Textbooks or Casebooks (or Nutshells/Nutcases!)? Watch

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kingslaw
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I was wondering what type of books you law undergraduates/graduates prefer to use?? I used to only use textbooks - my casebooks for most of the first term remained untouched. However, now I use casebooks almost exclusively (apart from if I can't find a case in it, I'll go to the textbook). I find they contribute to a much more indepth and comprehensive understanding of the law, as well as being great practice at understanding stupidly complex texts. I've frequently found that, unless the author of your textbook is very comprehensive, important considerations (distinctions, overrulings, authorities, etc) are omitted by the textbook authors - which can be incredibly annoying if that issue arise in a tutorial discussion.

Of course, you may just use Nutcases/Nutshells !
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britishseapower
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I'm not a law student yet but I have the 3rd edition of the english legal system by jacqueline martin and the the legal system book that you recommended to me, I also have criminal law under nutcases and nutshells
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muncrun
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Tend to use both. Textbook first, to provide the grounding; then the casebook to fill in the gaps and deepen my understanding. I avoid reading only a casebook as in my experience they are little disjointed and don't explain 'the bigger picture' quite so well.

Just out of interest Kingslaw, which texts/casebooks are you using for your subjects?
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Fluffy
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As a graduate I would avios both Nutcases and Nutshells! I've seen their use cost someone a tenancy at my boyfriends previous set!
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supervin
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Hi everyone. Haven't been on these forums since the Edexcel Mathematics P3 riot two summers back.

Textbooks are crucial obviously for discussion on the current law, previous development, reforms and policy. Casebooks are convenient for finding excerpts of cases and statutes without looking at the law reports and statute books separately, and are used for filling in understanding between gaps in textbooks. I would say textbooks would be a good main source for reading.

Nutshells and Nutcases are not bad per se, even though lecturers and tutors often dissuade students from their use. The main problem with them is that they over-simplify at times and some parts are questionable in terms of accuracy. I would personally recommend them myself as they provide a good means of a quick understanding if one is stumped by lectures or an area of law in general. Of course, it won't reflect well on someone referring to them in legal practice, where professionals would expect considerable familiarity with the law.
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kingslaw
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(Original post by muncrun)
Tend to use both. Textbook first, to provide the grounding; then the casebook to fill in the gaps and deepen my understanding. I avoid reading only a casebook as in my experience they are little disjointed and don't explain 'the bigger picture' quite so well.

Just out of interest Kingslaw, which texts/casebooks are you using for your subjects?
Ermm...(The ones with *s are the ones consulted most frequently)

Public:
*-Constitutional and Administrative Law - Bradley & Ewing ~ Very indepth. Vital that you sort the necessary from the unnecessary detail
-Pulic Law and Human Rights (Blackstones Statutes)

Criminal:
-Criminal Law (Text and Materials) - Clarkson & Keating ~ Bizarre structure. Wrong on many points of law.
*-Crime, Reason and History - Prof. Norrie ~ FANTASTIC for understanding the form and ideology of the law from a critical perspective. Very 'radical'
*-Criminal Law (Cases and Materials) - Smith & Hogan ~ Good, but no "Notes" after the judgements like in most other casebooks.

European:
-EC Law - Steiner & Woods ~ Bit basic in parts. Fine if you're aiming for 2:1 though.
*-EU Law - Craig & de Burca ~ Very indepth. Vital that you sort the necessary from the unnecessary detail
-EC Legislations (Blackstones Statutes)

Contract:
-Contract Law - McKendrick ~ Wrong on some points of law. Omits some pretty vital elements of decisions.
*-Casebook on Contract Law - Jill Poole ~ Good, but omits some vital cases.

---------------------------------------------------------

What about you guys?
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muncrun
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Ok, for my first year:

Public:

Barnett - a crock of crap in my opinion. Very good at giving the 'nuts and bolts' of the subject, but seemed to completely lack critical analysis. Made the mistake of choosing that over Bradley and Ewing in my first year.
Tompkins - Public Law - a short (300 page) book giving an excellent introductory, yet highly critical, analysis.

Contract:

Treitel - very detailed and perhaps the most articulate of all the texts I've come across. The strongest book in the field in my opinion.
Bishop, Beale, Furmston - Cases and Materials - very good, although lacking some of the more important cases. Notes are excellent.

