How to Read a Case -- A Guide For New Law Students:
Some of you may recall my post a few months ago about wanting to create a free online guide for new law students to help them navigate their way through law school. I didn't get around to writing it this summer, but I have decided to post a short excerpt I did write a while back that I hope will some day be a part of the guide.

  The new document is How to Read a Judicial Opinion: A Guide for New Law Students (7 pages, .pdf). Here is the intro:
  This essay is designed to help entering law students understand how to read cases for class. It explains what judicial opinions are, how they are structured, and what you should look for when you read them. Part I explains the various ingredients found in a typical judicial opinion, and is the most essential section of the essay. Part II discusses what you should look for when you read an opinion for class. Part III concludes with a brief discussion of why law schools use the case method.
  I wrote the first draft of this in 2002, and distributed it to the students in my first-year criminal law class. Since then, legal writing instructors at a few schools have found out about it and distributed it to their first-year students. I'm not sure if students have found it useful, but in case they have I wanted to distribute it as widely as I could.

  Finally, if readers have any thoughts on how I could improve, change, shorten, or expand the document, please leave them in the comment thread. I'm not sure I'll have time to rework the document soon, but I would like to improve on the current version in the future. Thanks!