September 7, 2011

So... what's a law professor to do about this website that sells outlines to our courses?

Here's the website. My ideas, off the top of my head:

1. Buy the outlines to your class, find the errors, and deliberately frame the exam around those errors.

1a. Moderate version: Just tell the students that's what you're going to do.

1b. Candyass version: Tell the students that's what crossed your mind, but of course you won't do that.

1c. Reverse twisted candyass move: Tell the students that's what Althouse emailed the law school faculty that she thought of doing and she's kind of person who would do it.

2. Buy the outline for your class, rewrite it to fix errors, make it clearer, and otherwise improve it, and send it around on the class email list — free.

2a. Lazy version: Buy the outline for your own class. Tell the students you know they are buying the outlines, so you're just going to distribute them, free, and warn them that mistakes may be in there and you haven't checked. At least screw up this website's profit model.

3. Legal approach: Bring a class action on behalf of all the lawprofs on the list for copyright infringement, etc.

99 comments:

ndspinelli said...

#3 is classic plaintiff attorney thinking. And, that's in the top 3 of what's wrong w/ our legal system.

Henry said...

Is there something really special about a law school outline that belies its name? Why wouldn't a professor already have his or her own outline to circulate?

Is law school really some kind of masonic handshake chamber of secrets claptrap?

Peano said...

What's wrong with students having an outline of a course they're taking?

t-man said...

What is the big deal? Most law students have access to old outlines for free (there was a central file in the law review office and the offices of other journals when I went to school).

Almost everyone did his own outline anyway, because the process of outlining is a good way to integrate and remember the material. If the student skips that step, he probably won't do as well on the exam anyway.

Also, do you have an enforceable copyright on a student's original outline of your course? That seems a stretch to me.

Fred4Pres said...

If the outlines help the students understand the material better, doesn't that condemn the text books for not making it clear in the first place?

Bob Ellison said...

This appears simply to be a crowd-sourced, online, efficient game-play tactic. In general, academia seems defensive about such things, including especially online learning and instruction.

Roll with it! Either ignore it or choose option 2a, but not to "screw up this web site's profit model". What would be the point of that?

Ann Althouse said...

"Why wouldn't a professor already have his or her own outline to circulate?"

Law school outlines would be the notes from all the classes, organized and condensed into the form that would be helpful for studying for the exam. (Note that the grade for the whole class is likely to be based entirely or almost entirely on that exam.)

As the professor, I have my class notes, but these are written for my understanding and as a framework for discussion. I wouldn't distribute them.

I distribute an outline in the sense of a list of assignments, showing the structure of the course.

MadisonMan said...

I'm in Henry's camp -- what's so special about the outlines? Is it a glorified syllabus, or something more?

And why isn't it online already?

Or is this something that the law professor doesn't do? Are these outlines from previous students?

(I would do #2, if I knew what an outline actually was)

Curious George said...

Man, the twisted maize one must navigate to become a over educated legal secretary.

Ann Althouse said...

"Almost everyone did his own outline anyway, because the process of outlining is a good way to integrate and remember the material. If the student skips that step, he probably won't do as well on the exam anyway."

It's certainly true that it's the best way to learn the material, but I don't know if it's true that almost everyone does his own outline.

MadisonMan said...

Thanks for the clarification that was cross-posted.

So these are essentially notes from previous students.

I'd consider making an exam focus on finding the errors in the outline. So buy it, distribute it, and test the students on what's wrong with it. It would make for an interesting in-class discussion, I think (if there's time, and there probably is not)

Ann Althouse said...

"Man, the twisted maize one must navigate to become a over educated legal secretary."

You call it maize. We call it corn.

Ann Althouse said...

"I'd consider making an exam focus on finding the errors in the outline. So buy it, distribute it, and test the students on what's wrong with it. It would make for an interesting in-class discussion, I think (if there's time, and there probably is not)."

That's a good 1d.

rhhardin said...

Ignore it.

If you're any good, it doesn't matter.

Leland said...

What would a law professor be if they didn't advocate option 3?

Pogo said...

Imagine if flower shops were so secretive.

Then you'd have to buy the Madonna outline to discover that she loathed hydrangeas.

Ann Althouse said...

"What would a law professor be if they didn't advocate option 3?"

Litigation averse. Wisely. And in favor of free speech and the notion that information wants to be free.

Mick said...

What could you possibly be "teaching", since you voted for a candidate that any "law prof" should know was ineligible (although either candidate was ineligible)?

Obama was born British of a British subject father, thus not natural born.
You could have used that fact as a teaching opportunity about A2S1C5!!
But alas, I guess that's why lawyers have very little understanding of the document that they are supposed to defend.

