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Aug 2017

Call me a millennial, but I respond to every musty textbook of legal case summaries with the same unoriginal droll: ‘Couldn’t I just Google this?’

All except one.

When Survive Law offered us copies of legal resources in exchange for an honest review, I surprised myself by raising my hand for LexisNexis Case Summaries: Constitutional Law. But after all, I was enrolled in Constitutional Law for the semester. In a time where the words ‘KIRBY J, DISSENTING’ were stamped on the eyelids of every student before me, my sudden desire to inhale a book of legal cases was among the mildest of transformations.

And lo and behold – a package arrived in my mailbox. Even after unwrapping the parcel, I wasn’t sure what to expect. A cursory flick through the content looked like, to be perfectly frank, something I could grab from Wikipedia.

Until my advocacy exercise came up.

At my university, one of the assessment pieces for Constitutional Law is to orally advocate a position from a recent High Court of Australia decision to an examiner. My topic was to represent the plaintiff in the thrilling decision of Murphy v Electoral Commissioner, catering to my curiosity for the freedom of political communication. Yet, three hours and six cups of tea deep, I still had a blank page for a submission and a looming deadline. Even Wikipedia was speaking a foreign language on this hazy night.

As a last resort, I reached for the Constitutional Law Case Summaries book… and unexpectedly found the answer to my problem. There on p. 132 and 133, I found the two precedents of my case: Roach and Rowe. The summaries began with the specific nature of the legal issue with one line i.e. Rowe –‘Parliament – Elections – Enrolment of Voters.’ Next, even the material facts and decisions were designed to revolve only around the core legal issues resulting in very short summaries – i.e. in Rowe, the amount of lines under each heading is allocated as follows – Facts: 2; Issue: 1; and Held: 4.

Using this simple format, I drew the cases in diagrammatic format and supplemented details from more exhaustive sources. I went into my oral presentation with the confidence that, irrespective of any questions asked from the bench, I can always work backwards to the heart of the cases my argument is based upon. It gave me an incredibly solid standing ground in the mock court.

I recommend this resource to any students who are:

  • Mooting – this book will be relevant to most, if not all, precedents in the relatively small database of Australian Constitutional Law cases. It also provides an excellent summary of facts for the cases used in your argument.
  • Memorising case facts and decisions as preparation for closed-book exams – the format is digestible, understandable, and memorisable in a short amount of time. You can also use it for open-book exams, but I would recommend purchasing the eBook copy instead and supplementing it in between notes.
  • Learning how to write an effective legal case note – the art of summarising a judgment into its basic components is no easy feat, but this book is filled with exemplars of exactly that. Use this as a guide for what details are necessary for your own case summaries – I know I definitely have for Equity and Trusts for this semester.

Buy it here!

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