For about 150 years, law schools have relied on the Case Method to teach the skills and art of legal analysis to first-year law students. Yet many students struggle academically, not due to lack of intellectual ability but because they are suddenly immersed in a unique and seemingly opaque educational process without receiving any explanation of what they should be trying to learn, much less how to learn it. Why do reading assignments consist of appellate court opinions? Why do professors rely on the Socratic Method? Why do law school classes so often leave students with more questions than answers? What do instructors look for when grading answers to essay exams? Why can law students know “all the rules,” yet get poor grades?

Cracking the Case Method, 2d ed., provides concise and down-to-earth information on how to succeed in law school by answering these questions and many others. Students need to know what to study and how the opinions they read and class meetings relate to law school exams. This book provides an in-depth examination of these critical topics:

  • The Case Method and its relationship to Socratic-style questioning and effective legal analysis.
  • Semester-long strategies for learning how to “think like a lawyer” by getting the most out of reading opinions, attending classes, outlining, and preparing effectively for exams.
  • How to read cases with a focus on legal issues, legal principles, and judges’ rationales for adopting and applying those principles.
  • How to prepare case briefs and use them to prepare for class.
  • The major types of legal argument, with many illustrations drawn from actual cases.
  • Using class discussions as opportunities to practice legal analysis, based on annotated excerpts from actual first-year class discussions.
  • Preparing for exams by outlining course materials and practicing exam-taking skills.
  • An approach for analyzing exam questions and writing effective exam answers that display legal analytical skills, with illustrations drawn from actual essay exam questions and annotated answers.

This book provides indispensable information to anybody who is considering applying to law school, preparing for his or her 1L year, or who currently is in law school.

Imprint: West Academic Publishing
Series: Career Guides
Publication Date: 11/15/2017
Related Subject(s): Legal Method

Paul B. Bergman, University of California-L.A. School of Law

Patrick Goodman, University of California-L.A. School of Law

Thomas Holm, University of California-L.A. School of Law


This title is available in our CasebookPlus format. Anchored by faculty-authored self-assessments keyed to our most popular casebooks, CasebookPlus allows students to test their understanding of core concepts as they are learning them in class.


Adopt the CasebookPlus option of your chosen text and provide your students with all the tools they need to gauge their understanding of the material—on their own, outside of the classroom, with no extra work on your part.

For faculty who wish to view their students’ quiz progress and results, we’ve added new optional customizable reporting capability that can help you evaluate your students’ understanding of the material. This feedback can also help your school demonstrate compliance with the new ABA Assessment and Learning Outcomes standards. Learn more about the reporting available to you from your Account Manager or view the course set-up instructions to get started.


Students purchasing a used book, or those who are renting their text, can still utilize all CasebookPlus digital resources by buying the digital only option.

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Cracking the Case Method is the best, most accessible book I’ve read about the law school classroom. I assign it to my orientation students and recommend it to every incoming 1L. It is the perfect how-to manual for learning legal analysis in the first year.”
Kristen Holmquist
Director - Experiential Education and Academic Support
Lecturer in Residence - UC Berkeley School of Law

“Legal education and the legal profession are in the midst of a profound re-structuring brought on by a revolution in technology and dramatic changes in the economy. In the midst of such change, Cracking the Case Method is a critically important work that will help all law students develop a lawyer’s most important tool—using the venerable case method to carry out legal analysis and to hone their analytical skills—the essence of every lawyer’s work. Cracking the Case Method is not an abstract academic exercise but a nuts-and-bolts, how-to approach to legal analysis that will train better lawyers and promote just results in our judicial system. The Case Method may be over 100 years old but how to use it as an effective tool for good lawyering has never been done like it is in these pages.”
Jeffrey S. Brand
Dean and Professor Emeritus
University of San Francisco School of Law

Cracking the Case Method: Legal Analysis for Law School Success is a unique primer for new law students because it is both accessible and complete. This book provides the nuts-and-bolts on how to succeed in law school from day one with instruction on reading cases, briefing cases, participating in Socratic questioning in class, and developing effective legal arguments. But this book is more than a “how to.” It provides much-needed context, explaining why the case method developed and why it continues to be a critical part of the law school experience. As the Director of Academic Skills, I am frequently asked to recommend books for beginning law students. This one tops my list!”
Linda B. Puertas
Director of Academic Skills and Lecturer
UC Irvine School of Law

“I reviewed several preparatory materials before entering law school, and Cracking the Case Method is by far the best! It’s short, funny, and to the point. It helped me through every aspect of law school (case briefs, exams, a typical class, etc.) and eased the stressful transition. I found it indispensable during an overwhelming first week of classes, and still continually refer to it. My study time is now much more effective. I come into class feeling prepared with a good understanding of what to focus on. This book is constantly recommended by me, my classmates, professors, and other law students as the most effective law school prep guide. Don’t make the mistake of thinking a few Google searches can show you everything you need to know before entering your 1L year. Take my advice, and theirs, and read this book!”
Chanté Eliaszadeh
UC Berkeley School of Law
Class of 2020

Cracking the Case Method is a fantastic resource that touches on and explains every academic aspect a student needs to know in order to be successful in the first year of law school. As an incoming 1L with minimal legal experience, I felt somewhat unprepared and nervous for the upcoming year. This book’s witty insights and comprehensive explanations quelled any nerves I had, helped me create a foundation of legal knowledge, and provided me with tools I still use as a 3L.”
Brett Meyerhoff
UCLA School of Law
Class of 2018

“Reading this book before my first year of law school gave me a much-needed primer into the world of legal education. If you are the first in your family to go to law school or have not worked in the legal profession before starting law school this book will help level the playing field by giving you guidance from award winning professors. Cracking the Case Method: Legal Analysis for Law School Success provides insight on the Socratic method, different sources of U.S. law, how to spot issues, how to create a plan of attack for exam questions, and most importantly for your first day of class... how to brief a case. You will turn back to this book many times during your first semester of law school. I cannot recommend this book highly enough to incoming 1L students.”
Chrystal Fryman
UCLA School of Law
Class of 2015

“The authors provide an accessible and often humorous guide to the Case Method. In addition to de-mystifying legal studies for the new student, the book provides a sound foundation for the future practitioner; the object of the Case Method, in the main, is to allow the application of legal principles to help clients resolve their problems.”
Hector Gallegos
Intellectual Property Group Litigation and Trial Partner
Morrison & Foerster LLP