Clem on Torts: Introduction

Copyright 2014, Richard P. Clem
Richard P. Clem Continuing Legal Eduction

Clem on Torts is a comprehensive review of the material covered in a first-year torts class in an American law school. It is available free of charge on this website, and is also available for purchase as an Amazon Kindle book.

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This study guide was written for the benefit of first-year law students, but it’s probably also useful for those preparing for the multistate bar exam, or even the essay portion of the bar exam. It is a very fast overview of the material taught in the torts class of most U.S. law schools.

If you’ve stumbled upon this little book after a few weeks of class, you’ve probably already discovered something: Torts class (and, to a lesser extent, your other classes) really aren’t intended to teach you very much about the law. Instead, the class is mostly designed to get you to “think like a lawyer”. And, frankly, it’s probably designed to intimidate you just a little bit.

Getting you to think like a lawyer is probably a laudable goal. And there’s probably even some good reason why your faculty wants to intimidate you (although I’ve never really figured it out). So you’ll probably emerge from the first year of law school a different person.

But in the meantime, there is some substantive law that you need to learn. Most or all of your grade in the course will be based upon being able to write about how the substantive law applies to various fact patterns. So in order to get a good grade in the course, you will need a good understanding of the substantive law. Unfortunately, in your professor’s quest to get you to “think like a lawyer”, there is usually little emphasis given to help you understand the substantive law.

The purpose of this book, is to give you the “big picture” so that you’ll have a fundamental understanding of the substantive law. It’s very unlikely that the material in this book or any other book like it will directly appear on your final exam. Your professor’s question probably won’t call upon you to recite the elements of an assault cause of action, or all of the possible defenses. Instead, you’ll be given a fact pattern that includes most of those elements. But one or more of them will be unclear: It will be arguable whether this element applies in this particular case, and you’ll need to discuss whether or not it does.

In your casebook and in class, you will look at cases talking about those unclear areas. Many of the cases you study could easily have gone either way. Indeed, you will read conflicting cases. Some states interpret those grey areas differently from other states. Indeed, individual judges and juries will interpret those grey areas differently. And you will be spending most of your class time talking about the grey areas. You’ll start doing so the very first day of class.

This book and other similar study materials cover the material that’s not covered in class. We won’t spend much time talking about the difficult cases you cover in class. Instead, we’ll cover the easy cases—the ones that probably won’t be on the test. But by having this summary of the easy cases, you will have a better understanding of where the hard cases fit in. You can read this book in a day or two, and I encourage you to read it in a single sitting. You might look back to it as a reference, but there are other study guides that probably do a much better job for that purpose. The purpose of this little book is to give you the big picture, something that a detailed outline probably can’t do as well.

Clem on Torts is also available at Amazon as a Kindle book.

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Copyright 2014, Richard P. Clem.
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