Yesterday I posted advice on how to brief a case (here). I've thought about the subject some more, and I think I need to emphasize the importance of not only briefing the case--understanding what happened and why--but also critiquing the case. As I said in my last post, what do you think of the court's decision? Was it right? Wrong? Partly both? And why?
I am not suggesting that you try to read your professor's mind. Nor am I suggesting you have to get your analysis of the case right. There will be many, many times in law school when you go to class thinking you understand the material, and leave class confused. That is not just a mean trick we play on unsuspecting students; rather, it is part of the educational process. Cases need to be unpacked and dissected, and this process often uncovers things you might not have expected or seen when you prepared your casebrief.
But you should go through the critiquing process anyway, since you are being trained in critical thinking. Sometimes you will hit the nail on the head, too--and that is a great feeling. And on a more practical note, doing so gives you something to say if your professor asks you, "So, what did you think of the decision?" Saying something that clearly shows you have prepared is a lot less embarrassing than saying, "Uh, I don't know" or something equally insightful. Plus, if your professor takes class participation into consideration when handing out final grades--as I do--you are possibly helping your grade (or at least avoiding doing damage to it).