Essential tips for Law students: Getting through gruelling legal judgments

This short post will provide you with 2 quick and easy tips that aim to help make the experience of reading judgments that little more bearable.

Reading legal judgments is a fundamental part of studying law. For a law student, judgments provide reasoning and rationale behind a decision. They also clarify, create and amend the common law. It is safe to say, however, that they can be daunting, boring and tedious to read.

It’s important to understand that judgments aren't written with students in mind, but are essentially a public record of a legal decision. Here's a couple of tips to help make the experience of reading judgments that little more bearable.

1 - Read the judgment systematically

A judgment that spans over 50 pages is not something that should be read in one go. Therefore, it’s vital that you break your reading down in an orderly, manageable fashion. When you first open a judgment, look at who presided over the case and from there figure out the most important judgment. Further, if you don’t understand a word used, make sure you look it up because chances are, the word will be used in countless other judgments.

Break your reading of the judgment up into manageable chunks and take a break every 20 minutes. Make sure you note down important quotes, ideas or comments as you read.

2 - Consider investing in a casebook

A casebook is a collection of cases that relate to a particular area of law, for example administrative law. Unlike legal judgments themselves, casebooks are written with students of law in mind. They also strip out the unnecessary lexicon and complexities. Casebooks tend to provide a paragraph detailing the facts and then a paragraph explaining the ratio decidendi (the point of law). If a case is seminal, then usually key parts of the judgment are quoted.

Casebooks should be used with caution, however, as sometimes reading the whole of a judgment can provide a better understanding of the reasoning behind a decision. So while a casebook is great for more trivial cases, it’s best to read the actual judgments of essential and important cases.

Daniel Bramhall is a second-year law student at the University of Liverpool, and a member of the Pearson Student Advisory Board. After university Daniel hopes to become a criminal barrister.

Portrait of Daniel Bramhall