Ray's J.D. (Juris Doctor)
My own personal opinion of casebooks:
Real Short Version:
I think that the casebooks are a waste of money. They are nearly worthless to sell back, and if
a case is really important in any subject area, it is on Wikipedia or a host of other sites for free!
I have mentioned them in each of the "L" year notes, but I wanted to make a short page to go over specifically what
my thoughts and opinions are on the large and expensive casebooks.
I absolutely feel that the Gilbert's Law Summaries and any case brief book get the job done - and BETTER
than any casebook ever could!
First off, realize that no matter how large these books are, they are an extremely limited and edited version of any
case that is included in the book.
A "simple" fender bender or slip and fall accident could generate more pages in depositions alone than all of what is included
in a full year of casebooks.
In my 1L year, I decided that I would get to know everything about everything because I had the time and
dedication to do so, but there is a price to be paid for that logic.
First, that is what I refer to as "shotgunning" the information because there is simply too much about each area of study
to know, and trying to know it all is silly and wasteful. Secondly, you are not tested on everything, they simply could not
possibly dream up enough material to cover everything in an essay exam.
All of the graded material that I had to complete was essay. An essay is extremely limited to what they can test you
on... limited = sniper.
You can try to know it all, but it is a serious mistake, and your grades will suffer because of it.
You must know Negligence in Torts, Homicide in Criminal Law and Formation in Contracts. You also need to be familiar with
other issues as the FYLSX will toss a few other issues your way as well.
In general, my opinion is that the casebooks allow us to read up on some of the fine details of specific cases that the authors
considered to be pretty darn important, and then, only the aspects of the case that had been most important - to them.
If you spend countless hours briefing cases, you will become good at briefing cases, good luck with that. If you want to pass
the Bar Exam, or, for folks like me, the California First Year Law Student's Exam - you had better focus on the study you need
to pass the exam.
You can be the bestest of the bestest case briefer at the most bestest of them all mother of law schools - but if you can't
pass the General Bar Exam for the state or jurisdiction in which you desire to practice... you're toast.
I think, in my heart of hearts, that the casebooks are almost worthless, as is case briefing. Keep reading for some more fun
I looked up the value of our 1L textbooks from Textbooks.com and Amazon.com. For both 1L and 2L (which I just bought in
February of 2012!) the books are nearly worthless!
The Torts book was worth $30 on Textbooks.com and a $60 trade in (you get store credit for it) at Amazon.com.
The Remedies book was worth a $46 buyback at Textbooks.com.
WITH THAT SAID:
For 1L and 2L, I purchased brand new casebooks - I just like new books, that's me, but I also always sold them back for some
minor recovery of the purchase price.
This, however, is ridiculous.
I have the 2L casebooks, but this year, I will not be using them.
My goal is to determine if I can acquire the information required to properly brief my cases without using the big, pricey
casebooks. If I can, I am done with buying casebooks for 3L and 4L (assuming I pass 2L!).
As an update to the 2L case briefs - I was able to brief every single case without ever opening the casebook. All I needed
to do a solid job on the case briefs was the case brief book, the Gilbert's Law Summary's and the Internet... so I won't be
buying anymore casebooks!
Important Note About Case Briefs:
Briefing cases is something we have to do - that doesn't mean that "they" make it easy on us. Sometimes, the case will
NOT be in your casebook. Sometimes it will be in the casebook but NOT in the case brief book. In those situations, you
have to see if you can find it online somewhere, or, if the school allows - like NWCULaw does, you can select another
case from the casebook to brief (rather than the assigned one).
If the school allows you to brief another case from the casebook, it would be nice if you actually briefed a case that appears
in the casebook that is required by the course you are taking!
In my 2L class on Agency, there was no real choice of case brief book to use, so I chose the best one I thought I could
find. I have to brief seven cases in Agency, and NONE of the requested cases appears in both my casebook and the case
brief book. Only ONE of the requested cases appears in my case brief book, but the case is only mentioned in my casebook -
What to do???
I decided to use the alternative allowed by the class and I found six cases that are in both the case brief book and the
casebook - actually discussed, not just mentioned!
Using those six cases and the one requested case, that will make up my seven cases for Agency.
So, in short, you have to think on your feet sometimes, find the workaround and make it happen. Stay tuned to see what
I used to work around the casebook problem around March of 2015!
The Update: The workaround ends up being that the most vital cases in each subject have been discussed
at length all over the Internet. I used the Internet, Gilbert's, Case Brief Books and studied everything I could in short order to
gain insight to what I was briefing. I will continue to use this method for future case brief assignments.