Frequently Asked Questions
last updated July 7, 2014
Why use Briefcat?
- Take unlimited practice quizzes on your class material--cases, statutes, class discussions/concepts, and hypos
- Organize your class materials
- Compare your notes with those of your classmates: see what you're missing, and comment on when you think a classmate has misunderstood something
- Search for student case summaries (Case Briefs), statutes, outlines, and more, whether for your specific class and professor, or for generic legal material
- Hone your sifting and analytical skills, while at the same time study for your class, by having to identify the most relevant aspects of a case, class discussion, statute, etc, before you post
- Learn from your classmates, and transform the law school experience into the collaborative, mutually helpful, and encouraging process that it should be.
- Before you take a class, you can already begin familiarizing yourself with some of the class material by searching for the course and its contents here.
- Start a Discussion to ask your classmates a legal or law school-related question, and get feedback.
How will I benefit from adding content to the site?
- This is yet another way and another opportunity for you to interact with your class material and, in the process, learn the material better. By having to think about the most important elements of the material, it helps the material stick in your mind better. That's why you shouldn't worry about freeloaders using your content without having done their reading--in the end, those who do that are just hurting themselves because they won't get as much from the experience as you, who are using your mind and creating content.
- In a way, creating content on Briefcat is kind of like having to teach the content to someone else. By forcing yourself to think about the content to be able to teach it to someone else, you are studying the content at the same time.
- By posting your understanding of the content, you may actually allow someone else to shed a different perspective on the content and, together, you might get to a better and more complete understanding. Alternatively, you might actually catch a misunderstanding you had.
- In purely technical terms, adding content and linking the content to your Outlines is the only way you can take randomized, computer-generated practice quizzes on Briefcat content.
- Some of you might actually enjoy the feeling of aiding the next crop of students by giving them more benchmarks against which to measure their own understandings. If you post a class discussion right after the class ends, you might also help a student who missed class that day.
- Maybe, just maybe, we will change the culture and atmosphere of law school from being excessively competitive to being more mutually encouraging and helpful.
What are Courses, and how do they work?
- Anyone signed in can add a Course
- All content HAS to be linked to a Course
- Once a Course has any content in it, you cannot delete nor edit the Course, even if you created it.
- Any user who creates an inappropriate or irrelevant Course will be castigated. No, but seriously, don't be a douche.
What are Case Briefs, and how do they work?
- These are summaries of cases you are reading (or read) for class.
- Title: You should include the Bluebook citation info if you can (especially the case year), but you don't have to, especially not if it's a famous and easily distinguishable case
- Facts (and Procedural History): Include here the components that are relevant to the holding
- Issue(s): Identify here the main question(s) facing the court
- Holding (and Dissents): Include here both what the majority opinion was, and any relevant dissents, if any.
- Analysis (and Discussion): Here, you can elaborate on any point that you felt was important in the case, including the logic behind the holding. This section is optional and will not be part of the material for the computer-generated quizzes
- Note: Once a Case Brief receives 10 stars (likes) or more, it can no longer be edited. This is to ensure that great content gets locked and doesn't change. The owner can still delete it, but otherwise has to rely on comments to say anything else.
What are Statutes/Rules, and how do they work?
- These are: any part of the Constitution, any law passed by a legislature, or any section of a code (e.g. Federal Rules of Evidence)
- Title: Identify the section of the code or law (e.g. 14th Amendment, FRCP 12(b)(6), etc)
- Rule: Explain the meat of the law. You can put it verbatim, but it would probably be better in your own words.
- Explanation: This is where you can add anything that the professor has said regarding this law, anything you found helpful to remember it, or why the law is relevant. This section is optional and will not be part of the material for the computer-generated quizzes
- Note: Once a Statute receives 10 stars (likes) or more, it can no longer be edited. This is to ensure that great content gets locked and doesn't change. The owner can still delete it, but otherwise has to rely on comments to say anything else.
What are Hypos, and how do they work?
- These are specific examples, scenarios, or answers to possible questions.
- Topic: Identify which subject (within the course) this hypo relates to. For example, for a hypo in the Civil Procedure course, the topic of the hypo might be "Personal Jurisdiction"
- Prompt: This is where the question, or the example scenario, would be.
- Solution: Here, you'd put the answer to the prompt or question.
What are Discussions, and how do they work?
- Discussions serve two main purposes. First, they can be things that the professor said in class regarding a particular topic. Second, they can be your own discussion/question you want to start, and possibly get answers from your classmates in the form of comments.
- Topic: What concept or subject area within the course does your Discussion relate to?
- Class Date: Identify the date of the class during which the professor made the comment. If you can't remember or if it's not relevant, just leave it to the default date (which is the post creation's date).
- Explanation: This is where you actually explain the meat of either what the professor said, your understanding of it, or the question you have for your classmates.
- Professor: Add the professor's first and last name if it's something the professor said. This section is optional.
What are Outlines, and how do they work?
