Four ways to make that one paragraph of that case make sense

KIM KOELMEYER


Damages Incurred has been inundated with reports of students being dozens of paragraphs into a case, and getting inexplicably stuck on that one paragraph which just won’t click. You understand the meaning of the words on their own, but combined, they seem to evade all meaning. As far as you’re concerned, an overturned can of alphabet spaghetti would make more sense.


So the next time you’re wading through your readings, here are some tips to help you understand that judgement.


Break it down


Though it’s easy to get lost in the spiral of a verbose paragraph of reasoning, it’s important to remember that every seemingly insurmountable task can be broken down into a series of smaller tasks.


Take it line by line, so you can make sense of each building block of the paragraph without losing track. If you’re really lucky, you might even be able to spot the point where it all stops making sense.


Take a break


Occasionally, some time away from the screen is the perfect antidote. Take a break, rest your eyes, and clear your mind of the gobbledygook which lies before you. While you’re resting, try to avoid having a mental breakdown. You’ll probably start to reconsider your career in the law, given you can’t even comprehend English, but this won’t help anyone.


Just hope really hard that when you return, the meaning will suddenly emerge.


Jump to the end


Even though this particular paragraph is confusing, there always seem to be parts of the judgment that make some sense. Jump to the end and determine what the judge ended up deciding, which might help you see how that paragraph fits into the broader scheme of things.


But, if we’re being totally honest, it probably still won’t make sense. At this point, you’ll be tempted to launch into a rant about the pretentiousness of the legal industry. Instead, face the fact that you probably shouldn’t be burrowing through cases at 2 am. Maybe get some sleep.


Google a case summary


When all else fails, there’s always Google to help explain the case in plain English. Why are you still reading cases anyway? They’re literally summarised for you. You’ll shamefully resort to lawcasesummaries.com, which will explain the entirety of the 118-page decision in four dot-points.


Congratulations, you finally understand the case!


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