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 first-year students struggle academically. They do not struggle because they lack intellectual ability. Instead, they struggle because they are suddenly immersed in a unique and seemingly opaque educational process where nobody has concretely explained what they should try to learn, much less how to learn it. So these students are forced to try to understand their professors’ teaching methods on their own—a difficult task for many beginning students, even those who may “get it” but cannot articulate what “it” is.

So students understandably ask fundamental questions like the following. 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? Why do professors’ teaching methods differ from their assessment methods and how can students bridge that gap? What do instructors look for when they grade essay exam answers? Why can law students believe they knew “all the rules,” yet get poor grades?

Cracking the Case Method, 3d ed., provides concise and accessible instruction 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 discuss in class relate to law school exams. This book provides an in-depth examination of these critical topics:

  • The Case Method: 1) how it relates to Socratic-style questioning, and 2) how it helps develop analytical skills.
  • Semester-long strategies for learning how to “think like a lawyer” by getting the most out of reading judicial opinions, attending classes, outlining, and preparing for exams.
  • An analytical framework that helps students read appellate court cases to focus on legal issues, legal principles, and judges’ reasons for adopting and applying those principles.
  • Twenty examples that illustrate this analytical framework; these examples discuss essential legal principles from first-year courses and use judicial opinions often assigned in these courses.
  • How to develop case briefs and use them to prepare for class discussions, outlining, and exams—with illustrations drawn from two sample annotated briefs.
  • The major types of legal argument—with many illustrations drawn from actual cases.
  • How to use class discussions to practice legal analysis, demonstrated with annotated excerpts from actual first-year class discussions.
  • How to prepare for exams with the following learning and study tools: 1) developing traditional or visual outlines of course materials; 2) analyzing hypotheticals; 3) creating checklists and flowcharts; and 4) practicing exam-taking skills.
  • An approach for analyzing exam questions and writing effective exam answers that display powerful analytical skills—with illustrations drawn from actual essay exam questions and annotated answers.
  • An opportunity for students to practice all the learning, writing, and analytical skills discussed in this book to a new case in a sample torts class, including the following skills: 1) reading the case; 2) briefing the case; 3) discussing the case in class; 4) incorporating the principles from the case into an outline; and 5) answering an exam question related to the case.

This book provides indispensable information to people considering law school, preparing for their 1L year, or currently attending law school.

Imprint: West Academic Publishing
Series: Academic and Career Success Series
Publication Date: 06/13/2022
Related Subject(s): Legal Method

Paul 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. CasebookPlus provides support beyond your classroom lectures and materials by offering additional digital resources to you and your students. Anchored by faculty-authored formative 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 – on their own, outside of the classroom, with no extra work on your part. CasebookPlus combines three important elements:

  • A new print or digital casebook
  • Access to a downloadable eBook with the ability to highlight and add notes
  • 12-month access to a digital Learning Library complete with:
Multiple-choice self-assessment questions, including:
  • Chapter questions keyed to the casebook
  • Black Letter Law questions (available in select subjects)
  • Subject area review questions for end of semester use
Essay and short answer questions with sample answers and expert commentary, in 1L and select upper-level subjects

Leading digital study aids, an outline starter, and audio lectures in select subjects

Students can still utilize CasebookPlus digital resources if they’ve purchased a used book or are renting their text by purchasing the Learning Library at

With CasebookPlus, you can customize your students’ learning experience and monitor their performance. The quiz editor allows you to create your own custom quiz set, suppress specific quiz questions or quiz sets, and time-release quiz questions. Additionally, the flexible, customized reporting capability helps you evaluate your students’ understanding of the material and can also help your school demonstrate compliance with the new ABA Assessment and Learning Outcomes standards.

Below are some significant additions to the third edition.

  • A new section in the “Common Argument Strategies” chapter (now Chap. 3) discusses textual arguments.
  • A new chapter (Chap. 4) titled “Arguments for Essential First Year Legal Concepts” discusses essential legal principles from first-year courses and illustrates arguments that apply these principles with judicial opinions that frequently appear in assigned casebooks.
  • A new section in the “Reading and Briefing Cases” chapter (now Chap. 8) provides an approach for reading cases efficiently and effectively.
  • The “Outlining and Exam Preparation” chapter (now Chap. 10) now provides a sample checklist in the chapter’s discussion about checklists.
  • The “Final Exam Strategies” chapter (now Chap. 11) significantly revises the “factual argument paradigm” subsection in section 6: “Applying IRAC Effectively.” This chapter also provides a new section called “Exam-Writing Techniques” that teaches some fundamental techniques for writing clear, concise, and credible arguments.
  • The Constitutional Law question and answer (now Chap. 13) provides new annotations that highlight the writing techniques used in the answer.
  • A new chapter (Chap. 14) titled “Now It’s Your Turn to Practice Law School Skills” gives readers an opportunity to practice all the learning, writing, and analytical skills discussed in this book to a complex, interesting case in a sample torts class. Students get to practice the following: 1) reading the case; 2) briefing the case; 3) discussing the case in class; 4) incorporating the principles from the case into an outline; and 5) answering an exam question that relates to the case.

Learn more about this series.

Praise for the Second Edition:
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