Shouting Thomas said...

Althouse, you haven't to my knowledge commented on the long-term effect of online education on your profession. Since online education is part of my professional bag of tricks, I'd be interested in hearing about it.

Within the online education community, there is a growing belief that the higher education bubble is primed for a collapse. The bizarre system of outrageous personal debt exchanged for a status credential seems preposterous.

The knowledge set to be imparted in a legal education, I presume, is the same no matter where you go to school. And, it's something just about anybody can learn. After all, President Lincoln did pretty well clerking, which was simply reading law books, in a law firm in Springfield.

So, I can foresee the day when online education makes serious dents in your ability to maintain a monopoly. Might, in the long run, even destroy that monopoly.

After all, there is no reason remaining to restrict access to the best legal minds to the limits of a physical classroom. A million people could take Harvard law's best classes online.

Any thoughts?

exhelodrvr1 said...

Does it help the students learn the material?

Does it make your job easier?

I'm assuming the answers are both yes, if the errors aren't significant. Sounds like it's a win-win.

Why shouldn't someone make money off it?

JAL said...

Pogo. Made me laugh this morning.

Thanks.

Leland said...

First, I completely agree with rhhardin. Ignore it, because if you are any good, the students will want to learn directly from you. If the outline was really sufficient in preparing them, then tell them to buy all the texts, read them, and try passing a bar without conversing with a knowledged expert.

Second, how does selling outlines differ from the numerous organizations that sell questions and answers from previous exams, whether they be examples of final exams, standards exams like SAT or LSAT, or professional exams?

TosaGuy said...

Nail them hard with the exam to teach them that shortcuts can be very costly. False shortcuts in their professional life will cost their clients dearly.

Bob_R said...

For a math course I wouldn't worry about this, I'd welcome it. Any student who uses outside resources to understand the material of the course is welcome to do so. I think the difference is that it is easier for me to make good tests to determine if the students understand the subject matter. If they understand the material, why would I care where they got that understanding? It seems to me you feel that buying this outline will help them do well on the test without understanding the material. Is that the case? If so, isn't that a problem with your test?

Leland said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Curious George said...

"Ann Althouse said...
"Man, the twisted maize one must navigate to become a over educated legal secretary."

You call it maize. We call it corn."

Heh...maze. Multi-tasking.

TosaGuy said...

Knowledge does indeed want to be free; however, too many in academia want to be its guardians, not its purveyors. Knowledge is also a commodity that can be gained through a variety of means; however, the lessons on how one gains that knowledge can be as equally, if not more useful in the long term. Therefore, place more of the learning experience on how knowledge is gained.

Leland said...

Litigation averse. Wisely. And in favor of free speech and the notion that information wants to be free.

My prevoius comment was definitly tongue and cheek as I suppose was the reference to calling option 3 "legal approach". In fact, I edited my comment before posting. It previously ended, "It's not like you're a Journalism Professor teaching free speech."

Maguro said...

Twisted maize sounds like some kind of Native American snack food, a sort of pre-Columbian, organic, free-range Cheeto.

Pass the twisted maize, kemosabe.

t-man said...

Does it say anywhere that you have to teach U.S. Constitutional law? Make the outlines useless, teach the Honduran Constitution.

Shanna said...

. Buy the outline for your class, rewrite it to fix errors, make it clearer, and otherwise improve it, and send it around on the class email list — free.

I was wondering why you'd have to buy the outline but I think you explained it well above.

This is just making electronic what has already gone on underground.

Christopher said...

Just what is your exact problem with this site?

I mean they already make commercial outlines keyed to specific textbooks, so why is this wrong and that isn't? It's essentially the same thing (except slightly less of a rip off). The student made outlines may be a bit better at indicating what you considered important but they still cover the same overall material.

Or are you arguing that the fact that it is keyed to your class somehow makes it illegitimate? But people have always borrowed previous students' notes and I can't recall you ever complaining.

Or is this just all about the fact that they are making a profit off your class?

Lem said...

4. The Hoffa approach: take the sons of bitches out.

Canuck said...

If the students have already paid the money to attend class -- why would they bother to buy an outline?

I wouldn't make a big deal of it in class. That only calls attention to the website. A bunch of the students won't buy the outline because they have your syllabus and attend class.

Go after the website if you're bothered by the copyright infringement.

craig said...

Think more deeply about it.

virgil xenophon said...

