In this article, Kajal Shrivastava discusses steps and techniques for reading judgments quickly and efficiently.
“For our purpose, I define “reading” as looking at printed words and getting enough meaning from them to satisfy your purpose.” (Peter Cumb)
There exists a large number of Legal Principles, which get strengthened by the legal verdicts of the Court of Law. As we are well known with the fact that the best way to provide authentication and legality to a set of arguments is to connect them with a maximum number of relevant case laws, and in order to do so it is essential to get the Zeist of the case without wading it in full.
Myth about having quick reading
Though such strategy might get contradicted by many of the legal expertise and the Law Students. In order to have a good speed at reading basically, an individual must have a strong power of comprehending the things. The judgments and the cited case Laws in them are the way in which the knowledge is being shared with the students, and the other people in general. In order to bring transparency and ensuring an appropriate Justice System in the Country, the Judiciary adapts to the changes as per the requirements, by bringing amendments in the existing Laws and Statutes: the efficiency and perfection in the sphere of a Legal scenario of an aspirant are majorly examined through the authorities and the judicial precedents. Thus along with hard work, it becomes essential to add some texture of smart work as well.
How to think legally
- Judges who are assigned with the task of ensuring the justice by following the notion of “audi alteram partem” render the justice by attaching more and more of Legal texture into their verdict. They strictly make a clear distinction between two things namely,
- Question of Law,
- Question of Fact
- In the same manner, while reading a judgement the reader should centralise his attention majorly towards the Legal issues rather than focusing upon the factual issues, though the factual things have to be noted for having a clear picture of the case; but the prime concern must be made for those substances which have some relevance to Law.
- Never forget to use your own creativity while reading the judgment, always critically analyze the verdict and utilize your own Legal knowledge and own understanding in ascertaining the accuracy of the same, this practice helps you to enhance your creativity.
- Last but not the least, always ask yourself “Why”, and try to reach upon a decision as that of a judge in the Court of Law based on your understanding, which will help you to become a “Legal Eagle”.
Challenges faced while reading the judgment
- Non-familiarity with the legal terms.
- Making a distinction between essential and non- essential content of the judgment.
How to overcome these challenges?
As you proceed with the reading try to bring an answer to the following things.
- Who was the plaintiff and who was the defendant when the case was filed for the first time? The complaint has been made for the violation of which law?
- What was the root cause of the filing the complaint?
- What were the legal issues involved in the case?
- What was the decision of the trial court? (in case the decision has been appealed)
- What tests or rules were taken into account for giving the verdict?
- Important note – Sometimes the Court initially gives the tests/reasons that have been utilized in order to reach the verdict.
Prerequisites for reading Judgments quickly and efficiently
- The art of a fruitful reading has to be essentially accompanied by the element of having a clear comprehension, the more you understand the more you grasp and your understanding becomes the best.
- Good vocabulary – In order to have a clear and precise picture of the judgment, the reader must be well acquainted with the Latin terms and maxims which are used by the professionals in the due course of reaching upon the verdict. A good Legal professional must have an excellent command over the language.
- Knowledge – The judgment revolves around several Legal facts which could be either in the form of any recent amendment brought into the existing Law or may involve the application of some international Conventions.Thus if the reader is already aware of the applied statutes then it becomes quite easy to excavate the maximum from the reading.
How to be a master at analyzing judgments
- Know and understand the root cause of filing the case- The prime and the foremost thing which should be done is to know the root cause of getting the case registered. For example, if the subject matter invokes the constitutionality of any statute then you can apply your basic understanding and knowledge for the purpose of analyzing the judgment.
- Create a distinction between the submission of the parties- Though in order to have a critical analysis of the judgment it becomes essential to have a clear and precise understanding of the written submissions made by the parties, it would be more efficient if the reader creates a distinction between the arguments made by the parties.
- Have the relevant laws readily available- The judgments involves statutory provisions and various reports prepared by the Law Commission, which are long enough to be remembered in such a situation keep the bare Acts and the reports readily available on a separate window in your laptop.
- Keep the practice of reading the judgments on a regular basis in order to master in the art of learning the judgments, and then you can see the change.
How to approach extra lengthy judgments such as Keshavananda?
- Kesavananda Bharati vs. State of Kerala, the landmark judgment which has to be read by every person involved in the field of law runs in around 2100 pages which might create a fear in your mind regarding the approach to deal with it. Keep the fact in your mind that a good case brief is always a sincere attempt made by a gentle reader who knows very well to interpret the terms in the required manner.
- Here Comes the time when you need the application of your observation skills try to go through the first paragraph of the judgment and mark the important and the relevant things involved in it.
- There will be instances throughout the course of your reading when you will find that certain paragraphs and the content involved in them are of trivial aspect try chucking them down.
- The paragraphs which are too lengthy and are majorly involving the repetitive facts rewrite them in your own language in order to have a convenient reading and a better understanding.
- At the end of this activity, you will find that the paragraphs have been reduced up to a bit extent and now you can have a comfortable reading and understanding of your own valuable inculcation throughout the journey of your reading.
Things you should include in your case note
Your case note should have a basic standard which essentially involves the following,
However, in order to make it more effective, you should try to inculcate the essential elements in it, and eliminate the non- essential things which simply reduces your efficiency. An effective case note should have the following
- When did the cause of action arise?
- When the complaint was registered?
- What legal issues were involved?
- What statutory provisions were used in declaring the verdict?
What not to do while reading a judgment
- Avoid reading the judgment in full- It is to be noted that each and every content involved in a judgment is not necessary for you. Being a reader, you should centralize your attention towards the conclusion and the introductory part which contain the Zeist of the judgment.
- Observe the essential and the relevant piece of text – A good reader always selects the essential content and then proceeds further, select the essential piece of content and then apply your critical thinking.
- Do not read every text in the same manner – The terms involved in a judgment are not similar as that of a normal text they have much wider implications to be applied in the field of law, so do not make the mistake of considering the same as that of a normal textbook content.
Ways of doing quick and precise reading
- There are several skimming techniques which do not involve the trivial aspects and majorly focuses on the informative part. It actually helps to comprehend more and grasp the maximum, without any sacrifice.
- There are certain instances when you need to have the full comprehension, here comes the time to apply the principle of cognitive science where we remember the things about which we think. So, when you want to remember the essential things of a judgment, highlighting the crucial contents seems to be the best idea.
- Survey skim and scan the entire judgment, try to read the mind of a judge based on your readings, observe the important aspects such as headnotes, the cited Case Laws, and the Legal Provisions. Use your reading to prepare at least one or two research questions.
Advantages of quick reading
- Helps to eliminate the trivial aspects, and increases the extent of efficiency.
- Involves the use of both (i.e), Hard work along with smart work.
- Enhances the critical thinking of the reader
Recommendations for quick reading
- The reader can use some good casebooks, rather than going through the whole judgment, in such books the compiler gathers all the necessary case Laws, a summary of the case facts, along with the commentary and the reasoning behind the decision.
- Furthermore, there are renowned and eminent scholars who make their contribution in the form of writing the case summary along with the proper reasoning which is one of the best ways to have the knowledge of a judgment without any sacrifice of comprehension.
Speed or the quick reading is a skill through which everyone can be benefited, and this technique involves the proven instances of how fast you can grasp the things, without any sacrifice of comprehension, moreover it even evaluates your current reading rate and provides you the opportunity to inculcate the necessary improvements into it.