Orin Kerr, associate professor of law at George Washington University Law School, has written an essay, How to Read a Judicial Opinion: A Guide for New Law Students (version 2.0, August 2005). In the next few weeks, thousands of new first-year law students will be learning how to read and brief cases to prepare for class. This guide will help you get started.
SIU law students will be briefing a case for their first Lawyering Skills class, held during orientation Aug. 17–18. Briefing a case is a structured way of taking notes about a case. Although it may seem tedious at first, your case briefs will help you remember the important details of each case, both when you discuss the case in class and when you are reviewing at the end of the semester.
Prof. Kerr explains "explains what judicial opinions are, how they are structured, and what you should look for when you read them." If you are not sure about the answers to those questions, check out his essay before you read your first case. Attorney Dennis Kennedy of the Between Lawyers blog and law student Austin Groothuis of CALI's Prelaw Blog are among those recommending How to Read a Judicial Opinion.
Update: Two more recommendations of How to Read a Judicial Opinion: Susan McDonald of the Research and Writing Law Blog and, more importantly, one of our Lawyering Skills professors, Sue Liemer, of the Legal Writing Prof Blog.