ST makes a VERY GOOD point. In the days of Lincoln, hell, even Huey Long in the 30s, law schools didn't exist, or as in Huey's time had not yet become the gate-keepers they are now, only serving to protect lawyer's incomes. Law schools exist for one reason only: to teach lawyers how to make money. If one can "read law" sufficient to pass the bar it pretty much negates the whole purpose of law school, doesn't it? Especially when graduates of some laws schools have over a 50% failure rate on bar exams,(e.g. Southern Univ in B.R., La.) which brings into question as to what in the H good all that tuition money was doing, n'cest-ce pas? Could have a good time in Vegas with the money instead and STILL become a member of the bar if law schools were abolished. Althouse is part of one of the largest scams since Piltdown man--and compliments of MY (and yours also, sportsfans)tax dollars...I've got better things to do with my money, thank you very much..

ndspinelli said...

I'm enjoying the "maize" comments. Having made similar faux pas', and having my balls busted accordingly and righteously, I love to see this good natured ball busting. It's healthy, it reminds us all we're human and therefore flawed. But, in an Orwellian vein, some of you are more flawed than others!

Rob said...

I don't understand how they make any money. Unless things have changed since I was in law school, you simply get your friends together, everyone takes responsibility for outlining one class and you share them. You are free to do it yourself, get it from another student or whatever. In three years of law school, I never bought an outline, I never did more than one per quarter and I had them for every class.

Quayle said...

And the damages are......what?


When my father was a professor, at the first class he would hand out a list of 7 essay questions and say that at finals time he will ask for 4 of them.

They were free to work on them all semester, and at exam time hand in pre-typed ones if they wanted.

All students reports that on the first day they thought it was going to be a breeze, but as the specter of always being able to strengthen and revise the exam haunted them day by day during the semester, they later reported that they never worked harder on a class before.

Peano said...

Law school outlines would be the notes from all the classes, organized and condensed into the form that would be helpful for studying for the exam.

This doesn't explain why you raise the question in the first place: "What's a law professor to do about" the website that provides outlines?

Why should anyone do anything at all about it?

Alan said...

I like No.1, perhaps because I did something like it once. My exam included ten statements, all taken from secondary sources like Gilbert's and the Nutshell, and asked whether they were accurate and for an explanation if they weren't. All were false. That was a long time ago, though, and over the years these sources got somewhat better.

tommyesq said...

Of note, many law professors write their own textbooks, and foist them on their class, thus profiting on the sale of the texts in addition to collecting their salaries. Perhaps hte outlines are perceived to be good enough to avoid spending $100-plus dollars on this vanity-publishing

MadisonMan said...

Althouse is part of one of the largest scams since Piltdown man--and compliments of MY (and yours also, sportsfans)tax dollars..

How are your tax dollars supporting the UW Law School?

Joe said...

(The Uncredentialed, Crypto Jew)


Yhwh’s Teeth Althouse….who cares, rather than seeing this as a bother, see it as an opportunity. As I understand it, these outlines are compilations of student’s notes and class outlines. So, these COULD BE the outlines of the F students or the A Students…it’s a “Pig-in-a-Poke” if you ask me. Were I you I’d:
1) Examine the on-line outline;
2) Note its shortcomings;
3) Announce, the short-comings in class (in a general manner, e.g. “Section II is a bit cursory in its examination of Ernst Blofeldt v. James Bond, ‘M’, et. al.. As this is a critical case outlining a rather important topic this could negatively affect understanding, and hence your score.”);
4) OFFER YOUR OWN OUTLINE, for a modest fee; and
5) Point out that the Bar and the final may or may NOT emphasize the elements contained within the outline, and that a close reading of the outline sans reading of the text and class attendance could result in sub-optimal course outcomes.
Bottom-Line: this is a potential money-maker for you, not a threat. After all these are STUDENT efforts, YOURS will be the Faculty Version and hence much more likely to contain important and pertinent information, and hence worth a premium.

Fred4Pres said...

It would be good to have Mick as your law school professor. Either you get the exam question right or very very wrong.

Mick for SCOTUS!

Dose of Sanity said...

Not very many lawyers or law students commenting on this post.

A law school outline is not an "outline" as most people think of them. Typically, a law school outline is 50-75 pages, per class. They condensed (or not) depending on this class.

Professor, you missed an obvious response:

4. Passive-Aggressive: Do nothing and watch students who pay for outlines burn out. Not only do these students not gain the benefit of actually making the outline, but if they want a template, they should use the ones in the outline database that's provided for free!

p.s. I suspect that website simply crawls for outlines already posted and reposted. The same number of outlines appear in the SBA database as this outline bank. What a scam.

Ambrose said...

