Have you ever wondered why a line of a TV commercial can be stuck in your head for years without any effort on your part to memorize it, but an important legal rule may elude you right when you need it most? Can legal concepts be presented like ads in a magazine? Consider how certain notions applicable to advertising can be used to make the content of your outline more memorable.
- Function. Ads inform, persuade and call for action. What are the objectives of your outline? Your entries must inform: state a rule, accurately describe a legal test, provide a holding in a case, etc. The persuasion part translates into legal reasoning. Your outline must reflect the reasoning behind the laws. Finally, it should address the application of the rules and standards. What can you do with this rule? That’s your “call for action.”
- Positioning. In advertising, positioning means identifying the right target audience for your message. When applied to outlining, positioning signifies the “big picture.” When you outline, think about how each of your entries relates to other entries.
- Message. Memorable ads usually convey a single clear message. When you outline, make sure you break down complex concepts into smaller components. Take time to distill the main idea from the legal mumbo-jumbo.
- Truthfulness. Ads must not mislead the customers. The same is true for the outlines. The content must be accurate.
- Language. Advertising phrases are short and punchy, but they remain coherent. Coherence allows you to reconstruct the full meaning despite the simplified syntactic structures and lack of connectives, such as "and," "so," "therefore," which mark relationships between sentences. When you outline, get rid of needless words. At the same time, whatever is left must be sufficient to bring back the full concept.
- Sings and symbols. Ads often use signs and symbols that are commonly recognized by the audience, like McDonald’s Golden Arches. One of the interesting things about sings is that the relationship between the sign and the object it signifies is arbitrary. Common signs are a matter of convention. The good news is that you can be creative and invent your own symbols and signs to remember the information better.
For example, to remember the charity-to-charity exception to the Rule Against Perpetuities (acronym “RAP”), which applies when both the present and the future estates are created in favor of charities, I use the following phrase: “Red Cross does not RAP, but it takes two to tango.” This saying is my memory clue.
- Layout. The elements of an ad, such as text and images, are organized in a certain way to reinforce the message. Most students’ outlines are bland. While adding pictures and colors may seem like extra work, it pays off when you need to recall the information. You’ve probably heard that the process of outlining is more beneficial than the final result. You aid your memory when you engage your multiple senses and intelligences while creating the outline.
Do you want your outline to work like an ad?