Land Law:

Gray and Gray - Elements of Land Law - a lot of repetition, and too much jurisprudential analysis for a subject that's taught (at my uni, at least) as more of a 'black-letter' subject. However, once you've sieved out the useful material, it can readily be seen that what remains is the strongest account of the law compared with the other texts in the field.
Didn't use a casebook in this subject.

Second Year:

Criminal Law:

Smith and Hogan - generally an excellent black-letter account of the law. A little out of date in some areas (next edition is out later this year). One criticism is that it doesn't deal with one or two topics very well at all - particularly omissions, which comes across as being an amalgamated mess of rules, principles and cases. The other set text on my course is Clarkson and Keating, although as you say, the layout is just...odd.
Smith and Hogan - Cases and Materials - perhaps lacking in notes, but the questions posed are very good at inspiring a more critical view of the law.
Ashworth - Principles of Criminal Law - this is my theoretical text. Haven't really compared it against other similar texts, although my opinion of it is that of a superb critical analysis of the theoretical underpinnings of the criminal law.

Trusts and Equity:

Hanbury and Martin - succinct account of the law. Sometimes lacking sufficient explanation of principles. Reasonably critical. Structure of text could be improved in places. Generally better than the others in the field though.
Todd and Watt - Cases and Materials - Choice of extracts sometimes questionable. Notes are excellent. Structure of the book is a little unconvential, making it difiicult to cross-reference with my textbook.

EU:

Craig and De Burca - generally a very good text, although there's a fair amount of dead wood in each chapter that must be seperated from the useful stuff.

Jurisprudence:

Lloyd's Introduction to Jurisprudence - very good selections of primary resources. I don't find the introductory passages to be of much use though.
Simmonds - A relatively short account of some of the central parts of the subject. Very good critical accounts given of the various jurisprudential theories, although the topics included are very selective, meaning the book omits many important areas of the subect - most notably, natural law.
Most of the other books used for this module are primary materials written by the jurists themselves.

Agency and Domestic Sale of Goods:

Markesinnis and Munday - An Outline of the Law of Agency - a fairly good text. Goes into a fair amount of detail. Structure could be improved to give a better account of how the various doctrines interrelate.
Atiyah - Sale of Goods - an articulate and detailed account of the law in this area. Superb explanation of cases and doctrines with just the 'right' amount of explanation and critical analysis. A little out of date (2001) so it becomes necessary to constantly cross-reference with other materials to ensure that what you're reading remains applicable law.
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supervin
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Adding to the lists:

Contract - Anson's: very in-depth and specific textbook.
Tort - Lunney & Oliphant: very comprehensive casebook.
Land - Maudsley and Burn's: renowned casebook; Gravells: a decent text and cases book with a well-selected range of materials.
EU - Wyatt & Dashwood's: clear text with moderate critique, but out of date.
Family - Herring: a textbook which is clear, sufficiently critical and precise; Cretney, Masson & Bailey-Harris: very specific and in-depth text.
International - Brownlie: detailed exposition of the law with many references; Shaw: detailed text with helpful political background information to aid understanding, but sometimes unnecessarily verbose; Harris: rich compilation of cases and materials, likely to be the most comprehensive.
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kingslaw
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(Original post by muncrun)
Ok, for my first year:

Public:

Barnett - a crock of crap in my opinion. Very good at giving the 'nuts and bolts' of the subject, but seemed to completely lack critical analysis. Made the mistake of choosing that over Bradley and Ewing in my first year.
Tompkins - Public Law - a short (300 page) book giving an excellent introductory, yet highly critical, analysis.

Contract:

Treitel - very detailed and perhaps the most articulate of all the texts I've come across. The strongest book in the field in my opinion.
Bishop, Beale, Furmston - Cases and Materials - very good, although lacking some of the more important cases. Notes are excellent.

Land Law:

Gray and Gray - Elements of Land Law - a lot of repetition, and too much jurisprudential analysis for a subject that's taught (at my uni, at least) as more of a 'black-letter' subject. However, once you've sieved out the useful material, it can readily be seen that what remains is the strongest account of the law compared with the other texts in the field.
Didn't use a casebook in this subject.