Buy the outline. Find the mistakes. Improve your course so help future students better understand what their predecessors misunderstood. Win win.

Shouting Thomas said...

How are your tax dollars supporting the UW Law School?

Indirectly, through the creation of a monopoly on law firm employment.

I know law firms in NYC that refuse to employ graduates of any schools besides Harvard and Yale.

I know law firms in Chicago that refuse to employ graduates of any schools besides U of Illinois and Chicago Law.

Taxpayers are supporting public and private law schools also by footing the bill for those gargantuan student loans.

Fred4Pres said...

I read Omnivore's Dilema last week. It had a lot of stuff about corn/maize/Zea mays. Americans like to think of themselves as wheat people, but we are really corn people. And law students are often more like feed lot cattle getting fattened on a diet of corn they are ill suited to digest. Well not Ann's students of course, they are likely to give hydrangeas to Madonna. Or something like that. Can the rare clumber go to law school? Did you know Trooper does not care for lawyers? And people who try to return dresses after they wore them. And traffic is down so that means the economy sucks. And don't even raise any New Age crap.

Brian O'Connell said...

Law school outlines would be the notes from all the classes, organized and condensed into the form that would be helpful for studying for the exam.

I take it then that you're against students having this- unless they prepare it themselves. But I'm still not sure why. Is part of the value of law school that professors unleash an undifferentiated torrent of facts and students are supposed to hang them on a logical scaffold of their own design? Or do you present the outline of ideas verbally- but its important that students commit it to paper on their own?

Actually I never quite got the college thing of listening to a lecture while 30 to 500 kids sit there, each taking their own notes. Seems quite inefficient. And as the edu 2.0 folks point out, you've also got 100's of profs repeating the same points, more or less, in rooms across the country.

rcommal said...

How do people know who put together these outlines, and how can they assess the quality of the source? This is the internet: Information may be free, longingly or otherwise, but that doesn't make it reliable. I would be concerned that it would take more time to verify the quality of the information and presentation in the outline than to come up with one's own (or to collaborate with a known source). Perhaps others are more trusting.

Henry said...

Thanks for the clarification.

I still wonder why it's an issue. I believe in open book tests. As a programmer I work pretty intuitively with the library of concepts I know well. If I don't know something I use the Internet to find some code that's already solved my problem (here is the advantage of open source). It would be absolutely idiotic for me to memorize things I don't need to use very often.

Why not let the students have their outline and eat it too?

As a side note, there are many card and board games you can play open book style. I started doing this to help my kids learn games that were a little complex for their math or reading skills. It can turn a typical game of chance into an exceedingly difficult game of logic.

deborah said...

2a, followed-up by 1.

Shouting Thomas said...

I know I'm just a pain in the ass, Althouse, but I can't resist chuckling over combining my comments on this thread with my comments on your latest feminism thread.

You're the gatekeeper for a guild that enforces a monopoly on legal credentials and on employment within the top tier law firms. That guild has also enforced rigid racial and sexual quotas for 50 years.

Yes, you could be making a hell of a lot more money working for a corporate law firm, but you've made the conscious decision to take a job that gives you massive time off, individual freedom and incredible security instead.

And, yet, somehow, you're still whining that you don't have enough power and money, and that you favor ever more rigid enforcement of your monopoly and your quotas.

Could you at least admit that this is all rabid self-interest, and that those great issues of social justice are so much bunk?

(That question answers itself, doesn't it? The histrionic appeal to social justice gives you more leverage.)

bagoh20 said...

Knowledge wants to be free, but is captive against it's will, and sold like slaves, as students bid up the best breeding stock. University is the modern plantation. Set the knowledge free!

I can hear the plantation staff saying: But this knowledge could never survive off of the plantation. It needs us to care for it, keep it safe and give it purpose.

gregq said...

Go with 1. Although I'd say "have several questions that rely on the things the outline got wrong", rather than focusing the whole test on it.

bagoh20 said...

Thomas, I don't see the Professor arguing against freeing the knowledge. She is just a little conflicted, but we all are now and then in matters of livelihood. It's the human condition for the thoughtful.

Mick said...

Fred4Pres said...
"It would be good to have Mick as your law school professor. Either you get the exam question right or very very wrong.

Mick for SCOTUS!"



The Constitution was written for the common man to understand. It need not be explained by a bunch of coddled eggheads with no experience in real life beyond a classroom. The result of the egghead teaching is that law students are "taught" a version of the Constitution that has been altered by lawyers playing telephone w/ it for 200 years.

I am a hedgehog.

Shouting Thomas said...

