From BoleyBlogs, and not just for law students:
“… Law school holds many wonders, but first the new law student must learn how to decipher case. To help you in that cause Law Professor Orin Kerr of George Washington University Law School has written How to Read a Legal Opinion: A Guide for New Law Students (11 Green Bag 2d 51 (2007) – free download via SSRN).
In it you will quickly learn:
What’s in a legal opinion
Common legal terms found in opinions
What you need to learn from reading a case
Why law professors use the case method
It is short, well written, and well worth taking a few minutes to read before the rush of law school life takes hold….”