Checklist: How to Read a Rule or Statute Thoroughly

  1. Read through once to get the "big picture." 
    For example, in reading a civil procedure code:
    1. Ask, "What stage of trial are we talking about?" (Examples: discovery, summary judgment, post-trial)
    2. Ask, "What kind of procedure are we talking about?" (Filing a motion, submitting discovery, initiating a proceeding)
    3. Try to imagine a situation when you might look to the rule.
  2. Look for words that suggest a "fuzzy standard" that can be further explained by case law, such as:
    • "Reasonable"
    • "Good cause"
    • "Substantial"
  3. Look to your note cases to see if any of those "fuzzy standard" words are further defined or explained by the courts.
  4. Circle every "may" and "shall" that you see to find whether the action is mandatory or discretionary. The distinction could be hugely important.
  5. If the rule contains a list of any kind, figure out how the listed items are related. Are they:
    • Factors the court may consider and balance ?
    • Elements that must ALL be present in order for the court to act? (Look for "and.")
    • Items which, each taken individually, provide grounds for action? (Look for "or.")
  6. For each clause, imagine the rule in use.
    For particularly confusing sections, invent a hypothetical and apply the rule to it, determining the outcome when the rule is applied.


Please visit Academic Success & Bar Programs in Warren Hall room 206, call (619) 260-4793 or email


Academic Success and Bar Programs
Warren Hall, Room 206
Phone: (619) 260-4793
Fax: (619) 260-7715


Mon. 8:30-6:30 p.m.
Tue. 8:30- 5 p.m.
Wed. 9:30-5 p.m.
Thur., Fri. 8:30-5 p.m.

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