William and Mary Law School

Constitutional Law

Joe on Constitutional Lawby Joe Harrison, 1L

CALI: Computer Assisted Learning Instruction

(Requires access code)

For those of you who have never attempted any of the CALI exercises, you owe it to yourself to at least check them out. Considering it’s completely free and accessible from your computer at any time, it’s definitely worth some of your time. The lessons are divided into subsections, which then take you through the different topics in constitutional law, step by step. What’s so great about these lessons is that they ask questions throughout the exercise, so you are tested on concepts immediately after learning them. The questions are also fairly challenging, and are followed by even further questions based on your initial answer, which really force you to get comfortable with the material. The only problem I’ve had in going through the CALI exercises is being required to answer questions before moving on, so that if you want to go back to a challenging section later, you’re out of luck.

Constitutional Law Audio CDs

John C. Jeffries, Jr.
KF4550 .A1 J44 2005 AUDIO
Law School Legends Series

The Law School Legends CDs condense an entire Con. Law course into four hours of lectures. As you can imagine, quite a bit is lost in this process—but these CDs still have their use. First of all, for those of you who are skilled multi-taskers, putting these on in the background while you do hypos or look at practice exams will probably make for an effective study combination. Also, auditory learners who don’t absorb information well by staring at outlines and hornbooks for hours on end may also want to turn to this as an effective alternative. For everyone else, these lectures are not going to bring much new to the table, but if you starting to get burned-out and need a more passive form of studying, they’re a good choice.

Constitutional Law: Principles and Policies (4th ed.)

Erwin Chemerinsky
KF4550 .C427 2011

This particular study aid was recommended to my class, so if you have Professor Devins, the Chemerinsky is probably worth a look. But beyond that, this is probably the best overall hornbook for constitutional law. One thing in particular that I like about Principles and Policies: every subject contains a list of key questions you should go through when analyzing that issue. While not necessarily geared towards exam-taking, I think it’s helpful for that purpose, nonetheless. The book’s major drawback is that it is an eyesore to read. Unlike Inside Con. Law, which at least attempts to be neat and appealing, Chemerinsky is just a standard law text in terms of presentation. If you can get past this however, it is a great source of information.

Oxford Introductions to U.S. Law: Constitutional Law

Michael C. Dorf
KF4550 .D598 2010
Oxford Introductions to U.S. Law

The Oxford Introduction provides short, succinct summaries of all the major topics for constitutional law. It’s short enough that, unlike most study aids, you can read the entire thing in a manageable amount of time, if you were so inclined. The summaries are very clearly written and cite to all of the major cases relevant to the material, so everything should tie in nicely to what you learned in class. The only flaw to the Oxford is that it is too short to be used by itself. Best used, probably, as introductory material that can be combined with other study aids for a more comprehensive approach.

Acing Constitutional Law

Russell L. Weaver
KF4550 .Z9 A28 2010
Acing Series

The Acing series is sort of the jack-of-all-trades of study aids. It provides a nice balance of explanations, sample problems, and exam tips. The information provided is about as thorough as Gilbert and Emanuel outlines, but still much easier to absorb than what you will find in treatises and hornbooks. I also find the way the chapters are set up to be very helpful: explanations are suffixed by detailed checklists for what to look for on exam problems, which are then followed by sample problems to test what you just learned. It’s an effective approach that should help you internalize the key concepts of every topic. The only real drawback to Acing is that its all-over approach means that every other book does at least one thing better; Acing’s strength is that it does everything well.

Constitutional Law in a Nutshell (8th ed.)

Jerome A. Barron
KF4550 .Z9 B35 2013
Nutshell Series

Nutshells are basically a mini-hornbook, featuring a pretty bare-bones layout, but with lots of well-explained information. Because the Nutshell is smaller than a hornbook, the explanations are briefer and more to the point, which is probably a positive for many exam-crunchers. Additionally, the chapters are all sensibly subdivided, making this book very easy to read and follow. That being said: If you are trying to catch up on a particular topic that you were weak on in class, it might be better to get the depth of a full-sized hornbook.

Constitutional Law (31st ed.)

Jesse H. Choper
KF4550 .Z9 C56 2013
Gilbert Law Summaries

The Gilbert outlines are all pretty great, and the Con. Law is no exception. Despite presenting the information in outline format it still manages to be pretty thorough, and does not sacrifice much in the name of brevity. It also makes excellent use of charts in almost every chapter, and every chapter contains a section detailing the key exam issues you should prepare for. At the end of the outline you will also find sections for review questions, answers, and a sample exam with answers, all of which are highly useful going into the exam period. Lastly, there is a table of cases in the back which should allow you to easily make use of the Gilbert in conjunction with your class notes.

Constitutional Law (11th ed.)

Steven Emanuel
KF4550 .Z9 E523 2012
CrunchTime Series

As with all of the CrunchTime outlines, the flowcharts in the beginning of the book are decidedly worth looking over, and for using when you take practice exams. One of the reasons this series is so popular is that everything inside is geared specifically towards taking exams. The topical explanations are brief but useful and they include many examples to help get points across. There’s also a practice exam at the end of the book, and an entire chapter devoted to exam tips that should be worth everybody’s time. As with any study aid, however, it is vital to take into account the differences your professor’s exam will likely have from the generic problems CrunchTime uses.

Inside Constitutional Law: What Matters and Why

Russell L. Weaver
KF4550 .Z9 I545 2009
Inside Series

The Inside series books are a very good study aid, that make a clear effort to be more visually appealing than many of their peers. This is a good idea, and it also makes Inside better-organized and easier to follow than many of the other books available. As with a lot of study aids, the level of depth and explanation provided is very high, making this an excellent choice to cover subjects that left you completely lost when they were covered in class. To help with the amount of information, Inside Con. Law includes brief outlines at the beginning of every chapter that can be used to guide your reading. It also makes a nice effort at breaking up the monotony, by including FAQs and examples every now and then, which of course help you apply what you’re reading into a more digestible form. As I mentioned, though, this book is very long and very dense, meaning reading it cover to cover is not an option unless you are really desperate.

The Glannon Guide to Constitutional Law: Individual Rights and Liberties

Brannon P. Denning
KF4750 .D46 2012
Glannon Guides

The Glannon Guide to Constitutional Law contains solid overviews of every topic, providing a level of depth somewhere in-between a hornbook and the commercial outlines. The main attraction here is that every chapter ends with a series of highly useful multiple-choice questions which make you apply the concepts you have just absorbed. Even if you were to skip the text for that found in another study aid, the multiple-choice questions alone make Glannon worth a trip to the library. In fact, this may be the best approach as other study aids are probably better overall—either by providing more depth or more clarity. Glannon seems a little on the short side for being a study guide, and there are surprisingly few chapters, so you should probably double-up with something else.