- These are probably the most important aspect of Briefcat, because they are smart. They allow you to take practice quizzes based on whatever material you put in them.
- Title: Put something standard here to help yourself remember which outline it is (e.g. Vahid's Fall 2012 Torts Outline)
- Semester and Year: Identify the semester and year in which you had the course
- Professor: Your course professor's first and last name.
- After you create the Outline, you can now begin adding any content above (e.g. CaseBriefs, Statutes, Hypos, and Discussions) to it by either editing them if they already exist, or creating them, and linking them to the Outline you want.
- Once you've added enough Case Briefs to an Outline, you'll see the option to take a Case Briefs Quiz when you go to that Outline. Same thing for Statutes!
- Note: Right now, you can take practice quizzes only on your Outline's CaseBriefs and Statutes. We are working on creating quizzes for Hypos and Discussions as well, in addition to one MegaQuiz that includes random questions from all types of materials.
- Note: Deleting an Outline will NOT delete the contents linked to that Outline. This is in case you'd like to use the material in another Outline (e.g. a case currently linked to your Constitutional Law Outline might later be useful for--if linked to--your Administrative Law Outline)
What are Comments, and how do they work?
- Once signed in, you can comment on any user's posts, including your own.
- Use this option for constructive feedback, and to discuss class materials
- Be a scholar and a gentle, helpful soul when you comment. Life is hard as it is.
- Right now, Case Briefs have the option of privately commenting just for the Case Brief owner's eyes: use this option to point out mistakes while respecting the author's reputation. See below for how to do this.
How can I comment on someone else's Case Brief and keep it private?
- Go to the Case Brief
- Before you click on "Add Comment", make sure you check the "Private" box on top.
- Only the Case Brief's author will see your comment
- A great way to use this option would be when you are pointing out mistakes and don't want to publicly humiliate the author.
I want to quickly add many posts in one sitting. Any tips?
- After you create and save one, just click on "< Back" at the bottom left of the page you just created, and it'll bring up a new form
- Enter the new post's info, and save
- Repeat steps 1-2 above
How do you recommend I start?
- Go to Courses (from the Menu). See if the classes you're taking are listed there. If not, click on "add a Course" on the top right corner, and add them.
- Go to "add a new" in the top right corner, and add an Outline.
- Go to "add a new" again, and now add content (Case Briefs, Statutes, Hypos, Discussions), and make sure to add them to your appropriate Outline.
- If you add enough Case Briefs to your Outline (I think 2 Case Briefs should do it), you'll see an option appear, allowing you to take a practice quiz on these cases. Same thing if you add at least 2 Statutes.
How can I check everything I've posted?
- Click on your email in the top right corner, then select "My Posts"
- Your posts are listed by type (Outlines, Case Briefs, Statutes, Discussions, and Hypos) and by updated date
- To edit/change/add them to an Outline, click on "Edit" in the rightmost column
- To delete a post, click on it to view it, and then click on delete
How do I search for stuff?
- Go to Menu, then click on the type of content you're looking for (e.g. Case Briefs, Outlines, etc)
- In the search box, enter the one word you're looking for (e.g. "Marbury" if you're looking for the Marbury v. Madison casebrief)
- Note: right now, the search engine is not the most capable. It is case sensitive, so if "marbury" doesn't return anything, try "Marbury"
Can you explain the "Edit and Add to my Case Briefs/Statutes" feature?
- If you see someone else's Case Brief or Statute that you like and want to add to your own posts (without impacting theirs), then click on that button
- Make any changes/additions, Save, and voila!
- The goal of this feature is to facilitate the creation of good material, and to foster the spirit of collaboration.
- When you use the feature, you automatically "like" the original post
- When you use the feature, your version of the Case Brief will credit the original source
- Note: Right now, this feature is only available for Case Briefs and Statutes. If you think it should be added to hypos and discussions too, please let us know.
Who can see my posts and email address?
- Anyone signed in can see all of your posts, but only you can take practice quizzes from your Outlines. This encourages users to create their own Outlines, with their own content, and in the process think about and study the class material.
- Everyone (even if they are not signed in) can see your Case Briefs and Statutes/Rules. This is done so that anyone searching for a case or statute can hopefully come across and benefit from your brilliant summary! Recruiters and law firms can also see how succintly and accurately you've summarized key cases and statutes.
- Only those signed in can see your full Hypos, Discussions, and Outlines, but everyone (even if not signed in) can see their title/topic (and that you've created them). The idea behind these being more private is that they might be more class-sensitive, and you might not want non-students (e.g. professors) seeing what you post (and the comments that they generate).
- Nobody (except Briefcat admins) can see your email address. That is, unless someone is standing behind you and staring at your screen while you're signed in.
- Everyone can see your name, but only those signed in can see your profile.
- Let us know if you think the permissions should be different!
How are you making money from this?
- Right now, we're not. It's totally free because we still just want to see if law students actually like the site and find it useful.
- At some point, if people would like us to offer the site long-term, we'll consider how to best do that.