March 19, 2009
One strategy that has been very effective for me in my law school career has been listening to audio summaries of many of my courses. In addition to preparing for class, briefing cases, outlining, and doing practice exams (indispensable!), I use my time driving to and from work and law school to listen to audio lectures of the courses I’m taking, especially as exams begin to approach. I’m working full time at The Law Offices of Elliot Schlissel, which is a great experience, and attending law school part time in the evenings. So time management is very important to me. I’m nearing the end of my 3rd year, out of four, in law school. So I have had the opportunity to listen to audio lectures on most of my classes up to this point. The following are my reviews of the CD sets that I have listened to. I’ll give each one a rating of either (5) Excellent, (4) Good, (3) Average, (2) Bad, or (1) Terrible and my reasons.
Civil Procedure with Arthur Miller : (5) Excellent! Everyone I’ve spoken to loves these as well. He is a great speaker with a great voice and he is a known expert on Civil Procedure. He has the ability to take a potentially boring subject and making it interesting and enjoyable to listen to. That is a major accomplishment. It’s the longest set of CDs I’ve gotten so far, numbering at 10. But it is well worth the investment financially and with regard to one’s time. It is an excellent review of the subject. I listened to these CDs between 4 and 6 times throughout the semester and it really helped me keep my understanding of the subject organized and clear during the exam. These are really indespensible. A must-buy!
Contracts with Douglas J. Whaley: (4) Good. He is also an interesting speaker and he gives some nice examples to illustrate some of the concepts. I found these CDs very useful and I would definitely recommend them to others.
Property with Julian Jurgensmeyer: (4) Good. Even more than Civil Procedure, this was a difficult course. And anyone who has taken Property understands why. The bulk of the class seems to focus on estates system from England 400 hundred years ago. This is a difficult and hard-to-relate-to system. Given the difficulty of the subject, Prof. Jurgensmeyer does about as good a job as seems possible when teaching the Rule in Shelly’s Case, the Rule Against Perpetuities (“the RAP”) and the like. Nothing that I know if can make this subject easy, but these CDs were definitely a good supplement to my class.
Criminal Law with Joshua Dressler: (5) Excellent+!+! Criminal Law is already an inherently more interesting subject than some others and Prof. Dressler does an amazing job of clearly and engagingly explaining everything. Along with Arthur Miller, Dressler is the best of the best. It is definitely worthwhile to get these CDs. In fact, I wish Professor Dressler had lectures on every subject in law school. He is also the author of the casebook my professor used so it was nice to get a consistent perspective on things from both the casebook and the lectures. A must-buy!
Constitutional Law with Mary Cheh: (4) Good. These CDs were very good and interesting. Prof. Cheh was extremely organized and explained everything clearly and is a good speaker. I would certainly recommend these lectures to anyone taking Con Law. There are a lot of controversial topics in this subject and I think she handled them fairly and even-handedly, such that one cannot really tell where she falls out on those issues. I cannot say anything negative about these lectures and I would definitely recommend them.
Intellectual Property with John R. Thomas: (2) Bad. I did not feel that he explained the concepts clearly and, although this is subjective, I found his voice to be annoying. Although Prof. Thomas does not come from an ostensibly Ivy League background, he speaks, laughs and makes jokes as if he goes to Harvard, his name is Biff, and he likes to play golf with his friends Thurston, Muffy, and Tiffany. Perhaps this lecture series was more beneficial to me than nothing at all, but even if so, it was not by much.
International Law with Sherri Burr: (1) Terrible. Prof. Burr was an unengaging, disorganized speaker. For the first time, I was not able to even finish listening to these CDs. It sounded like she was reading from a low-quality textbook. I would definitely recommend searching out some other resource to supplement one’s course in International or Transnational Law.
Wills, Trusts & Estates with Stanley Johanson: (4) Good. Professor Johanson is definitely different from other lecturers. Some people I spoke to didn’t like him, but I did. I found him charming like a quirky old timer uncle from East Tennesse who is fun to chat with during family reunions and get-togethers (although he’s from Texas, not Tennessee). He has a cute sense of humor and an unusual way of teaching. Rather than give his lectures in outline format like most of these audio lectures, he includedes a pdf file full of hypothetical situations with the CD set. And his lectures are organized around him explaining the answers to those hypotheticals throughout the lectures. I found these CDs amusing and helpful and would recomend them to others.
Federal Income Tax with Cheryl Block: (4) Good. Prof. Block does a good a job in this subject. Federal Income Tax is actually not about math. It’s about understanding tax law and it’s actually fairly easy to relate to as a subject since we all do things, have done things, or know people who’ve done things that have tax consequences. The subject is fairly easy to relate to when learning the subject. Prof. Block did not stand out as over-the-top great, but she is a good speaker and the lectures are definitely helpful and I would recommend these lectures as a very helpful supplement to your class.
Criminal Procedure with Joshua Dressler: (5) Excellent +!+!+! If Professor Dressler was great in Criminal Law, he is outstanding in Criminal Procedure. He wrote a Treatise on Criminal Procedure and he is just as clear, mellifluous, interesting and organized in Crim Pro as he was in Crim Law. Before taking this class, I expected the class to be more about the nuts and bolts of criminal cases and police procedure. In reality, this class is just an extension of Constitutional Law. Whereas the 2nd half of Con Law focuses more on 1st Amendment and 14th Amendment substantive due process rights, Criminal Procedure focuses more on 4th Amendment Search & Seizure, 5th Amendment self-incrimination, and 6th Amendment right to counsel issues. But both subjects are merely different areas of Con Law. Because of the Con Law nature of the class, and the inherent drama in the process of police investigations, searches, arrests and interrogations (there are countless TV shows with these themes, after all), this is certainly one of the more interesting subjects. And again, Professor Dressler is an amazing resource for understanding the rules and historical progression of the law in this area. Another must-buy!
I have also listened to the CDs on Family Law, which were very good, even though I have not taken those courses yet. I hope these reviews will help people make an educated choice about how and which audio lectures to use in reviewing their law school courses.
Picture (top) of Prof. Stephen Presser speaking at Northwestern’s Law School courtesy of USNews.com.