Thomas, I don't see the Professor arguing against freeing the knowledge. She is just a little conflicted, but we all are now and then in matters of livelihood. It's the human condition for the thoughtful.

Oh, I agree with that.

I'm just a little confused about why she gets to wear a halo when she argues that she should have more money and power (that is, feminism), and I'm all on my own.

Mary said...

But won't the children of law professors, who have a leg up on those coming in fresh, be at a disadvantage in class now that they don't have their parental professors "cheatsheet" nice and condensed and summarized before they even head in??

Cmon now ... think of your children!

If you effectively level the playing field, as this company is doing for all paying players, then how will the special interests clubs and societys insure their competitive advantage over those who come in only with their own skills and drive and are tacking the material "fresh"?

Face it, this company is merely doing what is being done underhanded and behind doors everywhere.

Now: who's going to set up the website selling the old test questions that are routinely recycled ?

Mary said...

But won't the children of law professors, who have a leg up on those coming in fresh, be at a disadvantage in class now that they ALONE* don't have their parental professors "cheatsheet" nice and condensed and summarized before they even head in??


* plus all those outline / test banks available to the special groups and clubs on campus.

Mary said...

"So, I can foresee the day when online education makes serious dents in your ability to maintain a monopoly. Might, in the long run, even destroy that monopoly."


Hey, she's always got that art history degree to fall back on, eh?

Mary said...

" If they understand the material, why would I care where they got that understanding? It seems to me you feel that buying this outline will help them do well on the test without understanding the material. Is that the case? If so, isn't that a problem with your test?"



Ding, ding, ding!

We have a thread winner.

Mary said...

" Law schools exist for one reason only: to teach lawyers how to make money. If one can "read law" sufficient to pass the bar it pretty much negates the whole purpose of law school, doesn't it?"

I've heard it said, that many believe law school is just a "filtering" mechanism for the bigger corporate firms. Can you deliver what the buyer is asking for?

Sometimes, it's not so much about intelligence or skills, but in proving that you can swallow and regurgitate. That's why, many say, we have the legal system in practice that we do have, despite all the diversity promotion that has promised to open up the field.

Sell the outlines to those willing to buy them. We can't keep propping up some at the expense of fresh competition forever you know. Multi-generation lawyers, and law professors, aren't really helping bring about this efficiency that would help provide legal services to all those who need it at all levels of society. It just reinforces the privileged class...

Mary said...

Thank you, and good day!

dbp said...

I have taken graduate courses in science and business and what really distinguished these courses from undergraduate courses was the other students. For one thing, the professors were the same--they instructed both sets of students, so it wasn't the level of instruction. The level of questions and the quality of discussion was what made the graduate courses so enriching.

So this gives me an idea: Wouldn't it be better for a law student who would have gone to an undistinguished school, to just watch video of law school lectures from someplace like Harvard or Yale? They would have the benefit of students far smarter than themselves working through problems with professors who are more brilliant than the ones at the third rate law school they would have attended.

G Joubert said...

I say do nothing. It's been a long time since I was in law school --I'm of your generation professor-- but I found outlines prepared by other students to be next to useless, even ones prepared by good students. That was because, as others have said, the study value of the outline method is in preparing the outline. That's where the learning takes place, not in reading someone else's tool after the fact.

Renee said...

As a student, why would I pay for an outline of your class? Aren't I already paying tuition, showing up to class, and taking notes. Students really don't need these aids, if they are doing what they're suppose to be doing in the first place. If you're that lazy, you refuse to build your own outline through your own notes then maybe you're not law school material. Who would hire a lawyer, that BS it through school?

You can't control what students do outside of campus, but commercial outlines should be banned from campus or deduct a grade from any student that brings them in. Or if you can't do that, take it and throw it in the trash in front of the whole class, and tell them it's insulting to the professors. They can retrieve it afterwards.

edutcher said...

OK, if I get this right, these outlines are cheat sheets for the final (when I saw outlines, I thought syllabus or something).

So, what would it take to do the course a different way each year? I know when The Blonde taught nursing, she said you only set up the course once, but she just changed tests.

k said...

Thanks a lot, Althouse. Now that Mazola theme song playing over and over in my head.

Renee said...

Back in the day of typewriters, my father-in-law would literally cut and paste new exams with the same questions for the secretary to copy. He would also give you a D for plagiarism, and if you complained he would offer the alternative of an F and kicked out of the university.

Peter said...

“3. Legal approach: Bring a class action on behalf of all the lawprofs on the list for copyright infringement, etc.”

