Lending a Helping ‘Learned’ Hand

By Nicolas Ahadzadeh

nick_ahadzadehLaw students often leave money on the table. After working at the circulation desk of the California Western Law Library, I have noticed that a significant amount of reserve materials go un-used. This article aims to shed some light on those resources, and how those resources can make the difference between a B and an A.

Black’s Law Dictionary

     Not only is Black’s Law Dictionary on reserve, but there are several copies on the open reference shelves as well. Professors want to teach you the law, but that’s not an easy task if you don’t know the definitions! Professor Bohrer shared a story of his first property class with me. His class was discussing a case about a replevin cause of action and no one could answer the question, “what is the definition of replevin?” In a scenario like this one, knowing the definition could save you from the embarrassment of not knowing the answer and/or make you the hero of class! If you ever stumble across a word that you don’t know during your assigned readings (which will probably happen often), take a look at Black’s Law Dictionary for the proper definition.

Study Aids – General

     The library has a vast number of study aids for each subject matter. Did your Civil Procedure professor confuse you about when a certain doctrine applies? (such an Erie time for all of us). Check out the Gilbert Law Summaries from the library. Does your Criminal Law professor go off on strange tangents about equestrians and you didn’t quite get the analogy? Check out the Examples & Explanations book!

     While it’s great to have so many resources, it can also get a little overwhelming to choose between them. I have created a list of several resources by subject matter that I think are effective:

[SIDEBAR: Examples & Explanations is good for every subject matter. I highly recommend them]

Civil Procedure:

  • The Glannon Guide


  • DEFINITELY Examples & Explanations
  • Gilbert Law Summaries

Criminal Law:

  • Black Letter Outlines by Dressler
  • Gilberts Law Summaries


  • Acing Torts by Medil
  • Black Letter Outlines by Kionka

Evidence/Trial Advocacy:

  • The Courtroom Evidence Handbook 2019-2020


  • Understanding Contracts
  • Corbin on Contracts (see ‘Secondary Sources’ below)

     Note – If you have Professor Sax, I would NOT use these study aids other than the Chirelstein book that she recommends. Professor Sax will spoon-feed you the exact rules she wants, so you don’t want to use a rule she never gave you. Don’t tell Professor Sax I told you – If you tell her I said this, I will deny everything.

     While most of these are the “mainstream” study aids, there are also a couple of hidden gems on reserve as well. If you are more of a visual learner, check out the BARSecrets mind maps. These are incredibly helpful for figuring out which direction to go for a given issue. They go by class year, so you would want to grab the “1L” book if you are looking for property notes and the “2L” book if you are looking for criminal procedure. Just ask someone at the circulation desk, and they will be able to point you in the right direction.

     More information on study aids can be found on the ABA For Law Students page. If you would rather own the study aids, West Academic gives a special discount for Premium ABA Student Members.

     Honorable Mention: The “Nutshell” treatises by West Academic are a great help for most subject areas. They put difficult concepts into a very conversational format. I used this series a lot for Constitutional Law – especially for cases like Marbury v. Madison.

Secondary Sources

     Secondary sources are GREAT ways to get an in-depth understanding on specific areas of law. While I could generalize about secondary sources, the library’s online guides do a much better job of explaining them than I could. The Treatises and Hornbooks Library Guide page is an incredible resource. They have an entire list of subject areas and will list out all of the treatises once you select the subject you’re looking for! A list of all of the library guides can be found here.

For you 1L students, here’s a convenient link to each one of your courses (except Civ Pro):


Criminal Law



     The Library staff are here to help you. If you ever need help researching a topic or simply need help finding a book, just reach out to one of your Friendly Neighborhood Librarians. These librarians are here to help, and they have expertise like you wouldn’t believe!

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