Civil procedure is the foundation of an understanding of how the law works. At first, it’s overwhelming. But even career litigators will tell you that civil procedure is something that you continue to learn for many years. The ins and outs of federal, state, local, and court rules are a maze. So the first thing to realize for your iterative outline process is a relief: you don’t need to know everything. Take a deep breath and make a short list. You’ll find that your civil procedure class likely covers a small number of manageable concepts:
- Pleadings (namely answers and complaints) and service
- Motions to dismiss
- Summary Judgment
- Maybe some local rules or concepts.
That’s it! When you realize that you only need to work your way through the basics of a lawsuit, this course becomes more manageable. Even more so when you realize that your exam will simply require you to apply a given set of facts to these concepts.
Civil procedure is like a class about only the rules of chess. You don’t have to learn opening moves, the names of famous players, or complicated strategies. You just need to know the rules. Your exam will require you to prove you know the rules by moving some pieces around in any direction. And it gets easier. You have a literal copy of the rules. All you have to do is read the facts, flip to the given Rule, do some personal analysis on whether the motion would fail or succeed (citing a case or two from class) and move on.
But wouldn’t it be hard to learn chess by someone just telling you the rules? The best way to learn is to start playing, and figure it out as you go. Just the same, the best way to prepare for a civil procedure exam is to play with the rules. Once you’ve sat down and practiced applying some facts to various motions, you’re all set. In this sense, it might be the easiest class. Where many students go wrong is they think they need to memorize the facts and law from the extensive class reading, or fail to actually apply their outline about how civil procedure works to a real life example.
The single best way to learn civil procedure is by working through practice problems, so the single best civil procedure study guide and supplement is Glannon’s Examples and Explanations. This is because it explains each concept in simple terms, distilling a few hours of class into a sentence or paragraph. The examples allow you to get your hands dirty with real examples, exposing gaps in your knowledge. When you find gaps, pick up Understanding Civil Procedure, and fill them in. Repeat this process in your iterative outline procedure, and you’ll be set.
The single best civil procedure supplement is Glannon’s Civil Procedure Examples and Explanations. The book explains each concept in simple terms and the examples give you an immediate opportunity to practice. You likely don’t need much more than this book and some practice with each concept to ace your exam.
If you are a visual learner, these logic maps provided an excellent study guide to understand the twists and turns of civil procedure, especially for the more complicated aspects of civ pro, like the Erie Doctrine. Chances are high you can also use this book in your practice eventually.
Speaking of the Erie Doctrine, Michael Green published a thoughful Erie Doctrine Flowchart that is worth a look to clear some things up.
As always, the Understanding series should be your go-to when class notes and the E&E aren’t enough. If you are stumbling over practice questions, this book should be able to clarify tough points.
Looking for the best supplements, study guides, and strategies for your other classes? Check out our full resource library.