You are probably wondering how you are going to learn all the law and do a substantive review if you are doing a self-study and going it alone. Because you are not in a commercial bar review class, where they hand you a mountain of books and lecture you on all the subjects, you are going to have to get the material and go over it yourself.
I recommend the Law in a Flash (affiliate link) series as the best material for learning the law, hands down. There are 4 main reasons why I advocate using the Law in a Flash flashcards, and why they are superior to other options.
The cards are written very well and easy to understand. There’s a limited amount of information on each card, so the law is broken down into digestible increments. Plus, the subject material is very well organized, with each card building upon the prior one, walking you through the subject step-by-step.
In addition to the cards containing the substantive material, there are many which give you hypothetical questions to test whether you fully understand the rules of law and the concepts that have been presented. They are very clever questions, and you will have to understand the concepts to get the question right. If you are getting the hypotheticals correct, you know you’re understanding and remembering the law.
The hypothetical cards have a differentiating mark on them so you know which ones are hypos and which cards are substantive material. Say you’re just reviewing a subject you learned before, you can either skip right to the hypos to test your knowledge, or skip over them to get right to a substantive review.
The law is accurate and up to date (so long as you are purchasing the latest publication and not an older version). I have always found the material in these flashcards to be trustworthy.
Unfortunately, there are going to be some subjects which you cannot get in the Law in a Flash series. In particular, the CA specific subjects (like the CA Evidence distinctions). So as an alternative source, get your hands on some other materials. One possible option would be the outlines published by a commercial bar prep course. Your school’s law library will undoubtedly have at least one bookshelf full of such books. You can also try purchasing used books online or from friends.
It is not recommended that you use these other source materials except where absolutely necessary. And the reason is this: they do a poor job of teaching the law. Outlines are really just a tool used to condense the law and provide a quick review. Thus, by definition, they are really only helpful if you already know the law. If you need to learn the law, or need help understanding certain concepts and their application, an outline cannot help you. That is why commercial classes give you books of outlines, but still have you sit through lectures. It is important to make sure that you have a base knowledge of the rules and principles.
Law in a Flashcuts out that repetition. Instead of listening to a lecture, and then having to read the outline, you just read the flashcards through once and you’re done. The genius of these flashcards really comes down to the hypos. Even if you get the hypo wrong and find out you did not understand the principles, between the use of the real-life hypothetical and the well written answer explanation, you will understand the concept once you’ve gone through the hypos for that legal rule. The cards have an uncanny way of being able to tell you what you were probably thinking if you got the answer wrong, and how you got tricked by the hypo into getting the wrong answer. (And they get it right almost 100% of the time!) Then they explain why you were wrong and what is distinctive about the fact pattern so that you see what you should have been thinking. It is this interactive feature that makes you feel like someone is sitting there with you teaching you the law directly.
Nevertheless, if you need to supplement some of the bar subjects, outlines are a resource to try. There are also more and more audio lectures popping up everywhere, which is another good option. Lectures are generally going to be superior to outlines, and if your daily commute is long enough, you could save yourself some significant time. Also try listening while you exercise, cook, clean, dress in the morning, etc.
Lastly, a word of caution. Because there are so many options for materials out there, you need to be very selective in what you choose to utilize. When I was studying, I was given tons of different audio lectures, outlines, notes, etc. from friends. Although I got excited when I received something new, it was really distracting. I would think that there’s something in the materials I just received that would be the key to passing the bar exam and give me some new information. But once I looked at it, I realized it was just the same information, organized differently. Don’t be fooled into thinking that you need to read everything you get your hands on. Get a set of good materials for all the bar subjects, go through it, then stop. Don’t waste your time trying to look at every outline or book that’s been written on Torts. It’s overkill and a danger to your productivity. Torts is torts is torts.