BUT, ideas are not copyrightable. Is a plot summary of a novel infringement? Would an outline of the novel be an infringement? Is the outline truly a derivative work? If the Outline is infringing, would each student's notes also be infringing- even if they are never sold? Why do you think this Outline is an infringement?

“2. Buy the outline for your class, rewrite it to fix errors, make it clearer, and otherwise improve it, and send it around on the class email list — free.”

If the Outline is not infringing, then might the outline itself be copyrightable- especially if the author of it adds commentary or criticism?

So, why not just ignore it? If students can truly learn the contents of your course by studying this outline, why not let them do so?

Jack said...

I graduated law school 35 years ago, and am a few years older than AA.

Perhaps it's how I learn, but synthesizing the lectures, class discussions, casebooks, "nutshell" study group discussions, etc., into a consistent [1] form is essential for both preparing for the exam and also learning how you deal with the nuts and bolts of legal practice.

And, yes, old exams, class outlines, etc. were available in the Law Review files but after looking at a couple of outlines it was apparent that I could do better and that it was easier to learn by doing it yourself instead of trying to understand what someone else though the material meant.

[1] "Consistency" may be sought after but is unlikely to be achieved in the law, whether in class or in practice.

Dave Schuler said...

In reference to alternative #3, I have several questions.

Is the outline subject to copyright? Is it a derivative work or an original work based on something that itself is not copyrightable?

Who is the owner of the copyright? I think there's a pretty good case that whoever developed the outline is the owner.

Doesn't the course constitute a "work for hire"? If not, why not?

Mary said...

" I found outlines prepared by other students to be next to useless, even ones prepared by good students. That was because, as others have said, the study value of the outline method is in preparing the outline. That's where the learning takes place, not in reading someone else's tool after the fact."


But ... it's very valuable BEFORE and DURING the classes to have that insider sneak peek at the professor's hypotheticals, personal comments and policy preferences, and to see how the materials are organized and play into each other.

Then, if you like, you can supplement those very specific and detailed notes (imagine having the answers the prof asks the class already laid out there before you) with student comments and discussion that takes place in the classroom.

Now I too once thought like you: I can do this myself. I speak up in class (unlike those who NEVER say a word) and try to learn as I go, making mistakes, correcting myself, and picking up the materials bit by bit.

Trouble is: when it's all curve graded, and you are sitting next to someone who has the advantage an excellent outline from years past, where the prof is pretty much reciting her lines word for word verbatim year after year, you don't get any points tacked on for doing the work yourself, and having arrived there after toughing it out, instead of having it all just pre-digested and fed to you.

Let them sell freely. Tests too. It's merely leveling the playing field for the way the law school education game is played these days.



(Never forget the day an Af-Am classmate told me to go down and buy the Pink outline for the Contracts class for sale at the bookstore that his group was using. It was there -- and ever so helpful! -- but the prof never publicized that it was on sale for all. Would diminish the advantage given by having that provided in advance, you see.

Those test banks -- again, some professor sometimes recycle the exact same questions (my Torts bow-tied guy did) thinking that after 5 years, those materials have passed out of general circulation. Not.

Sure is helpful when you've got a good survey of say 20 past questions that you can prep answers for well in advance of the test. Not sure how this measure what we know, or have learned from that class, but boy, it sure does reward the regurgitators. And don't underestimate how much knowing the prof's personal policy preferences, pecadillos and quirks can make your test read better to the grader in the end...

Not all of us want to get their that way though, because it's in selling out yourself like that early on you later come to realize even if you're highly rewarded for the regurgitation, it's a kinda unsatisfying life not to think independently and have the ability to strongly question things whan you need those skills in other areas of your life.

Hth!

Mary said...

"As a student, why would I pay for an outline of your class? Aren't I already paying tuition, showing up to class, and taking notes. Students really don't need these aids, if they are doing what they're suppose to be doing in the first place. If you're that lazy, you refuse to build your own outline through your own notes then maybe you're not law school material. Who would hire a lawyer, that BS it through school?"


So green, it's touching really.

Tell me: putting ethics aside (hey it's law school right? justify, justify, justify)... do you think a QB, or better yet, defensive line has an advantage in pre-studying for weeks the opposing team's playbook?

Remember: you're competing against others that do.

Mary said...

Plus, it just looks good to know in advance where and when in the material their recyled corny jokes are coming, so that you can be fully prepared to laugh loudly and flatter them.

Give the proffy's what they want, eh? Never underestimate the power of stroking an ego. Trust me: they're all not in it because they have an overwhelming desire to share what they know about the law so their customers can succeed in the field. Those days are gone with Mr. Chips, you might say.