Second Year:

Criminal Law:

Smith and Hogan - generally an excellent black-letter account of the law. A little out of date in some areas (next edition is out later this year). One criticism is that it doesn't deal with one or two topics very well at all - particularly omissions, which comes across as being an amalgamated mess of rules, principles and cases. The other set text on my course is Clarkson and Keating, although as you say, the layout is just...odd.
Smith and Hogan - Cases and Materials - perhaps lacking in notes, but the questions posed are very good at inspiring a more critical view of the law.
Ashworth - Principles of Criminal Law - this is my theoretical text. Haven't really compared it against other similar texts, although my opinion of it is that of a superb critical analysis of the theoretical underpinnings of the criminal law.

Trusts and Equity:

Hanbury and Martin - succinct account of the law. Sometimes lacking sufficient explanation of principles. Reasonably critical. Structure of text could be improved in places. Generally better than the others in the field though.
Todd and Watt - Cases and Materials - Choice of extracts sometimes questionable. Notes are excellent. Structure of the book is a little unconvential, making it difiicult to cross-reference with my textbook.

EU:

Craig and De Burca - generally a very good text, although there's a fair amount of dead wood in each chapter that must be seperated from the useful stuff.

Jurisprudence:

Lloyd's Introduction to Jurisprudence - very good selections of primary resources. I don't find the introductory passages to be of much use though.
Simmonds - A relatively short account of some of the central parts of the subject. Very good critical accounts given of the various jurisprudential theories, although the topics included are very selective, meaning the book omits many important areas of the subect - most notably, natural law.
Most of the other books used for this module are primary materials written by the jurists themselves.

Agency and Domestic Sale of Goods:

Markesinnis and Munday - An Outline of the Law of Agency - a fairly good text. Goes into a fair amount of detail. Structure could be improved to give a better account of how the various doctrines interrelate.
Atiyah - Sale of Goods - an articulate and detailed account of the law in this area. Superb explanation of cases and doctrines with just the 'right' amount of explanation and critical analysis. A little out of date (2001) so it becomes necessary to constantly cross-reference with other materials to ensure that what you're reading remains applicable law.
I may go for that Tomkins book because, although Bradley & Ewing is indeed very, very, very detailed, it does actually lack a 'critical' approach to the law, and Tomkins' books looks like its goods at filling in those gaps.

Also, I think I may buy/borrow Ashworths "Principles of Criminal Law". Correct me if I'm wrong, but he's very much of the orthodox liberal-individualist approach, much in line with Glanville Williams. His book will probably provide a good contrast to Norrie's book, which is incredibly critical of the individualist approach and blames it for the inconsistencies and contradictions in the criminal law.

With contract law, well, I may invest in Trietals book. However, it would be good to contrast with Atiyah's book - and both together may be getting expensive (plus their most important debates are in articles that our library has). Also, I can actually get through my exam without having to answer a single essay question! Can anyone recommend any critical/theoretical books for contract?

Just out of interest, where are you reading Law, Muncrun?
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supervin
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The texts are very wide-ranging indeed and are subject to the type of questions that one is faced with during the course. Specific and detailed books for application/problem questions with casebooks while critical yet comprehensive texts are for tutorial discussions and essay-type questions without so much emphasis on the use of cases. Depends on what people prefer and what they are trying to achieve out of the reading.
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supervin
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Do you peruse a number of judgments for complete understanding or skim through judgments covering more cases and only for the gist of the reasoning? Considering the number of subjects and the topics involved in each, there is hardly enough time to be able to read all the major cases, let alone the other less important ones. Of course, there's also the need to pinpoint the ratio, dicta and dissenting comments. Do you summarise the cases after reading into the respective parts? This takes up a significant amount to time too.

Interested to know people's preferences.
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kingslaw
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(Original post by supervin)
Do you peruse a number of judgments for complete understanding or skim through judgments covering more cases and only for the gist of the reasoning? Considering the number of subjects and the topics involved in each, there is hardly enough time to be able to read all the major cases, let alone the other less important ones. Of course, there's also the need to pinpoint the ratio, dicta and dissenting comments. Do you summarise the cases after reading into the respective parts? This takes up a significant amount to time too.

Interested to know people's preferences.
I always start of with the case book, and read the full judgements of the major cases, making notes (but not huge notes) on reasoning, obiter and, sometimes, dissents. If the case is minor, it generally will not be in a case book so I just find the point of law in the text book, and if it is, then I will usually just seek out the ratio of the decision rather than read the whole thing and its dissenting judgements. However, I dont usually do case analysis' as I think they are a waste of time. You just end up taking down lots of unimportant information. After that, depending on time, I'll seek out some articles or chapters from books and look at the critical analysis of the most contentious areas.

