sources, and another wrote his own handy treatise on the subject matter. Your correspondent relied on the treatise, on margin scribblings and on the relatively accurate tables of contents. This review covers only one slice of the 1L class, and is not meant to be thorough or comprehensive.

1. Black Law Student Association

BLSA provides outlines from a centralized online repository, access available only by a super secret password. Once logged-in, the web interface allows online viewing, downloading, and other features. For some students, the outlines alone may be well worth the club dues.

Even more impressive than the self-titled “Quadruple Super Sinister Outline” is a contracts outline that uses several different font sizes and about seven different colors as various variations of bold emphasis. Unfortunately, the light green color (for notes) is difficult to read, and confusion may arise from the similarity between orange (for issue questions) and dark yellow (for question clarifications).

2. Federalist Society

The Society’s documents, from the President himself, are supposed to be hidden from the general population, to be destroyed after finals, so this article will not comment on them for fear of breaking privilege.

The Society prefers quid pro quo, but luckily your correspondent will never have to submit his writings as the Society prefers A answers. It is interesting to note that the rival non-partisan organization, the American Constitutional Society, did not provide outlines. A student commented that perhaps ACS has a strong belief in traditional Social Darwinist self-reliance and individualism, while the Federalist Society uses the statist social welfare model.

3. Women’s Law Association

The WLA is great. The outlines offered are from recent years and have well-organized thoughts in complete sentences. There was much talk about creating an outline bank, but due to some logistical issues, the outlines were personally emailed to the section representatives. WLA also helpfully offered a study break, which your correspondent was unable to attend since he was on an airplane.

Unfortunately, your correspondent’s feelings of being special were negated when the well-meaning, other section representative emailed the outlines to the entire section.

4. Environmental Law Review

The ELR Chief was nice enough to send outlines to the subciters, including one personally written by the Chief himself.

Unfortunately, the outlines happened to be all for the same class. One 90-page outline has a beautiful table of contents section with extensive intra-document hyperlinking. It is obvious that ELR training has translated into greater attention to formatting detail, though there were several obvious Bluebooking errors.

5. HL Central

HL Central has a well organized online database of outlines that stretch back for several years. The good part is that the outlines are convenient to access and generally plentifully available. The outlines’ accessibility at the beginning of the year made answering Socratic questions easier, and sometimes student responses appear to be verbatim readings of HL Central outlines.

It might be nice if the outline uploaders could input additional fields, such as book title and edition, so that students could download outlines from other professors that used the same book.

Overall, the above organizations have done a remarkable job in providing outlines and answers. Especially commendable are the organizations that determined the students and professors in each section (easier when the 1Ls are section reps). Like your correspondent’s contracts exam answer, it would have been nicer to see more policy justifications on why one should use one outline over another. The outlines should also be provided earlier in the term, since the barrage of outlines in the week before finals was not conducive to a stress-free studying period.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for next issue’s study on whether the use of British English spelling hurts one’s grade when the professor uses word search to look for key words in in-class issue spotter answers.

Libin Zhang can always help the religious right protect the institution of marriage by becoming a gay wedding planner, if this whole law school thing doesn’t work out.

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