It's more the power of having a captive audience, and the age demographics too, that makes the campus work appealing to some, I'll speculate.

Christopher said...

"As a student, why would I pay for an outline of your class? Aren't I already paying tuition, showing up to class, and taking notes. Students really don't need these aids, if they are doing what they're suppose to be doing in the first place. If you're that lazy, you refuse to build your own outline through your own notes then maybe you're not law school material. Who would hire a lawyer, that BS it through school?"


Sometimes you miss class, sometimes you don't hear the professor clearly, sometimes you just need a bit of clarification, and sometimes your professor just sucks. In some of those instances you can ask a friend/classmate for help but in others you can't.

Granted this all assumes that you still took notes and created your own outline on top of purchasing the other material.

Renee said...

Well I would hope my professor would not see me as 'the opposing team'. The professor is on my side, right or did the school just take my money? Professors want to weed out those who can't handle it, including those who can't put handle putting in the effort, they need to be aware of commercial outlines and take control of their class.

Shouldn't students trust the professor and not think she is trying to screw over students, wouldn't she want to reward students who actually did what they were suppose to do? Aren't you suppose to have life long connections with these professors, since they will check up on you as alumni?

Mark said...

The only time these outlines have been useful has been when a professor came from a different school and used a different book.

Jack said...

A suggestion for AA. Include a question in the Con Law final exam (for no credit or minimal credit) along these lines:

1. Did you purchase or otherwise acquire an outline of this course? (Y) (N)

2. Do you believe it helped or hurt your performance on this exam? (Y) (N)

Add whatever disclaimers - answers to these questions will not influence your grade, etc.- as may be appropriate.

Then correlate the answers with exam grades and see what comes out.

Jack said...

Question 2 should be answered (Helped), (Hurt) or (No Difference)

virgil xenophon said...

Back to subsidized tax-payer paid costs again: AAs ENTIRE SALARY plus benefits is paid in toto by the taxpayer, not to mention the cost of construction of the Law School building, parking lots, etc., and on-going overhead like the utilities, all admin overhead (secretaries, computers, copy machines, journal subscriptions, etc.) to include security, insurance and maint. NONE of that would be a tax-payer cost item were one allowed to simply "read law" and take the bar exam. Just HOW did fellow Prairie Stater "Honest Abe" manage, anyway?
'Tis a puzzlement..

David said...

As a first year law student, I outlined every course I took, and then condensed the outline as part of study for my final exam. It was creating an outline, not reading one, that gave me command of the courses. This resulted in stellar grades (pretty much a new experience for me), and the valuable discovery that there is no substitute for doing the work yourself.

Freeman Hunt said...

Who cares? Why would this even be an issue?

Bruce said...

I'm with some of the other commenters: I don't understand what the issue is.

1) Do you consider students buying an outline to be somehow cheating? If they learn the material, why do you care about the channel it came through? If they learn the material and can pass your exam, what is the problem?

2) Do you consider that this material was stolen from you - in other words, that you are being financially cheated by this?

In my opinion, neither concern is valid - but perhaps your concern is rooted elsewhere?

David said...

"If the outlines help the students understand the material better, doesn't that condemn the text books for not making it clear in the first place?"

Not at all. Legal analysis is the process of taking a mishmash of facts and possibly applicable law, clarifying these and refining and focusing the analysis to what is relevant to the actual issue at hand. Learning how to do this is the point of legal education. That is why the texts (casebooks) don't give the answers in simple form, and why learning law can't be reduced to memorizing a set of rules.

David said...

"Do you consider students buying an outline to be somehow cheating?"

They are cheating themselves, and perhaps their future clients and employers. Outstanding lawyers do not take many shortcuts. There is a ton of hard work involved.

Mary said...

"Outstanding lawyers do not take many shortcuts. There is a ton of hard work involved."


President. Barack. Obama.

Not saying he didn't work "hard". Just saying, he worked "smart", in other ways too...

It's nice to think independence and self-reliability will be rewarded. Not so true in our shared society just yet though...

Look around you at who's currently up there on the top (and I'm not just referring to the presidential administration or politicos either. If they're all so meritorious and "worked hard" to be deserving of what they've got and where they're at, tell me why exactly the country is tanking so thorougly at this time? Me? I blame the "not whatcha know but whoya know" cynical culture, plus a good heaping of special preferences thrown in that insulate some from true competition. Imagine how much more effective, for example, President Obama might be in his office right now had he been forced to come up based on building his skills and experience, rather than relying on the smoother networking skills that held so many doors open for him already. Something tells me: that man too had an in at the Harvard test banks, and shared outline social circles...)

jamboree said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MadisonMan said...