Bear in mind this is in a 'perfect world' where I always have enough time. Considering the topics covered varies from week to week, sometimes I don't have time for the analyticial bits, which I will just do in reading week or closer to revision. Also, techniques change for different subjects. The above is mostly applicable to Criminal and Contract.
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muncrun
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(Original post by kingslaw)
With contract law, well, I may invest in Trietals book. However, it would be good to contrast with Atiyah's book - and both together may be getting expensive (plus their most important debates are in articles that our library has). Also, I can actually get through my exam without having to answer a single essay question! Can anyone recommend any critical/theoretical books for contract?

Just out of interest, where are you reading Law, Muncrun?
I definitely prefer the problem question to the essay question! I haven't used a contract theory text in my course, although I do know of one: Stephen Smith, Contract Theory (2004, OUP) - http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/...917068-0039818.

I don't know anything about this book, nor do I know of any other books I'm afraid.

Oh, and I'm at Birmingham, by the way.
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muncrun
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(Original post by supervin)
Do you peruse a number of judgments for complete understanding or skim through judgments covering more cases and only for the gist of the reasoning? Considering the number of subjects and the topics involved in each, there is hardly enough time to be able to read all the major cases, let alone the other less important ones. Of course, there's also the need to pinpoint the ratio, dicta and dissenting comments. Do you summarise the cases after reading into the respective parts? This takes up a significant amount to time too.

Interested to know people's preferences.
I have to confess that I don't often read a full judgment! Generally I'll just read what's in the casebook. If it's not in there and I deem it sufficiently important, I'll try and get round to reading the whole case. However, it's a time v. analysis thing - I almost always can't afford the time to read through a lengthy judgment at the expense of covering other things so it often falls to be skimmed over during bed time reading!

If you don't mind me asking, supervin, which university are you studying at?
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supervin
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(Original post by muncrun)
If you don't mind me asking, supervin, which university are you studying at?
Leicester University - was the 9th in the Times Entry 2003 rankings when I applied. Now it's dropped quite a lot and not as reputed anymore: it's like losing an investment.

It must be really convenient for you there with the Bullring mall and the shopping area at New Street. Just visited Birmingham during Christmas.
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muncrun
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(Original post by supervin)
Leicester University - was the 9th in the Times Entry 2003 rankings when I applied. Now it's dropped quite a lot and not as reputed anymore: it's like losing an investment.

It must be really convenient for you there with the Bullring mall and the shopping area at New Street. Just visited Birmingham during Christmas.
I wouldn't worry about Leicester's reputation if I were you: Birmingham hardly stands out as the jewel in the rough either, but it's good enough to be getting me where I want to go (and that's large City firms, for the record). I have a friend in the second year at your law school who's also heading in the same direction. Granted, the large firms aren't crying out for him, but he doesn't seem to be having problems getting some very juicy interviews!

As for the city of Birmingham itself, having the Bullring is great; and the University train station pretty much takes you from your own doorstep straight to the doorstep of the Bullring!
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NDGAARONDI
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(Original post by kingslaw)
Criminal:
-Criminal Law (Text and Materials) - Clarkson & Keating ~ Bizarre structure. Wrong on many points of law.
How do you know about the points of law? j/w It does have a bizarre structure though.
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supervin
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(Original post by NDGAARONDI)
How do you know about the points of law? j/w It does have a bizarre structure though.
Possibly from lecturers or tutors. It's quite subjective too; academics may argue differing views on the points of law in cases - more likely those with relatively broader decisions. Textbooks give mostly those of the authors. Later cases or appealed cases subsequent to the publication of the book may have clarified points of law that may differ from the interpretation of the author.
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NDGAARONDI
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But points of view are not points of law and the law in the book is only as good as the time of the publication. This is where reports between publication to date come in handy.
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kingslaw
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(Original post by NDGAARONDI)
But points of view are not points of law and the law in the book is only as good as the time of the publication. This is where reports between publication to date come in handy.
Not really. Tutors and lecturers keep you up to date on changing law. To rigorously scan the law journals every week/month for updated points of law would be a waste of valuable time - luckily the tutors recognise this.
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