AAs ENTIRE SALARY plus benefits is paid in toto by the taxpayer,

You demonstrate your ignorance on how the UW Law school is funded in general, and how named professorships are funded in particular.

Michael said...

While some of these outlines would be helpful, I always found that studying practice exams was more beneficial. Looking at practice exams allows the student to see how the professor's mind works in formulating a question. In these circumstances, using the outline as a basis for remembering cases and analogizing seemed to me to work best.

I don't think this website would really help too much for Professor Althouse's class though (at least Con Law II or Religion and the Constitution).

themightypuck said...

Outstanding lawyers do not take many shortcuts. There is a ton of hard work involved.

If it wasn't for shortcuts we'd still be living in grass huts.

David-2 said...

Wasn't there a scene or two in the movie Paper Chase about outlines? I remember some kind of outline sharing scheme, and that the guy who did the real estate outline ended up with an outline longer than the casebook, which his classmates didn't think was helpful.

I also remember him dropping that outline out the window as thousands of pages fluttered down ...

Sean said...

I am a law student presently, I am also 35 years old. I decided that there was one single industry that continues to make money regardless of the economy - and that is lawyers, it doesn't matter what is happening, lawyers are billing and getting paid because they run the world, or at least this country. Law professors, law students, and lawyers are far and away the most arrogant people in the world, every freaking class in your first year (pretentiously called 1L) talks about how hard it is, and how this is the hardest thing you will ever do, and how this is the most difficult thing, and how smart we all are, how impressed we should be with eachother, how much we all need time off, etc etc etc - dear god give it all a rest.

Combat is hard, being audited by the IRS is hard, watching your father die of cancer is hard, there are any number of things that are far more difficult than law school. If it really is so hard, then why are there so many lawyers?

I am not saying it is easy, but law school is treated by a lot of people as this insurmountable mountain that will never be conquered, yet it is constantly conquered?

I look forward to becoming an attorney, making money, and constantly reminding people that law school is not "the hardest thing you will ever do, unless you really live a charmed life"

rcommal said...

Interesting it is, the proportion of people here arguing for something other than self-reliance and supporting something other personally determining and verifying both information and knowledge. Forget the perhaps about it: Other people are more trusting, or something, regardless of why.

rcommal said...

It's hard to imagine under what circumstances I'd pay so much for a specialized education yet rather than use it to stretch personal achievement, skills and knowledge, instead choose to employ questionably sourced, unverified material via the internet as a tactic, much less strategy, for so-called success. I would not do that for myself, and I think it would be a terrible thing were I to do that for/to my offspring.

JimM47 said...

Well, clearly I've been outlining wrong if any of those options is even remotely viable.

My typical outline consists of the topic divisions from the course syllabus (often rearranged if I think there is a better way than the professor's to categorize the material). Under each topic is the list of every case covered in class (plus important note cases) with a small amount of reference information.

Each entry contains the year it was decided, the author of the principle opinion, where it appears in the coursebook (and if multiple excerpts appear in multiple places), and the day it appears in my notes (if I ever took notes). For most of the cases, there is a one or two sentence description of the facts and holding, and for some there is a sentence on the concurrences/dissents.

If the subject is doctrine-heavy, I might also have a separate bullet list of the prongs/elements/magic words used in the caselaw.

But that's it. Nothing copyrightable and nothing that you could work an exam around. The whole thing, when put in 10pt font and landscape orientation, can be printed on the front and back of two sheets of paper. I can't see how anything else could be useful on a time-limited exam, which is all about, in as little time as possible, using the fact-pattern to squeeze out every possible opportunity to demonstrate your mastery of the material — the same mastery also possessed by many other students who won't do as well on the exam.

Lisa said...

I always did my own outlines- for me it was about the process of doing them and then creating a study aid that would help me specifically. Sometimes I would reference other outlines (commercial, outlines that were available in the student bar association outline bank) in order to help confirm my understanding of a particular case or concept, but any new insights would always go into my own outline.

When I was a first year law student at Wisconsin students were generally encouraged to purchase a certain contracts law outline to help them study. This outline was sold in the book center! I never found the outline very helpful and as I began to master the material I found some significant errors in it.

It really disgusted me that some former students were making money (I'm sure a small amount) from selling this outline as an "official" outline in the book center.

When I graduated I donated my old outlines to the outline bank-- I figured that they might be able to help some people as an extra reference for free. Use at your own risk. I'm sure that the people behind this new site have gone into the outline bank and taken old outlines (perhaps including mine) and are now profiting from them. That really annoys me.